Shaving cream is the foundation of any shave, so it’s important to make sure you’re using the right product. Go to your local drugstore and you may be overwhelmed by all the options: from pressurized cans promising “high-tech” foaming gels to bottles of thicker creams and lotions. Then there are the fancy British and Italian shaving creams in metal tubes and plastic tubs. We reached out to 12 men’s-grooming and shaving experts — barbers, groomers, hairstylists, cosmetic retailers, and shaving-cream aficionados — to get their recommendations for the very best.
Best shaving cream
Italian brand Proraso was mentioned more than any other. Russell Manley, owner of New York City’s Ludlow Blunt, appreciates the brand’s history (the company was founded in 1908) and says its shaving cream “is still one of the best on the market.” According to Manley, the key to Proraso’s appeal is in its contents: “Glycerin — a key ingredient since the turn of the century in all shave creams — lactic acid, and menthol work in combination to open up the pores and raise the beard hair. This helps to ensure a close shave with lower likelihood of ingrown hairs.”
Joey Furlan, owner of Hair by Joey in Prescott, Arizona, says Proraso provides a “sophisticated shave experience,” and he likes that the line offers multiple options so there’s something for every type of shaver. The most classic is the “Refreshing and Toning” shaving cream, with menthol and eucalyptus oil, which Furlan describes as “energizing.”
Peter Solomon, owner of Tweed Barbers of Boston, also touts the power of one ingredient: “The beauty of glycerin is that it really gets the cream to foam up nicely. It creates a rich, foolproof lather.” Solomon says most people will be in good shape with any glycerin-based cream from a trusted brand. “The formulations are all very similar, so it’s somewhat down to personal preference.” That said, one of his favorites is the Art of Shaving’s lavender shave cream. He likes the scent and says it’s a good choice for people with sensitive skin.
Arthur Iskhakov, owner of New York City’s Barber’s Blueprint, is another fan of the Art of Shaving’s cream. He says he’s used it for shaves at the barbershop and customers loved it, but it proved a little too expensive for high-frequency commercial use. It would work well for shaving at home, he says, because even though it’s pricey it lasts a long time: “The cream is very thick, so you only need a dime-sized amount. You can just wet your hands and work up a lather right on the skin. It gives a great lather.” Iskhakov prefers the sandalwood-scented version, which he says is “strong but not overpowering.” Groomer and makeup artist Robert Reyes loves the Art of Shaving too, but he’s partial to its unscented cream, which is hypoallergenic and good for sensitive skin. He says you can use it with or without a brush — but it can be fun to use one for the “total experience.” “I actually use a makeup brush,” he says.
Best-smelling shaving creams
Mark Herro — a.k.a. “Mantic59” in the online shaving community — runs the popular website Sharpologist and has tried lots of shaving products over the years. He says this lime-scented cream from Scottish brand Castle Forbes is one of his favorites. “I like fairly strongly scented shave creams,” he says. “Castle Forbes’s lime is like getting smacked in the face with a Key-lime pie.”
Manley told us C.O. Bigelow’s signature shaving cream is the “daily go-to” at Ludlow Blunt. It’s very easy to use: “No brush or extra hardware required for this one,” he says. “Simply apply with wet hands to build up a great lather.” He also likes its complex scent, which he describes as having “coconut, eucalyptus-leaf oil, and a hint of geraniol fragrance.”
Best shaving creams for sensitive skin
Mike Gilman, owner of the Washington, D.C.–based men’s spa and grooming retailer Grooming Lounge, says Brickell makes one of his favorite shaving creams. “It’s an all-natural cream, but it’s really rich and smells great,” he says, adding that it’s “great for sensitive skin.”
Groomer Ronnie Peterson says he and his boyfriend both use Ursa Major’s shaving cream and it’s a good choice for sensitive skin. “It’s really thick and moisturizing and non-lathering,” he explains. He also likes that it’s easy to apply and “doesn’t make a mess.”
Best drugstore shaving cream
Best shave gel
Celebrity men’s groomer Kristan Serafino recommends this shave gel from V76 by Vaughn, which she says provides a “rich lather.” She also likes that it incorporates “oils and lubricants, resulting in better razor glide.”
Best old-school shaving cream
Heather Manto, barber and co-owner of the Rosewood Barbershop in Austin, Texas, says Lucky Tiger’s Mollé brushless shaving cream is her favorite product to work with. “I was turned on to it by a friend in barber school years ago,” she says. “Apparently, it’s been around for almost 100 years. The packaging isn’t anything sexy, but the product is hands down the best I’ve used. I like to take my time when I’m shaving someone, and unlike other shave products I’ve tried, it stays consistent and doesn’t dry out before I’m done with the shave.” Manto credits two of the key ingredients — mineral oil and lanolin — for Lucky Tiger’s “smooth, clean shave.”
Best shave soap
Leavitt & Peirce in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is a unique store — part tobacconist, part old-school men’s grooming specialist — and it carries a lot of hard-to-find shaving products from around the world. Owner Paul Macdonald’s favorite shaving cream is actually a “shaving soap” that you use the old-fashioned way: by placing it in a mug and lathering it up with a wet brush. It’s made by the Italian company Vitos and comes in a 1.5-pound semi-hard brick. “So what I have to do is cut a thick slice from the brick and shove it into my shaving mug,” Macdonald says. “It has the easy lathering of a shave cream without the mess. And I love the faint almond smell. Economical, too!”
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