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Trying 3 Brushless Shave Products

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At the suggestion of Mantic59 I tried three new-to-me brushless shaving products. One was surprisingly good, one was adequate and one was not good. The three items were Van Der Hagen Shave Butter, Kiehl’s Close Shavers Squadron Ultimate shaving cream, and a shaving cream from Amazon Basics.

[Ed. Note: Amazon links are affiliate.]

Amazon Basics Shave Cream

amazon basics shave cream

The Amazon Basics shave cream compares itself to Cremo brushless cream. Having tried it several times and comparing it to Cremo and other similar products I don’t think Mr. Cremo has anything to worry about. First the good parts. It is cheap. For $11.13 you get two 6 ounce tubes. For the mathematically challenged, that is less than a dollar an ounce. It comes “unscented” which can be good or bad. I tried it alone and with a half-face comparison with other products, including Cremo.

It comes as a brushless cream that appears white and thick but quickly thins out as you rub it on your face. It is very thin. Following directions I wet my face and applied a dollop of cream. It underperformed in terms of glide and lubrication and closeness, don’t even think about cushioning or residual slickness. The Nathanson Research Institute (NRI) gave it an application rating of “5”. I tried it again using a soapy and water prep and it underperformed somewhat less getting to an NRI rating of 6. This is in comparison to Cremo which I have tried concurrently and rates a “7”. The Post conditioning was “adequate”.

Ingredients: Water, Glycerin, Dimethicone, Cetearyl Alcohol, Cetyl Alcohol, Isopropyl Palmitate, Mineral Oil, Petrolatum, Stearyl Alcohol, Behentrimonium Methosulfate, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter, Glycereth-18 Ethylhexanoate, Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil, Olea Europaea (Olive) Fruit Oil, Hydroxyacetophenone, Phenoxyethanol, Glycereth-18, PEG-150 Pentaerythrityl Tetrastearate, PEG-6 Caprylic/Capric Glycerides, PEG-14M, Aloe barbadensis Leaf Juice, Tocopheryl Acetate, Hydrolyzed Soy Protein, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Titanium Dioxide.

Kiehl’s Close-Shavers Squadron Ultimate Brushless

kiehl's brushless shave cream

I next tried Kiehl’s Close-Shavers Squadron Ultimate Brushless shave cream. It claims a founding date of 1851 but I surmise that this cream is not that ancient. Like similar products it starts out as a white cream but thins out as you spread it on your face. Reading the directions on the tube I came across one startling phrase, “no water needed”. I thought, “Wow! No water needed. This must be some really smooth stuff”. Boldly, I tried it without water. Needless to say I won’t try it a second time. You NEED water; soap and water prep is even better. Once you do a proper prep this is not a bad little puppy. Glide and lubrication and closeness were not bad. Residual slickness was also “not bad”. The scent mildly pleasant soapy. Post was okay. Overall it rates an NRI rating of 7+. It is relatively expensive with a 2.5 ounce tube going for $12. on Amazon. I get the impression that this 2.5 ounce tube doesn’t really last that long.

Ingredients: Aqua / Water,Stearic Acid,Palmitic Acid,Squalane,Polyisobutene,Butylene Glycol,Polysorbate 60,Cetyl Alcohol,Peg-100 Stearate,Glyceryl Stearate,Pentylene Glycol,Sesamum Indicum Seed Oil / Sesame Seed Oil,Triethanolamine,Polyglyceryl-3 Beeswax,Phenoxyethanol,Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride,Ci 77891 / Titanium Dioxide,Caprylyl Glycol,Hydroxyethylcellulose,Xanthan Gum,Tetrasodium Edta,Myristic Acid,Stearamidopropyl Dimethylamine,Sodium Pca,Stearyl Alcohol,Menthol,Chlorphenesin,Olea Europaea Oil / Olive Fruit Oil,Elaeis Guineensis Oil / Palm Oil,Menthoxypropanediol,Allantoin,Camphor,Sodium Hydroxide,Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice Powder,Tocopherol

Van Der Hagen Shave Butter

van der hagen shave butter

The real surprise was Van Der Hagen Shave Butter. My first reaction was “What in tarnation is “shave butter”? Essentially, it is the moisturizing extract of a natural substance (don’t say, “Hey! What about peanut butter?”). In my experience with thousands of shave products I have never come across the following phrase on a tube of shaving cream, “For external use only”. I never saw that warning on a can of Barbasol. I wish I had. The ingredients list does include cocoa seed butter, mango butter, shea butter and a bunch of chemicals.  It starts out as a white cream and spreads thinly on the face. It starts out and stays as a very strong tropical type scent. Maybe it comes from the mango butter. It turns out to be my least favorite part of the product. What surprised me was the glide and lubrication and closeness. Residual glide was excellent.  Having used it for over a week the NRI gave it a “9”.

The post-condition was the best I have experienced with any shaving product. Your skin starts out fully moisturized and stays that way. What is most unusual is that the manufacturer posits that since this is not a “soap” but a “butter” not only can you use the same product as an aftershave balm but you don’t even have to wipe it off after you finish shaving. Just rub the residue into the skin (if you don’t mind the scent). It can be used by men and women.

The product is widely available in supermarkets and big box stores. A six ounce tube goes for $5.99.

There was one area where this “butter” faltered. I tried using it with a one day growth, a two days and a three days growth. It seems to lose its magic a little after one day but two days is still acceptable. After three days growth you begin to remember why people use brushes. I think you need a brush to penetrate the stubble to get to the skin and to saturate the bristles as well. I would not recommend this butter after two days

Ingredients: Water (Aqua), Ethyl Macadamiate, Stearic Acid, Glycerin, Cetyl Alcohol, Glyceryl Stearate, Phenoxyethanol, Titanium Dioxide (CI 77891), Fragrance (Parfum), Benzyl Benzoate, Coumarin, Acrylate/C 10-30, Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Aminomethyl Propanol, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter, Ethylhexglycerin, Mangifera Indica (Mango) Seed Butter, Theobroma Cacao (Cocoa) Seed Butter.

Usage Note

One thing I did learn from using non-brush creams is to apply it with your non-dominant hand and leave the cream on your hand while you shave with the dominant. Then slightly wet the soaped hand and rub it on your face for a second pass with excellent residual slickness.

Saul Nathanson

Saul Nathanson

12 thoughts on “Trying 3 Brushless Shave Products”

  1. Easily the best brushless shaving product review I’ve read all year. I laughed, I cried. I’m on the edge of my seat waiting for Saul’s next insightful review!

  2. Joel,
    Is using an exfoliant prior to shaving a good idea? I don’t know. Maybe you should try it for a year and then try going without it for a year and report back to us.

    Is using a brush better? You are not wrong. But imagine being in the depths of Mississippi and your luggage is lost or you forgot to pack your kit. You run out to the local general store and all they have is brushless creams. Or, you are on a desert island packed with all the brushless creams in the world but not a single bristle of a brush. What would you do?

    1. Saul,
      At the general store in the backwoods of Mississippi, with hundreds of brushless creams to choose from, but no shaving brushes … well, because I forgot to pack my shaving kit, I would also look for a razor …. and if razors were out of stock, I would grow a beard.

  3. Saul, I thoroughly enjoyed your presentation and review of the Three Brushless Shave Creams, and glad you chose Van Der Hagen as one of the choices! I happen to be on my last puck of shaving soap (Van Der Hagen Deluxe)…which is an excellent shaving soap, so I plan to purchase the Van Der Hagen Brushless Shave Cream to use while traveling.

    1. George,
      We may be talking apples and oranges here. What I reviewed was shave butter, not shave cream. Shave cream implies soap which will dry on the skin if not washed off. Shave butter has no soap and in fact should be left on the skin to moisturize.

      1. Saul,
        Something to think about…. First of all, Mantic59 introduced 2 items for discussion … A Push-To-Open Razor … and … Three Brushless Shave Creams. I was curious about ‘oranges and apples’ and wanted to verify my soap, so I checked the Van Der Hagen Deluxe Shave Soap ingredients, and it contains Aloe Vera and Shea Butter. Also, I checked out a new product from (VDH) Van Der Hagen, Whipped Shave Cream which contains Avocado, Shea, Mango and Cocoa Butters. So, VDH includes shea butters in their shave soaps and whipped shave cream.

        VDH Shave Butter was described on Amazon with the following:
        -“(2-Pack) 6-Ounces each Van der Hagen Shave Butter, Ultra-Moisturizing Blend.
        -Shaving cream enriched with shea, mango and cocoa butters. Made with Natural Ingredients for an incredibly rich buttery formula.”

        Another VDH description on their website:
        “Our moisturizing Shave Butter 6.0 oz. is packed with soothing ingredients like shea, mango, and cocoa butter and will give you a superior smooth, comfortable shaving experience that helps fight nicks, cuts and the appearance of razor burn. The creamy blend creates a slick layer of protection between shave area …..”

        There are numerous promoters of Shave Butter that call it like it is, for example, Dollar Shave Club … “Designed for the shaver who longs for an easier glide, Shave Butter is a translucent shaving cream alternative that helps soften whiskers and enables precise navigation.
        -Helps soften hair for maximum glide
        -Formulated to be gentle
        -Helps reduce the occurrence of ingrown hairs
        -Helps to fight razor bumps by providing a smoother shave
        -Tested on interns (not animals)”

        Not realizing I had typed the wrong product name, I should have inserted Butter instead of Cream in my original post, but VDH Shave Butter, in my opinion, is a cream. A cream formula for shaving may not need soap in the mix or it may have soap in the mix for a particular purpose.

    1. When I test a shaving product I try and follow the maker’s suggestion. If the maker says moisten the face with water then that is all I do. However, I have found through many decades of shaving that washing the face with soap and water and leaving the soap and water in tact improves the glide. Also, if a shaving product is not naturally lubricating then adding soap and water enhances its glide artificially, sort of like putting lipstick on a pig which I have learned to avoid. If you were to ask which soap do I use for a pre-shave prep I would answer, “I use Dove Men+Care Skin Defense with 1/4 Moisturizing Cream.”

      1. Interesting. I’ve never left soap on the applied shaving cream over it.
        #1. Wouldn’t soap tend to dry out the face? Especially if using a formula to shave with other than shea butter? I assume most creams have soap in them.
        2. With a layer of soap next to the skin, would this cut down the penetration of the cream to soften the whiskers?

        1. 1. No. When I apply soap and water together as my prep the time between prep and shaving cream application can be measured in seconds – not time enough to dry out even in 0% humidity. Also, there are ingredients other than shea butter that can lend moisture to a cream. Shave butter, for example has more than just shea butter for lubrication.
          2. I am no expert but my experience has been that unless you have really deep and dense stubble just rubbing the cream on the face even with a layer of soap and water is sufficient. Personally, I have found that I will always get better results if I use a brush on anything more than one day stubble. Shall I add “YMMV”?

          1. Good points. I have been using an exfoliant cleanser before shaving. I read somewhere that’s a good idea.

          2. You can’t go wrong with a soap and water prep before shaving. But there is nothing like the feeling of a shave brush filled with hot lather on your face and beard; you can’t get that with brushless shave creams or gels! A brush is the best way to prepare the beard for shaving.

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