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Shaving Creams for Traditional Wet Shaving

Updated on April 28, 2015

Overview of Traditional Shaving Creams

The idea of wet shaving is explained partly in its name. Wet. Water is a natural lubricant. It also softens your hair, rendering it far easier to cut. Shaving cream has two basic functional purposes:

a. Make the water "wetter", by reducing the surface tension of the water.

b. Provide a cohesive body to hold it to your face while you are shaving.

Shaving cream in a can will contain isobutane, or propane, or both. That serves as the propellant in many aerosol cans. Problem: isobutane and propane are both alkanes, and thus hydrophobic. They are not miscible with water, and thus will drive and displace it from your face. Some brands also contain alcohol, which further serves to dry out the skin. This is obviously counterproductive to a WET shave. Traditional shaving creams do not contain any of these chemicals. They are very well pH balanced using a mixture of weak acids and bases, and are fragranced with natural ingredients.

Many people will often assume that because a product is more modern, that it will be of superior quality. In most products, that is usually the case. But it is not always the case. And definitely not in shaving creams. Propelled, instant lathered shaving cream was made to save time. The cream doesn't have to be worked up. But it does not provide superior quality.

Not all traditional creams are in a tub.  Some are packed in a toothpaste like tube.
Not all traditional creams are in a tub. Some are packed in a toothpaste like tube. | Source

The Brush

There are two main types of shaving brushes. There are boar brushes, and badger brushes. Boar brushes are significantly cheaper than badger brushes, but also of significantly lower quality. The boar's hair is stiffer, coarser, and will not yield as much effective product because it does not hold as much water as a badger brush. The overwhelming majority of traditional wet shavers use badger brushes. They vary greatly in price themselves, due to the variance in hair quality, and also the craftsmanship of the handle. Badgers are hunted for food in Asia, which is the main source of badger hair used to make brushes. So badger brushes are not the result of badgers being hunted just for their fur. I strongly recommend you spend at least $50 for a good quality badger brush, it will last for years.

The Creams and Soaps

There are many brands of traditional shaving creams to choose from. Some of the best well known brands are Taylor of Old Bond Street, Geo F. Trumper, The Art of Shaving, and Truefitt and Hill. The most common fragrances are sandalwood, lavender, rose, and lemon. Some companies provide more specialized scents as well. Some people have a particular skin sensitivity to fragrances, which is why most, if not all, shaving cream companies make an unscented brand as well. If you are one of these people, you have my condolences, because the scent of a good traditional cream is refreshing, and will linger long after your shave is done. Most of these products can be bought through amazon, and they also have websites where you can explore their products.

For those who want to try something other than a cream, these companies also make shaving soaps. These soaps lather far easier and in more abundance than your normal bar of hand soap. They are made in all the same fragrances as the cream.

One disadvantage of the soap is that it will not leave your face quite as wet as a cream lather will. This can present a potential difficulty for the person with extra sensitive skin. An advantage of the soap over the cream is that it is easier to work up than a cream. The water adding is not as precise, you can just wet the brush and work it over the soap until you reach your desired consistency, without as much of a possibility of overreaching and having to add more product.


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