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Shaving cream or soap? What's the difference?

This is the first part of a good shave – face preparation – the creation of a fine shaving lather with a favourite brush and scuttle – using either a shaving soap or a shaving cream.

We often have people ask, “Soap – cream. What’s the difference?”

As a user - here are some pointers and facts to help with your decision.

The first thing to note is a difference in time to lather – a shaving cream is infused with moisture, comes up on the brush immediately and takes to any brush easily – providing a quick lather. Gratifying if you’re in a rush. The trick with shaving cream is to not use too much. A common error with people new to wet shaving is packing a brush with cream out of the bowl. You don’t need a lot to make a great deal of lather – a few circles with the brush tip on the cream will load plenty. You control proportions in your shaving mug – you can always add water or more cream. Be conservative to start. The goal is a volume of lather the consistency of whipped cream - peaks on the brush and doesn't run off.

Soaps are harder in texture, require a bit of work to pick up on the brush (hint; pre-soak – use a little water on the puck and let it sit for a few minutes - essential for most soaps) but they provide a more robust lubricating layer than creams. Also, some people prefer soaps as the scents are usually less potent. With a soap you can usually create a good lather in the bowl – you’ll be adding water occasionally until you get the right proportions. Of course they also come up nicely in a shaving mug.

I enjoy the time spent making lather from a solid shaving soap, yet it’s easy to appreciate the quick-lather nature of a quality shave cream. Each has its merits, and there are very few suppliers that manufacture one without supplying the other.

Soaps lather best with a dense badger brush – and the creams lend themselves well to any brush – a good choice if you’re using synthetic, horse, or anything other than badger. A perfect case for having more than one brush – you can experiment with any soap or cream you please.

You’re going to end up with a selection – trust me.

Doug McCormick
Author: Doug McCormick