Hair removal probably doesn’t come close to being the most enjoyable part of your beauty routine, but shaving creams, foams, and gels can make it more bearable. Not only do they soften hairs and create a slick surface for a razor to glide over — reducing nicks and snags — but they can also include hydrating ingredients that keep skin moisturized long after you leave the shower.
To help you navigate the overwhelming number of options, we spoke to skin and hair experts to find out what to look for, as well as their favorites. If you already have an idea of what you want in mind, skip directly to the section that suits your skin type from our table of contents below. Otherwise, read on for nine options for every body part and skin type.
Best overall | Best foaming gel | Best for dry skin | Best for sensitive skin | Best natural | Best for facial hair | Best for body | Best for legs | Best for bikini line
What we’re looking for
Ingredients: Dr. Naana Baokye, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Bergen Dermatology, recommends looking for humectants, or ingredients that draw water into the skin, for hydration. Glycerin and hyaluronic acid are common humectants, and Dr. Baokye says she’s also a fan of gentle exfoliators like alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) to improve skin’s texture and tone.
Texture: Shaving aids come in all sorts of textures, but the most common are creams, gels, and foams. While many products are labeled as shaving creams, not all of them are made with a high quantity of oils, which makes them more hydrating, says Dr. Susan Binder, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Binder Dermatology. Gels, meanwhile, are the most concentrated of the three and offer the most hydration. Some produce bubbles after being massaged in, but others stay glossy, which can make it harder to track where you’ve already shaved. Gels can also clog razor blades faster, meaning you’ll have to buy replacements more often. Finally, with their cloudlike texture straight from the bottle, foams don’t need any lathering. This does save a step, but it might not allow sufficient time for the hair to soften, which could result in irritation. And because foams aren’t as hydrating, Dr. Binder says they’re best for those with a normal skin type.
Best overall shaving cream
Vitamin E, Soy, and Aloe | Gel
This lightweight gel earned the top spot on our list for its soothing ingredients and accessible price point. “For those who prefer a gel, this contains a combination of soy, aloe, and vitamin E to soothe the skin,” says Dr. Marisa Garshick, a board-certified dermatologist and clinical assistant professor at Cornell. And while fragrance is usually a derm no-no, Dr. Garshick says she doesn’t mind this one because it’s so subtle. Dr. Binder also loves this option for its vitamin E and aloe, which “help condition both the hair and skin.” And for its emollient-rich and sensitive-skin-friendly formula, two dermatologists even gave the Aveeno their stamps of approval for facial use in a previous roundup.
Because of its popularity, I decided to put it to the test. The cool-to-the touch gel lathered up quickly, and it helped me safely navigate tricky spots like knees and the tops of toes. My skin felt so supple and smooth after shaving that I even skipped lotion. And at $6, it’s a budget-friendly option for first-timers or those with easily irritated skin.
Best foaming gel
Vitamin E, Glycerin and Shea Butter | Gel
Dr. Karan Lal, a board-certified and fellowship-trained pediatric dermatologist, and Dr. Purvisha Patel, board-certified dermatologist and founder of Visha Skincare, both like this foaming gel for its emollients, including glycerin and shea butter. (Dr. Lal even calls it “very elegant” for its sophisticated-for-the-price-point ingredients.) Texture-wise, it comes out as a gel but foams up quickly. It does contain fragrance, so if you’re sensitive, you might want to pick another option from our list.
In a previous version of this story, readers named another Gillette shaving gel their favorite for its affordable price, not-too-thick consistency, and non-drying formula. “I have very sensitive [skin], and this gel keeps my legs moist while I shave them,” one user says. Another even claims to have “no more cuts [and] no more irritation.”
Best shaving cream for dry skin
Shea Butter, Coconut Oil, Soybean Oil, Hyaluronic Acid, Candelilla Wax | Lotion
This isn’t a traditional shaving cream — in fact, it isn’t a shaving cream at all, which in some cases could actually be more beneficial for skin health than foams and gels that can exacerbate dryness. (Dr. Patel says you can technically use anything that will make your skin slick enough for the razor to glide.) This cult-classic body butter comes recommended by Dr. Garshick, who points to the shea butter, coconut oil, and sodium hyaluronate as key for moisturizing and nourishing the skin pre- and post-shave.
Another nontraditional option with a moisturizer-like texture, Malin + Goetz’s Vitamin E Shaving Cream “doesn’t foam up like most other shaving creams, but that’s because it’s formulated with more natural ingredients,” says Soren Roi, senior barber at Fellow Barber in New York City. “What it lacks in lather, it makes up for in vitamins and oils.” Like the Aveeno and Gillette picks above, this is also infused with vitamin E, so it conditions even after you rinse off, while the menthol leaves a tingly finish.
Best shaving cream for sensitive skin
Glycerin | Cream
Vanicream was mentioned by more dermatologists than any other cream on this list. Though it may not be the flashiest, what it lacks in packaging and active ingredients, it makes up for in results. Both Dr. Garshick and Dr. Binder say the Vanicream is safe for those with sensitive skin, as it’s free of fragrance, preservatives, formaldehyde, and parabens. (In fact, Dr. Binder says she prefers sensitive-skin shaving creams in general, as “I do not like putting a lot of foreign ingredients in sensitive areas.”) This cream is also suitable for allergy-prone skin, Dr. Lal notes, with a gentler, preservative-free formula to decrease the chance of irritation.
Best natural shaving cream
Fruit Stem Cells, Aloe, and Argan Oil | Cream
It might not lather on contact, but this lightweight lotion does stay put so you won’t have to keep reapplying. Though the texture might not be what you’re used to, Dr. Garshick says the formula is suitable for all skin types, with probiotics, aloe vera, and rosehip and argan oils to “soften, hydrate and smooth, allowing the blade to glide easily.” In our research, we found that products with similar ingredient lists are typically priced much higher, so at $11, this soothing lotion is a very good deal.
Best shaving cream for facial hair
Coconut Oil, Lactic Acid, Glycerin, Menthol | Cream
Shaving your face can cause bumps, razor burn, and irritation, but it can also have some positive effects like exfoliation. Roi places Proraso amongst his top picks because of its effective ingredients, including lactic acid for even more gentle sloughing on top of the physical exfoliation a razor provides. A long-time barber favorite, Proraso was also recommended by two more grooming professionals in our story on the best shaving creams for men. Russell Manley, owner of New York City’s Ludlow Blunt, loves the combination of glycerin, lactic acid, and menthol that brings hair to the surface and therefore reduces the chance of getting ingrowns. And while Proraso is marketed to men, women have found it works just as well on their skin — in a previous version of this story, one reviewer wrote that this cream left her underarms “tight and smooth but also soft and smell[ing] like the dad you never had.”
Best shaving cream for body
Shea Butter and Aloe | Cream
Formulated with shea oil, shea butter, and aloe, this non-foaming cream can be used on the groin, underarms, or legs, Dr. Garshick says. Though it doesn’t foam, the texture spreads easily and can be rinsed off or left on post-shave like a moisturizer. Either way, “this stuff will leave your legs as smooth as the day you were born,” as one user said in a previous version of this story, in which the EOS also emerged as a reader favorite. Another buyer called it “life-changing” and “100 times more moisturizing than any cream I’ve used before.”
Best shaving cream for legs
Aloe, Olive Leaf Extract, Macadamia Seed Oil | Gel
The legs cover the most surface area, so it’s important to choose a shaving aid that provides maximum slip. This formula squeezes out as a concentrated gel, but once it comes into contact with water, it transforms into a milky serum. The unique texture “creates an ultraslick surface so the razor can easily glide over top without slipping or snagging,” Dr. Patel says of the hydrating and redness-reducing formula that contains olive-leaf extract, aloe, and macadamia-seed oil. And because the gel is relatively thin, you can see your progress as you shave. A little goes a long way, though — while the product description claims that a single container of Cremo lasts for 90 days, Strategist contributor David Walters worked on a tube of the original version for over a year and a half.
Best shaving cream for bikini line
Aloe, Olive Oil, Marshmallow-Root Extract | Cream
Arguably the most sensitive area to shave, the bikini line (and the pubic area as a whole) requires a little extra care. Dr. Jamie DeRosa, a double board-certified facial plastic surgeon and the founder and lead facial plastic surgeon of DeRosa Center Plastic Surgery & Med Spa in Boston and Palm Beach, recommends using this whipped, ultramoisturizing cream for a close, nick-minimizing shave. “It’s infused with soothing ingredients like marshmallow-root extract, aloe, and shea butter to cushion against razor burn and help minimize ingrown hairs and bumps,” she says. And while it is formulated specifically for the pubic area, “the skin-nourishing, unisex formula works anywhere a person might want to shave — underarms, chest, legs, and face,” Dr. DeRosa adds.
Some more shaving creams and gels we've written about
• Dr. Naana Baokye, board-certified dermatologist and founder of Bergen Dermatology
• Dr. Susan Binder, board-certified dermatologist and founder of Binder Dermatology
• Dr. Jamie DeRosa, double board-certified facial plastic surgeon and founder and lead facial plastic surgeon of DeRosa Center Plastic Surgery & Med Spa in Boston and Palm Beach
• Dr. Marisa Garshick, board-certified dermatologist and clinical assistant professor at Cornell
• Dr. Karan Lal, board-certified and fellowship-trained pediatric dermatologist
• Russell Manley, owner of Ludlow Blunt in New York City
• Dr. Purvisha Patel, board-certified dermatologist and founder of Visha Skincare
• Soren Roi, senior barber at Fellow Barber in New York City
• David Walters, Strategist contributor
The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best women’s jeans, rolling luggage, pillows for side sleepers, ultra-flattering pants, and bath towels. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.
Every editorial product is independently selected. If you buy something through our links, New York may earn an affiliate commission.