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Canned Shave Progress?

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5 canned shave creams

If there is one thing modern shaving reeks of it would be “tradition”. How many times have you heard someone say they use the same brush, razor, or soap their father or grandfather used? Yet at the same time a rigid tradition can also be characterized as anti-progress. Who wants to be bound to the tradition of living in a cave? Hence today’s topic – shaving cream in a pressurized can.


It all started in 1919 when an MIT professor invented Barbasol, the first shaving product that did not require a brush. The next major advancement was in 1949 when a shaving lotion was put in a pressurized aerosol can that produced an instant imitation of lather. No brush or effort required just push the button on top and magically a lather appears. This was called “Rise” and Barbasol followed in 1950.

Today’s Comparison

[Editor’s Note: Amazon links for convenience and are affiliate links.  However you should be able to find these products locally.]

This brings us to today’s comparison. I tried five shaving products that come in pressurized cans: Gillette Labs Rapid Foaming Shave Gel, Gillette Fusion Proglide Sensitive Gel, Aveeno Positively Shaving Gel, Nivea for Men Sensitive Shave Gel, and last but least –Barbasol Sensitive Skin. All involve a liquid type lotion or gel that is kept in a pressurized can and expelled through a valve. 

The first four mentioned produce a gel that you rub onto a wet face and that produces a thin lather. Barbasol, and a few others, saves you the trouble and produces a voluminous foam as soon as you press the valve. I used each product at least four or five times and varied between one day and two day stubbles.

Trying to appear to be fair I used each product as the maker said to use it. So each preshave prep was followed.

Gillette Labs – “Apply Shave Rinse” No mention of prep or even wetting the face.

Gillette Fusion – a picture of someone throwing water on his face.

Aveeno – “Wet area to be shaved”

Nivea – “Massage directly onto the wet face.”

Barbasol – zilch

I must confess to being a big fan of preshave prep and I don’t mean just water. A preshave oil or moisturizing soap, used and left on when applying the shave cream creates a sort of super duper lather. I then tried each one of these products using my usual Dove Skin Defense soap and it improved the glide of each one of these products, even Barbasol.

Bottom line – regardless of which shaving product you use, prep your face first.


gillette labs shave gel

The Gillette Labs Rapid Foaming Shave Gel tries to position itself as an advanced scientific product but it ain’t. Spread the gel on your face and it makes for a thin lather with no cushioning. Where it does get better is on the second pass when you have left the gel on your non-shaving hand and wet it and then rub it on your skin. This is when you get some glide and lubrication. This was truer on multi day stubble when the first pass was not fun. Post-shave moisturizing was adequate.

gillette fusion shave gel

The Gillette Fusion Proglide Sensitive Gel was a little better in terms of glide and lubrication and certainly better with a moistened hand with gel. Like its brother gel, above, cushioning was absent and post shave moisturizing was minimal.


nivea for men sensitive shaving gel

Next came Nivea for Men Sensitive Shave Gel. It comes out as a gel and transforms into a thin lather. Here the initial pass was not as bad as the Gillettes but still no great shakes in terms of glide, lubrication and cushioning. As with the others it improves on a second pass when you moisten your hand with the residual gel. Post-shave was on a par with the others that is – not great.


aveeno positively smooth shaving gel

Then I thought I’d try Aveeno Positively Smooth Shaving Gel therapeutic gel. This is a product that is not targeted to men. You don’t apply it to your face but to the area to be shaved. I supposed all genders could use it for any area that they wanted cleared of hair. Unfortunately it was no better than any  of the above products. In fact, I would rate it slightly below the others in all the categories.


barbasol sensitive skin shave cream

Then we get to Barbasol Sensitive. Press the button and it literally explodes out into a thick dense lather. It is just about as dense as I’ve found in any shave product. If cushioning were the only criterion Barbasol is king. However, in all the other areas it comes on as a very dry foam. 

Initial glide was adequate but residual slickness, even with a moistened hand was deficient. A second shave with a new cartridge did not help. Post conditioning was in last place. The only other area where it shines is price.  I bought a 5 ounce can at Dollar Tree for $1.25. Compare 25 cents an ounce to any other soap or cream. Note: it is yet not the cheapest. That title belongs to Gillette Foamy, a product I am reluctant to try.

[Editor’s note: Barbasol does offer a better alternative.  Click/tap to read Barbasol 1919 Classic Shave Cream Review.]

Summing Up

Bottom line: If I had to shave using a pressurized can I’d have to go with the Gillette Fusion which I’d say was good, not great. The Nivea was second, Gillette Labs third and Aveeno fourth. I don’t feel that the use of a gel as a medium for shaving has proven itself. If you want to avoid the brush and mug there are still other products out there superior to the gels. Oh! Did I forget to mention Barbasol? If that were the only option I’d grow a beard.

Saul Nathanson

Saul Nathanson

3 thoughts on “Canned Shave Progress?”

  1. Brian Fiori (AKA The Dean)

    Back in the 1970s, Gillette came out with a gel/cream hybrid of sorts. I can’t remember the name. It was a blue gel in the can, and looked like gel as it came out of the can. But by the time it hit my hand, it had turned into a very thick and rich cream. Also the color was nearly gone. Maybe just a trace of the blue left. It came in a smaller, thinner can than the other Foamy creams. And it was a bit harder to find and more expensive.

    My recollection is it was easily the “best” of the canned products back then. But I was shaving with a cartridge and basically hated the chore. Grew a beard to avoid the entire issue. But in a pinch on the road, I’d consider trying it again, if it were still available.

    Oddly I’ve tried all the products on your list, with the exception of the Gillette Labs cream. If I’m forced to buy canned goo (which hasn’t happened in quite awhile, thankfully) I get Barbasol.

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