What shaving cream should I use?
July 31, 2011 5:26 AM   Subscribe

What shaving cream should I use?

I'm making the transition of using a common cartridge razor (Gillette Fusion) to using a double-edged razor so that I can: 1. Get a closer shave. 2. Save (lots of) money.

Double-edged razors are said to give you a closer shave than cartridge razors and, almost more importantly, double-edged blades cost hardly anything. For a measly $60 CAD (including shipping/handling) I could buy 200 Feather blades on Ebay which would last me four years; for the same price I could buy just eight Gillette Fusion cartridges which would last me a few months.

I've done some looking around and it looks like I'll start off with a Merkur "1904" razor, Feather blades and a badger-hair shaving brush. Merkur seems to be highly esteemed among people who use double-edged razors, Feather blades are said to be the sharpest blades of them all and badger-hair brushes are said to lift hair better than other types of brushes.

Now this leaves me with shaving cream: what should I use? Does the shaving cream you use matter much when it comes to shaving?

posted by GlassHeart to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (46 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
In my experience, it doesn't. I would make the decision based on cost and ease of use.

But there are a lot of people who think the choice of cream and the choice of device require the attention once devoted to eradicating the boll weevil (e.g.). To cut -- haw! -- to the chase, I think they are insane.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 5:34 AM on July 31, 2011

Proraso in a tube from amazon works much better for me than the two other creams I used - colonel conk and trader joe mango. It's a lot more expensive, but still cheap and will last a long time.
posted by rainy at 5:38 AM on July 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

I use and like Proraso, but in all fairness, it's less of a big deal than the switch to the new razor and shaving style. With the Feather blades, be prepared to cut yourself quite a bit until you get used to them, and be prepared for shaving to take longer than it did with a cartridge razor. That's going to be a significantly larger change than the choice of cream.
posted by ellF at 5:40 AM on July 31, 2011

I find that Geo F Trumper is the only way to go. It seems expensive, but it lasts much longer than a can of foam. I've been using the same bar for over a year now. It gives a luxurious lather and is worth every penny. Make sure you have a decent shaving brush.

You'll leave the house every morning as a gentleman.
posted by MighstAllCruckingFighty at 5:43 AM on July 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

Nthing Proraso in the green tube (also sometimes marketed as Omega). I've tried a wide variety of brush shaving creams/soaps, and I've found Proraso to be the best combination of protecting the skin from irritation while shaving, soothing the skin after shaving, creating a nice lather, and smelling clean without being perfume-y.
posted by maxim0512 at 5:48 AM on July 31, 2011

The major drug store chains in Canada carry Proraso. I use the green tube of shaving cream, and the white Proraso pre-shave. If you're in a place with soft water, the shaving soap bowls are great, but they turn into miserable insoluble slop in Toronto water.
posted by scruss at 5:58 AM on July 31, 2011

My husband used a double edged razor for a while, it took him a couple of weeks to be able to shave without nicks and he said he had to concentrate a lot more when shaving. He didn't use a shaving cream but a shaving oil as he found he got skin irritation otherwise, there is a huge variety out there so I won't link to one but a few minutes on google will find you a huge range to choose from.

He did dabble with a shaving bar for a while and a nice badger hair brush and would get a lovely foam that way, he just found the oil worked for him. So it might be an area you'll have to experiment with a bit to find what works for you.
posted by wwax at 5:59 AM on July 31, 2011

Since I switched to a safety razor a few years ago I've tried lots of shaving creams, and none have felt as good as Dr. Bronner's soaps.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 6:01 AM on July 31, 2011

Another vote for Proraso, the menthol makes for a refreshing shave. For cheap and good, get a Palmolive shave stick, usually retail for about $2-3 in the supermarket. You can get more pricy with creams from Trumper etc., but it's a matter of personal taste. I like the Nancy Boy shave cream.
Note about the Feather blades, they are very sharp but you may not actually get the best shave for you from them depending on your technique and skin. Look at other blades such as Personna, Shark and Derby. There're a bunch of shaving forums out there where people discuss the esoterica of shaving; best to just try a few combinations to see what works best for you.
posted by arcticseal at 6:01 AM on July 31, 2011

wwax, genuine question: did your husband's switching around seem to make much of a material difference cosmetically, other than re. shaving cuts?

Because honestly, whenever I encounter this kind of discussion, I feel like I have wandered into a fierce, highly intelligent discussion of how to choose and treat a sickle for cutting the lawn. And I speak as someone who literally and figuratively uses a reel mower.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 6:06 AM on July 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

let me throw at least one vote in for using NO shaving cream. I stopped using it years ago, I shave after I shower, I haven't cut myself shaving once since I stopped using the cream....
posted by tomswift at 6:10 AM on July 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

I would suggest that you experiment. Start with the Proraso, but just get one tube, and try another when you are done. Try a soap instead of a cream. Likewise on the blades, I would recommend you start with a sampler pack so you can try a variety of blades out. You'll quickly develop your own opinions about what works best for your face.
posted by kovacs at 6:34 AM on July 31, 2011

My husband loves Proraso too! He has a big collection of shaving soaps and Dr. Bronner's is also a favourite. You might like the Badger and Blade website for more shaving geekery :-)
posted by Calzephyr at 6:42 AM on July 31, 2011

I've been shaving with a double edged razor for maybe 8 years. I've saved huge amounts of money, and I'm pleased that it's better for the environment (less packaging, etc.). Good for you for making the switch.

Take the following with a bit of a grain of salt, as I have a beard, but: it really doesn't matter. I don't think you need a badger shaving brush. You don't need to get particularly fancy. I use the Neutrogena shaving cream that comes in a tube, because I didn't think the aerosol shaving creams were worth the cost or the environmental impact. I picked Neutrogena because its the brand I've seen most consistently. I had one from Jack Somethingorother, and it was $20 per tube and I had to buy it at Bloomingdales (or order online) and it was not worth the cost or hassle. For blades, I got 100 for $10 on eBay. They're fine.

I do have a Merkur razor, and I think that's certainly worth it. Eight years in, it's starting to show some wear--minor corrosion on some of the corners. I'll have to replace it in the next couple of years, probably. For $30 or so, it's served me very well for a long time.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 6:45 AM on July 31, 2011

Seconding the Palmolive stick. In my experience it's all one needs. Some of the creams in tubes are too sticky and do a poorer job than this one. Like, clog up you razor and are difficult to rinse off.
posted by Namlit at 6:50 AM on July 31, 2011

I don't think the cream matters so much, as long as it is true shaving cream in a tube and not an aerosol foam. I would strongly advise against buying 200 feather blades right off the bat. Feather blades are not a beginner blade, and I personally never got used to them. I use Derby blades, and that was after some experimentation with different brands. I echo kovacs above on buying a sampler pack.
posted by 2ghouls at 7:02 AM on July 31, 2011

I like Edge gel.
posted by Obscure Reference at 7:11 AM on July 31, 2011

I've been using Van Der Hagen for the last 6 months and I think it's great, so much easier to lather than Williams shave soap I used before. I haven't made a dent in the puck yet.
posted by any major dude at 7:22 AM on July 31, 2011

BTW, a disposable razor can last longer than you think. I've done this for a while and it works exactly the way the man in the video says.
posted by MighstAllCruckingFighty at 7:36 AM on July 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

The Cade shaving soap from L'Occitane works up a nice thick lather, keeps the fragrance (albeit a very pleasant one) to a minimum, and it lasts forever. Shaving every day, I think two soaps a year is enough for me. (FYI, I'm also using a Merkur razor with Merkur blades). I've tried other soaps (like the mysteriously popular Colonel Conk brand) and the Cade stuff blows it away.
posted by holterbarbour at 7:47 AM on July 31, 2011

My belief is that blades and creams depend on one's facial hair type as to whether they work well or not. I like the C O Bigelow eucalyptus cream.

Further, with double edge blades and the razors they go into make a huge difference. A half a millimeter in difference is the difference between no shave at all and slicing your face up like a salami. I've tried those Merkur razors, and found their manufacture (or design?) to be wanting. There is slack in the pins that hold the blade, meaning that unless you center the blade perfectly, the blade is going to be cock-eye or overly steep on one side and not steep enough on the other.

Honestly, I found that the 50 cents a pack blades I get at the grocery store to be more reliable and consistent than the feather blades.
posted by gjc at 7:49 AM on July 31, 2011

I find shaving cream entirely unnecessary. I use soap or shampoo, conditioner, body wash. Anything I already have around the shower. Gets as close of a shave for me as any shaving cream I've ever used.
posted by santaliqueur at 7:59 AM on July 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'm another double edged (or "safety") razor user. I use a Merkur travel razor (although, thanks to TSA rules, I can't actually travel with it in hand luggage!) and I love it, plus it saves me a fortune. I tend to use the cheapest shaving foam (from an aerosol) that I can get my hands on. I do use shaving oil sometimes, esp when travelling and needing to save space, but personally I prefer foam. No nicks once you get the hang of it!
posted by prentiz at 8:06 AM on July 31, 2011

Another vote for no cream at all. The alcohol causes skin irritation for me. I use a soap bar, lathered well in both hands, then rubbed on the face. Shave during the shower. I've found that mild soaps work best and are least irritating: the SoapWorks brand is easy to find in Ontario. Their tea tree oil bar is my usual shave.
posted by bonehead at 8:13 AM on July 31, 2011

Nthing Proraso. I get mine at Bath & Body Works at the local mall, where its sold under the C..O. Bigelow name. Also recommending the sampler pack idea for your blades. I found Feather blades to be a tad aggressive when I was starting out with a Safety razor. I'm currently using Derby, which were a little more forgiving while I was getting my technique down.
posted by KingEdRa at 8:31 AM on July 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm fond of tallow based shaving soaps like Mitchell's or Tabac. They produce an incredibly thick lather. For non-tallow soap, I like Mama Bear's. They come in different scents and are priced very affordably however because it's glycerine based, you can run through a puck very quickly whereas the tallow pucks last a very long time.
posted by cazoo at 8:36 AM on July 31, 2011

Do feel free to experiment. I use Pears soap and a decent shaving brush that I got from the pharmacy. I find I get much better results if I wash my face with lots of hot water to soften the whiskers before shaving.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 9:05 AM on July 31, 2011

I use a similar razor setup and just switched to The Art of Shaving's little kit, with pre-shave oil and shaving cream and aftershave and whatnot. It's a little on the expensive side (though it makes a great gift for Christmas if people want to get you something nice), but it does seem to get my whiskers soft and get me a great shave.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 9:32 AM on July 31, 2011

Nthing soap over cream. As well as being nicer to shave with, shaving soap leaves less residue on brush, razor and washbasin.
posted by wo is me at 9:55 AM on July 31, 2011

I use a Merkur travel razor for my legs, along with Lush's Prince (my boyfriend used it too before he grew a beard). It's expensive, but you only use a small amount. It won't foam and you don't want a thick layer. If you live near a Lush store they will usually give samples. It's best to use with a sink full of hot water to swish the razor in, rather than trying to rinse under the tap.

Oh, you don't need a brush with it, just your fingertip.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:28 AM on July 31, 2011

Lots of advice in this FPP from a few years ago.
posted by TedW at 10:48 AM on July 31, 2011

I use any razor I can get. They almost all work as advertised. Mostly I use a double edged razor of some type, maybe an old single edged Gem or Injector, but have no qualms about using a disposable.

Rather than shaving cream, I use a variety of different products depending on how I feel, weather, etc. In current warm weather I use something cooling, like Doc Bronner's soap. Use only a few drops. Makers little lather. When it dries, simply wet again with a few drops of water. Works great.

I also sometimes use Noxema cold cream. The same old stuff your Mom might have used to remove makeup or wash her face. This isn't a soap so much as a blend of oils and fats with some nice additives like eucalyptus and menthol. Cooling and moisturizing, very smooth with the razor. Just spread it thin. It isn't a soap, and it doesn't lather. If it dries, simply wet with a few drops of water. This is a very soothing method, and particularly good for warm, dry weather.

The third method I use is shaving oil. Commercially, I use Shave Secret. Comes in a small bottle at Walmart. Lasts a long time. Use a few drops, rub on whiskers, shave. Again, use a few drops of water if it dries out. The oil method is a very simple and compact one. Very good for dry weather. In lieu of commercial shaving oil, just about any food grade vegetable oil will do. I like jojoba, simply because it's the thinnest vegetable oil I've come across.

One common theme here is that all these methods don't really need an aftershave. I absolutely despise any commercial perfumed aftershave. I used to use plain diluted rubbing alcohol for years, but since I've migrated to the above methods, I don't need any most of the time. On the few occasions I need an aftershave, something simple like Witch Hazel will do.
posted by 2N2222 at 10:51 AM on July 31, 2011

Obscure Reference: "I like Edge gel."

I use the Edge Gel with Aloe. I notice a negative difference when using anything else.
posted by Splunge at 12:22 PM on July 31, 2011

2n2222- the reason for aftershave is to disinfect the skin so that you don't get razorburn and little bumps. If the shaving stuff you are using has oils that do the same thing, you are right. And I agree about the witchhazel too. Gets the job done, and then you get to choose your own smell via cologne. or not.
posted by gjc at 12:26 PM on July 31, 2011

I use Taylor of Old Bond Street shaving cream bowls (sandalwood in the summer and lavender in the winter, although I'm dying to try the avocado) and Feather blades. One tub used judiciously easily lasts half a year. They aren't too heavily scented but enough to be pleasant.
posted by jtfowl0 at 12:42 PM on July 31, 2011

I find shaving cream entirely unnecessary. I use soap or shampoo, conditioner, body wash.

I did this, along with switching from disposables to a safety razor to save money. I know everybody's skin is different, but if yours isn't terribly sensitive, forget the shave cream altogether. Way cheaper, with no difference in closeness of the shave.
posted by Rykey at 12:52 PM on July 31, 2011

+1 for Nancy Boy.
posted by sharding at 1:50 PM on July 31, 2011

First and foremost, good for you! I've been a DE Shaver since about 2009 and would never think to switch back.

As for razors, the Merkur has it's following, but I'm a big fan of vintage Gillette SS Series razors. I got a used razor (disinfected and cleaned up, natch) for $15 when I started, and have since collected about 10 or so razors at various antique malls and flea markets for around $10 each. I found my razor (and TONS of info) on The Shave Den, one of several active shaving communities. To buy a razor check The Marketplace, and you'll find tons of great deals.

For a brush, I started with the Col Conk Badger that I found on Amazon, but shortly thereafter, I came across a hand-turned buckeye burl with silvertip badger bristles for $30 from a great seller called Penworks, who has their shaving brushes here. The price to quality ratio just cannot be beat.

For razors, definitely check out a sampler. All the stuff I read online was pointing to Feather, but when I actually tried 5 or so different blades, I settled on Derby for my everyday blades. I got my sampler from West Coast Shaving, they have lots of kits to choose from. I think I got the standard or extended, I don't remember. After I settled on Derby, I found that I could get 100 blades on Amazon for about $8. I bought that box about 2 years ago, and I just had to buy more. I'd say that's a pretty good return.

Now for shaving cream. The discussion on soaps is about a divisive as coke and pepsi. My preferred method is to combine soap and cream. I use a Tabac puck that I bought two years ago for $12 and an almond sized dollop of CO Bigelow (ie Proraso Green) and get a wonderfully fragrant, cooling, rich lather every time. On the Shave Den, I also know that you can usually get some samplers of shaving cream (check the store for what exactly they have). When I don't have time for a full on shave, and only need to hit a quick two-pass, I use Colgate in the Red can, it is a simple, no-frills foam that is a pretty good approximation of the lather I get from scratch.

To finish, I just use a bit of Neutragena Post-Shave lotion and keep my styptic pen handy to close up any weepers.

A few more tips, I would HIGHLY recommend that you watch the series of videos from Mantic59, his videos were invaluable when I was first starting out.

Good luck and welcome to the fold!
posted by ThaBombShelterSmith at 2:25 PM on July 31, 2011

I presume you know the Badger and Blade. Everyone's made excellent suggestions here, but also please consider shaving soaps, especially if you're going to get a best badger anyway.
posted by digitalprimate at 3:35 PM on July 31, 2011

I'll second Geo F Trumper as good stuff if a bit on the pricy side. You should be aware that badger farming has it's murky side, if you must buy badger bristle I think it's a good idea to get a really small brush - the large brushes are really aimed at barber shops, you don't need to use a lot of soap for one shave.
posted by Lanark at 4:39 PM on July 31, 2011

> Nthing soap over cream.

Unless you live in a hard water area. Cream in a tube doesn't go all sludgy like soap does in really chalky places.
posted by scruss at 7:30 PM on July 31, 2011

Chiming back in, the mix of soap and cream that ThaBombShelterSmith recommends is good. I've used a cheap puck of gylcerine soap ($1.50) and a small dollop of cream (Kiss My Face) and it lathers up beautifully.
Also, for cheap but good, a high quality olive oil soap lathers up well and will last you well over a year.
posted by arcticseal at 8:45 PM on July 31, 2011

I switched to a double-blade in 2007 and use, where possible, Real Shaving Company products.

Feel like I'm making a confession here! but I've never nicked or cut myself, even during the learning process, and I use the cheapest components available to me - a Wilkinson Sword basic razor, a hoghair brush which cost ten pounds from Boots, and I can't always afford Real Shaving Company shaving cream. Nor does shaving take very much longer than it did under my previous Gillette Mach III regime.

But shaving is MUCH more comfortable, MUCH closer, MUCH cheaper and there's that warm feeling you get from doing something in the same way that your grandfather and great-grandfather did.

Some cartridge razors are excellent - I still think the basic Gillette Mach III is a top quality product and, for what it is, impossible to improve. But double-sided razor shaving is still an improvement in many ways, and I think you're making a choice you'll enjoy for many, many years.
posted by pyotrstolypin at 2:37 AM on August 1, 2011

I use Feathers, but you'll slash & scrape your face a while until your skin toughens up and your hand steadies. And watch the short videos tht Mantic made, then buy whatever he tells you. :7)

As for the cream, only the worst drug store stuff is much of a problem: anything else should be Good Enough until you get into the new habit. And note that the Proraso knock off sold at Bath & Body Works is good, too, if you can find their 3-for-2 sale to save shipping costs.

The Badger & Blade guys are mean; try the Shave My Face community instead, where the conversations are more gentle and welcoming.
posted by wenestvedt at 7:40 AM on August 1, 2011

...whenever I encounter this kind of discussion, I feel like I have wandered into a fierce, highly intelligent discussion of how to choose and treat a sickle for cutting the lawn.

Exactly! And why not make a chore into a hobby? :7)
posted by wenestvedt at 7:42 AM on August 1, 2011

I prefer to use Mitchell's Wool Fat. I find that it gives me the best lather. It can be a bit tricky to lather, but it is so nice. The refill pucks are cheaper if you don't want to pay for their ceramic dish.
posted by DJWeezy at 7:46 AM on August 1, 2011

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