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A beginner’s guide to shaving cream and shaving soap

Once you’re past the time in your life when you buy whatever’s on offer at the local pharmacy to get rid facial hair, there comes a day when all men take shaving a little more seriously, recognising it as a ritual that sets you up for the day and subsequently worth investing in. It’s at this point the question raises its head - are you a shaving cream or shaving soap kinda guy?


It’s a debate that rages on, and has done for the best part of a century when contemporary shaving creams first made their way onto the market. So here’s the low down: both shaving cream and shaving soap serve the purpose of softening the hairs while also protecting your skin from your razor blade. In that purpose they are unified. The lather from either product provides a layer of cushion and lubrication that keeps your skin cared for, so the difference comes down to user experience.

Shaving soap

In terms of genealogy, soap came first, and typically the term refers to a hard soap that is whipped into a lather using a brush. Hard shaving soaps have a following among shaving traditionalists, and in their modern form they have existed since at least the early 19th century.

As with so many products, there is a plethora of soaps on the market, so it isn’t a one size fits all situation. This is a journey that will take some dedication to finding your perfect partner, as with any great romance.

There are hard soaps, triple-milled soaps and a wealth of options in between. Many wet shavers find that triple-milled soaps produce a denser lather and are more luxurious than the others. Triple-milled soaps also tend to be thicker than others, which is why they are able to last longer, although that isn’t necessarily the same as being a preferable experience, so to understand the nuances there you will have to experiment.


Shaving cream

Creams on the other hand are the more more modern incarnation of shaving products, and essentially they have a reputation for being easier and quicker to use.

A rudimentary form of shaving cream was documented in Sumer (the first urban civilisation in Mesopotamia, better known these days as Iraq) around 3000 BC. Other than that, until the early 20th century, bars or sticks of hard soap were the order of the day.

Newer creams were introduced in the 1940s and a key difference between them and their soapy predecessors was that you didn’t need a brush to use them. We’re not talking about the chemical imbued stuff in an aerosol can by the way, we’re talking about more traditional artisan shaving creams that contain beneficial ingredients like natural oils, shea butter and aloe vera to help soothe the skin, most of which tend to be sold in tubes or tubs.

What’s the difference?

What people who are new to shave soaps sometimes find tricky is that it takes a certain finesse to generate a lather from a shaving soap. It takes practice, technique and the lather can also be affected by hard water.

Creams tend to be made with more water and potassium hydroxide than shaving soaps and as a result they are quicker and easier to use. Therefore, using the soap tends to be a longer, more ritualistic process than using a cream. Shave soaps also tend not to leave a lingering scent the way a cream might, but whether you see that as a pro or con really comes down to personal preference.

The perfect shave

Built around a 20-metre indoor pool, Ned’s Club Spa is a space in which to unwind, Ned’s Barbershop is a lesson in the perfect shave. Offering haircuts, facials, manicures and traditional wet shaves, this is a classic, speakeasy-style barbershop for the modern gentleman. All services, from a haircut to a traditional wet shave or facial use their own range of styling and skincare products.


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