When you shave your face, you put a lot of care into the quality of the blade—it needs to be sharp and fresh, and cared for properly in order to preserve both qualities. But what about the other core element of the shave? The shaving cream itself is equally integral in achieving a painless, close, and smooth shave. And if you pick a subpar shave cream, then you increase the odds of redness, razor bumps, ingrown hairs, patchy stubble, and more.
What makes a good shaving cream? It all comes down to the ingredients, and whether or not the brand has incorporated skin-soothing, hair-softening properties into the formula. Your product also needs to build a cushioning, lubricating lather to ensure proper razor glide; the lather helps maximize the razor’s potential, if it is in fact a superior shave cream.
Keep reading for tips on picking the best shaving cream. Your skin will thank you.
See also: How to get a better shave
The Best Shaving Cream Ingredients
While there are numerous ingredients that achieve similar functions (such as soothing the skin), it’s best to frame your search around the following needs. You can then ensure that your shaving cream includes an ingredient that achieves each task.
1. A skin soother, like cactus extract
It is imperative to have a shaving cream that bolsters skin throughout the shave itself. Yes, you will later apply a soothing aftershave, but the damage control begins with the pre-shave and shave steps themselves.
Make absolutely sure that your shave cream of choice has a hero ingredient that soothes and calms the skin on contact. Cardon’s shaving cream uses cactus extract for this exact reason (we use it across our entire skincare assortment, no less). Cactus extract is rich in vitamins and minerals like anti-inflammatory Vitamin A, healing and nourishing Vitamin E, skin-firming Vitamin K, as well as potassium and magnesium to preserve the skin’s moisture barrier functions (which are most vulnerable during this razor-blade shearing).
To magnify the soothing powers, apply the shaving cream to freshly cleansed skin a couple minutes before you shave. This will give the product time to cushion and condition the skin, as well as moisturize skin and stubble alike. (More on moisturizing ingredients below.) Or if you’re using our new Cactus Foaming Shaving Cream, your cleansing step is included in the shaving cream application thanks to our dual-action formula that also functions as a pore-clearing face wash. Other soothing ingredients blended into our new shaving cream include chamomile and marshmallow extracts to help prevent razor burn and irritation from the jump.
2. A toning, pH-balancing ingredient
The most sensitive skin types will appreciate this best of all: A shaving cream should be pH balanced to match the chemistry of your skin. That is to say, our skin is chemically considered “mildly acidic” on the 0-14 scale (where 0 is extremely acidic and 14 is extremely alkaline or basic—7 is neutral, and skin is around 4.5-5.7). Anything too far from skin’s natural level can cause redness and irritation by compromising the skin mantle. So, imagine that magnified with a razor-blade shave; in short, you want a pH-balanced shave cream that matches the natural skin levels, as well as brings those skin levels back to their natural place (in the event that your cleanser or other products have thrown this number out of whack). Cardon’s Cactus Foaming Shaving Cream relies on a careful balance of ingredients in its formula to achieve this, with potassium hydroxide as a key ingredient that goes through the saponification process (to help the shaving cream build a lather) and in turn keeps the pH level balanced in line with skin.
3. A lather that uses natural surfactants
On the topic of lather, you need a shaving cream that builds its lather by using naturally derived ingredients (as opposed to skin-drying sulfates). Look to the front of your ingredient list for things like myristic acid, lauric acid, palmitic acid—all of which are fatty acids and lipids that help condition, purify, and fortify the skin, especially when aided by glycerin and Vitamin E/Tocopherol. (Cardon’s Cactus Foaming Shaving Cream uses four types of naturally-derived fatty acids to create a rich foam and supreme glide that prevents ingrown hairs and pesky nicks.) Whether you’re shaving with a foam, cream or gel, make sure your shave cream builds a lather with ingredients like the above, and you can rest assured that it is working in your skin’s favor.
4. A high concentration of moisturizing ingredients
Just as you don’t want to deploy any skin-drying sulfates (as mentioned in the previous tip), you should also make sure that the formula you’re using features proactively hydrating ingredients. From hyaluronic acid to any number of fruit and herbal extracts, these ingredients will act much like a moisturizer to nurture skin and reinforce the moisture barrier functions of the outermost layer of skin (meaning, it helps trap moisture inside the skin and keep things like toxins and pollutants out). Furthermore, they will soften the stubble, too, to ensure a friction-less, even shave, which in turn minimizes the threat of trapped, painful ingrown hairs.
See also: How to reduce redness and irritation