Is Shaving Soap Necessary? (With the Best Alternatives To Consider!)

If you are new to the wet shaving process, you may be wondering if specialty shaving soap is necessary, or if the regular foam or gel will get the job done. 

Shaving soap is recommended, although not necessary, for an effective wet shave. If you prefer not to use a brush and shaving soap for each shave, traditional shaving creams, gels, and foams are good alternatives; skin lotions or oils will work as well. Do not substitute regular body soap for shaving soap as it will not create a sufficient lather.

Read on to learn more about various types of shaving products and which ones make sense to add to your routine.

Do you need shaving soap to shave?

Shave soaps are not technically required to achieve a good shave. If you get good results with a can of foaming gel and a disposable razor, the same gel used with a safety razor should perform very nicely for you. 

If you want to take your shaving experience to the next level, however, it is worth exploring the options since shaving soaps are made specifically for the wet shaving process.

Shaving soaps are sold as pucks, so the traditional way to use them is to keep the puck in a mug or bowl and pair it with a good shaving brush to create and apply lather. For those still on the fence, let’s take a look at some of the alternative options to shaving soap.

The best alternatives to shaving soap

A quick internet search will open the floodgates to hundreds of options, and the magnitude of choices can seem overwhelming. We’ll look at the major categories of alternatives as well as a few lesser-known options. The nice thing about having so many options is that you can try many different types of products until you find what performs best for your face.

Here are the best products to use instead of shaving soap:

  • Shaving cream
  • Shaving gel
  • Shaving foam
  • Skin lotion/butter
  • Olive oil

Shaving cream

Shaving cream is probably the most well-known and widely used shaving product on the market. It typically comes in a tube or bowl and foams up into a lather when used with a shaving brush.

Even a small dollop can create a massive amount of lather when whipped with a shaving brush, so a tube of shaving cream can last a very long time.

Pros

  • Ease of use – lathers up quickly and easily
  • Cost effective – a little goes a long way
  • Portable – easy to pack, especially in a tube
  • Wide selection of scents

Cons

  • Can be hard to apply to tricky areas
  • May require second application in some spots
  • Requires a brush to build a good lather

Recommendations

Creams offer the widest array of products so you’ll have the opportunity to try several and figure out what brand and scent works best for you. You’ll find many scent profiles to choose from, and some of the most popular include sandalwood, eucalyptus, lavender, pine, and even tobacco.

With so many options out there, you may have to try several until you find one that works well for you and that has a scent you like. A couple of classic brands that make a fantastic shaving cream include:

  • Proraso – This shaving cream is for that classic Italian barbershop feel. It includes eycalyptus to tone and purify your face, as well as menthol to refresh and revitalize your face.
  • Cremo – This shaving cream boasts an “impossibly slick formula” to provide a close, comfortable shave. It also claims to be concentrated and to last longer than the average shave cream or gel.

Shaving gel

Shaving gel is a non-lathering transparent lotion that is applied by hand instead of being whipped up with a brush. It helps moisturize the skin as it coats and can be a good option for those with sensitive skin.

Shaving gels often have cooling ingredients such as aloe vera and menthol blended into them to help maintain healthy skin while protecting from nicks and cuts.

Pros

  • Moisturizes the skin as you shave
  • No shaving brush required
  • Travel friendly packaging
  • High slickness factor
  • Good for covering hard to reach areas of the face

Cons

  • Expensive on a per shave basis – requires more product per use
  • Reduces the need for aftershave lotion
  • Does not clean the skin as you shave

Recommendations

Shaving gels are excellent for men who need moisturizing and cooling properties in their products to prevent skin inflammation and irritation. While typically not as broad a product spectrum as shaving cream, there are still plenty of options on the market.

  • King of Shaves – This cooling shave gel is excellent for men with beards as it is translucent and easy to see exactly where you’re shaving. It claims to be supercooling and ideal for guys with sensitive skin.
  • Nivia Men – This shave gel is alcohol and dye free, and specifically developed for men with sensitive skin. It also claims to soften stubble to provide a close and comfortable shave.

Shaving foam

Shaving foams consist of canisters that mix cream with air and propellant to instantly create a thick foam that is applied by hand. They are best suited for situations when a quick shave is called for. 

Value is the main trade-off for speed with shaving foams, however. Since the propellant takes up most of the space inside the canister, you get less actual shaving product as compared to soaps, creams, and gels.

Pros

  • Fastest product to apply
  • No shaving brush required
  • Large amount of lather created

Cons

  • Least environmentally friendly packaging
  • Reliance on chemicals and gases to function
  • Dries quickly
  • Least travel friendly option
  • Most expensive product on a per shave basis

Recommendations

Shaving foams run the gamut from big grocery store brands to specialty niche barbershop brands. When you find a brand of shaving cream or soap that you like, it can be worth a look to see if they make a foam as well to give yourself more options.

With foams especially, it is a good idea to look for specialized formulas such as sensitive skin or coarse beards to get the best match for your particular skin.

  • Barbasol – The classic shaving foam Barbasol is readily available just about everywhere and is a solid stand-by if you need to pick something up for travel or forgot your fave.
  • Proraso – This is the foam version of Proraso’s classic shaving cream. It quickly creates a thick lather for a close, comfortable shave – even if you’re in a hurry.

Skin lotion/butter

Now let’s look at some non-traditional alternatives that are not shaving specific products. As a major caveat, products designed specifically for shaving are always going to perform best, but in a pinch, some other alternatives can be used. 

Products such as aloe lotion, shea butter, and skin lotion can be used for shaving if no shaving products are available.

Pros

  • Cost effective if these products are already in your bathroom
  • Moisturize and lubricate the skin
  • Better than shaving dry

Cons

  • Designed to be rubbed into the skin rather than creating a protective barrier
  • Not nearly as much skin protection as shaving specific products

Olive oil

While unconventional, olive oil can help with your shave if needed.

It’s obviously not ideal due to how thin it is and how difficult it can be to control (plus you’re definitely not getting a lather out of it!). On the upside, olive oil is very slick and excellent for your skin so it may actually provide an excellent shave if you can work with it.

Pros

  • Smells amazing
  • Chances are you already have it in the house
  • Rich in vitamins and nutrients

Cons

  • Greasy
  • Difficult to apply enough to provide a good barrier
  • Will probably make you hungry while shaving