How To Understand The Difference Between Shaving Soaps And Shaving Cre - The Emporium Barber

How To Understand The Difference Between Shaving Soaps And Shaving Creams

Imagine starting your shaving ritual by smearing animal fats and ashes all over your face as your shaving soap, well that is what the Sumerians used to apply to their beards in Mesopotamia over four thousand years ago.

You wouldn't rub that crap over your face today, but you are not far off it if you are using goop out of an aerosol as a shaving essential. You can find out more about the history of shaving in this  article .

The Egyptians took shaving pretty seriously, using natural oils as lubricants for their bronze razors and this carried on over the centuries as shaving soaps were developed to create thick lathers for men's beards. Then as we hit the early 19th century soaps became more common and luxurious until the advent of aerosol cans (and the demise of the shaving ritual) with the goop you probably rubbed over your chin this morning.

Understanding the differences between shaving cream and shaving soap helps traditional wet shavers understand the amount of cushion and lubrication that you get from a shaving cream versus soap. It will also help you decide what is the best shaving product to prevent skin irritation for your daily ritual.

Shaving Cream

So you now know that this term does not relate to the canned shaving cream you have in your bathroom cabinet, and if you do, then you might as well grab a can of Dairy Whip and use that. Shaving creams are relatively a modern product, and there is a wide selection of shaving creams out there for you to choose from. We like Bluebeard's Revenge shaving cream for traditional wet shaving.

Bluebeards Revenge

Shaving Cream

Shaving cream is technically 'soap', and with plenty of water on your shaving brush and some good old-fashioned elbow grease, you can create a super thick and slick lather as part of your shaving ritual for a classy close shave. What your shaving cream does is provide moisture to soften the beard, and by softening the hairs, it allows your safety razor to move smoothly across your face acting as a cushion to protect your skin during your shave.

Super easy to use you just squeeze out a dollop of your quality shaving cream (if it's in a handy tube) and put in your scuttle mug. Grab your Muhle badger brush, add a little water and start creating lather. You'll get used to creating the right consistency with practice but if it's a little dry add more water and if its not slippery enough add water. It's that simple.


Badger brush

Ingredients to look out for are natural oils, Shea butter, and aloe vera as an addition to sooth the skin. They can also contain beneficial ingredients like primrose, green tea, borage and sunflower, and there are plenty of natural products that can be found in shaving creams like Penhaligon's Bayolea shave cream. You can also get high quality shaving creams in small bowls that allow you to easily load your Muhle badger brush up and apply directly to your face.


Shave Cream

If you are starting your shaving ritual for the first time with a safety razor or cutthroat blade, then shaving cream is recommended for first time users as it lathers up more effortlessly than soap. With its softer, cushioned texture it is certainly instantaneous in its application. All that luxurious lather can then be applied to the tricky places to reach on your face, giving you a closer shave.

Remember there are wet shaving products for sensitive skin as well as fragrance-free shaving products, so if you want to remain scentless then grab a fragrance-free shaving cream.

The Pros & Cons Of Shave Cream


  • Pretty simple to lather up
  • Doesn't dry out so quickly
  • Makes a thicker 'cushion'
  • Benefits from added moisturising
  • Helps protect your skin


  • Shaving cream is a bit more expensive
  • Hard to find unscented

Recommended Shaving Creams...


Endymion Shave Cream


Cucumber Shave Cream


Bayolea Shave Cream

Shaving Soap

Let's be honest here, if you are going to do something then let's do it properly hey? If you are shaving with a straight razor then using shaving soap is the authentic, traditional product to shave with. It's not out of a tube but comes in a hard puck in a container. When you shave with soap, you are doing what your forefathers did, the same daily routine that might have been applied before they went off to war, or created the family dynasty that you are now a part of.

You will find using shaving soap needs more practice to create a better lather, but then Rome wasn't built in a day. First, you need to get yourself a decent shaving brush, and as you need to put maximum effort into lathering up you might want to leave the fine haired badger brush and grab something a bit coarser. Make sure you also have a decent porcelain shaving bowl -- though you can also use a stainless shaving bowl or a steel shaving bowl. You will perfect your technique eventually, and there is nothing better than turning a hard piece of soap into a super luxurious lather, ready to have a shave.

Have a read of our in-depth article on the best way to shave if your shaving daily, to give yourself a head start. 

Bluebeards Revenge

Porcelain Shave Mug


You will find there are many types of shaving soaps: Triple-milled shave soaps, hard shave soaps that aren't triple-milled, semi-hard shaving soaps and croaps (cream/soap). Triple-milled is where the soap is passed through a milling machine three times to create a smooth fine paste. This is why there is less water contained in it and more actual soap, resulting in a richer lather with the soap lasting longer than a tube of cream.



Field Shave Soap Canister


If you have combination/oily skin, you are probably better off using shaving soap as you will not require so much lather on your face. Look for ingredients such as lanolin, tallow, glycerin and bentonite clay. You don't have to smell like a bouldier either as there are fragrance-free shaving soaps out there too.

You will find that the shaving soaps tend to be cheaper than the creams, and in this instance what you pay will actually get you a more superior product.



Blenheim Shave Soap With Wooden Bowl

The Pros & Cons Of Shave Soap


  • Lasts longer than the creams
  • Affordable
  • Thick, luxurious lather once you master the skill
  • Helps the straight razor glide across your face as smoothly as possible


  • Can take a while to master
  • Can be a little drier to the skin
  • Not so good with hard water

So Which One Should You Use?

This is up to you. What is your preference, would you prefer a shaving cream or a shaving soap? In all honesty, you are going to get more, or less the same results as whichever one you choose will serve you well, though we will say shaving cream provides more cushion and lubrication with little effort.

However, there is no reason why you can't use both, and some blokes will use a small amount of cream with the soap lather to create a 'super lather.' If you are put off by mastering lathering then purchase shaving cream or you could always buy soap anyway and practice. There is nothing wrong with testing both types of products.

You will find that whichever way you go your skin and face will benefit from the natural ingredients leaving you feeling refreshed and revitalized and ready to tackle the world.

One thing is for certain, that can of Gillette foam will never grace your bathroom cabinet again.

Visit Our Wide Selection Of Shaving Products

Trent Pridmore
Trent Pridmore


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