Shaving Cream Vs. Soap Vs. Gel Vs. Foam – Complete 5-Point Breakdown

To the untrained eye, shaving cream, soap, gel, and foam are likely to have the same white, creamy look on a person’s face, but there really is a lot of difference between the four types of products.  

Shaving foams dispense from a can ready to coat and protect your face from the razor, whereas shaving gels need a quick lather before they’re ready. Alternatively, shaving creams and soaps require more time, effort, and accessories, but they’re better than foams or gels at lifting hairs from the face for a sharp, close shave.

Read on to find out more about each product so you can decide which is right for you.

Which is best – shaving cream, soap, gel, or foam?

There are so many shaving options available that it’s easy to feel confused when deciding between shaving creams, soaps, gels, and foams. 

Here’s what these shaving products are best for:

  • Shaving cream – Best for a great shave that moisturizes and protects your skin.
  • Shaving soap – Best for a top-shelf shave for those looking to take care of their face. 
  • Shaving gel – Best for a fast shave that is reasonably priced.
  • Shaving foam – Best for a quick, cost-efficient shave.

As you can see, the type of lubricant you choose for your shave will be dependent on your specific needs and preferences.

Comparing shaving cream, soap, gel, and foam

As we compare each of these products, we’ll list a few things that we believe are essential to understand about each product.

The key characteristics we’ll be looking at for each product are:

  • Ingredients – The ingredients are everything when it comes to what gives you the best or fastest shave. We want you to find a product that supports your lifestyle and your needs. The ingredients are the vehicle to get us there.
  • Performance – How does the product work compared to other products? What does it smell like, and how does it feel?
  • Cost – We know that not every product is built for everyone. One of the largest barriers is cost. Every customer must decide for themselves what price point they’re willing to pay for the performance they desire. 
  • Availability – How hard are you willing to work to find the perfect shaving product? Is it at your local grocery store, is it available on Amazon, or do they only deal with barber shops? Product availability matters for many people who might not have the time to search for the best dealer of shaving products.
  • Additional equipment – Other than the obvious razor and maybe some hot water, is there anything else required to achieve your morning shave?

Key characteristics of shaving cream

generic shaving cream tube

Many types of shaving products call themselves “shaving cream,” but for our purposes, we’re going to use the correct term that goes back centuries, not the canned foams or gels. 

Shaving cream, like shaving soap, has been used since 1919. It requires a bit of work to lather up, but it remains a staple of the industry because of its effectiveness. Countless shaving cream brands offer many different recipes, price points, textures, and scents.

Before hopping into buying shaving cream, you must know that most shaving creams require a bit of extra equipment and a bit more money upfront. However, shaving creams can be just as cost-effective in the long run. 


You’ll see common ingredients when reviewing the back of shaving creams:

  • Potassium hydroxide is a common ingredient in many soaps that makes it use less water and helps clean. While too much of this ingredient can be bad, many regulations preclude using a dangerous amount.
  • Glycerin is a preservative ingredient in food and personal care products. It’s very safe. 
  • Parfum/fragrance is a placeholder title for many different ingredients that go into the product’s smell. Many producers are not required to list these ingredients on a bottle, so more individual research is required if curious.
  • Coconut oil is a natural ingredient with many vitamins and antioxidants.


Many boys learn on their way to adulthood that it’s okay for your face to smell nice, especially if you want someone to come close to it.

Picking the right shaving cream is essential to entice that special someone, so many shaving cream providers have found ways to infuse the smells of tobacco, cocoa, citrus, vanilla, spices, or sandalwood into their creams. 


As for the texture of your shaving cream, keep an eye out for creams that start as a thick dollop but transform into a foamy lather that you can apply directly to your face or create in a bowl.


Shaving cream can be complicated, but the effects are worth it. Shaving cream takes work to create a lather that’s ready to protect your face. Once you perfect using your brush to create your lather, it’s easy to apply. In addition to simply protecting your skin from a razor, shaving cream also reaches beneath and moisturizes your facial hair follicles providing a more comfortable shave.  


Beyond the brush and any bowls, shaving cream can be cost-effective.

You’ll likely spend a bit more on shaving cream, although not much. Over-the-counter prices will likely range from $5 to $10. These products will still provide the moisturizing benefits that shaving creams boast.

Specialty shaving creams found in specialty shops or online can begin their pricing at $10 to $20, but some shaving creams may run as much as $70.


Shaving cream is available over the counter and online. So you won’t have to worry about where to find it.

Additional equipment

First off, find a small bowl or even a coffee mug for your first time. Mugs are great for first-timers because the small handle helps hold the bowl while you create a lather. Later on, you can consider whether you need to buy a special mug to create your lather. 

Second, you’ll likely need to buy a shaving brush – as most men don’t have them laying around – to apply the shaving cream properly. 

Is soap just as good as shaving cream?

What’s the difference between soap and shaving cream? A whole lot.

If you’re using regular soap to shave, you likely experience pain and hate the shaving experience altogether. Soap is built to disinfect, not to protect your skin from a razor or prop up facial hair. Additionally, regular soap often leaves skin dry, coarse, and unprotected. 

Alternatively, shaving cream moisturizes, nourishes, and protects the skin from the damage a sharp razor can cause. Many men who use shaving cream find shaving enjoyable and see the benefits of adding more care to their shaving routine. 

Your face can’t speak, but it will thank you for ditching the regular soap during a shave. 

Why use shaving cream?

You may be wondering what separates shaving cream from canned foams and gels, and it’s a great question. 

Shaving cream has plenty of great attributes once you get used to it. Besides buying the brush, shaving cream itself can be quite cost-effective and still provide a great product. The scents, ingredients, and lather textures surpass canned shaving products. And after you’re done, you can walk out of your bathroom with a clean-shaven, moisturized look. 

As an added bonus, it travels much easier than shaving gels or foams. Many canned gels and foams are prohibited from airplane travel, meaning you have to buy a single-use product when you’re on vacation. 

There are so many brands available in stores and online, so it’s easy to find a scent that matches your musk and ingredients that matches your skin’s needs. 

How to use shaving cream

If you’re like me and have only been exposed to shaving gels and foams, this is an important question.

Shaving cream often comes in a small container that can be scooped out or a tube that can be pushed out onto a brush.

With your cream, mug and brush acquired, you can begin to use your shaving cream. After applying an almond-sized amount of cream to a slightly damp brush, swirl your cream in the bowl while adding a few drops of water. You can continue to add slight drops of water as needed, but the goal will be a frothy cream, like the top of a latte, without any larger bubbles.

If you’ve used shaving gels or foams before, you’re essentially looking for the same texture. Once achieved, you’re ready to apply with your brush and get to shaving.

When to use shaving cream

It’s not uncommon for guys to have options for their shaving products, depending on the time and situation. When it is best to bust out the shaving cream?

There are a few times when shaving cream surpasses other solutions:

  • In your flight carry-on
  • Transitioning away from foams and gels
  • Moving beyond a quick shave

Shaving cream provides a comfortable shave, but it’s not the fastest option!

Who shouldn’t use shaving cream?

No product is for everyone, and it’s okay if shaving cream isn’t for you. 

Shaving cream can be too much work if you don’t have a lot of facial hair. Similarly, many men don’t like the hassle of applying shaving cream when they want to get on with their day. If this sounds like you, maybe consider an electric razor, canned gel, or foam.

If you don’t want to put the time and energy into an effective, pleasurable shave, then keep reading. 

Recommended shaving creams to try

Let’s talk about some shaving creams that stand out from the crowd.

  • Proraso Shaving Cream for Men is a well-known and highly-reviewed cream brewed by Proraso in Italy since 1908. Proraso specializes in a sensitive-skin formula that features citrusy lime scents as well as apple. The formula contains oatmeal and green tea that can soothe and protect sensitive skin. Find it on Amazon for $9.50.
  • Bevel’s Shave Cream is available over the counter at many retail stores. Its online and over-the-counter availability makes it an easy buy at $12.71 online or $9.99 in-store. The cream features aloe, white tea, and shea butter to moisturize, heal, soothe and restore your skin post-shave. For first-time shaving cream users, Bevel offers a bundle that includes everything you need. 
  • Cremo Shave Cream is available in multiple stores like Walmart and Target, and online at prices ranging from $5 to $7. This cruelty-free cream comes in multiple scents from the original citrus scent to a sensitive skin formula. 

Key characteristics of shaving soap

shaving soap in a dish with a shaving brush

Shaving soap is a classic option for classy lads. 

The process is similar to shaving cream and features many of the same benefits of shaving cream. Often, shaving soap comes in a bowl, a refill for a bowl, or a hard puck. 

Unlike most shaving products, shave soap comes in a completely solid form, not unlike regular body soap. To use, let your shaving brush soak in warm water for a few minutes, then lather the brush on the soap. Afterward, you can transfer that soap into a mug or bowl to create a lather for your face. 

Many proponents of shaving soaps suggest the process should be considered a part of your daily ritual, not considered a hassle.


What ingredients do you need to know when buying shaving soap?

Primary ingredients of shaving soap include:

  • Aloe Vera is a common ingredient found in soaps because of its hydration and restorative properties. 
  • Palm oil is a common ingredient high in fatty acids that creates a stable lather with a slick consistency once it is lathered.
  • Sodium hydroxide is a required ingredient in soap making. Its common name is lye, which is used to create the bar texture. Lye can be dangerous in too large amounts, but it’s perfectly fine in the correct amounts as used in all soaps. 


It can be hard to tell what scents are available from the plastic packaging.

Manufacturers sometimes list fragrances under the description of “parfum” or “fragrance,” making it even harder. We recommend looking at the product closely, trying to smell it within its packaging, or looking at reviews to ensure you know what you’re buying. 

From citrusy and sweet smells to spicy or woodsy, there are so many types of smells. Make sure you’re buying one that fits with any oils, moisturizers, colognes, or shampoos you use. 


If you want the best shave, you have to ensure you’re getting the right texture.

You want to work up your soap until it creates a lather similar to a shaving foam texture. It should be light, like a latte, but stable. You should be able to turn the lather in your shaving soap bowl upside down without it dripping or moving once the texture is ready. 

After the texture is right, take it out of the bowl and get to shaving!


Of all shaving product options, shaving soap requires the most work to use, but provides stellar results.

Unlike foam or gel, shaving soap requires a brush to work into a lather. And unlike shaving cream, shaving soap cannot be applied directly onto the skin to be made into a lather. 


Shaving soap is often marketed to men who care about what they put on their face, meaning it’s a specialty product.

Shaving soap gets a bad rep for cost because shavers must buy a brush and bowl which adds to the overall cost. However, once a bowl and brush are required, shaving soap doesn’t cost too much, ranging from $5 to $15.

Shaving soap costs more to get started, but individual bars are fairly cost-effective. That being said, the more expensive sets found online sometimes include a free bowl or a set of multiple types of soaps. 


Shaving soaps are seen as a classic way to achieve a dapper look, but have fallen out of popular use in recent years.

Shaving soap is considered a specialty product and isn’t always easy to find.

Because of this, it’s not always available over the counter at retail stores like Target and Walmart. However, it’s easy to find online. 

Additional equipment

Several forms of brushes and bowls can be advertised for shaving soaps. 

Buying a shaving brush is the most essential part of shaving soap, as you must work up a lather that can then be transferred onto your face. Some men use bowls and others use mugs to create a secondary lather that can then be transferred onto your face. 

While shaving cream can be lathered on the face, shaving soap requires a bit more work in the bowl before it can be transferred to the face.

Why use shaving soap?

Shaving soaps are a bit more niche than other shaving products, so you may be wondering if they’re worth it.

Shaving soap has many benefits, with really its only downside being the slightly longer time it takes to use it.

From better ingredients to a better shave when applying the lather to your face, it’s really a great product that can make your skin healthier and your shave closer. 

When should you use shaving soaps?

You should use shaving soap if:

  • you’re looking for a dapper, close shave
  • you want a shave that moisturizes and keeps your skin healthy
  • you want to shave and save money when traveling by plane

Who shouldn’t use shaving soaps?

Shaving soaps can be used by plenty of people, you need to be willing to incorporate them into your routine. 

Many men don’t feel like they have the time to complete even simple parts of their recommended daily routine. If this is you, a shaving cream, gel or foam may be better for you.

However, looking into the steps to activate a shaving soap may help you determine if it’s for you. 

Recommended shaving soaps to try

Looking to get started with shaving soap? Try one of these:

  • Men’s Soap Company, Lavender Shaving Soap in Bowl with Lid is a great starter shaving soap because it comes with a bowl. At $15 this soap moisturizes and protects your skin with its thick lather. It’s vegan, not tested on animals, and provides a 100% satisfaction guarantee. 
  • The Art of Shaving Sandalwood Shaving Soap with Wooden Bowl is a higher-end product from The Art of Shaving brand. This cream features a coconut oil base but one of the higher-end costs of $55 online before tax, including the wooden bowl for new shavers. 
  • Gentleman Jon Sandalwood Shave Soap is a small puck refill that costs an easy $7.99 on Amazon. Gentleman Jon boasts this small 2.25 oz puck will last for months and brands itself as a “ritual not a chore.” 

Key characteristics of shaving gel

a blob of shaving gel

There’s a reason that shaving gel has taken over the industry, leaving shaving creams and soaps trailing behind. 

At the end of the day, men looking for a simple shave will find and love shaving gel. Canned shaving gel provides good protection, a cheap product, and a quick shave. However, with canned shaving gels, the ingredients that are essential to its easy-to-dispense and lather method are also what some people don’t like about it. 

Shaving gels contain alcohols that can dry skin and other ingredients that in larger amounts can hurt sensitive skin.


While shaving gel may be very convenient, many people avoid it because of the ingredient list.

The ingredients of shave gel are:

  • Isobutane is used as a propellant in cosmetic products like shaving gel in order for it to spray from the nozzle. 
  • Menthol is commonly used for its popular cooling properties. It also boasts some antibacterial, antifungal, and painkilling benefits, but can make your skin dry out more.
  • Parabens are a collection of chemicals that have been and are still used as a preservative. Parabens have come under fire after they were found to cause an increased risk of cancer and skin irritation due to how deeply they seep into the skin. 


Shaving gels tend to have less of a distinct smell attached to them. 

Shaving gels have harsher chemicals and alcohols mixed into their ingredients. These strong ingredients also come with stronger smells that can be difficult for light, airy smells to cover up. With these products, expect a sterile yet clean scent.

Consider pairing your shaving gel with a scented moisturizer for those looking to up their scent game.


Shaving gel is an interesting one, as textures go.

After dispensing it from the can, it appears as a non-liquid, non-solid gel. However, add a bit of friction, and the gel lathers into a foam that is ready to protect your face during your shave.

The gel also tends to give off a cooling sensation when you apply it to your skin. If this is too much, they also offer sensitive skin shaving gels. 


It’s hard to hate on shaving gel’s performance, which is quick and effective.

While it doesn’t boast the skin health benefits and can cause some issues for sensitive skin, the majority of people trying to get a quick shave will have it.


Yeah, it’s convenient, but how much does it cost?

Shaving gel is actually up there with the cheaper forms of shaving products. In some cases, you only need to expect to spend $3 on a can of shaving gel. Of course, there are multiple brands whose products and prices differ. 


Shaving gel scores the highest in this category.

Due to its popularity, it can be found almost anywhere shaving products are sold, both over the counter and online.

Finding the right one shouldn’t be a problem in stores or online as they are one of the larger parts of the shaving product market. 

Additional equipment

Shaving gel is a cheap and easy date. 

Squirt it from the easy-to-press nozzle and you’ll find yourself with a small batch of gel on your hands. After a tiny bit of friction on your face or hands, the batch is ready for shaving. 

Compared to shaving cream and soaps, the simplicity of shaving gel is where it really shines.

Why use shaving gel?

Shaving gels have built an impressive, dominant niche in the shaving product industry. This is especially true considering it wasn’t the first product on the market.

Travel to your local convenience store – or wherever you find shaving products – and you’ll certainly find shaving gels packed throughout the shelves. Their presence is due to their great marketing from brands like Barbasol or Gillette, and through the ease and cheapness of the product. 

If you’re looking to keep it simple and straightforward, shaving gels are likely going to be one of your best options. 

When to use shaving gel

There are certain people who will enjoy shaving gel more than other products.

It’s best to use shaving gel if you’re looking for a: 

  • Quick, morning routine
  • Cheap costing shaving product
  • You don’t have much facial hair

Who shouldn’t use shaving gel?

Shaving gel is undeniably a quick and cost-effective, almost unmatched product, so who shouldn’t use it?

Men with sensitive skin who find their skin dried or bothered by the product should probably avoid shaving gels (although there are sensitive skin formulas.) Additionally, men who find pleasure in perfecting their routine may enjoy the process that is involved with lathering up a good shaving soap or cream. 

We mentioned it above, but any canned shaving product should not be brought on a plane due to the pressures associated with higher altitude. 

Recommended shaving gels to try

Chances are you’ve already tried a shaving gel, but maybe you haven’t found the right one. We recommend trying out one of these:

  • Dollar Shave Club Shave Gel has made a splash on the scene with inexpensive razors, creams, and gels that are effective and offered for at-home delivery.
  • Edge Ultra Sensitive Shave Gel offers everything you should expect from a shave gel. At $10.99 for three, Edge shave gel is made to be gentle and soothe sensitive skin. 
  • King C. Gillette Transparent Shave Gel is the specialty line of Gillette’s new line of shaving products. This $8 shave gel is made with white tea and argan oil and runs clear. 

Key characteristics of shaving foam

a man spraying shaving foam into his hand

Shaving foam is the quickest and most convenient way to shave. 

Similar to shaving gel, the product has found its way into many men’s shaving routines due to its easy use. Shaving foam doesn’t have the same moisturizing benefits as shaving cream and soap. Additionally, you should be aware of its canned properties and how they can impact sensitive skin.

That being said, many men swear by a certain type of shaving foam and feel no need to get anything different. 


Ingredients you can expect to find in shaving foam include:

  • Isobutane is used as a propellant in cosmetic products like shaving gel in order for it to spray from the nozzle. 
  • Sodium hydroxide is a required ingredient in soap making. Its common name is lye, which is used to create the bar texture. Lye can be dangerous in too large amounts, but it’s perfectly fine in the correct amounts as used in all soaps. 
  • Triethanolamine (or TEA) is used in shaving creams to balance out the cream, keeping it from being too acidic or alkaline. 


A few different textures come to mind when someone describes foam.

Shaving foam is more similar to the texture of a meringue or latte top — light and airy.

Once in your hand, the airy foam is ready to create a barrier between your skin and the razor for a painless shave.


Shaving foam is great at where it excels. It’s fast, it’s cheap and it gets the job done. 


Those looking for a cheap shave will find a best friend in shaving foam.

A can of shaving foam can be priced anywhere from $1 to $5. 

Because shaving foam requires nothing else but a can and a razor, shaving foam is one of the cheaper options to shave with.


Shaving foam can be found online and at most retail stores.

It can be found in most of the same places where shaving gels are sold. 

Additional equipment

No brush, no mess, no hassle!

Shaving foam requires almost no effort after releasing the foam from the can on your hand. Apply the shaving foam to your face and you’re ready to go.

After shaving, wash off the extra foam from your face, dry yourself off and move on to the rest of your day.

Why use shaving foam?

What separates shaving foams from gels, creams, and soaps?

Every man is different and allowed to make their own subjective choice on topics like these. But it’s clear that shaving foam is best saved for the man looking to save money or time on their daily routine.

A can of shaving foam for less than $5 can be applied without much preparation in a pinch and still help you walk out of your bathroom looking and feeling great. 

When to use shaving foam

Does shaving foam fit your daily needs?

We recommend shaving foam for people in these situations:

  • You’re strapped for time
  • You’re trying to save money
  • You aren’t interested in spending more time shaving

Who shouldn’t use shaving foam?

If you aren’t sure what shaving foam fits your needs, you should keep a few things in mind.

There are sensitive skin formulas for shaving foams, but those still contain harsh chemicals. If you’re traveling, compressed air isn’t allowed on a plane. 

If you want to improve your skincare and facial hair health or otherwise get the most out of your products, we recommend you avoid shaving foams. People with that kind of regime would be better served with shaving cream or soap.  

Recommended shaving foams to try

  • Gillette Foamy Sensitive Skin Shave Foam is a creamy product that spreads easily and leaves skin feeling soft. This shave foam sits at about $3.29.
  • Yves Rocher Shaving Foam proves that shaving foam doesn’t necessarily need to be a lower-end product. Sitting at $9.75, this product features Chamomile grown in Yves Rocher’s fields in France. 
  • Nivea Men Sensitive Shave Foam doesn’t include any alcohol to prevent burning sensations. The shave foam costs $4.90 and can make a great addition for people looking for a quick and easy shave.

Similar Posts