Why Should Ladies Use Shaving Cream and DE Razors?
November 8, 2021

SHAVING SOAPS VS SHAVING CREAMS

Answering the question of a Soap or a Cream is not always that easy, as things get a bit technical. So, here’s a break-down of some of the differences.

Let’s start off by mentioning that the key element of a great wet shave is a good lather. A thick, dense, rich, frothy, lather is essential and will make a huge difference in the performance and comfort of your shave. 

The first thing to note is that you can create an amazing lather using either a shaving cream or shaving soap. There isn’t necessarily a categorically better product. However, their different attributes might make one more attractive to you, but both will whip up a protective, lubricating froth with a shaving brush.

Shaving Creams: 

  • The biggest difference between a soap and a cream is the consistency. Shaving creams are softer. They contain a higher amount of water, thus easily loaded by your brush, or scooped up with your finger and placed in bowl for lathering. 
  • Creams lather quickly, great if you’re in a rush. It doesn’t take much elbow grease, or water to get a legitimate whip going either. The goal is a lather with volume and the consistency of whipped cream. Your lather should hold stiff peaks and not run down your face.
  • Because of the ease of lather, creams are often the go-to for beginner shavers. When you’re just getting started and all the many techniques are new, a nice, easy lathering cream can be a great place to start. The most common error new wet-shavers encounter is using too much cream, creating too thick of a lather. This will clog your razor and you’ll work your way to an empty container fast.
  • Just about any brush you can think of can produce a fabulous lather from a cream. Using somewhat vigorous motion with your brush in the bowl, adding drops of water at a time to create a thick, cushiony lather for a great shave.
  • Even though you only need a pea size amount of cream to whip up enough lather for a multiple-pass shave, chances are you will likely go through cream faster than a soap on a tub for tub basis. It’s very easy to use too much at a time. 

Ingredients typically only found in creams:

  1. Myristic Acid: This is another organic fatty acid that is formed from saponification of coconut oil(acid). This surfactant can help to speed up the lathering process and, like water, has great emulsifying properties, so will help in creating a very stable lather with all the saponified and any botanical ingredients evenly distributed. This is not found in significant concentrations in many hard soaps or cream soaps (croaps).
  2. Methylchloroisothiazolinone: This phenolic compound is a common preservative found in many topical, liquid skin care products, so this is great for preserving the shelf life of many common shaving creams, such as Taylor of Old Bond Street. The compound also has great anti fungal and antibacterial effects, but can cause some mild contact dermatitis in those who are already susceptible to this or have sensitive skin.  

Looking at Shaving Soaps: 

  • If a cream is “creamy” in consistency, then soaps are on the other end of the spectrum. There are a few different textures within shaving soaps though most tend to be hard. They are frequently “triple-milled” which results in an extremely hard puck. (Truefitt & Hill soaps are a good example) You won’t be scooping out this soap with your finger. Then there are other sorted soaps that have a paste like texture (Abbate Y La Mantia and Master Soap Creations are examples) Soaps come in a jar/bowl for lathering or you can load the brush on the soap. From there you can finish lathering in either a bowl/mug or use the palm of your hand or a simple face lather. It is fair to say that soaps require a bit more time to master as you might need to play around with the amount of water to get the desired lather. 
  • While soaps can be vegan as well (Abbate Y La Mantia), many soaps contain tallow (Master Soap Creations), this is a traditional ingredient that promotes at light, creamy lather and provides moisturizing properties.
  • Because of the nature of triple-milled soaps, they have great longevity. One soap puck can last quite a while. Load off the top, rinse the puck, allow it to dry and it will provide you many great shaves. Shaving soaps are a fantastic value for your money item.
  • During the soap making process and particularly with the triple milling the scent gets mixed thoroughly into the product resulting in a uniform aroma. 
  • Some hard soap users prefer using a boar brush (or stiffer shaving brush) to bring out the lather from the harder soap easier. You also might opt to “bloom” the soap (set warm water on the top of the puck for a few moments before you apply the shaving brush – this will help load the soap onto the brush is a shorter time)

Ingredients typically found only in soap (although there are exceptions):

  1. Tallow: This is a cattle-derived fatty acid obtained by steam melting the initially solid fats. The less dense, less soluble tallow sits atop the denser fats and is collected. Tallow is typically mixed with coconut acid/oil, then saponified. Once water is added to the soap via the lather process, tallow will give the resulting lather incredible slickness. 
  2. Jojoba: Jojoba oil is obtained from the seed of the jojoba (S. chinensis) plant and is virtually unsaponifiable. This means that it will not contribute to the soap-making process and will remain virtually in its true form. Jojoba oil is very similar in function and chemical structure to sebum, which is the oil naturally found in and is produced by the sebaceous glands of the skin. Those who have very dry skin will find this ingredient especially helpful in the “post shave feel” department. Along with glycerine, this will keep the skin very supple and moisturized.
  3. Shea Butter: Taken from the African Shea Tree, many of Shea butters’ unsaponifiables are used in shaving soaps. Triterpene alcohol makes up a majority of obtained shea butter. Within this alcohol are “Cinnamate esters” which have a UV protection rate so significant it is used in many advanced and highly protective sunscreens. Along with jojoba oil, shea butter is also very helpful in retaining moisture in the skin, and helping the skin quickly return to its normally hydrated state.

Both Shaving Soaps & Creams:

  • There are many other ingredients that can be added to both shaving soaps and creams to enhance certain characteristics. You will often see glycerine, shea butter & other butters, jojoba oil, bentonite clay, and numerous other additives that promote hydration and a stable lather. Many products can be added to contribute to a notable post-shave face feel and nourished skin.
  • Both can be vegan and created using solely plant-based products. 
  • Both creams and soaps can boast fantastic, long-lasting scents.
  • Shaving Creams and Shaving Soaps can both be whipped with a quality, shaving brush.

Ingredients found in both Soaps and Creams:

  1. Water: The universal solvent! Helps to dissolve many of the ingredients used in both soaps and creams. Thanks to the immense emulsifying properties of water it is especially helpful when added during the lathering process. The water content of soaps and creams play a vital role in determining the final consistency of the product when being produced.
  2. Stearic Acid: Crucial for the saponification – or soap making- process. This saturated fatty acid is an organic (carbon-containing) triglyceride that combines with another ingredient to form the soap/cream itself. It is also what’s known as a surfactant, or a substance that reduces surface tension between itself and other liquids or solids. This will aid in the “glide” factor of the lather, (slickness of the product)
  3. Sodium or Potassium Hydroxide: These inorganic molecules are the other very crucial ingredient used to form the base of the shaving soap/ cream. Sodium hydroxide is used as the main base and in the highest concentration when a soap/croap (hybrid of cream & soap) consistency is desired, though it’s still found in lesser concentration in shaving creams. Potassium hydroxide is used as the primary saponifying agent in creams. When either hydroxide is placed in solution, it ionizes into its main constituents: Sodium/Potassium and the hydroxide group. The hydroxide group will take a hydrogen atom off of what’s known as the “carboxyl” end of the stearic acid, as well as (in the right concentration) those of any other organic acids/oils/butters that are present. From here, the saponification process has occurred, and you now form a carboxylate functional group. This is where you get your potassium – or sodium- stearate/cocoate/butterate, etc. All these “ate”s are basic (as opposed to acidic) and will be quite slippery (a property of most bases). **Note: by nature, bases attract and can “steal” hydrogen ions, oftentimes from other water molecules. This is why some may find their skin a bit tight after the shave, since the base can interchangeably make the skin more basic than in its non-soaped state.** The concentration and proportion of these ingredients is important in keeping the stability of the soap’s pH. Too low or too high, and the soap/cream may break down.
  4. Glycerine: Glycerine is an incredible addition to both soaps/ creams. It can be added, but it is produced during the actual saponification process itself. Glycerine has effective humectant properties, meaning it retains water very well. This, in turn, greatly aids with the water retention and stability of the resulting lather. Glycerine is also readily absorbed into the epidermal layer of skin and, with its humectant properties, gently draws and traps water into the epidermis, keeping the skin hydrated. Glycerine can also aid somewhat in the slickness of the soap/cream.

Reading this again it’s easy to get lost along the way with all the technical properties of the many different ingredients. In short, both are excellent for the task at hand. Lathering with a shaving cream is very easy and anyone can master this. Soaps require a bit more finesse. They tend to last longer as it’s not that easy to load too much onto your brush. 

Wet shaving is not all about the technical details nor is it just about removing hair from our bodies, no, we don’t think that’s the only goal. We believe in practicing the art of shaving and immersing oneself in the experience. 

Engaging one’s sense of touch and smell as your chosen scent surrounds you while shaving. 

Transform your shaving routine into a ritual you look forward to. Master the art of wet shaving. 

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