Shaving Gel vs. Cream | What's the Difference?
If you’re the kind of guy that just grabs whatever grooming product is on sale, you’ve probably tried both shaving cream and shaving foam. You might have noticed that they don’t seem to work the same, and in your experimentation, you probably developed a preference for one over the other.
What is Shaving Cream?
Most people think of shaving cream as something that comes in an aerosol can. Even though products in cans are labeled as shaving cream, they’re actually shaving foam. They’re made to dispense in a foam type consistency, and they come out already bubbled up. Real shaving cream usually comes in a tube or a tub, and requires a little bit of water and lathering to activate.
The stuff in the can is made of water, sulfates, propane, fragrance, and isobutane. Yes, it will moisturize your skin just a little bit. But you don’t have a good reason to put sulfates, propane, and isobutane on your face. For the purpose of a true comparison, it’s best to disregard the idea a can. Think of the tube or tub.
Shaving cream is a thick and rich product, very similar to a deep conditioner or a heavyweight lotion. It often contains oils, moisturizers, and skin healing ingredients. Its purpose is to create a barrier between the skin and the razor, allowing for a smooth glide without any dry snags or irritation.
A good shaving cream will leave your skin in better condition than it was before you shaved. It will feel a little moisturized. Redness, dry skin, sensitivity, and irritation can be soothed by the right combination of ingredients.
Shaving cream should ideally be blended with a little bit of water. Applying it to a wet face helps to work it up into a rich, creamy lather that’s easy to work with. Applying it with a brush will help integrate water into the shaving cream, turning it into something soft and easy for your razor to pass through.
What is Shaving Gel?
Shaving gel can come in a tube or in the familiar can-style packaging. Instead of using ingredients like oils or moisturizers, it’s formulated with thicker lubricating agents. Ingredients like glycerin give shave gel a heartier base that requires less water and less lathering to work. Some of them get their thicker consistency from bases made of natural ingredients like aloe vera.
Shaving gel is sometimes infused with lighter weight ingredients that help to soothe skin irritation and act as conditioning agents. You won’t find any butters or thicker oils in the ingredients list. You usually won’t find any oils at all. These would change the consistency of shave gel, giving it a runnier texture and preventing it from properly adhering to the face.
Just like shaving cream, shaving gel provides a necessary barrier between skin and a razor. It stays put and provides ample lubrication, making the shave nice and smooth and reducing the risk for skin irritation associated with shaving. Ingredients like glycerin help to trap moisture from water into the skin, even though glycerin on its own is not an effective moisturizer.
The Pros and Cons of Shaving Cream
Shaving cream comes with some advantages and disadvantages. While it’s overall a great saving solution, it’s not always the neatest and cleanest product to use.
The Pros of Shaving Cream
- Deeply moisturizing
- Easy to see
Shaving cream is intended to be thick, rich, and moisturizing. It’s meant to leave your skin in better condition with each use. If you have dry or sensitive skin, you’ll likely find that shaving cream will meet your needs better than shaving gel. Because it’s opaque, it’s also easy to see. You won’t make unnecessary passes over the same spot.
The Cons of Shaving Cream
- Can be messy
- Requires a little more work
Shaving cream requires a little more work. It has to be applied to a wet face and lathered up. A brush is usually necessary for application. If you try to apply it with your hands, you might find that it makes its way all over your bathroom.
The Pros and Cons of Shaving Gel
Some people swear by shaving gel for its convenience, but others find that it is the exact opposite of convenient. It all boils down to personal preference.
The Pros of Shaving Gel
- Ready to use right out of the container
- Very slick texture provides great lubrication
Shaving gel requires no prepwork. You don’t have to warm it up or brush it on. You can take it right from the container and put it straight on your face. It will stay put, and it will provide excellent lubrication for your shave.
The Cons of Shaving Gel
- Hard to see
- Doesn’t provide much moisture
Shaving gel is clear. It can be a little harder to tell if you’ve shaved a spot or not. You might accidentally double over spots. It gets its translucency from its base. While its base might contain some skin soothing ingredients, it’s not as deeply moisturizing as shaving cream. If you use shaving gel, you might want to use a moisturizer on your skin post-shave.
Which One is Better?
Neither shaving cream nor shaving gel is a “bad” product. Both have some flaws, but one is a little better for you: shaving cream. It might take more time to use, but the end result is healthier skin. A deeply moisturizing shaving cream will do more for your skin than a shaving gel, particularly if you opt for hot lather. Hot lather makes your skin and your hairs softer, resulting in a gentle shave.
If you’re a loyalist to your shaving gel, just remember that it doesn’t actually serve as a skincare product. You’ll still want to use a moisturizer to avoid flaky dry patches around your beard, and remember to exfoliate when those dry patches build up.
The convenience of shaving cream is that you don’t need to add any steps. When you consider the benefits of making the switch, you might change your tune. It might take you two or three minutes longer to shave with shaving cream, but adding a moisturizing step to your routine to compensate for what your shaving gel isn’t giving you will also add time.
Regardless, it’s never a bad idea to allot more time for self-care. You work hard. If you want to enjoy a long, luxurious shave with a hot lather, you deserve to take that moment for yourself.
A relaxing morning sets the tone for a stress-free day.
Always do what’s best for you. If you have a product that you love so much that you’re unwilling to even consider alternatives, just remember that you could be missing out on an opportunity to get an even better shave. You won’t know until you give the alternative a try. Be open minded and pay attention to the way your skin feels after you switch from cold shaving gel to hot shaving cream.
The luxury feeling of the experience and the unparalleled smoothness of your skin can quickly convert the most die-hard shaving gel man to a vocal advocate for hot lather shaving. If you don’t want to invest in the equipment, go to a barber. That’s exactly how most professionals offer their clients the perfect shave.