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How To Use Shaving Cream

For guys with dry or sensitive skin, gentle shaving cream can make all of the difference. Here’s how to use shaving cream, no matter the formula or what kind of equipment you have access to. 

What Is Shaving Cream?

Shaving cream is a cream used for shaving. Duh. 

Oh, you wanted more detail than that? 

Shaving creams are products that provide lubrication when you shave, like WD-40 but for your face. They make the skin slick so your razor blade can glide over it without tugging or cutting you. 

Shaving creams have a thick, creamy texture, and they usually include a lot of moisturizing ingredients. Beyond their basic task, they can also soften your stubble which makes cutting it down a little easier. 

Some will also nourish and hydrate your skin, which is helpful if you’re not in the habit of using a moisturizer or aftershave balm. 

Lathering Shave Creams

Some shaving creams foam up into a frothy lather, just like shaving soaps. They’re very easy to wash off when you’re done shaving, and they’re absolutely incredible when paired with a shaving brush.

Even lathering shave creams can be split into a few different categories, like soap-based shaving creams, detergent-based shaving creams, and self-foaming shaving creams. 

Non-Lather Shave Creams 

There are also non-foaming shaving creams that go on your skin as is, without creating foam. They’re not as easy to use as lathering creams because they’re a little more likely to clog up your razor, but if you have very sensitive skin they might come in handy.  

How To Use Shaving Cream

Before applying your shaving cream, start out by getting your skin damp. You can splash your face, cleanse with a pre-shave face wash, take a shower… How you actually do it is none of my business. 

Once your face is damp, dispense the shaving cream into your hands, and if necessary, work it up into a thick lather by rubbing both palms together or with the help of a shaving brush. 

Finally, smooth the shaving cream over the area you’ll be shaving. It’s best to apply in sections, so you can make sure it covers your skin evenly. Aim for a layer about 5 mm thick – you shouldn’t be able to see your skin through it. 

That’s it! Now you’re ready to shave, which is a whole other story. To keep things gentle, shave with the grain and stick to shorter strokes. 

As you shave, rinse the blade regularly because both hair and shaving cream can clog it up. Hot water will do a better job, especially if you’re rinsing away a persistent non-lathering formula. 

Once you’re done shaving, rinse your face with cool or lukewarm water to get rid of the shaving cream residue. Once your face is clean and smooth, finish things off with your go-to aftershave or moisturizer.  

How To Use Shaving Cream With Brush

Brush + lathering shaving cream = magic.

If you’re after the thickest, frothiest lather ever, you should definitely lather your shaving cream with a brush. There are two ways to go about it: 

Lathering In A Bowl

Creating your lather in a bowl gives you a lot of control over ratios, so it’s awesome when you’re just starting out. 

To start out, soak your shaving brush in warm water for a few seconds, so it’s well-saturated but not dripping. Then, in a small bowl made of glass or ceramic, put in a large squirt of shaving cream.

Stir the shaving cream vigorously with the brush. It’ll immediately start foaming up and growing in size. Use the brush to pick up any foam that tries to escape the bowl, and then keep swirling. Your goal is to create a thick, tight foam that sticks to the brush easily even when you hold it upside down. 

If your foam is too thick, add more water. If your mixture is bubbly, thin, and runny, add a little more cream. 

After 30 seconds or so, you should have enough foam to shave. Use your hands or the brush to apply it to your face in quick circular motions, and go to town. 

Lathering The Face Directly

You can also create lather directly on your face, without a bowl. This technique doesn’t give you as much control, but if you know what you’re doing, it might just give you a better shave. By lathering the shaving cream directly on your skin, the brush will lift the hair for a closer shave. It’ll also help to remove dead skin cells, which can prevent ingrown hairs later on. 

First, soak the brush in warm water until it’s thoroughly soaked but not dripping too much. Then, squeeze the shaving cream directly into the center of the brush. 

Next, start swirling the brush directly against your face. As you swirl, the shaving cream on the brush will foam up and expand. Your goal is for the shaving cream to achieve the texture of whipped cream so that it’ll be thick enough to stick to your face easily. 

Work in sections, starting with the cheeks and jawline, and then make your way down to your neck. Finally, don’t forget the easy-to-miss spots under your jawline or above your lip. If you don’t have enough cream on the brush, just add a little more. 

Once your entire face is covered with an even layer of shaving cream, you can go ahead and shave. 

How To Use Shaving Cream Without Brush

Some shaving creams don’t even need a brush. Modern detergent-based shaving creams come out of the tube ready for action, with no need for foaming or lathering. 

But even if your shaving cream is soap-based, you can still make it work. You can create a lather by rubbing your shaving cream between both hands with a bit of water. Then, spend a bit of time massaging it into your stubble, to get it to foam up even further. It’ll take longer than with a brush, but it’ll work in a pinch. 

How To Use Shaving Cream With Electric Shaver

Most electric shavers are designed for dry shaving, so shaving cream will just clog them up and make your life difficult. When in doubt, just shave dry.

If you know for a fact that your electric shaver was designed for wet shaving, then shaving cream can definitely make for a smoother experience. 

Follow the same application instructions we’ve given so far but err on the side of applying less shaving cream than more. This will still give you a very smooth shave, but without the hassle of constantly rinsing your blades. 

Do You Put Shaving Cream On Wet Or Dry Skin?

We call it wet shaving for a reason. It’s always better to start with damp skin before you apply shaving cream. Warm water, in particular, will soften your hair so it’ll be more pliant and easier to shave (although it won’t open your pores –  that one is a myth.)  

Do You Need Water To Shave With Shaving Cream?

Should you use water with shaving cream? Yes. Do you have to? No. 

For best results, you’ll need water to prep your hair for shaving and to actually lather your shaving cream. 

If you’re in a situation where you don’t have access to water, you have a few options: 

  • If you still have access to electricity, you can dry shave with an electric razor.
  • You can purchase a non-lathering shaving cream that will glide even without water. 
  • You can try to shave with a moisturizer or pre-shave lotion instead of shaving cream. 

Whichever method you choose, make sure to have a towel on hand to clean off hair and residue from your razor and to wipe your face at the end. It’s not going to be the most pleasant shave, but it’ll work in a pinch. 

Are You Supposed To Let Shaving Cream Sit?

A lot of wet shavers swear by this trick. They let their shaving cream sit on their skin for about 2 to 3 minutes before shaving. Some will even let it sit for as long as 15 minutes. The logic behind this is that the shaving cream will do an even better job of softening whiskers if it has time to sit. 

In practice, I’ve yet to see evidence that this is necessary, and I don’t notice a difference myself. I find that the combination of shaving cream and warm water is more than enough without waiting. Plus, who has the time? 

There’s also the small risk that shaving creams (especially foaming ones) will irritate the skin if they’re left there for too long – they’re meant to be rinsed off, after all. 

So bottom line: if you have sensitive skin, avoid this practice. If your skin is fine and your beard is quite coarse, you can give it a try and see if you notice a difference. 

How Much Shaving Cream Should You Use?

No matter your political beliefs, this is the time to be liberal. If you don’t use enough shaving cream, you won’t get as much lubrication, so the actual shaving process will be a lot rougher and more irritating to your skin. 

Use enough shaving cream to cover all of the areas you’re shaving with a thick, opaque layer. The easiest way to tell if you need to add more shaving cream is to look at your face. If there are gaps where you can still see your skin, add more until your skin is almost completely hidden and you’re giving Santa Clause vibes.

The precise amount depends on the type of shaving cream you use. With products that foam up a lot, a quarter-sized amount of cream will quickly grow into a generous handful once you lather it up. If you use non-foaming shaving cream, you’ll need to use a larger amount – at least enough to fill up the palm of your hand.  

Is Shaving Cream Worth It?

There’s nothing better than using the right product for the job. If you have dry skin, a quality shaving cream is the ideal product when it’s time to cut down those whiskers (while oily skin types might do better with a shaving soap). 

Price-wise, there are a lot of affordable shaving creams out there that don’t cost much more than the other products you could use. Sure, you might be able to save a few pennies by using a hair conditioner or regular soap. In my opinion, the tiny amount of money saved is not enough to make up for the fact that they can’t produce that same lather that makes wet shaving so enjoyable.

Miles is a professional men's grooming analyst who believes that to look good a man just needs to take good care of himself. He’s all about wet shaving, sustainability, and evidence-based grooming - an obsession he’s ready to share. Miles is known for his in-depth analysis of men's grooming products, brands, and best practices you can't find anywhere else.