Shaving Soaps, Creams, and Gels: Which Should You Use?

 

Proper razor technique and blade sharpness are only part of the wet shaving puzzle. To shave well, you must ultimately be equipped with a spread of tools tailored to your skin type and lifestyle.

Shaving creams, shaving soaps, and shaving gels are all designed for the same purpose: to enhance glide and protect your face during shaving. But each type has benefits and drawbacks.

We hope the following breakdown will help you decide which one to go with!

Shaving Soap

There’s a small learning curve associated with lathering a shaving soap. Condensed into a puck or a disc, shaving soaps only lather with water and a shaving brush. Producing lather takes a few minutes, and the process can be even harder if you’re using triple-milled soap.

Triple-milled soap is soap that has been passed through a milling machine three times to thoroughly mix the ingredients and fragrances, as well as squeeze out extra moisture. This makes triple-milled soap harder than regular soap – and thus more difficult to lather. However, once you do learn how to lather it, triple-milled soap produces the richest lather you will experience. Plus, triple-milled soap is more economical. You can easily get 3 – 4 months of shaving out of one puck.

This is why soaps like Mitchell’s Wool Fat Shaving Soap and Geo F. Trumper Hard Shaving Soap (both triple-milled soaps) have just as many die-hard fans as men who complain about how hard they are to lather. A trick to try: place a few drops of Geo F. Trumper Skin Food or glycerin on the puck or brush prior to lathering. Most importantly, always use distilled water.

If you want more advice on the subject, we actually wrote a blog post on how to get lather from Geo F. Trumper Hard Shaving Soap here.For a slightly easier lathering experience, try Edwin Jagger Shaving Soap.

Tip: If you have sensitive skin, note that shaving soaps are more likely to dry out your skin than creams or gels. But don’t let that stop you from trying one – just pick a soap formulated for sensitive skin, like Acca Kappa Muschio Bianco Shaving Soap Bowl.

Shaving Cream

Shaving creams contain more water than shaving soaps. This makes them far easier to lather (in fact, you can lather immediately and without water, versus having to build lather slowly with shaving soaps). So if you typically find yourself short on time, a shaving cream may be the smart choice for you. We also recommend shaving soaps for those new to wet shaving, as developing lather with soap is a learning process in and of itself.

And shaving creams are often a better choice for men with sensitive skin. Because shaving creams tend to come in many more varieties than shaving soaps, you’ll find plenty of unscented versions with minimal ingredients that can irritate skin. Truefitt & Hill has a lovely unscented line called Ultimate Comfort, formulated for sensitive skin.

You can’t go wrong with a shaving cream from one of the three T’s: Geo F. Trumper, Taylor of Old Bond Street, and Truefitt & Hill. For an indulgent shave experience, try Castle Forbes Essential Oil Shaving Cream, an ultra rich cream with aloe vera to prevent irritation. If you’re looking for something more affordable, Proraso has long been a standby.

Shave Gel

Like shaving creams, shaving gels don’t require water to build lather. Just squeeze some out from the tube and apply with your fingers. Shaving gels are thinner in consistency than shaving creams and allow you to see what you’re doing, since they don’t produce lather. This feature makes shaving gels a good choice for beginners who can use the visual feedback.

Zirh Aloe Vera Shaving Gel is a lightweight-yet-hydrating shaving gel that cushions with glycerin and has a smooth consistency.

The Conclusion

So which type of shaving product should you use? Let’s sum it up:

For massive lather: Shaving Soap

For men with limited time: Shaving cream or gel

For beginners: Shaving cream or gel

For men with dry or sensitive skin: Shaving cream

The RoyalShave Guide to Pre-Shave Treatments

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As with everything in wet shaving, there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to pre-shave treatments. Some men can’t live without them, others notice no difference, and some even find their shaves to be better without a pre-shave. The best way to determine if you should be using a pre-shave treatment is to try shaving 1 – 2 weeks with, then 1 – 2 weeks without, then with again. You can also experiment with applying the treatment only before your shave, or applying before each pass.

There are a couple pre-shave options available: pre-shave oil, gel, and cream. Here, we break down the benefits of each option.

Pre-shave oil

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What is it?

A pre-shave oil makes your skin softer and more supple for a shave, which means you won’t experience as much irritation. Oils penetrate the skin better than creams or gels, so they are able to retain water in your skin and keep it strong during a shave. As noted on Badger and blade, “when a blade drags across the well-moisturized skin, the skin ‘gives’ to the blade and will bend or conform significantly to the shape of the blade BEFORE it will be torn or cut by the blade…on the other hand, if the skin is dry…the skin will not give or conform to the blade but will instantly tear.”

Who should use a pre-shave oil?

We recommend pre-shave oils for any man with sensitive skin, as it will protect you from razor burn and razor bumps.

How do I use pre-shave oil?

It must first be noted that a pre-shave oil is not effective without water. This is because the stratum corneum (the outermost layer of skin) absorbs water with ease, but does not keep it in well. Thus, an oily substance – a pre-shave oil – is needed to trap the water in the skin.

To optimize a pre-shave oil’s benefits, apply it in the shower, where the steam will open up pores for deeper penetration. Or apply it right before a hot towel treatment to similar effect. Wait until your skin feels ultra soft, then commence lathering.

What are some good pre-shave oils to try?

Highly absorptive oils include jojoba oil, coconut oil, grapeseed oil, hempseed oil, castor oil, and sunflower oil. You can simply use a few drops of any of these oils (or a blend) for a pre-shave.

In the realm of commercially prepared oils, St. James of London Pre-Shave Oil has excellent reviews. It contains sunflower oil and jojoba oil to leave your skin feeling smooth as silk.

SHOP: St. James of London Pre-Shave Oil

Pre-shave cream/Gel

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What is it?

Whereas pre-shave oil makes the skin itself softer, thereby preventing nicks and cuts, pre-shave creams and gels create a cushion between your skin and the blade. This cushion allows the blade to slide more easily across the surface. Pre-shave creams and gels simultaneously soften the beard, making your hair more pliable and easy to cut.

Who should use a pre-shave cream or gel?

The best way to determine if a pre-shave cream or gel will make your shave better is to try one out for yourself (see method in first paragraph).

How do I use a pre-shave cream or gel?

Apply to damp skin prior to shaving. We suggest applying the cream or gel right before you start building lather. By the time your lather is ready to go, your skin should be thoroughly lubricated.

If you shower before you shave, apply the pre-shave cream or gel right before you shower.

What are some good pre-shave oils or gels to try?

Proraso Pre-Shave Cream – Green, Refreshing and Toning has been said to not only improve shaves, but also to reduce acne and razor burn. It has the added benefit of refreshing your skin with a minty, tingling sensation as you shave.

If you have reactive skin, The Art of Shaving Ocean Kelp Pre-Shave Gel is highly effective for men with sensitive skin and thick beards. Glycerin coats the skin for enhanced glide, and the alcohol-free formula reduces irritation.

SHOP: Proraso Pre-Shave Cream – Green, Refreshing and Toning and The Art of Shaving Ocean Kelp Pre-Shave Gel

A note on Geo. F. Trumper Skin Food

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If you find yourself short on time or just looking for a multitasking product, Geo. F. Trumper Skin Food makes a good pre-shave and aftershave balm. Its glycerin base protects the skin. You can also place a few drops onto your puck or brush to combat lathering issues with hard-to-lather soaps like Geo. F. Trumper Hard Shaving Soap.

Tip: For a step-by-step guide to producing lather with the Geo. F. Trumper Hard Shaving Soap, see our blog post here.

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The RoyalShave Guide to Finding the Best Aftershave for Your Skin Type

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Aftershaves started off simple enough. After a shave, your barber would splash some of the refreshing liquid onto your face to prevent infection from nicks and cuts while leaving you with that ‘just back from the barbershop’ scent. Since then, we’ve learned that traditional aftershave – which used to approach almost 100% alcohol – is not necessarily suited to every guy.

Now you’ll find a wide variety of aftershaves on the market, which can make the process of finding the right aftershave a bit daunting. No matter what a bottle may claim, use this as a general rule: you must choose an aftershave formulated specifically for your skin type. Failure to do so will cause imbalance in your skin, aggravating inflammation, redness, and razor burn.

Continue reading to learn how to select the best aftershave for your skin type.

Sensitive

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When you shave, you’re taking off a layer of skin (and with it, your skin’s natural protective barrier), an act that is tremendously irritating for men with sensitive skin. To replenish moisture while reducing redness and burning, try a rich aftershave balm like The Daimon Barber Cooling Post-Shave Balm. A combination of fatty acids, vitamins, and antioxidants soothe skin so it’s strong and supple. Plus, menthol cools the skin, leaving you feeling refreshed.

In general, avoid products with fragrance if possible.

SHOP: The Daimon Barber Cooling Post-Shave Balm

Oily/Acne-prone

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Look for a lightweight (read: non-greasy) lotion.

Proraso Moisturizing & Nourishing After Shave Lotion contains alcohol to disinfect, and is enriched with shea butter to reduce irritation. Its super lightweight texture means you don’t have to worry about pores getting clogged.

If you feel a lotion is still too thick for your oily skin, use an aftershave splash instead, which is usually based in antiseptics like alcohol or witch hazel to prevent infection. We like Geo F Trumper Aftershave in Spanish Leather, a rich, woody scent that’ll double as a subtle cologne.

SHOP: Proraso Moisturizing & Nourishing After Shave Lotion

Combination

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You have two options:

  1. Apply a product designed for sensitive/dry skin on your cheeks, and a product designed for oily skin on your T-zone (forehead, nose, and chin).
  2. Use a product designed specifically for combination skin. Imperial Barber Products Bergamot After-Shave is safe for use on all skin types but does everything you need an aftershave to do: disinfect, calm, and condition the skin.

SHOP: Imperial Barber Products Bergamot After-Shave

Dry

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An aftershave balm will be your ultimate aly, especially if you tend to get nicks. Balms coat the surface of the skin with a protective layer, preventing moisture loss. Apply only what you need, however, since balms are the thickest of the aftershave lot and can clog pores if used in excess.

Avoid products containing alcohol, especially astringents, the strongest form of toner. Astringents typically contain 20 – 60% alcohol and are better suited for oily skin.

Baxter of California After Shave Balm is alcohol-free and contains a nice mix of tea tree oil (anti-microbial) and glycerin (lubricant).

Tip: Do you have dry, aging skin? If so, follow your aftershave balm with a hydrating moisturizer afterwards, like Taylor of Old Bond Street Dry Skin Cream for Men, which protects your skin’s elasticity with UV filters.

SHOP: Baxter of California After Shave Balm

Normal

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Lucky you – you can use just about any type of aftershave you want! If you’re keen to keep hydrated, glycerin-based Geo F Trumper Skin Food absorbs quickly and can double as a pre-shave treatment.

If you use an aftershave with alcohol, replenish moisture with an all-around lotion like Ernest Supplies Protective Matte Moisturizer. This all-natural, fragrance-free moisturizer is loaded with vitamins A, C, and E to defend against signs of aging.

SHOP: Geo F Trumper Skin Food

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History of Wet Shaving: Geo. F. Trumper

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Instagram: @ourkidthebarber

A Victorian Age Gem

Geo. F. Trumper began as a barber and perfumer in London during the Victorian era of the late 19th century, when the gentleman ruled supreme. Mr. George Trumper founded his shop in 1875 at 9 Curzon Street, where it is still located today.  Catering to the quintessential English gentleman, the company sold wares consisting of cufflinks, walking sticks, perfumes, and razors – all things which can be found when visiting the store to this day.

One of Geo. F. Trumper’s specialties from the beginning was perfumes, which were commissioned by and named after the nobility. Today, Geo. F. Trumper continues to fabricate perfumes, some even still named after those original noblemen (such as their famous Wellington).  

Tradition, without a doubt, runs deep within the going ons at Geo. F. Trumper. The family-run business can be traced back to George Trumper.  Their lime-based aftershaves are still wrapped in pink paper, an homage to the British war effort during the second world war.  (During this time, all other colors had been required by the military to be used in the war effort.)

The interior of the store also remains as it was when founded.  You’ll find the same mahogany display cubicle and glass cabinets installed during the shop’s opening in 1875.  And you can get yourself a classic shave in a private velvet-curtained room, where during the Victorian era, men of all classes would go for a regal shave.

Geo. F. Trumper later opened their second location, dubbed The St. James Shop,on Duke of York Street in London.

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Keeping Tradition Alive

Though Geo. F. Trumper is strongly committed to tradition, the company has not failed to stay relevant to the current age.  Maintaining their signature level of luxury and style, Geo. F. Trumper has made the move to selling online, bringing their long-held traditions to the rest of the world.  

Their shops offer the best of what any gentleman could desire and remain one of the few of their kind to still offer professional barber services, including hair cutting, hair tinting, mustache and beard trimming, shaving, and manicure and pedicure services. All these services are performed on location and in the privacy of a curtained cubicle. When in London, a visit to Geo. F. Trumper is a must for any true gentleman.

Find out more about Geo. F. Trumper on their website, and shop Geo. F. Trumper at RoyalShave.

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