Shaving Cream vs Shaving Soap

One question I often get asked when people find out that I am a classic wet shaving enthusiast is what is the difference between shaving cream vs shaving soap? Of course before that question there is general confusion as to why I am using these “outdated” tools, that for the most part require an online purchase because I can’t pick them up at the grocery store, to perform my morning ritual of shaving. But once I explain the questions generally become more directed and curious.

WHAT IS SHAVING CREAM?

For most men, especially those born in the 1970s or later, shaving cream is what you get when you press the button on the top of a can. Foam jetting out that you would then apply to your face. To be fair why wouldn’t we think of that as shaving cream? For the most part that is all that drug stores carried, all the ads – television or otherwise informed you of only canned cream, and your father had probably had already been converted by the time you were ready to start shaving. These products were and are highly accessible and generally inexpensive, they are filled with unneeded chemicals that can lead to dry skin and potentially other issues.

You would be hardpressed to find a wet shaving convert ever going back to shave cream in a can. Instead traditional wet shavers tend to purchase their creams from both larger companies like Taylor of Old Bond Street or Geo F. Trumper or one of many smaller artisans that are producing quality creams . Regardless of who is producing the creams you will be presented with a product that is more natural (if not completely natural), easy to lather, they act as a moisturizer and provide an all around more enjoyable scent.

Creams generally come in small tubs (sometimes in tubes) that allow you to load up your brush and then build you lather either in a bowl or directly on your face (face lathering). If you are only accustomed to purchasing shave cream in a can you will find that the price of the creams more expensive than you are use to with a tub lasting you two to three months.

Pros to Shaving Cream
  • Ease of lathering
  • Ease of use
  • Benefits from added moisturizing
  • Helps protect your skin
Cons to using Shaving Cream
  • Cost may be higher than most are used to
  • Difficult to find unscented
Shave Cream Suggestions

WHAT IS SHAVING SOAP?

Unlike shaving cream, shaving soap almost always comes in a hard puck. The biggest initial difference one will find is that building a lather using a soap is a bit more work, and perhaps even slightly more difficult compared to using a cream. Don’t let that deter you however, after a few practice lathers you will be on your way (building lather using shaving soap).

Choosing the right brush when using soap is something to consider as well. When lathering shaving soap, especially a soap that is triple milled, you need your brush to be on the firmer side because you need to be more aggressive when loading up your brush.  I tend to reach for one of my boar brushes, or even my Vie-Long horse hair brush when using a soap, leaving my badger hair brushes on the shelf. You will also find that how you lather one soap may differ from the next – needing more or less water, more soap on the brush, more time building lather, and so on.

Shaving soaps tend to be less expensive than their cream counter parts with price ranging from a few dollars to upwards of $40 for some of the higher quality soaps. The more you spend the better your experience tends to be as well – from the container that it is packaged in, the lather that it produces, and the fragrance that it provides. Tempeding how often you shave a soap could last you three or four months if not longer.

Pros to Shaving Soap
  • Affordable
  • Will last you longer than cream
  • Great lather once you get the hang of it
  • Greater Protection
  • Many, many to choose from
Cons to Shaving Soap
  • A bit of a learning curve
  • Difficult to lather with hard water
Shaving Soap Suggestions

Which Should You Use?

Deciding on whether to use a shaving cream or shaving soap really comes down to preference.  Each will provide you a comfortable shave so you need to decide which you need most. Soaps, although a bit more difficult to lather will provide you with a slicker surface and somewhat more cushion. Shaving creams on the other hand will provide you a product that provides more moisturizing benefit and are generally easier to use.

Another element to consider is what brush or brushes you will have at your disposal. If you only have a badger brush, regardless of grade (check out this shaving brush guide for more on grades), and don’t plan on buying any other brushes you may want to stick with creams. Or vice versa if you only have a boar brush. For more on what brush to use with what soap check out Different Brushes for Different Soaps. Of course if you only have one brush you could always use it as an excuse to buy a few more.

The only time I think I would suggest against one of the two options is if you have hard water, which could make using shaving soaps a bit laborious if not impossible.  In the end find a scent (or two) that you love and go with it whether it is a cream or a soap.


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