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Shaving cream is an investment-worthy product to incorporate into your hair removal routine, according to medical doctors we consulted. Shaving cream softens hairs, hydrates skin and improves how a razor glides across it, explained board-certified dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, MD. “Shaving is an interaction between the blade, the hair and the skin, so you need to address all of these factors for a smooth shave,” he said. The cream also creates a “thin barrier” between the razor blade and your skin, meaning you’re less likely to deal with unsightly redness and bumps, added board-certified dermatologist William Huang, MD, of Wake Forest Baptist Health. Shaving cream can also prevent the resulting razor burns and ingrown hairs.
SKIP AHEAD Best shaving creams
How to shop for shaving cream
Sometimes, selecting a shaving cream comes down to trial and error, Huang noted — understanding your skin’s needs and reading the ingredient label “can go a very long way” in finding your ideal shaving cream.
“I tend to keep it simple —if it is good for your face, it is good for your body, but not vice versa,” he said.
Shaving cream is typically formulated with a combination of ingredients that “keeps the hair in position for the razor to cut most effectively,” explained dermatologist Adam Mamelak, MD. Ingredients will vary across brands, but there are a few standouts.
Huang personally looks out for hydrating ingredients that support the skin barrier and reduce inflammation like aloe vera, glycerin and oatmeal. He’s also keen on antioxidants such as vitamins A, C and E. Emollients like lipids and shea butter “restore the skin barrier” while humectants like glycerin and aloe vera “hydrate the skin by pulling water into the skin and strengthening the skin barrier,” explained board-certified dermatologist Azadeh Shirazi, MD.
If you have sensitive skin or suffer from eczema, opt for a shaving cream that explicitly says labels itself for sensitive skin, advised Huang, who added “most major product lines” make sensitive skin shaving creams, including well-known brands like Gillette, Skintimate, Edge and Nivea.
And as for the worst ingredients in a shaving cream, fragrances, alcohols, sulfates and glycols, are at the top of Huang’s list because they can cause skin irritation. Mamelak also advised staying away from fragrances and glycols and added that mineral oil can clog pores.
Shaving creams vs other shaving products
Perusing the Shopping reader favorite retailers like Walmart and Target, it might be confusing when you see products that look similar to shaving creams on the store shelves. To help familiarize yourself with the various shaving aid options out there, we asked MDs about the main differences between shaving creams, shaving gels, shaving foams and shaving powders.
- Shaving foams boast a light and airy texture that “provides an instant lather” and are easy to rinse away, according to Huang. Shirazi recommended using these “fluffy” foams to only shave your body because they don’t “offer much lubrication” compared to shaving creams.
- Shaving gels have a thicker consistency than foams, meaning they provide a thicker barrier between your skin and the razor, better lubrication and “an overall higher degree of protection when shaving,” explained Huang. They also have less alcohol content compared to shaving foams and provide a latherless application, which is why Shirazi recommended them for grooming facial hair or the bikini area.
- Shaving creams are “denser” and they create thicker lathers. They are also “easy” to rinse away and “provide a good amount of hydration and lubrication” with ingredients that can easily penetrate your hair follicles, noted Huang. Since shaving creams are thicker and more moisturizing, Shirazi advised using them on sensitive areas like the bikini line.
- Lastly, there are shaving powders that turn into a paste, such as the TikTok famous Magic Shaving Powder, which is a depilatory, meaning it uses chemicals to “degrade hair on the skin’s surface,” according to Shirazi. Since a depilatory is a razor-free hair removal process, you won’t have to worry about razor burn and ingrown hairs, but there is a higher risk of irritation due to chemical ingredients.
Best shaving creams
Before you shave, you’ll need to gather a few accoutrements to achieve the smoothest shave at home. These include a body scrub to prep your skin, a sharp razor, shaving cream and body lotion to help lock in moisture post-shave, experts advised.
You can find shaving creams and razors for men and women at Amazon, Walmart, Target, CVS and Walgreens. You can also order directly from brands such as Billie, Dollar Shave Club, Flamingo and Athena Club. We rounded up MD-recommended shaving creams they say are worth ordering.
This shaving gel earned a 4.7-star average rating from nearly 15,330 reviews on Amazon, plus recommendations from three MDs. Haung likes to use this Aveeno shave gel on his sensitive skin because it is fragrance-free and formulated with dry skin in mind — it contains a blend of hydrating oatmeal,vitamin E and glycerin. Shirazi said Aveeno’s Shave Gel is “great” to use on the face and bikini area and it is gentle enough for those who are prone to razor bumps. This “moisturizing” shave gel is made with a blend of “soothing” aloe vera and vitamin E and has a “light” fragrance, according to board-certified dermatologist Marisa Garshick, MD.
This No. 1 Amazon bestseller has a lotion-like consistency and is “very moisturizing,” according to Shirazi. It contains a mix of “calming” ingredients like hydrating shea oil and shea butter, plus colloidal oatmeal which can help soothe the skin, according to Garshick. The EOS Shea Butter Shave Cream received a 4.6-star average rating from more than 18,100 reviews on Amazon.
Mamelak recommended this sandalwood-scented shaving cream because it contains hydrating glycerin and coconut oil. Shirazi called this a “great” option to shave your face, and noted it “allows for smooth gliding” and the scent is “light.” This shaving cream boasts a 4.8-star average rating from nearly 3,120 reviews on Amazon. For a complete grooming set, consider ordering the brand’s pre-shave oil, after-shave balm, after-shave oil and brush and razor stand.
Shaving gels are typically more drying, so they’re not ideal for dry skin, according to Mamelak. But he recommended this alcohol-free gel for those with sensitive skin because it contains a blend of soothing ingredients like chamomile, witch hazel and vitamin E. This shaving gel earned a 4.7-star average rating from nearly 11,750 reviews on Amazon.
On days you want to experience a refreshing sensation while you shave, Mamelak recommended Kiehl’s shaving cream — it contains soothing menthol and cooling camphor. He also pointed out that the Ultimate Brushless Shave Cream contains moisturizing sesame seed oil. It received a 4.5-star average rating from nearly 150 reviews on Kiehl’s.
This shaving cream contains lactic acid, a popular type of alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) known for doing "an amazing job of improving overall texture and tone," board-certified dermatologist Rita Linker, MD, previously told us in our guide to AHAs. It also contains glycerin, which moisturizes the skin and helps the razor glide across the skin, according to Mamelack. Proraso claims its shaving cream is free of mineral oils, artificial colors, silicones and parabens. It received a 4.7-star average rating from nearly 5,550 reviews on Amazon.
Garshick and Shirazi both recommended this shaving cream for those with sensitive skin because it’s free of fragrances, preservatives and parabens. “It nourishes the skin, helping to reduce irritation and bumps, by minimizing friction between the skin and the razor blade,” said Shirazi. Vanicream Shave Cream earned a 4.2-star average rating from more than 800 reviews on Amazon.
Zeichner recommended this shaving cream because it’s made with emollient ingredients — vitamin E, aloe vera and coconut oil — to help soften the skin. It also contains hyaluronic acid, which Zeichner pointed out will calm inflammation and protect the skin while the razor cuts the hair. It received a 4.6-star average rating from 10 reviews on The Detox Market.