Pre-Shave Cosmetics: Soap or Cream?

barber shaving

The sink counters of men who enjoy traditional wet shaving are usually cluttered with bowls and tubs of various shaving soaps and shaving creams. These products come in a variety of textures and fragrances, and it may be difficult to know which product to choose. This article helps explain the differences (besides the obvious) of soaps and creams so that you can have the most efficient and enjoyable morning shave.

About Shaving Cream

shaving supplies - cream

In high school, most shavers start shaving with a gel or foam out of an aerosol can. This type of shaving cream contains excess chemicals and numbing agents that can be very harmful to the skin. Although they are widely available and inexpensive, long-term use of these products can cause severe drying and premature aging. Men who use these products are usually easily identified by rough, irritated skin on their faces and necks.

Proponents of traditional shaving will stay far, far away from any shaving cream that comes from a can. Instead, we choose shaving creams from notable vendors, such as Geo. F. Trumper, D.R. Harris, and Taylor of Old Bond Street. These shaving creams are soft and easy to lather. They can be used with any shaving brush, or even without a brush. They comprise moisturizing properties to create cushioning lubrication so that the razor gently glides over the skin while shaving. The high glycerine content provides a protective barrier and gives some men a little extra protection from nicks.

Shaving creams tend to be heavily scented. Some men who grow a mustache enjoy the strong fragrance, while those with sensitive skin may have difficulty with it. An average tub of quality cream ranges from $15-$35 depending on the brand and will last for approximately two months of daily use.

About Shaving Soap

barber shaving

Shaving soap offers a rich and stable lather against the skin, but it is sometimes difficult for a beginner to lather. Triple-milled soaps that offer the best shave have a very hard texture that requires more work from the shaving brush to generate lather suitable for shaving. Shaving soaps work best with brushes with that are more densely filled with badger hair that has a stiffer feel to them. Lathering technique varies from soap to soap, so a shaver has to experiment to get the right lather; however, once you achieve a proper lather from the soap it could give you better cushion than a shaving cream. It is for this reason that many straight-razor users prefer soaps over creams.

Because they are more subtly scented, shaving soaps may be a better choice for people with sensitive skin. However, a shaver with dry skin may have to experiment with different brands to find the right one. Many men like the lighter fragrance so that it doesn’t interfere with their aftershaves or colognes.

Shaving soaps are available in a wide range of prices. Less expensive glycerine-based soaps (approx $5) provide decent quality, but hard-milled soaps (approx $30-40) smell better, better lather, and come in wooden bowls, which allow you to create lather in the bowl, store your soaps, and serve as attractive showpieces among your accessories. If you prefer, you can usually buy the puck without the bowl for approx $20. Daily use of a puck of quality shaving soap can easily last over three months of daily use.

Which to Choose?

Both shaving creams and shaving soaps are fine choices for traditional wet shavers. Much of the decision in which to choose depends on your own preference and style of shaving, as well as your skin type. Typically soaps offer a little more cushion and slickness, which many straight razor shavers prefer, while creams offer a little more protection, which is preferred those who use safety razors. Creams offer the benefit of being easier to use, while soaps can have a learning curve. Most new shavers start with creams until they are comfortable with using a brush and lather, and then move into using shaving soaps as well. You can use a soap or cream with any shave method.

If your brush collection has large, soft shaving brushes, such as Vulfix or Kent, shaving creams make an excellent choice, since those brushes hold a lot of water and do a great job at generating lather with a cream. If you have denser shaving brushes, such as Rooney or Simpsons, those really excel at efficiently building lather off a puck of soap. It is best to convince your wife that your brush collection needs to be comprehensive enough to include all sizes and densities so that you can enjoy both soaps and creams.

HOW TO USE BEARD BALM

Beard balm. Just when a man thought he’d wrapped his head around the world of possibilities of beard care, and the many beard oils available, he discovers beard balm. But what exactly is beard balm? What does it do? And why should you use it? Perhaps you’re a devoted beard oil user looking to investigate this new direction in beard care. Or perhaps you’re new to beard care products (or even beards) entirely. Whatever the case, in five minutes you’ll know not only what beard balm is, but just what it does, and exactly how to use it as well.

Actually, any bearded man’s grooming kit must include the best beard trimmer he can get, beard balm, oi, and a brush.

Let’s get started.

beard balm

WHAT IS BEARD BALM?

Put simply, beard balm is a balm that conditions, moisturizes and protects your beard, as well as making it nicer-smelling and easier to style. If that sounds very similar to what a beard oil does, that’s because beard oils and balms are very similar in composition. In fact, beard balms contain many of the same oils present in beard oils. (If you don’t know what a beard oil is, see our article on what is beard oil?) The difference, of course, is the form — with beard balms containing substances like butters and beeswax in order to give them a thicker consistency.

Why, then, would a gentleman opt to use beard balm over beard oil? In many cases, a high-quality beard oil is enough; daily application of any of a good beard oil will keep most beards in fine form. However, there are a few instances in which a beard balm should be substituted for (or added to) a beard oil:

  • Long beards. Beards beyond a certain length may become hard to control and maintain. Whilst beard oil will help to condition the beard, a balm is a definite plus for more advanced beards.
  • Styling requirements. The very nature of beard oils means that they stay out of the way of your style, and give a more natural look. However, if you desire a particular follicular arrangement, a beard balm will provide the extra hold you need to achieve your stylistic goals.
  • Low-key looks. Beard oil will provide a clean-looking sheen to a beard. This is always a hit with the ladies, and it’s one of the reasons we love beard oil. But if you prefer a lower-key, toned-down finish, beard balm can provide that.

Of course, a man should note that beard oil is better than balm at reaching the skin and preventing irritation and flaking. So we don’t necessarily recommend completely replacing your daily drops of beard oil with a dash of beard balm. But in conjunction, they can be a powerful pair.

HOW TO APPLY BEARD BALM

If you’re already a beard oil user, and you’re familiar with the process of applying beard oil to your beard , the process will be natural. It’s quite simple: all you’ll need is a beard, a beard balm, and a beard brush and/or comb.

Any time you need a dose of beard balm (which could be after your scheduled beard oil application), ensure you’re starting with a reasonably dry beard. Grab your beard balm and take a small dash upon your fingertips. With a good balm, a little goes a long way, so be reserved — you can always add more. Once you have some on your fingertips, gently apply throughout your beard as you would an oil, taking care to work through as deeply as you can. You can then follow up with a brush and comb for more thorough distribution and precise styling. And that’s it — you can repeat as often as necessary. (We’d recommend once a day, but some men apply multiple times per day; and if your beard is this serious, we commend you.)

Overall, then, a beard balm can be a valuable addition to a beadsman’s grooming kit, and we strongly recommend it for gentlemen with above-average levels of beard prowess — or those who want a more sculpted look. And if you’re using one of top brand, you can be sure that you’re going to have a beard that looks fantastic, keeps its shape, and most of all smell absolutely irresistible. So if you’ balm, you’re still on the fence about trying a beard balm, give it a shot. And if you suddenly find you can’t break your gaze from the mirror, your acquaintances seem to enjoy your company more, or your woman wants to hug you for just a few seconds longer… don’t say we didn’t warn you.