In a previous article I shared some suggestions for cutting shaving costs during the pandemic by recycling hardware and software. Another viable option is to cut your spending on preshaves, creams, soaps and aftershaves, provided you can find products that give you decent results.
I estimate my annual cost is about $150 to $185 on preshaves, shave creams and soaps, and aftershave balms. If I could get comparable performance for, say, less than $75/year, that’s some real savings.
In selecting products for this article I aimed to keep the cost per item under $15 when possible; the most expensive item was $17. The mix of reviewed products is eclectic because some items came from my shave drawer while I bought others for the article. I paid for everything with the exception of the Grooming Dept samples, which the manufacturer provided because those items sell out as soon as they reach online retailers.
I tested most of the products with a Feather AS-D2 razor and Feather blades with a Merkur 34C/Gillette Nacet combination as an alternate. Some of the reviews are grouped as a set because I used the products that way while others are stand alone. A THUMBS UP rating means good results for me while a THUMBS DOWN signifies I got poor results. Prices are U.S. and approximate.
[Ed. Note: Amazon and West Coast Shaving links are Sharpologist affiliate.]
Cremo Cooling Shave Cream (6 ounces, $5.97 on Amazon) THUMBS UP
Excellent lubrication with a peppermint fragrance and a pleasant cooling sensation. The light layer of lather made it a little difficult for me to track the blade’s path to avoid over-shaving. Nonetheless, the cream produced excellent shaves and at $6 it’s a bargain.
Ingredients: Water (Aqua), Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate, Stearic Acid, Glycol Distearate, Cetearyl Alcohol, Macadamia Ternifolia Seed Oil, Citrus Medica Limonum (Lemon) Fruit Extract, Carica Papaya (Papaya) Fruit Extract, Olea Europaea (Olive) Leaf Extract, Calendula Officinalis Flower Extract, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Tea Tree Oil, Eucalyptus Globulus Leaf Oil, Peppermint Oil, L-Menthol, Polyether-1, Hydroxypropyl Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride, Allantoin, Xylitol, Phenoxyethanol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Titanium Dioxide, Disodium EDTA, Citric Acid, 2-Amino-2-Metyl-1-Propanol, BHT, Perflurodecalin.
Cremo Cooling Post Shave Balm (4 ounces, $7.99 on Amazon) THUMBS UP
Soothing with a strong cooling sensation. Slightly thick consistency, so apply very lightly. Dried quickly. I couldn’t pin down the fragrance–sort of a synthetic mint. Left more of a residue on my skin than I like but otherwise performed well.
Ingredients: Water (Aqua), Glycerin, Glyceryl Dilaurate, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter, Dimethicone, Methyl Gluceth-20, Adansonia Digitata Seed Oil, Calophyllum Inophylum (Tahitian Tamanu) Seed Oil, Melaleuca Alternifolia (Tea Tree) Oil, Menthol, Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Sodium Hydroxide, Caprylyl Glycol, Phenoxyethanol, Isopentyldiol, Disodium EDTA-Copper, Fragrance (Parfum).
Grooming Dept Moisturizing Pre-Shave-Unscented (4 ounces, $16) THUMBS UP
This product has a unique consistency, almost like a softened petroleum jelly. The instructions call for massaging a pea-sized dollop across a damp, but not wet, face. You can add a little water to help spread the preshave but the instructions caution against adding so much water that it begins to make bubbles on your skin. The product added a good base layer for shaving comfort and post-shave skin softening.
Ingredients: Aloe Vera Juice, Shea Butter, Safflower Oil, Stearic Acid, Potassium Hydroxide, Glycerin, Flaxseed Oil, Sorbitol, Propanediol, Avocado Oil, Sunflower Lecithin, Grapeseed Oil, Allantoin, Methyl Gluceth-20, Castor Oil, Glucomannan (Konjac root), Jojoba Oil, Panthenol, Tocopherols, Carnauba Wax, and Tetrasodium Glutamate Diacetate.
Grooming Dept Fortis Shaving Soap (4 ounces, $17) THUMBS UP
This was the most expensive shave cream or soap I tested but it was also the best performer. It was a little thirstier than the other soaps reviewed but once I dialed in the moisture level it provided a dense, lasting cream that provided excellent lubrication and protection. Pleasant, light floral scent that didn’t clash with aftershaves’ fragrances. Using it in combination with the Grooming Dept pre-shave resulted in my best shaves–DFS quality–for this article.
Ingredients: Water, Stearic Acid, Beef Tallow, Glycerin, Castor Oil, Potassium Hydroxide, Shea Butter, Avocado Oil, Sodium Hydroxide, Fragrance, Cow Milk, Lanolin, Coconut Oil, Sun Flower Lecithin, Xanthan Gum,Marshmallow Extract, Colloidal Oatmeal, Kaolin Clay, Chamomile Extract, Sorbitol, Sodium Gluconate, Aloe Vera Extract, Sodium Citrate, Sodium Lactate.
Harry’s Shave Cream (3.4 ounces, $8) THUMBS UP
Tried a brush application but it worked better with fingers. Good lubrication and protection. Cream dissipated more quickly than other brands tested. That required a second light application on the neck, which used the tube’s contents more quickly. I could detect the eucalyptus and mint but the scents were mild.
Ingredients: Water/Aqua/Eau, Myristic Acid, Palmitic Acid, Stearic Acid, Potassium Hydroxide, Glycerin, Sodium Lauryl Sulfoacetate, Methyl Gluceth-20, Sodium Isostearoyl Lactylate, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil, Phenoxyethanol, Caprylyl Glycol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Sodium Benzoate, Menthoxypropanediol, Disodium EDTA, Propanediol, Panthenol, Eucalyptus Globulus Leaf Oil, Polyquaternium-7, BHT, Dipropylene Glycol, PEG-150 Distearate, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Water, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Mentha Piperita (Peppermint) Oil, Sclerocarya Birrea Seed Oil, Hydrogenated Coco-Glycerides, Cucumis Sativus (Cucumber) Fruit Extract, Caprylic/Capric/Myristic/Stearic Triglyceride, Butylene Glycol, Tocopheryl Acetate, Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract, Silybum Marianum Fruit Extract, Ocimum Sanctum Leaf Powder, Sodium Hydroxide, Limonene
Harry’s Post-Shave Balm (3.4 ounces, $8) THUMBS DOWN
Very light, slightly fruity fragrance. Dried quickly leaving skin smooth with minimal residue. Insufficient soothing after my first use so I tried it several more times with both razors and blades and got the same result.
Ingredients: Water /Aqua/Eau, Propanediol, Ppg-15 Stearyl Ether, Propanediol Dicaprylate/Caprate, Oleth-20, Dimethicone, Hydrogenated Ethylhexyl Olivate, Polysorbate 80, Methyl Gluceth-20, Ammonium Acryloyldimethyltaurate/Vp Copolymer, Glycerin, Phenoxyethanol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Hydrogenated Olive Oil Unsaponifiables, Menthoxypropanediol, Bisabolol, Chlorphenesin, Benzyl Alcohol, Sodium Hydroxide, Sorbic Acid, Panthenol, Fragrance/Parfum, Benzoic Acid, Disodium Edta, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Isododecane, Jojoba Esters, Bht, Butylene Glycol, Sclerocarya Birrea Seed Oil, Phytosphingosine, Cucumis Sativus (Cucumber) Fruit Extract, Silybum Marianum Fruit Extract, Ocimum Sanctum Leaf Extract, Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract, Zingiber Officinale (Ginger) Root Extract, Tocopheryl Acetate, Limonene.
Pacific Shaving Co. Caffeinated Shaving Cream (3.4 ounces, $7.99) THUMBS UP
I tried lathering this one in a mug and on my face; the on-face method made a denser lather. The light spearmint scent added a touch of fun to the shaves. Good lubrication and decent protection, but I couldn’t tell if the caffeine in the cream and balm made any difference in the results on my skin.
Ingredients: Water (aqua), Potassium myristate (derived from palm kernel and coconut oils), Potassium stearate (derived from vegetable fats and oils), Sodium myristate (derived from palm kernel and coconut oils), Sodium stearate (derived from vegetable fats and oils), Glycerin (vegetable-based), Caffeine, Organic aloe barbadensis leaf juice, Organic Butyrospermum parkii (shea butter), Organic helianthus annuus (sunflower) seed oil, Mentha viridis (spearmint) leaf oil, Sorbic acid, Menthol, Tocopheryl acetate (Vitamin E), Hydroxyethylcellulose
Pacific Shaving Co. Caffeinated After Shave Balm (3.4 ounces, $7.99) THUMBS UP
Adequate soothing, absorbed quickly and left my skin smooth without too much residue. The light spearmint fragrance paired well with the company’s shave cream.
[Editor’s Note: You can get the Pacific Shaving cream/balm pair on Amazon for about $15.50.]
Ingredients: Water (Aqua), Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride (Plant derived), Glyceryl Stearate (Plant derived), Cetearyl Alcohol (Plant derived), Glycerin (Plant derived), Cetearyl Glucoside (Sugar/Corn derived), Caffeine, Argania Spinosa Kernal (Organic Argan) Oil, Simmondsia Chinensis (Organic Jojoba) Seed Oil, Mentha Viridis (Spearmint) Leaf Oil, Olea Europaea (Olive) Fruit Oil, Crambe Abyssinica (Abyssinian) Seed Oil, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea Butter), Persea Gratissima (Avocado) Oil, Camellia Oleifera Leaf (Green Tea) Extract, Coco-Caprylate/Caprate (Coconut derived), Xanthan Gum (Natural thickener), Menthol, Phenoxyethanol, Ethylhexylglycerin
I made a mistake when ordering and bought the Proraso Green pre-shave cream with the Proraso White (sensitive skin) soap and after-shave balm so I used the pre-shave separately.
Proraso Pre-Shave Cream (Green label: 3.6 ounces, $13 on Amazon) THUMBS UP
Whoever formulated this preshave was determined to wake up sleepy shavers. The eucalyptus oil and menthol scents were so strong they made my eyes water. It reminded me of the mentholated chest rubs we used for colds and congestion when I was a kid. If you can live with the powerful fragrance, though, the cream provides good pre-shave lubrication with a strong cooling effect on the skin.
Ingredients: Aqua (Water/Eau), Stearic Acid, Sorbitol, Glycerin, Camphor, Eucalyptus globulus Leaf Oil, Potassium Hydroxide, Menthol, Parfum (Fragrance), Geraniol, Butylphenyl Methylpropional, Coumarin, Cetearyl Alcohol, Eucalyptol, Sodium Benzoate, Phenoxyethanol, Benzyl Alcohol, Disodium EDTA.
Proraso Shave Soap for Sensitive Skin (White label: 5.2 ounces, $10 on Amazon) THUMBS UP
The White line’s light, slightly floral scent was a pleasant change from the Green preshave’s nose bomb. Lathered easily with good lubrication and protection. Although this soap cost more than some of the others reviewed, I still rate it as an excellent value for the quality.
Ingredients: Water, Stearic Acid, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil, Potassium Hydroxide, Glycerin, Sodium Hydroxide, Lactic Acid, Fragrance, Menthol, Tocopheryl Acetate, Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Sodium Hydroxymethylglycinate, Hexyl Cinnamal, Geraniol, Citral, Limonene, Linalool, Pentaerythrityl Tetra-di-t-butyl, Hydroxyhydrocinnamate, Thymus Vulgaris (Thyme) Flower/Leaf Extract, Avena Sativa (Oat) Kernel Extract, Camellia Sinensis (Green Tea) Leaf Extract, Etidronic Acid, Tetrasodium EDTA.
Proraso After Shave Balm for Sensitive Skin (White label: 3.4 ounces, $16 on Amazon) THUMBS UP
Soothing, dries quickly with little residue and the floral/fruity fragrance was subtle and pleasant, even classy. It costs more than some of the other reviewed products, but I can understand why this balm gets consistently high ratings from users. I’ll definitely pick up the White preshave cream and work the White line into my rotation.
Ingredients: Water, C-12-15 Alkyl Benzoate, Glycerin, Trilaureth-4 Phosphate, Aluminium Starch Octenylsuccinate, Parfum, Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Avena Sativa (Oat) Kernel Extract, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Thymus Vulgaris (Thyme) Flower/Leaf Extract, Tocopheryl Acetate, Allantoin, Phenoxyethanol, Benzyl Alcohol, Sodium Benzoate, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Hydroxide, Limonene.
Single Product Reviews
Arko Shaving Soap (3.2 ounces, $6.30 on Amazon) THUMBS DOWN
Lathered up quickly to produce foamy lather that was lighter and less dense than the other soaps tested. Fragrance stirred memories of Ivory Soap, which isn’t my preferred scent but was tolerable. If nothing else, I smelled clean. Good lubrication allowed a close shave but I felt the blade-cushioning was less than the other reviewed brands and it left my skin tender with some razor burn on the neck.
Ingredients: Ingredients: Aqua (Water), Stearic Acid, Potassium Tallowate, Potassium Cocoate, Sodium Palm Kernelate, Glycerin, Parfum (Fragrance), Paraffinum Liquidium, Cl 77891, Tetrasodium Edta, Etidronic Acid, Disodium Distrylbiphenyl Disulfonate, Amyl Cinnamal, Citronellol, Geranoil, Hexyl Cinnamal, Linalool
Dr Carver’s Shave Butter (6 ounces, $8) THUMBS UP
This is a Dollar Shave Club product. It’s transparent and I applied it with my fingers. Provided excellent lubrication and blade protection; I could not detect a fragrance. Left my skin feeling smooth after the shave. Paired well with the Nivea Sensitive Skin Post Shave Balm when I wanted to minimize post-shave fragrance. Another good value.
Related post: Dollar Shave Club Shave Lather Redux
Ingredients: Water/Aqua/Eau, Cetearyl Alcohol, Glycerin, Behentrimonium Methosulfate, Cyclopentasiloxane, Macadamia Ternifolia Seed Oil, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Seed Oil, Propanediol, Avena Sativus (Oat) Kernel Extract, Salix Alba (Willow) Bark Extract, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract, Laminaria Digitata Extract, Carica Papaya (Papaya) Fruit Extract, Ananas Sativus (Pineapple) Fruit Extract, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Panax Ginseng Root Extract, Cyclohexasiloxane, Dimethicone, Phospholipids, Retinyl Palmitate, Ascorbyl Palmitate, Tocopheryl Acetate, Leuconostoc/Radish Root Ferment Filtrate, Hydrolyzed Barley Protein, Opuntia Ficus-Indica Stem Extract, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Peel Extract, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Oil, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Oil, Eucalyptus Globulus Leaf Oil, Dimethiconol, Hydroxypropyl Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride, Disodium EDTA, Ethylhexylglycerin, Potassium Sorbate, Phenoxyethanol, Limonene.
Mama Bear Unscented Glycerin and Cedarwood ($3.99 each). THUMBS DOWN
I ordered the smallest available size of 1.5 ounces for each soap. Lather easily whipped up to a slightly foamy state that lubricated well and it was nice to have an unscented option with the glycerin soap. My experience with these soaps was mixed. The lather did not cushion the blade as much as I like and I felt more post-shave tenderness than usual with several patches of pinkish skin, but the soaps also left my skin smooth. I used the products with both razors and different blades and had the same results each time.
Ingredients: Coconut Oil, Palm Oil, Castor Oil, Safflower , Glycerine (kosher, of vegetable origin), Purified Water, Sodium Hydroxide (saponifying agent), Sorbitol (moisturizer), Sorbitan oleate (emulsifier), Soybean protein (conditioner), Wheat protein. The cedarwood has cedarwood essential oil in it.
Nivea Sensitive Skin Post Shave Balm (3.3 ounces, $4.98 on Walmart.com) THUMBS UP
Excellent soothing properties. I could barely detect the fragrance so I used this for times when I didn’t want to clash with a shave cream’s scent or wanted to minimize post-shave fragrance. Dried quickly with no residue. A bargain for $5.
Ingredients: Water, Glycerin, Isopropyl Palmitate, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract, Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel) Bark/Leaf Extract, Tocopheryl Acetate, Tapioca Starch, Triceteareth-4 Phosphate, Maltodextrin, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Carbomer, Sodium Hydroxide, Phenoxyethanol, Piroctone Olamine, Fragrance.
My test shaves found several relatively inexpensive preshaves, creams, soaps and aftershaves that worked well and some that didn’t work. YMMV, but for me the relationship between price and shave quality held and I had the best results with Grooming Dept and Proraso products. If you’ve found inexpensive shaving software, please leave a note in comments.