The purpose of a shaving cream is to act as a buffer between a razor and your skin. “When we shave, we forcefully expel the hair from its home: the follicle,” explains Mona Gohara, MD, a board-certified dermatologist. So the foamy lather helps cushion the blow, she explains, which makes shaving more pleasant for your skin. “It helps pull the hair out gently instead of pulling it out in a harder way.” (Looking at those of you whose armpits have withstood countless product-free shaves…myself included. That’s a big risk, you guys.)
Plus, shaving-specific products give you two key elements needed for a good shave: hydration and lubrication, says Elizabeth Compo, senior scientist at Venus. “Hydration softens hair and skin, which helps reduce the force needed for the razor to cut hairs while shaving. Lubrication gives just the right amount of glide between the blades and skin,” she says, which makes the grooming process much more comfortable and less of a potential slicing job. Shaving products also allow you to monitor your hair removal. “Those who use shaving cream will tell you it helps them see or track where their razor has been and hasn’t been, others say it helps them get all the hair, and those who have Sensitive skin appreciates seeing where their razor has been so they can avoid stroking it over the same area again, which can contribute to irritation,” Compo says.
Without a specific shaving product, you will be more prone to irritation and ingrown hairs. Laura Schubert, co-founder of Fur (who just released his Shaving cream) strongly believes in the use of shaving cream because “putting a razor on the skin without a pad” causes irritation. “You need to use a product that will allow the razor to glide over the skin, rather than dragging,” she says. What happens when you don’t use shaving cream? Your skin is more likely to have ingrown hairs, which is when the hairs in your follicle become trapped, says Dr. Gohara.
Some of you may be reading this and thinking it doesn’t apply to you because your body wash or conditioner doubles as a substitute for shaving cream. Well, according to Schubert, a body wash won’t do the job well enough. “It wouldn’t provide enough glide and could make your skin too slippery, causing you to cut yourself accidentally,” she says. Campo, on the other hand, says that a shower product substitute “could dry out your skin more or not stay put,” the latter of which may prevent it from stopping the irritation. Dr. Gohara isn’t the biggest fan of shower gel substitutes either: “It’s better than nothing, but I prefer the real deal.”
Alas: the product category exists for a reason. In order to be borderline safe – rather than sorry and inflicted with the pain of post-shave incarnations and irritation – your best bet is to invest in a shaving cream. As for which one to choose? You can certainly use a full lather like when you first learned to shave, however, there are many nifty formulas such as EOS Shaving Cream ($8), Flamingo Foaming Shave Gel ($5), or pure venus ($6).
Watch to see the rest of a dermatologist’s shower routine, shaving cream included:
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