What is the best shaving cream at the “megamart,” the mall, and online? Here is Sharpologist’s updated research.
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What Ingredients Are In The Best Shaving Creams?
(This section courtesy of Alraz, lightly edited for clarity.)
In every shaving cream formulation, each ingredient plays a role. While some ingredients are essential, others only have a minor effect. The performance of the cream serves as the ultimate test for the formulation and indicates whether the correct blend of ingredients and concentrations has been used. High tier shaving creams have a common structure that includes carefully selected ingredients that have been optimized for years. Deviations from these general guidelines results in poorer performance.
Here is a typical ingredient list on a high end shaving cream: aqua (water), stearic acid, myristic acid, potassium hydroxide, coconut acid, glycerin, triethanolamine, parfum (fragrance) and sodium hydroxide. The word cocoate, usually preceded by sodium or potassium, may be found replacing coconut acid to indicate that saponification has occurred. Saponification literally means “soap making” and is a chemical reaction used to produce fatty acids from triglycerides. A triglyceride consists of three fatty acid molecules joined to a glycerin molecule, which is also released during saponification. Triglycerides are the preferred molecules used by living organisms to store fats.
In addition, shaving creams often contain other ingredients including botanicals, essential oil derivatives (citral, farnesol, geraniol, geranial, myrcene, limonene, linalool, etc.), chelators, preservatives and other chemicals. Besides modulating performance, these ingredients can add antiseptic qualities, serve as skin toners, increase shelf life, etc. but more importantly, they make each formulation unique.
Determining performance from ingredient lists is often complicated because the actual contents of the product are not listed. Furthermore, ingredient lists do not include the concentration of each ingredient or their purity. This can also be problematic when troubleshooting allergic reactions. It is important to realize that the process of selecting shaving products is not an exact science and several factors, including glycerin content, scent and other additives can modulate performance. Personal preference, allergies, etc. can be important factors in the selection process. However, the best shaving creams covered here that use this foundation rank among the finest in the market and are known for their performance.
A Set Of Criteria To Judge The Best Shave Creams With
Shaving cream can be pretty important: it can make using shaving with a blade a pleasant, fragrant diversion–or a painful, bloody chore. So what is the best shaving cream? There are a some good shaving products, but are also a lot of ghastly ones. Here is Sharpologist’s criteria for determining which may be the best shaving cream for men (I guess it could be the best shaving cream for women too of course, but some of the scents may be unappealing to women):
- Superior performance (based on the experience of Sharpologist authors and readers, and research from review sites and forums)–with both “cushion” and “lubrication” better than most, resulting in a smooth shave regardless of the type of razor used.
- Ease of applying and using under a variety of water mineral content conditions (in other words it works well with both “soft” water and “hard” water).
- Good post-shave feel on the skin and doesn’t cause irritation, razor burn, razor bumps, ingrown hairs, etc., especially on sensitive skin (not overly-drying)
- Available in a variety of scents (you won’t use even the finest shave cream if you don’t care for its smell) or no scent at all.
- Time on the market
- Availability (primarily in the U.S.).
Admittedly these criteria are somewhat arbitrary. An “Honorable Mentions” list of products that deserve attention but don’t meet all the criteria above is also included. There is a separate article about the best shaving soaps. Since most of Sharpologist’s readers are in the United States the list will concentrate on products available there.
Remember, “Your Mileage May Vary” (YMMV) with these recommendations! Although there is a large majority that like these products there will always be some for which a product does not work as well. This post will be updated regularly as products enter and leave the market. Some product links go to a “choice page” (geni.us links) where you can select where you would like to shop from.
Amazon, Grooming Lounge, OneBlade, Smallflower, Truefitt & Hill, and West Coast Shaving links are Sharpologist affiliate.
There are three broad categories of results: products available in the mass market, “the mall,” and the high-end lathering products available at specialty retailers and online.
What Is The Best Shave Cream In Specialty Distribution?
Here you will find most of the best shaving cream for men available, especially if you’re using an “old school” razor for a close shave. They are designed to be lathered with a shaving brush, though they can be used brushless as well (you just have to use a lot more product). Many traditional shaving creams are light years ahead of mass market products and provide an excellent sensory experience as well. Don’t let the cost of these products put you off: they are so concentrated that a tub will last for months and months of daily use. I think some of “the best of the best” shaving creams include (in alphabetical order):
Captain’s Choice – The scents of Captain’s Choice shave creams can be a bit inconsistent but performance has always been excellent (with lather stability being a stand-out). Check out this Sharpologist article that reviews Captain’s Choice’s take on Creed Aventus.
Castle Forbes shaving creams have a reputation of being strongly-scented: some like to say that using their Limes shave cream is like getting hit in the face with a key lime pie 🙂 . Without a doubt a luxurious product with outstanding performance (at a commensurate price).
Cyril Salter – The youngster (!) of the classic British shave product lineage, having been around since “only” the 1940’s, Cyril Salter is still often mentioned in the same breath as the Trumper/Truefitt/Taylor gang. Salter’s Vetiver shave cream was the only game in town in that scent up until just a few years ago, and all their products give off a classic vibe.
eShave had cut back on their offerings and reformulated some of their products a few years ago. But things seem to have stabilized and eShave shave creams are still excellent.
Nancy Boy – Originally formulated with only a single scent, Nancy Boy added a couple additional scents a few years ago (all their scents are very mild). Limited availability but stellar performance (with or without a brush) and they have an excellent reputation in the wet shaving enthusiast community.
St. James Of London
Another British brand now in the US. Some refer to St. James of London shave cream scents as “traditional with a twist:” Mandarin & Patchouli, Cedarwood & Clarysage, Black Pepper & Lime, Sandalwood & Bergamot, etc. They also boast an “all natural” ingredient mix. Performance is excellent across the line.
Taconic – Taconic has line of shave creams in a pump bottle that performs especially well. Taconic shave creams are also an exceptional value. It is made in small batches by a knowledgeable artisan. Their original shave creams are quite good as well.
Taylor Of Old Bond Street
Taylor of Old Bond Street – Taylor Of Old Bond Street has a wide variety of both classic and modern scents and some versions are formulated specifically for sensitive skin. Their almond shave cream is a often listed as a favorite shaving cream on Amazon.
Truefitt & Hill
Truefitt & Hill shave creams are a good mix of “natural” and cologne-like scents, some popular with younger men (1805, Ultimate Comfort) while others are more classic (Trafalgar and Grafton are consider by some as “old man” scents). The No. 10 cream is meant to be used brushless but is “brush friendly” anyway. Truefitt and Hill creams may be ever-so-slightly less cushioning than others in this category but the difference is subtle: most agree the performance is excellent.
Trumper shave cream scents tend to stay in the classic, conservative realm. Some scents may seem a bit foppish but you might be surprised how downright masculine a Rose or a Violet scent can smell. In any event, almost everyone considers these shaving creams as superior in their performance.
What Is The Best Shaving Cream At “The Mall?”
A step up from the “mega-mart” but not at the level of a high-end, specialty retailer, the typical enclosed shopping mall in the U.S. may have some outlets for the shaver looking for a good shave cream.
Jack Black Supreme
Jack Black Supreme – Is available in a single scent from some mid-tier department stores in the mall. It can be used either with a brush or brushless, Jack Black Supreme consistently gets excellent reviews. Jack Black Beard Lube is also very good.
Kiehl’s offers a number of versions of their shave cream including two brushless (Mentholated and sensitive) and and one traditional lather. The “White Eagle” version gets most of the buzz.
The Art Of Shaving
The Art of Shaving – The line-up recently expanded to include more interesting scents (and they have an unscented version made for those with sensitive skin). Their shaving cream performance is perhaps not quite as good as it used to be before a reformulation a few years ago (and admittedly not a particularly good value). But The Art of Shaving shave creams are more-than-solid performers and their fairly wide availability makes them a “gateway drug” into good shaving. They also have a solid line up of other grooming products.
What Is The Best Shaving Cream In The Mass Market?
Finally a look at mainstream products you might find in your local supermarket, “big box” retailer, or drug store/chemist chain (particularly in the United States). Unfortunately, most mainstream shaving products are, relatively speaking, poor performers (all other things being equal). Many are foam in pressurized cans and filled with chemicals that try to compensate for the skin-drying effect that propellants can have. If you have no other choice than to use a mass market shaving product, at least try to use one that comes out of a squeeze tube.
Only a few brands in this category rise above the rest (in alphabetical order):
Cremo Shave Cream
Available in a variety of scents (the Peppermint, Menthol and Tea Tree Oil version is particularly excellent for the summer) and unscented, Cremo shave cream is widely available, found in many national drug store chains, grocery stores, and “big box” or “megamart” outlets. For Sharpologist’s more detailed Cremo shave cream review click HERE (but you should be able to find a number of confirming reviews with a simple internet search). Cremo also has a lathering cream as well, made specifically for use with a shave brush.
Gillette Pure (Cream)
Gillette’s PURE shave cream performs solidly for its niche, works well with a variety of razor types, and it is shave brush friendly to boot. Check out Sharpologist’s article about Gillette Pure for more information. Also available in a gel but this version has not been tested.
The new Gillette Planet Kind shave cream is similar with a slightly different scent.
Pacific Shaving was originally known for their Shaving Oil. They later added a shaving cream. However the star is their Caffeinated Shaving Cream. Sharpologist reviewed it a while back and it is great stuff. Although promoted as a “brushless” shave cream it is “brush friendly” and many report the performance of Pacific Shaving Caffeinated improves even more when lathered with a brush.
Van Der Hagen “Shave Butter”
Van Der Hagen Shave Butter is brushless and low-lathering. It’s surprisingly good for a low-cost shave product. It’s also widely available which can be a real plus when you need something “in a pinch.” Van Der Hagen also offers a shave gel but it has not been tested here.
Honorable Mentions – The Best Of The Rest
There are a number of shaving creams that are excellent but don’t quite pass all the criteria I have set for the best shave cream. I think they still deserve some love though, so here are some “the best of the rest” (again, in alphabetical order):
Burke Avenue – Burke Avenue is getting a ton of “buzz” for its quality and performance. Many say the post-shave moisturization is exceptional, though it comes in a single (mild) scent. Here is Sharpologist’s article about the background of this product.
DR Harris – Another old-school English shaving cream with interesting scents and they perform very well. Some think their shaving soaps are even better than their shaving cream but the creams are still very good.
Executive Shaving out of the UK has had their own brand of shave creams out for a few years now, and they are getting some deserved attention.
J. Peterman 1903 – For fans of the old “Seinfeld” television series, yes, J. Peterman is a real company and they have an excellent shave cream! It is available in a single scent, very “cologne-like.”
Lucky Tiger – Lucky Tiger’s “Liquid Shave Cream” comes in a single (mildly citrus) scent. As the name implies it is less firm than many others (it has a consistency of an aftershave balm) but the performance–with or without brush–is very good.
New York Shaving Company (NYSC) shave creams scents are a mix of classic European, “old timey” American, and natural scents. They also have a sample pack. Up-to-date data on NYSC has dropped off lately.
OneBlade – OneBlade’s “Black Tie” shave cream is only available in a single, moderately-strong lavender scent. But the performance is really excellent: it can build a rich, thick lather and the ‘cushion’ aspect is particularly noteworthy.
The Traditional Shaving Co. – Check out Sharpologist’s review of the line.
Wet Shaving Products (WSP) offers an interesting shave cream formulation, unlike other creams: a texture not a like regular shaving cream but not a “croap” either. Performance is excellent. See Sharpologist’s review about it.
Keeping An Eye On
There are a number of other shave creams that I’m keeping an eye on for possible inclusion in a future update. Some are relatively new to the market. Others have had a recent change in their business circumstances. Some have recently changed their formulation. And some are here simply because I don’t have enough information for a full evaluation yet.
Did I miss something? Disagree with a rating? Leave your suggestions and comments below!
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