If the only shaving cream you’ve ever used came out of an aerosol can, you’ve probably never used a shaving brush. Some of those chemical shaving creams are okay but they don’t hold a candle to a good cream. A good cream will give you a much better shave, is better for your skin and probably comes in more (and better) scents.
When you use a quality shaving cream, you’re going to want a shaving brush as well. Part of the secret to a good shave is getting a good lather and a good brush will do that like nothing else.
Types of Brushes
Most shaving brushes look more or less the same but there is a huge difference in quality from one type of brush to another. There can also be a huge difference in price, mind you, so you’ll want to find the best brush that fits within your budget.
There are four types of hair/bristles used in shaving brushes:
- Badger hair
- Boar hair
- Horse hair
- Synthetic materials
They have different qualities when it comes to water retention and lathering ability. Badger hair tends to have the best water retention, which is important to getting a good lather. That’s not to say they’re always the best – a good quality boar hair brush can outperform a cheap badger brush, for example.
Boar hair brushes are generally the least expensive option. Most of the brushes you see in drug stores and mass market shops are made with boar hair.
Horse hair brushes are harder to find but they generally fall in between boar and badger brushes. They perform better than a lot of boar brushes but not as well as badger, although some people prefer them because they find them a little scratchy.
Synthetic brushes can be made with a number of different materials and the quality of the brush and lathering ability varies from one to another. They tend to be more consistent in quality since two brushes with the same material and design will be essentially identical. Brushes made with animal hair will vary slightly from one to another simply because no two animals are exactly the same.
Synthetic brushes can also be stronger since the fibres can be designed to be stronger than natural hair.
The other factor that might have a bearing on your choice is that boars and badgers are killed for their meat and hair where horse hair is simply cut from their manes or tails without harming the animal. And synthetics are obviously not coming from animals at all.
If that has a bearing on your choice, horse or synthetic is the way to go.
There are many, many options when it comes to shaving cream. You can get it in tubes that look like toothpaste, such as the Proraso brand:
These brands tend to be the least expensive and most widely available. You can usually find at least one or two options in most local shops that sell shaving items, even a lot of chain drug stores. That doesn’t mean they’re not good, mind you. I’ve used the Proraso brand off and on for years and I’m quite happy with it.
You can also get shaving cream in tubs, such as Tailor of Old Bond Street:
These brands tend to be a bit more expensive but you get more options for a nice quality cream. Not to mention a lot more choices of scents. I’m partial to Tailor of Old Bond Street’s Eton College fragrance but there are lots of options for finding one you like.
There are also shaving soaps, which are essentially just like a bar of soap – you use the brush to work up a lather from the soap.
The two main performance factors for a good shaving cream are cushioning and lubrication. You’re basically dragging an incredibly sharp blade across your face to shear away the whiskers so using a good shaving cream will make a world of difference.
The lubrication factor of a good shaving cream is probably the biggest difference you’ll notice compared to the foam you get out of an aerosol can. Those foams don’t really have any water in them and they just sit on the surface of your skin. They might help soften your beard but they don’t really add much in the way of lubrication.
A good shaving cream will lubricate your skin so the blade glides across it more smoothly, cutting the whiskers but not the skin underneath.
Another option is to use shaving oil instead of shaving cream. Oil will give you even better lubrication than shaving cream does and it makes the razor glide super smoothly.
Some oils are meant to be used under a layer of shaving cream while others are used on their own. These oils are typically clear so one of their biggest advantages over creams is the ability to see the spots that you might have missed or might need touching up. Shaving cream obviously hides whatever is underneath it. Depending on the quality of the oil and exactly what ingredients are used, it can also be better at moisturizing your skin than shaving cream.
Using a shaving oil can take a little bit of getting used to so I recommend starting with a good cream and get comfortable with that first. A lot of barbers that offer hot shave services use oil so if you want to see what it’s like, you might be able to find someone locally who uses it.
Plus, if you’ve never had a hot shave from a barber who knows what they’re doing, I highly recommend it. It’s incredibly relaxing and is a cool way to treat yourself to a “spa day” without spending a ton of money. A lot of local barber shops offer the service and there are some chains that have locations in many larger cities. If you’re in Las Vegas, I recommend the Art of Shaving in Caesar’s Palace.