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Why Not Plain Ol' Barber-Sol Canned Cream?

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Air Pressure Is Not For Shaving!

A commenter on Reddit asked “Why not use a can of [shave cream] with a DE?”  My Response (among others):
Does [Brand-Name Canned Shaving Cream] and its canned ilk work? Well, for most people, yeah. But its like eating at McDonalds every day: not necessarily good for you, and kinda boring if you do it every day. The main problem with canned shaving cream is that the propellant tends to dry out the skin by displacing water from the skin, so artificial lubricants have to be added to try to make up for it. Usually the lubricants are petroleum-based, which displaces water even further. And its water that does the “heavy lifting” during a shave: warm water will ease the hair out a bit, naturally (so no need for a”yank and hack” multi-blade razor!) and softens the hair for an easier cut. So if you don’t want to use traditional shaving cream/soap, at least buy a “brushless” product that comes out of a squeeze-tube and not a pressurized can.


Shave tutor and co-founder of sharpologist. Also check out my content on Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest!View Author posts

33 thoughts on “Why Not Plain Ol' Barber-Sol Canned Cream?”

  1. I can not tell you how many soaps I have tried, preshave products, brushes, blades, razor handles various regiments. My God it is has been dizzying, but nothing softens my beard as well as Barbasol, nothing. It may not be the slickest, most protective stuff in the world but I get great shaves from it.
    I put it on before I get in the shower let it sit, for a min or two then rinse. This stuff loves water I keep adding water till I get a nice sheen. That’s it I get fantastic BBS shaves with zero iteration and a great post shave feel. Can’t say enough for this stuff, I am sure my lathering skills are lacking with the traditional stuff. But here lately I am reaching for the can more and more.

      1. I do started wet shaving about 4yrs ago or more, to save money and failed miserably. I have used several safety razors and sold all but my Merkur 34c and PAA Prismatic, I also have SR, Shavette and a Gillette Mach 3. While I enjoy all of them the SR being the least favorite cause no matter who I get to hone it (my self included) can’t seem to get it sharpe enough to last more then three shaves and even at that the shave is substandard.
        Since writing that reply I find Gillette foamy to me far more silk and protective then Barbasol. It could be my skin but all the traditional soaps dry my skin out I work outdoors as an aircraft mechanic and in the winter months Canned foam is all I can use, or PAA shaving soaps. While I think there is nothing wrong with traditional shaving soaps, I find the Anti canned shaving cream rhetoric a bit unfounded.

  2. It seems that everyone’s skin is a little different. I used Barbasol for years before trying traditional creams with a shaving brush. For me it really didn’t make much of a difference. I still had a good amount of irritation after shaving. One day I finally decided to try a single blade razor – an Edwin Jagger DE89. Using a single blade made all the difference. I now get very little irritation. Even using the cheapest shaving cream available (Barbasol), I still get a more comfortable shave.

  3. I shiver whenever I hear the word “canned shaving cream.” It brings back horrible memories trying to shave with it. Canned shaving cream dried my skin and made my face red. I use Castle Forbes shaving cream now and there is no way I’m ever using canned cream.

  4. If one is truly on a tight budget, there’s nothing wrong with using Barbasol or Gillette Foamy along with a DE razor & corresponding very inexpensive (per shave) DE blades.
    If you want to use relatively expensive artisan soaps, that’s your call. You’ll be doing it for the experience and well…pampering. In that case, you’re not doing it to save money at all, especially after shipping costs are considered. Of course, you can always use VDH soaps sold locally and still have a sexy shave.
    Remember, cartridge shaving is actually not as expensive as many make it out to be. I could make a cartridge last minimum 3 months, sometimes longer. This produces a satisfactory shave. Not a great shave, but passable.
    I’m just seeking something better than passable and as far as I can tell, DE shaving provides that.

  5. It’s not the Barbasol that’s the problem as much as the DE. They represent old and inferior technology. When all we had was safety razors, I dreaded shaving. No DE can compete with a modern razor. This is clearly a case of the Emperor having no clothes.

    1. I can give you just as many anecdotal sources that a DE is superior to cartridge razors. It’s about what works well for the individual.

  6. While Barbasol is nothing special, it’s not evil either. It’s just soap that has been put in a spray can for convenience. In fact, the main ingredient is water. It’s certainly not petroleum based. Barbasol, or any other shaving cream, can be drying because it is soap-based. And soap is not the best thing to put on your face, especially someone with dry skin. “Yank and hack multi-blade razor!” While you certainly don’t need four or five blades, you also don’t want to go with a single blade razor either. Those can be very harsh.

    1. Barbasol is so drying because the propellant used to get it out of the can creates air pockets in the cream, which displace water on the face. Soap is only drying when it is poorly made or improperly mixed. Single-blade razors CAN be harsh I’ll agree, but that mainly has to do with certain skin/hair types and the type of blade used. I’ve had absolutely amazing shaves from my safety razor when I pair it with a sharp, smooth blade as well as terrible shaves when paired with a rough blade. But once they get the hang of it, most guys agree that a safey razor with one blade is easier on the skin than a razor with even as few as two blades.

      1. Huh? Barbasol is drying because it uses a powerful detergent/soap to create the foaming action (SLS). Soap is what can be so drying and should not be used on the face.

  7. Barbasol is basically shaving soap. The propellant adds air to the mix just like, guess what, a shaving brush. The idea that something like Proraso is more gentle on the skin is pretty hard to believe. It contains camphor, boric acid, propylene glycol, parabens and BHT. It looks like the only thing they left out is battery acid. And then to say that an old safety razor is somehow more gentle – unbelievable. I think the Nazis may have used those razors to extract information. Of course, you wet shavers probably end the experience with an irritating, drying alcohol based after shave.

    1. Propylene glycol is completely safe in proper amounts. One of its uses is a food additive. A shaving brush is designed to add WATER, not air, to lather. As Mantic said, many of the barbasol ingredients are petroleum-based. Guess what: oil and water don’t mix, so your skin is much less hydrated than with traditional lather. A safety razor has just 1 blade, compared to the standard 3+ blades of most mass-produced cartridge razors of today. 1 sharp blade versus 3+ less sharp blades for less pulling of the hair. Plus, the first cartridge blade removes lather, so the subsequent blades are passing over exposed skin. With a safety razor that never happens unless you intentionally pass over already-shaved skin without relathering. Alcohol cleanses the skin, and used in small amounts followed by a moisturizing compound, can be very beneficial to the skin.

    2. Alcohol-based aftershave, when used after a good quality shaving soap, is not drying at all. In fact, alcohol cleanses the skin, closes the pores, and reduces chances of infection and acne.

  8. Ted Pettinicchi (TAP119 on B & B)

    Here’s my 2 cents: boo to the Barbasol. I, too, use it for travel sometimes simply for the convenience. However, I prefer Bigelow’s Proraso, Tabac (both in tubes) and ManCaveSoapWorks soaps(Etsy). All of these I lather with my own build (TGN) badger brush. On occasion, I have used Edge (blue slime) but have not gotten a decent shave.
    Question: has anyone ever used one of those fit-to-the-can lather heaters? My Dad had one, used it and went back to cold B’sol with his FatBoy. Just curious.
    The barber shops use a liquid soap which comes in gallon jugs premixed for the dispenser. The dispensers whip and heat the lather. If you want one, you can buy one. Check out the Sally beauty supply or barber supply stores.

  9. What do they use at barber shops with those heated dispensers?
    I’ve always been curious as to how those work and compare to the lathers you talk about in your videos.

  10. While I usually use traditional creams/soaps (TOBS, Proraso, Prairie Creations), every once in a while I’ll whip up some Barbasol with my brush and add a generous amount of hot water to the bowl. It’s really not half-bad with proper prep.
    The most satisfying shave I ever had was with a Bic Sensitive and a travel-size can of Barbasol (bought in the hospital gift shop) in a hospital room sink after the birth of my first child. Proraso is my go-to cream, but I still have that little can, and it’s coming with me to the hospital in February for the birth of our second.

  11. So that is why foam can be sub-optimal. Thanks once again for informing us of the why behind the what.
    One thing that many overlook is that during the “good old days” foam in a can was what most guys used along with their safety razors. That does not mean it will give a better shave. I think that even the goo in a can was an improvement over aerosol foam. The only advantage I can see with aerosol goo or foam over a good shaving cream or soap is convenience. Seconds count when one is rushing to get ready in the morning, sometimes to the point that people lose sight of the forest for the trees.
    Yes, I am demonizing Barbasol. It is based on real-world experience, though, not just talking smack because it is considered uncool in the wetshaving forums. If Barbasol works well for others, then more power to them.

  12. Although expensive, Zirh shave gel is an awesome brushless product. Jack Black makes a pretty good cream as well. I go for these when traveling, as the tube packs well and a little goes a long way.

    1. I happen to like Barbasol and always have a few cans on hand for when the mood strikes me and think we overly demonize it in the wet shaving community. It really is nothing more than canned lather from soap that I find is pretty gentle on my skin as Barbasol was intended to be when it was first invented.

    2. I’ve been considering adding some Jack Black to my collection, but haven’t heard too many reviews of it on DE sites…good to know that some people use it. If you have any legitimate reviews of it I’d love to hear how it is.

  13. This article brought about a lot of bad memories for me, having to shave everyday with a can of generic shave cream and an overused cheap disposable. Makes me sick to my stomach just thinking about it…

  14. I don’t like brushless shaving jells. You don’t get to feel the soft bristles on your face, you can’t see were you’ve shaved and where you haven’t and they’re not as traditional as soaps. I’ve used Van der Hagen, C. O. Bigelow (Proraso) and Michell’s (Kent). With that said, you will never get a faster, closer shave than from a tube of Alba, even if you use a below average blade. As for canned cream, I wouldn’t touch it.

    1. Gillette Sensitive Blue Gel Copper colour can works V Well with my EJ DE89 and Murkur Slant Bar Hydrate well with HOT Flannel V Good results Cheapo Sharks Derbys+Feathers 2 pass is fine 3 if U wanna spoil yourself.Need good technique though!

  15. I was talking about my bad spelling. Oh well, I now know that it’s spelled Barbasol and they have been spelling it wrong since 1919. 🙂

  16. I have a travel size can of Barbor-Sol in my shave kit. Pretty pitiful stuff. I have used it when there was absolutely no time while traveling. Full stubble or Barbor-Sol, full stubble or Barbor-Sol .. most of the time full stubble wins.

  17. The only canned shaving gel I used that didn’t result in me breaking out in ingrowns (and I tried every one HEB offered) was Nivea Sensitive, but even then I had to be careful.
    I’ve tried a few brushless lotions and they do work nice. I personally like Cremo and Avalon Organics Lavender. Kiss My Face does pretty good brushless as well.
    But I prefer the brush. I like doing it the old fashioned way. It feels like a spa treatment for my face.

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