“I’m giving up shaving,” asserted my partner as he emerged from the bathroom.
He continued, “I’m not doing it anymore,” as a red speckled piece of tissue paper fell from his face.
It didn’t bother me whether he shaved his beard or not. As a woman, I get the frustration of having to put oneself through the medieval torture of scraping a metal blade across unsuspecting body parts, only to be left with raw, prickly skin.
But it doesn’t have to be like that.
Many of us were never taught how to use shaving cream, and some of us were told it was an unnecessary extra step. But if you’re looking for a smooth, lasting shave, taking the time to find and use a high-quality shaving cream is so worth it.
This guide will help you achieve the smoothest shave of your adult life. We’ll walk you through the qualities of top-notch creams and gels, how to use shaving cream, and why shaving without it is a nightmare for your skin.
What is Shaving Cream, and What Does it Do?
According to Gillette, each time you shave your face, you are cutting up to 25,000 hairs from your beard. The hair on your face is particularly wiry and tough. But the skin on your face is some of the most sensitive skin on your body. It’s soft, smooth and malleable.
So how do you soften your hairs for easy shaving and protect your skin at the same time?
That’s what shaving cream is for.
Most shaving creams use the same basic formula: stearic acid, triethanolamine, glycerin, polyoxyethylene sorbitan monostearate and water.
Stearic acid creates a velvety, rich lather while glycerin moisturizes the skin and improves lubrication for a smooth cut. The purpose of these key ingredients in shaving cream is to soften hair and lubricate skin. This effect allows the safety razor to cleanly remove hair without damaging your face.
Shaving cream from Public Goods doubles down on skin protection by including nutrient-rich and soothing aloe vera and coconut-derived ingredients. It also protects you post-shave with cooling eucalyptus oil and tea tree oil, a natural antibacterial and anti-inflammatory essential oil that fights acne and irritation bumps.
The Many Benefits of Shaving Cream
First and foremost, shaving cream gives your hair and skin a boost in hydration. Have you ever tried shaving dry hair? Ouch! Well, moisturized hair is far easier to cut.
Hydration also protects your skin and minimizes breakouts. A dry shave — or worse, one with soap — leads to itchy, irritated skin.
On top of that discomfort, dryness is a signal to your pores to start creating sebum, your skin’s natural oil. Excessive sebum can clog pores, leading to acne and irritation bumps.
Shaving cream also adds much-needed lubrication for a close, safe shave. Properly lubricated skin allows the safety razor to slide on the surface without catching any bits of skin. This lack of friction will also save you in razor blade costs because it extends the life of your blades.
Using shaving cream will reduce nicks (thoughts and prayers to my partner) and leave your skin feeling clean and refreshed.
Types of Shaving Cream
Shaving cream comes in two main types:
Lathering shaving cream includes a humectant that keeps the cream moisturized longer. This product often contains cleansers as well, cleaning your face as you shave. The combination of a cleanser and moisturizer reduces the risk of post-shave acne.
Brushless shaving cream often comes in an aerosol can. It is designed to go onto your face straight from the can without any additional lathering.
How to Use Shaving Cream: 3 Different Techniques
Believe it or not, there are quite a few methods you can use to apply shaving cream to your face or body.
If you’re using a lathering shaving cream, the process is crucial for keeping your skin moisturized during and after shaving.
Method #1: Use a Bowl and Shaving Brush
Using a bowl and a shaving brush is the least messy way to apply shaving cream.
You can use a bowl from your kitchen cabinet for this, but it’s worth mentioning that there are shaving bowls styled specifically for this purpose. You want a bowl that’s easy to hold in the palm of your hand. Some shaving bowls have a beveled bottom that improves your handle on it.
The purpose of the shaving bowl is to create the perfect lather for your cream or gel before you apply it to your face. Unlike using your palm, there’s room for error.
A shaving brush (sometimes known as a badger brush) is a small, soft-bristled brush. Top-quality shaving brushes are made out of horse, boar or badger hair. If you’re vegan, you can find high-quality synthetic bristles, too.
Why can’t you just apply shaving cream with your hands? Well, you can. But shaving brushes have benefits of their own.
For starters, shaving brushes gently exfoliate your skin, removing any debris that could get in the way of a smooth shave. They also lift the hair, making it easier to shave.
1. Start by rinsing your brush with warm water. Give it a few hardy flicks to get rid of excessive moisture.
2. Next, apply an almond-sized amount of shaving cream to your brush. Swish your shaving brush around on the bowl. If it’s too thick, carefully add a drop or two of water with your fingertips.
3. A smooth shave depends on achieving a healthy shaving cream to water ratio. You don’t want to see large bubbles as you lather your beard. Instead, you want a thick lather with a few small bubbles.
4. Once you have the right consistency, begin painting the cream on your face in the direction of your hair. If you go against the grain, you could irritate your hair follicles, making your shave less comfortable.
Method #2: Apply Directly to Face with Brush (No Bowl)
Many men apply shaving cream directly to their wet brush and then onto their beard hair. While this method means you don’t have to clean up a bowl, it also means you have less moisture control.
If you have found the perfect shave cream that requires almost no lathering, then this could be a great technique for you. But most of them do need to be lathered before use.
Method #3: Lather Shaving Cream in Your Hands
You can also use your non-dominant hand as an impromptu shaving bowl.
Wet your brush and apply a small amount of shaving cream. Then, swirl your brush around in your palm until you get your desired lather.
As with applying shaving cream directly to your face, lathering in your hands can be a bit of a mess. You’ll also need to do this multiple times before your whole face is covered, which means running the risk of a spotty application. Some areas may be better moisturized than others.
How to Shave With Shaving Cream
When you’re done with your old razor blades, consider recycling them in a razor blade bank.
Step #1: Gather Cream on the Brush
If you’re using a bowl and lathering shaving cream, use your brush to gather the amount of cream you think will cover your whole face. Using a bowl affords you the luxury of only having to lather once.
Step #2: Add a Little Water
Add drops of water with your fingertips until you get a smooth lather. If you start seeing bubbles, you’ve added too much.
Step #3: Apply the Cream
Regardless of your technique, you may want to apply shaving cream in sections, starting with your cheeks, then moving on to the more technical areas of your mustache and chin.
Don’t overdo it, though. One of the many benefits of using shaving cream is that it makes it easy to track your shave. By looking at the leftover cream, you’ll be able to see whether you’ve missed a spot
If you apply too much shaving cream, this benefit quickly becomes a whipped nightmare. Have you ever shoveled snow only to have the banks topple back onto your driveway with every scoop? It’s a lot like that. You end up going over the same spots again and again without the satisfying look of cleanliness.
Now that you’re lathered up, it’s game time. Grab your razor and prepare for the assault.
This part is key: You want to run your razor in the direction your hair grows.
Many men (and women) believe running the razor against the grain results in a closer shave. Unfortunately, all this angle does is anger your hair follicles.
Irritated hair follicles can become infected, resulting in razor burn, acne and irritation bumps. This is not the ideal look of a close shave.
With each downward stroke, rinse your razor under running water or by swirling it in a bowl. The goal is to get the backed up hair and shaving cream out of the razor. Running water on the back of the razor should help push it out.
Clean Up and Aftercare
Once you’ve successfully shaved your face, run your hand over it to check for any patches you may have missed.
Clean up by rinsing your freshly shaved face in warm running water. Once all the shaving cream has been rinsed off, switch to cold water to close up your pores, protecting them from dirt and debris.
Pat your face dry with a clean towel and revel in your own visage. Never have you seen such a smooth chin and jawline.
If you have particularly sensitive skin, consider using aftershave to calm redness and avoid irritation.
Shaving Gel vs Cream
You may be wondering: Does this process apply to shaving with shaving gel, too? The short answer is: Yes.
In fact, shaving gel provides an even richer lather than many standard creams, especially aerosol cream. The result is better lubrication and more protection.
According to Men’s Health, that’s because shaving gel is essentially a highly concentrated form of shaving cream. The high concentration creates a moisture-rich barrier that is necessary to protect your skin and help it recover from the shaving process.
For an even shave, you’ll still want to lather shaving gel in a bowl or your hand before application.
Because it’s such an effective moisturizer, we recommend shaving gel for men with sensitive and aging skin.
Do You Need to Use Shaving Cream?
Yes. If you want a smooth shave with minimal irritation, you need to use shaving cream.
Shaving without it puts you at risk for skin irritation, cuts and snags, and increased acne.
While you may think that using soap or body wash is equally as effective, it’s not. Soap and body wash often contain harsh detergents that ultimately dry out your skin — the exact opposite of what you want.
Shaving cream is necessary because it is designed to hydrate both skin and hair, resulting in easy-to-cut hair and hard-to-cut skin. You simply won’t get the same clean shave without it.
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