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Shaving Soap vs Cream, Gel, Foam, Oil & Normal Soap

shaving soap vs cream gel foam oil

Over the years I’ve switched between sporting a beard and being clean-shaven and always enjoyed both. The last time I decided to shave off my beard I took a good look at shaving soap bars to see how good they really were vs the other products such as shaving cream, gel, foam, oil and even normal soap.

Shaving soap offers a classic, luxurious experience with a rich lather and excellent lubrication whilst shaving cream and gel provide a balance of convenience and performance. Shaving oil is perfect for those with sensitive skin and canned foam is the easiest option albeit not eco-friendly.

While doing my research I decided to call on a good friend of mine, John who is a barber by trade so if anyone should know the differences he should!

After John and I had discussed each of the pros and cons I decided to try each product in turn incorporating them into my daily grooming routine.

In this article I share my thoughts on each product, compare each one back to shaving soap and then summarise all my findings in a concise table.

So here is what I discovered.

Shaving Products – Comparision Table

If you want to skip the detail and head straight to a table where I compare all of these products then follow this link to the shaving products comparison table.

What Are Shaving Soap Bars?

During our conversation, John explained that shaving soap bars are a timeless classic, steeped in tradition and nostalgia and having used them for a while now I would agree.

Formed as solid pucks or bars of soap, I find they come in a wide variety of scents, offering an authentic, old-school shaving experience for all tastes.

Don’t forget, to use shaving soap bars, you’ll need a quality shaving brush and a bit of time to create a rich, creamy lather.

I found that shaving soap last a long time, a single puck lasted me months.

I also found that using a shaving bar made me feel good which I can only put down to the process of whipping up that perfect lather, I really found it a satisfying experience.

I’ll also mention that the quality of lubrication they offer is second to none, resulting in a close, smooth shave.

John mentioned a couple of downsides of shaving soap although I might argue these points.

First, shaving soap bars do come with a learning curve. It takes time to master the lathering technique, and the initial investment in a good brush and soap can be higher than other options.

Second, shaving does take a little longer than the other products but hey, who’s in a rush?

Pros and Cons of Shaving Soap Bars


  • Traditional: Shaving soap bars have a rich history in the world of shaving – a true art form.
  • Lubrication: When properly lathered, shaving soap provides excellent cushion and lubrication, reducing friction and the chances of nicks and cuts.
  • Longevity: A single shaving soap bar can last a long time, making it a cost-effective option in the long run.


  • Learning Curve: Achieving the perfect lather can be a bit tricky for beginners.
  • Time-Consuming: The process of creating a good lather may take longer compared to other products.

What is Shaving Cream?

shaving cream

Shaving creams are a popular choice among modern shavers, probably the most popular actually.

John explains why.

They offer the perfect balance of convenience and performance. Shaving creams are incredibly easy to apply and lather, making them suitable for beginners and those who value a quick, hassle-free shaving experience.

These creams provide a slick, protective layer on your skin, allowing the razor to glide smoothly without causing irritation.

I find the biggest benefits of shaving cream are its simplicity and the wide variety of scents that are on the market today.

There are however several drawbacks to shaving cream,

One of the potential downsides of shaving cream is that some formulations may contain chemicals that can irritate sensitive skin, so it’s crucial to choose a cream that suits your skin type.

Additionally, in my experience shaving creams do not last as long as shaving soap bars, as you tend to use more product per shave.

And finally, the packaging of shaving creams is not usually zero waste with recycling being very difficult.

Pros and Cons of Shaving Cream


  • Ease of Use: Shaving cream is incredibly easy to lather, making it a great choice for beginners.
  • Moisturizing: Many shaving creams come with added moisturizers, which can help keep your skin hydrated during the shave.
  • Variety: There’s a wide range of shaving creams available, allowing you to choose the one that best suits your skin type and preferences.


  • Short-Lived: Shaving cream tends to run out quickly, requiring frequent repurchases.
  • Often packaged in plastic or other non eco friendly materials
  • May Contain Harsh Chemicals: Some shaving creams may contain ingredients that can irritate sensitive skin.

What is Shaving Foam?

“Shaving foam is probably the most accessible option for most men, as it can be found in aerosol cans at almost any drugstore” John explains.

And there’s no doubt in my mind that it’s user-friendly and provides instant lather for a quick shave.

The advantages of shaving foam are undeniable – it’s often affordable and incredibly convenient so much so that you only have to press the button, and you have instant lather, making it perfect for those hectic mornings when time is of the essence.

However, in my mind, there are drawbacks to using shaving foam.

While it’s quick and easy to apply, it can be harsh on the skin.

The brand I tested seemed to dry out my sensitive skin and on reflection, it seems that many shaving foams contain drying agents and artificial fragrances that can lead to skin dryness and irritation.

Sadly it seems that cost is a factor in the quality of the foam which can vary significantly between brands.

I tested 2 brands, one provided a decent cushion for the razor, while the other left me feeling like I was scraping my skin.

Clearly, anything packaged in an aerosol can is not going to the eco-friendly either.

Pros and Cons of Shaving Foam


  • Instant Lather: Shaving foam comes out of the can ready to use, eliminating the need for any additional steps.
  • Minimal Mess: It’s a clean and convenient option with little to no lather preparation.


  • Lack of Lubrication: Shaving foam can be lacking in the lubrication department, potentially leading to more nicks and cuts.
  • Limited Varieties: There aren’t as many options for specialized or skin-specific shaving foams compared to other products.
  • Not eco-friendly.

What is Shaving Gel?

John has an interesting point to make about shaving gels.

Shaving gels occupy a middle ground between creams and foams, providing the best of both worlds.

He explains that gels often come in clear or translucent forms, allowing you to see the areas you’re shaving, which can be an advantage for precision.

I find that when shaving gels are applied they create a smooth, hydrating lather that allows my razor to glide effortlessly.

The big advantage of gels is their soothing and moisturizing properties, making them a suitable choice for people like me with dry or sensitive skin.

As with all these products, there are some downsides. I find shaving gels are trickier to find than foams and creams, so you might need to look a bit harder to find your preferred brand and type.

I also find them a little bit messier to use, as they don’t dispense as cleanly as aerosol foams.

But for those who prioritize the quality of the shave over convenience, the minor inconveniences of gels are well worth it.

Pros and Cons of Shaving Gel


  • Transparency: Shaving gels allow you to see where you’re shaving, which can be especially helpful when defining facial hair lines.
  • Moisturizing: Many shaving gels are formulated with moisturizing agents to keep your skin hydrated.
  • Easy Dispensing: Gels often come in pump or squeeze bottles, making them easy to apply and control.


  • May Clog Razors: Shaving gels can sometimes clog up the blades of your razor, requiring more frequent rinsing.
  • Price: Some high-quality shaving gels can be a bit pricey.
  • Tend to come in packaging that’s not eco friendly such as plastic tubes

What are Normal Soap Bars?

Occasionally, people (including myself) resort to using regular bar soap for shaving when they’re in a pinch.

While it’s certainly an economical choice, it’s far from the best option for a comfortable, irritation-free shave.

I wrote a whole article on this topic so follow this link if you want to know why regular soap bars are not the best options for shaving.

In summary, normal soap is not designed to provide the necessary protection and lubrication for shaving, and it can be harsh on the skin.

When you use regular soap, you risk experiencing increased friction, which can lead to nicks, cuts, and razor burns.

The only advantage of using normal soap for shaving is cost-effectiveness, but it’s better to invest in a dedicated shaving product to ensure the best possible shaving experience.

That said, if you’re using regular soap as a one-off go ahead, just make sure you’re careful if you have sensitive skin.

Pros and Cons of Shaving with Natural Soap Bars


  • Multi-Purpose: Normal soap is readily available, and you probably already have it in your bathroom.
  • Budget-Friendly: Using regular soap won’t break the bank.


  • Drying: Normal soap can strip your skin of its natural oils, leaving it dry and irritated.
  • Lack of Lubrication: It doesn’t provide the same level of lubrication as dedicated shaving products, making it less ideal for a smooth shave.

What is Shaving Oil?

John gets straight to the point when it comes to shaving oils.

Shaving oils are a hidden gem in the world of shaving products, often overlooked in favour of more conventional options.

These oils are formulated to provide an extra layer of protection and lubrication during the shaving process.

Shaving oils typically contain a blend of natural oils like olive oil, jojoba oil, and essential oils, which offer various benefits for your skin.

During testing, I found numerous advantages of shaving oils.

They really do excel at moisturizing the skin, reducing friction, and minimizing irritation.

For those like me with sensitive skin, shaving oils can be a game-changer, as they create a barrier that helps the razor glide effortlessly, reducing the risk of redness and discomfort.

As with shaving gels, shaving oils also have the added benefit of transparency – you can see the areas you’re shaving clearly, which is particularly useful when you’re aiming for precision.

A couple of downsides:

I found shaving oils a little bit messy to use.

They require a bit more care when dispensing to avoid wasting the product and ensure even coverage.

Additionally, shaving oils may not be as suitable for men with very coarse beards, as they may not provide as much cushioning as a thick lather from soap or cream.

Nevertheless, shaving oils are worth trying if you want to elevate your shaving experience and protect your skin from irritation.

Pros and Cons of Shaving Oil


  • Extra Lubrication: Shaving oil provides exceptional lubrication, reducing friction and preventing razor burn.
  • Minimalist Approach: It’s a one-step solution that eliminates the need for lathering, making it a quick and efficient choice.
  • Sensitive Skin Friendly: Shaving oil is often suitable for those with sensitive skin.


  • Suitability: May not be suitable for people with coarse beards
  • Cost: High-quality shaving oils can be more expensive than other products.

Shaving Products Compared

In this section, I compare shaving soap bars with the other shaving products.

Shaving Soap vs Canned Foam

I find that shaving soap and canned foam couldn’t be more different when it comes to the shaving experience.

It’s quite clear that the choice between the two largely depends on your priorities.

Canned foam wins when it comes to convenience and speed.

Just press the button, and you have an instant lather ready to use.

It’s perfect for those rushed mornings when you don’t have time for the traditional lathering process.

I would guess that the convenience of canned foam also makes it a favourite among travellers who need a quick and easy solution on the go.

However, when it comes to the quality of the shave, in my opinion, shaving soap takes the lead.

In all the testing I’ve done, shaving soap provided superior lubrication, allowing my razor to glide effortlessly across my skin.

The cushion it offers helps prevent nicks and cuts while ensuring a close, smooth shave.

If you have the time and patience to invest in creating a lather with a brush, shaving soap will reward you with a truly luxurious shaving experience.

Shaving Soap vs Cream

As with shaving foam, the debate between shaving soap and cream often comes down to personal preference and the shaving experience you want.

I find that shaving soap offers that authentic, old-world shaving experience that many men including myself find enjoyable and ritualistic.

To create a lather with shaving soap, you’ll need a shaving brush and a bit of time.

It’s perfect for those who appreciate the ritual of whipping up a lather and savouring every step of the process.

On the other hand, shaving cream is all about simplicity and speed.

I find it’s an ideal choice for those times when I need a quick, hassle-free shave without the fuss of creating a lather.

Shaving cream is incredibly easy to apply, and the lather it provides is sufficient for a comfortable and efficient shave.

Both shaving soap and cream offer excellent lubrication, so it’s a matter of tradition versus convenience.

If you love the idea of a classic shaving ritual, complete with a shaving brush and lathering process, go for shaving soap.

If you prefer a straightforward, no-nonsense approach, shaving cream will be your go-to option.

Top tip: The choice is yours, and it’s worth experimenting with both to determine your personal favourite.

Shaving Soap vs Gel

I find shaving soap and gel quite similar, providing a protective lather for your shave, but they differ in terms of texture, application, and overall experience.

As already mentioned shaving soap is all about embracing the traditional shaving ritual.

Using a brush, you create a rich and creamy lather by working the soap into your facial hair.

I find this process almost meditative, as it allows me to connect with the art of shaving.

While shaving soap does require me to put in a bit more preparation, the results in terms of lubrication and the quality of the shave are always top-notch.

Shaving gel, on the other hand, is more about the modern, no-fuss approach to shaving.

Gels are straightforward to apply and require minimal preparation.

The thing I like best about gels is that they create a clear, often translucent lather that allows me to see the areas I’m shaving clearly.

The choice between shaving soap and gel depends on your preference for a traditional or modern shaving experience.

If you enjoy the process of creating a lather with a brush and appreciate the timeless ritual of shaving, shaving soap is the way to go.

If you prefer a quick, no-nonsense approach, shaving gel offers excellent protection and convenience.

Both provide the lubrication you need for a comfortable shave, so it’s all about what suits your style and who’s to say you can have both in your grooming routine..

Shaving Soap vs Normal Soap

Using regular soap for shaving is a common mistake that many men make when they’re in a pinch or trying to save money.

I use it every so often when I’ve run out of my shaving soap bar but there are several key differences that make shaving soap a much better choice for your shaving routine.

Shaving soap is specifically formulated to provide the right level of lubrication and protection during shaving. It creates a rich, creamy lather that offers a cushioning effect, allowing the razor to glide smoothly and preventing irritation.

But you know, regular soap is not designed for this purpose and won’t provide the right level of lubrication.

When you use normal soap for shaving, there’s no doubt that you risk experiencing increased friction, which can lead to nicks, cuts, and razor burns.

Most importantly I find that regular soap can be harsh on the skin. It will most likely leave your skin feeling dry and irritated, which is not the outcome you want from your shaving routine.

The shaving soaps I tested, on the other hand, contained moisturizing and soothing ingredients that left my skin feeling refreshed and comfortable.

While regular soap might seem like a cost-effective option, it’s better to invest in a dedicated shaving product.

Shaving soap is designed to enhance your shaving experience, providing superior lubrication and protection for your skin, which can make a significant difference in the comfort and quality of your shave and your day!

Shaving Soap vs Oil

shaving soap and oil
Shaving Soap vs Shaving Oil

Interestingly, what I found was that shaving soap and shaving oil will serve different but complementary roles in your shaving routine.

Shaving soap is all about creating a luxurious lather for a precise and traditional shaving experience.

It’s typically available in the form of hard or soft pucks and requires a shaving brush to whip up a rich, creamy lather.

The lather created by shaving soap offers a cushioning effect, allowing your razor to glide effortlessly across your skin.

It provides excellent lubrication, reducing the risk of nicks, cuts, and razor burns.

Shaving oil, on the other hand, is designed to provide an extra layer of protection and moisture during shaving.

Shaving oils are often formulated with a blend of natural oils, such as olive oil, jojoba oil, and essential oils.

These oils are known for their moisturizing and soothing properties.

Shaving oil acts as a strong barrier between your skin and the razor, reducing friction and minimizing irritation.

This makes it an excellent choice for those with sensitive skin.

I find that incorporating both shaving soap and oil into my shaving routine has been an effective strategy.

I start with shaving oil to prepare my skin and hair, as it softens the beard and provides that extra layer of protection. I then follow up with shaving soap for the actual shaving process, as it offers the ultimate lathering experience and cushioning effect.

This combination provides me with a smooth and comfortable shave that minimizes the risk of irritation and razor burn.

Shaving Products – Comparison Table

When I was doing my research on the various shaving products I made a lot of notes which I’ve consolidated into the following table – I hope you find it useful.

PS: If you’re on a mobile swipe to view the whole table below.

CriteriaShaving Soap BarsShaving CreamShaving FoamShaving GelShaving Normal SoapShaving Oil
LubricationExcellentGoodPoorVery GoodPoorVery Good
Skin SensitivityGoodVariesPoorGoodPoorExcellent
Ease of UseModerateEasyVery EasyModerateVery EasyModerate
Scent OptionsVariedAbundantLimitedVariedLimitedLimited
Preparation TimeLongerShortVery ShortShortVery ShortShort
Eco FriendlinessExcellentVariesPoorPoorVariesVaries
Shaving Products Comparison Table


The choice of shaving products depends on your individual preferences and priorities.

Shaving soap offers a classic, luxurious experience with a rich lather and excellent lubrication, making it ideal for those who want the best possible shave.

On the other hand, shaving cream and shaving gel provide a good balance of convenience and performance, suitable for men with various needs.

Shaving oil is perfect for those with sensitive skin who prioritize comfort and minimal irritation.

Lastly, using normal soap or canned foam may be the quickest and easiest option, but it comes at the cost of a less enjoyable shaving experience and our environment.

Ultimately, your choice should align with your shaving goals and value, whether it’s for convenience, tradition, or skincare concerns.

My advice, try natural shaving soap bars – you really won’t look back.

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