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Shaving Cream or Shaving Soap: What’s the Difference?

Barring those with full beards, shaving is something most men have to do on a regular basis. Researchers estimate men spend about 840 hours (35 days) shaving over the course of their lifetimes. Clearly, choosing the right products for the job is crucial.

For those already into wet shaving or those looking into it, the debate between shaving cream and shaving soap can be confusing but with this 5-minute guide find everything you need to know to make the right choice for you.

Shaving Cream

Shaving creams were developed as an alternative to shaving soaps in the 1940s. They are designed to produce lather more easily than a shaving soap. For someone looking for a fast and easy solution, creams could be the way to go.

Shaving creams are much thicker, and with just a bit of water, it can be applied directly to your face with your fingertips. Though you can apply them straight out of the container, for best results, use a shave brush to build a lather and prep the skin for shaving.

It is generally recommended that those new to shaving start with a shaving cream precisely because they provide a ton of cushion and lubrication with minimal effort.

The thick lather of shaving cream is an excellent cushion and helps the razor glide smoothly over the skin. It also offers excellent protection against skin irritation. Not all shaving creams are made equal, assessing the ingredients of each will help you select the one best fit for your face. If you have sensitive skin, there are shaving creams on the market now that are fragrance-free as well.

Shaving Soap

First, let’s look at the obvious: soaps are set hard or firm, unlike creams which are already soft in consistency. What this means for shaving is that soaps require more water and precision to build up a lather and you have to use a shave brush.

Because the water ratio is challenging to master, using a shaving soap is better left to those that have more wet shaving experience.

There are three main types of shaving soaps: glycerin-based, tallow-based, and the ‘hybrids.’

  • Glycerin-based soaps use the naturally moisturizing propensities of glycerin to really hydrate the skin. Glycerin also provides the glide necessary for comfortable shaving.
  • Tallow-based soaps use the fatty, hard substance, or tallow, derived from animals. This type of soap is touted as providing superior cushion and glide for the razor. They moisturize the skin and leave it feeling nourished.
  • Then there are the ‘hybrid’ soaps. This category of soaps may contain small amounts of glycerin or tallow but mostly rely on other ingredients to achieve the desired results. Some opt for plant-based acid and glycerine for vegan-friendly options.

As mentioned, getting just the right amount of water to produce the maximum lather, read: cushioning, for your razor takes time, effort, and lots of practice. When you are just learning the technique of sliding the blade across your face, the precision and intense attention to detail required to produce the desired lather from a soap may be beyond frustrating.

One last thing to note: the price per container of a good shaving cream versus a soap is about the same. However, a cream will last about 2 months whereas the soap should last a good deal longer.

Other Options

If wet shaving seems like too much work or effort, you can get a perfectly good shave using the dry shave method. Unlike wet shaving where you need a razor, dry shaving requires an electric shaver to get a fast, decent shave. Dry shaving gets hairs above the surface of the skin so it can produce less irritation for men with, especially sensitive skin. Requiring almost no prep time, this is also an excellent option for those very short on time.


Whether you choose a shaving cream or shaving soap, make sure you get a shaving brush to be able to whip up a good lather. The lather is key to protecting your skin from irritation. For those who love an excellent, precise, traditional close shave the shaving soap may be your go-to. For those with a little less time, or those newer to wet shaving, using a shaving cream may reduce frustration and save you some time while still getting you that clean, close shave. If you’re really pressed for time or want a little versatility in your look, the electric razor has a higher initial investment but might fit your lifestyle the best of the three.