To shave, or not to shave – that is the question. Actually, the question isn’t whether or not to shave – because a freshly shaven face is one of the most refreshing feelings in the world – but rather, what to shave with.
On one end of the spectrum, you’ve got “dry shaving” – something which can be comfortably accomplished only with the aid of a high quality electric shaver. On the other side of things, there’s “wet” shaving. It gets its distinction through the use of a cushioning, lubricating medium – typically, foam, gel or oil – which sits between your face and your shaving tool of choice.
The great thing about wet shaving is that it appeals to both traditionalists – think “cut-throat” straight razors and double-edged safety razors – as well as the technologically inclined, which would rather use a highly engineered, multi-bladed, motorized shaving device to mow their morning stubble down.
Foams, gels and oils all serve the same primary function: to moisturize your skin, create a cushioning effect against a sharp blade, and allow a razor or shaver to glide more easily. Each has its benefits and drawbacks.
Let’s delve a little deeper now, into the world of wet shaving.
Shaving foam is readily available – you probably used foam the very first time you shaved with a disposable razor. Stored in aerosol canisters, it’s easy to dispense – simply press the button on top of the container and the foam comes out, frothy and ready to apply to your face. If you prefer a rich, creamy lather, foam may be your best choice.
You can apply it as-is, or try to whip it up even more, using a bit of hot water and a shaving brush. When compared to other shaving products, most foam is quite affordable. Since foam can be easily worked into the skin using your hands or a brush, it may excel at penetrating and softening dry or days-old beards.
If foam has any drawbacks, it’s that some of what you’re paying for is canned air (versus actual ingredients), and that some foams have a reputation for having less-than-stellar formulations. A lot of guys find shaving foam to be quite messy and awkward to work with. However, higher quality products, like Nivea Sensitive Foam, are made with good ingredients, and designed to protect skin against daily shaving. It dispenses easily and help give a smooth, refreshing shave.
Like its foamy counterpart, most shaving gels come in canisters, and are dispensed much the same way, with a push-button on top of the container. Gel is also widely available, and sometimes costs more than foam, but prices do vary from brand to brand – many gels are quite affordable. Unlike foam, most gels don’t form lather immediately when it’s dispensed. Rather, it’s designed to be lathered in your hands just before you shave, compared to foam, the resultant lather is often thinner but more dense. However, this is dependent on the formulation – for example, some gels hardly lather at all, but excel at moisturizing particularly thick beards.
Gels are a good choice for men with sensitive skin, or those who shave only part of their face, whether to maintain a shaped beard, or to avoid shaving areas prone to irritation. Unlike foam, most gel remains clear enough that you can differentiate between where you want to shave, and where you don’t. If there’s any drawback to gel, it’s that it may clog certain razors more easily, necessitating a thorough rinsing off when you’re done shaving.
A particularly well-regarded gel is the Gillette Series Protection Shaving Gel. It’s on the higher end of gels’ available but very affordable, easy to dispense and features a triple-lubricant formulation that fights tight skin, cuts and redness.
If there’s an outlier in the world of wet shaving products, it’s definitely shaving oil. Not as common as gels or foams, but it’s by far the most natural, and oftentimes the most economical, oil has been used to shave with far before the words “foam” and “gel” even existed.
Oil can be used in one of two ways: It can be applied as a “pre-shave” treatment, prior to the application of a foam or gel (creating another layer of lubrication), or it can be used directly between your skin and razor or shaver.
Oil offers a few unique advantages, among which is cost. Though at first glance a small bottle of shaving oil may seem expensive, what you’re paying for is pure product – there are no fillers or aerosols – and most shaving oils require that only a few drops be used at a time. It’s also customizable – unlike a can of foam or gel, you can always blend in other oils or a fragrance ingredient of your choice. It’s also good for your skin, helping to immediately replace the natural oils that get lost when you shave.
If oil has any disadvantages, it’s that it requires you to rinse off your razor or shaver quite well after use, as well as your hands, if you’ve applied the oil with your fingertips. An excellent product to try is the King of Shaves Kinexium Shaving Oil – it’s naturally antiseptic, lubricating, provides excellent glide and hydrates your skin.
Which is Best…
Well, it’s really down to personal preference as to which shaving lubricant you choose. Some guys prefer shaving gel while other swear by foam. All three above mentioned products will produce equally good results for most people, it would be a matter of experimenting with each to find out which one feels best and is most suited to your skin.