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The Skinny on Shaving Gels

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Many folks still shave with a cartridge razor, and canned foam.  Others use gels. There is a large group of wet shavers that use no brush, scuttle, cream or soap.  Some of my friends in this group extol the benefits of the gel, over canned foam.  While I love the ritual of making lather. There are times I am pressed for time and will shave in the shower using a gel.

A few terms need to clarified.  To me a product can be opaque, called a shaving cream, but work as a gel.  Being transparent is not necessary. Cremo Cream is called a cream, is not even translucent but I don’t consider it a cream because it has low latherability.  It can be forced to lather when a shaving soap is added, but alone it is not a lathering product.

Some creams have lower latherability. Jack Black Triple Cushion* and Nancy Boy may make less than most creams, but they DO lather alone, and work better with a brush, so I consider them as creams, not gels.

Gels work by holding water, and by adhering to wet skin . They are slick, but not anywhere near as protective as a lather.  When used properly, I think they can deliver a shave every bit as close as lather, while not being as enjoyable to shave with.

I have tried many gels, and rejected most based on the shave they deliver. 3 brands stand out IMO as worthy of the wet shavers arsenal. Cremo Cream, King of Shaves (KOS), and Dove+Men.

KOS is no longer available in the US since an ownership issue was settled with Remington. It is the only gel I use which is transparent (Black Pepper variety). Their Citrus version is translucent, not transparent but still works well.

Cremo Cream* is well known, and elicits strong opinions.  I find their new Cooling Formula* gives even better shaves than the original Citrus scent, but I cannot explain why.  It may be a perception not based in the performance.

Recently I encountered two Dove products called shaving cream. A Hydrating* and a Sensitive* variety.  I tried using them with a shaving brush but found they “gunked up” the brush, the razor and my face.  It took several tries to wash them completely off.  This lead me to trying them as a gel in the shower.  Eureka, they are actually protective when hydrated up and delivered BBS shaves, with much less cleanup.
While I won’t be giving up formal lather, made with a shaving brush, in a pinch you can achieve great shaves with these products if you are short on time.  They make a great touch up product for an evening affair with a photographer present to eliminate a 5 o’clock shadow too.

Submitted Respectfully L.M. Isaacs, MD.

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8 thoughts on “The Skinny on Shaving Gels”

  1. Out of these I’ve tried Cremo Cooling and Dove Men Care. Either one will work adequately when I’m in too much of a hurry for a brush and lather, but the Cremo smells better by far, nice and pepperminty as opposed to weird and chemically like the Dove.

  2. Any experience with shaving oils? I have tried Pacific Shaving Company and American Crew. Like the AC because it is much more viscous and I get a pretty good shave with. But I prefer the scent (wish it were stronger) of the PSC product. It really doesn’t last beyond the final rinse. The AC oil is VERY heavy on the clove aroma and it lasts into the morning. I do like the scent but I don’t like going out into the world smelling like a baked ham. Would really like to have the benefit of your observations on shaving oils.

  3. I was a big gel user until I started learning how to shave better, then I started enjoying the luxury of soaps and lather. However, I still have a half dozen tubes of KOS and found them to be a great gel. They do “go bad” as they tend to evaporate from the tube. Years ago I used the Noxzema brushless shave cream, which in essence is a gel.

  4. Haven’t seen that King of Shaves variety down here in Australia, but the two Gels they sell here are reasonable. Not as good a proper soap or cream and brush but with a very wet face and the Gel you can get a reasonable result, tend to use it when I travel to cut down the amount of kit I am carrying.

  5. Cremo is a shaving cream. I have not tried the cooling one.
    Odds are in description of the cooling version it is a cream.
    I tried the original and was not impressed enough to buy another 1 of thier products. Bump Off makes a shaving gel.
    It is not bad. The texture is different than a cream and because it is basically clear if you do not have water you can wipe it off easier. Any residue can not be seen.
    I got the idea from a YouTube video. Barber used it to get a crisp line on facial hair and hair line. Used with a safety or straight razor gel works great to get a crisp line. Easier to see what you are cutting in the mirror.
    In my opinion the gel does not bend wiskers, so it is more like it will look after you have finished. It has less cushion than a good shaving cream but more than a good shaving soap.
    I don’t use the gel everyday but if I have a wedding or funeral and I want my beard to be as tight as I can get I will use the gel to outline my beard.
    Thank you

    1. If you read the directions on the Cremo tube you will find no reference to a brush, or the word lather. To me that isn’t consistent with a shaving cream.

  6. I remember using Gillette Shaving Gel in college. I remember if you have a fairly long stubble and rub it vigorously, it would work up a thin lather. Nevertheless, I never enjoyed shaving products that don’t lather up.
    For some time, it looked like many premium men’s grooming lines (Lab Series, Kiehl’s, etc.) were releasing shaving creams that don’t form any lather. I tried hard to like them but I could never manage to get a good shave. I rationalized they were made for guys with fine beard.

  7. Brian Fiori (AKA T he Dean)

    Even in the “dark days” before I started using quality lathers, I never was much of a fan of shaving gel–with one exception. Gillette made a product called Foamy Face Saver, in the 70s. I’m not sure when they stopped making it. It was advertised as being a gel/cream hybrid, of a sort. It looked like a blue gel when coming out of the can, but turned into a white thick foam by the time it hit the hand. Easily the best canned goo I ever used.

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