Overdramatising the differences between shaving soap and shaving cream is one of the hot and controversial topics among wet shavers.

And it’s really fun to listen, read and (-gasp!) participating in epic debates.

So, before we begin I have to ask where you’re standing…

Are you a shaving soap or shaving cream type of wet shaver?

For some people, wet shaving is an art. More like painting in white really. You got the brush, and a canva -your face, to paint on.

Ever since the first time that I used shaving creams and shaving soaps, I can’t really tell what’s better for me. It’s not easy after all, with some many options to choose from.

Then again, what makes a shaving cream better than a shaving soap really?

Before we try to compare these two lathering products, let’s briefly discuss a few things about each one of them.

Few words about shaving creams

How to use a shaving brush properly. Put shaving cream in the cavity of brush hair

I guess that most of us started shaving during our high school years. And as it usually happens, a can of pressurised shaving cream was our first lathering product. Not the best kind of shaving cream but fortunately there’s a learning curve.

My father knew all along and warned me that this wasn’t the shaving cream I’m supposed to be shaving with. But as a teenager, I wondered how is this possible when there’s so much advertising behind? How can a shaving cream that looks like a toothpaste be better than the shaving cream that golf players and NBA stars use. If it wasn’t that good, why would it be on TV?

Let’s get back on track…

Most shaving creams come either in small jars or tubes. It’s very easy to work on it and you can lather either in a shaving bowl or directly on your face.

I’ve written an extensive article on how to lather with a shaving cream and you can see for yourself how easy this can be.

As said, shaving creams are soft and they come with all kinds of scents you can imagine. Many of which contain fragrances that some guys may not appreciate. There are literally hundreds if not thousands of different shaving creams to choose from, including many that consist of natural ingredients. It’s so simple to make shaving cream that you can even try to make your own.

Most of the best shaving creams contain high levels of glycerin that gives lather the required lubricity so that your razor glides nicely on your face and doesn’t stuck on your skin. Additional ingredients may contain vitamins and other foaming agents that moisturize and soften your facial hair. This way you enjoy a refreshing and more comfortable shave without any nicks and cuts.

Few more words about shaving soaps

Great shaving soaps need to have an ideal mix of saponification agents

photo credit: Lather 4 (license)

Shaving soaps have a hard texture. Just like shaving creams, they are glycerin based and compared to normal soaps, they use both potassium hydroxide and sodium hydroxide as saponification agent.

Lathering with shaving soap is quite similar with shaving cream in the sense that you place the shaving soap in a bowl and you swirl the brush on it until lather builds up. It takes approximatelly a minute of brush swirling until you get proper lather. If you give swirling some time and you follow the lathering procedure successfully, you’ll get a nice, thick lather to get you started with shaving.

In terms of scents, they come with a few different ones but from my experience, they tend to be very subtle. Considering the best shaving soaps that I’ve used, I would say that most didn’t have any striking scent that caught me by surprise.

Differences between shaving soaps and shaving creams.

First of all, I must say that not all shaving soaps or shaving creams are created equally. Therefore, when making a comparison, there are a few things to take into account.

Things to consider is the latherability, facial hair softening, scent, moisturising capability, and lastly, the scent. Of course, most of these criteria are subjective. Yet, you need to start the comparison from somewhere.

Let’s get to the specifics.

Shaving soap mastery

I must say that shaving soap is not a beginner’s friendly product.

Most men start with wet shaving by lathering with shaving cream. It’s easier to lather and doesn’t require too much swirling and technique. At least not as much as needed with shaving soap.

The shaving soap takes a little bit of practice to learn how to lather properly. When I first started lathering with shaving soap took me a bit of time to master it but it’s not really complicated.

It’s all about the time

Besides the technique, lathering a shaving soap takes a bit longer than shaving cream. Not much, but enough to make a chit chat about it.

Lathering method

Talking about lathering, one other difference between soap and cream is the actual lathering method.

See, with shaving cream, you can lather either with or without shaving bowl or even directly on your face. Though, this doesn’t happen with shaving soap.

With shaving soap you will most probably swirl the brush on top of the shaving soap. The other alternative is to lather in a shaving bowl after you placed the soap in it.

Smells like roses

There are literally hundreds of different scents that a shaving cream may come with.

One thing that I’ve noticed -and you probably understood earlier, is that shaving creams tend to have stronger scents than shaving soaps. I’m not sure if this is the case but If I compare all the creams and soaps that I’ve used over the past few years, this tends to be the pattern.

Shaving creams do have stronger scents.

Carry on luggage friendliness

Shaving soaps are easier to transport in carry on luggage when flying, compared to shaving creams that you need to dispose. This happens since most of them are more than the maximum permitted volume. If I get this right, shaving soap is a winner here. There’s no room for shaving cream in your toiletry bag.

The longer it lasts the more you s(h)ave

I get the feeling that shaving soaps tend to last longer than shaving creams. It’s no wonder why many shaving soaps can last you up to three months even with daily shaving. To take this further, it means that over the course of a year, a shaving soap might cost you less money.

But again, the money that you’re going to save is so little that it’s hardly a reason to reject one over another.


One last thing that I used to believe was that shaving soaps are a bit slicker than shaving creams. I had the feeling that shaving with shaving soap was making my shaving a bit more aggressive. But the more my lathering technique got better, the less difference I was able to spot.

Hence, depending on the products that you use and your lathering technique -and after a hundred of shaves, you might spot a difference in slickness between shaving soap and shaving creams.

My verdict on differences between shaving soaps and shaving creams

You can probably tell that there a few differences between the two products but no strong evidence if one is better than the other.

Shaving soaps or shaving creams, they all come down to personal preference.

If you’re just starting out with wet shaving, it would be better to start with shaving cream and a good shaving brush. This will give you an idea on how to build lather with a shaving brush and become more comfortable with it. Once you’ve achieved that, you can move on to lathering shaving soaps.

And more shaving creams,

And more shaving soaps,

And so on…

And finally you draw your own conclusions.

No matter if it’s shaving soap or shaving cream, all wet shavers are looking for the same thing. A beautiful thick lather for an enjoyable and comfortable shaving experience that will leave your face feeling refreshed.


What do you prefer? shaving soaps or shaving creams? Did you spot any other difference between them?


Image Courtesy: flickr.com/scottfeldstein