These are the ones skin experts actually use themselves.
Your shaving cream probably isn’t the product in your skin-care lineup that you spend the most energy, money, or time selecting. It might even come as more of an afterthought—you could still be using whatever your mom bought you in high school (totally get it). But think about this: Finding a *great* shaving cream can not only transform your shower routine into something exponentially more spa-like, but it can also help to moisturize skin, prevent and soothe irritation and razor burn, and leave you smelling and feeling super fresh.
FYI, the sole purpose of shaving creams and gels isn’t to aid in removing hair. “Shaving creams are products designed to soften and protect the skin and the hair. They enhance the glide of the razor against the skin,” explains Joshua Zeichner, M.D., director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.
They also serve a very necessary function in protecting your skin from sharp razor blades. “Shaving is an interaction between the hair, the skin, and the razor,” notes Dr. Zeichner. “Razor burn is essentially chafing of the skin caused by friction and traction of the razor against the outer skin layer.” Shaving cream acts as a buffer between your skin and the razor and reduces friction—so it’s something you don’t want to skip (or skimp) on, unless you love the look of raised red bumps around your bikini line.
What to Look for In a Shaving Cream
If you’re used to rushing through the shaving cream aisle of your local drugstore, snapping up whichever happens to be on sale, or going with whatever has the prettiest packaging, start shifting your attention to what actually goes into the product.
Keep an eye out for ingredients like glycerin (it acts as a moisturizing emollient by drawing water from the air into the skin’s outermost layer) or aloe (which is an anti-inflammatory that helps to calm skin), says Rachel Nazarian, M.D., a New York-based dermatologist and fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology. Dr. Zeichner also points to stearic acid (another emollient), as well as soothing, protective ingredients, like colloidal oatmeal.
Shea butter is also extremely moisturizing due to its natural vitamins and fatty acids, adds Debra Jaliman, M.D., associate professor of dermatology at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. “It has cinnamic acid and is anti-inflammatory,” she says. Another hero ingredient is jojoba oil, since it acts as a natural skin conditioner. “It can seal in moisture and form an effective barrier to external elements such as cold weather, which generally dries out the skin,” says Dr. Jaliman. Plus, jojoba oil has anti-inflammatory properties to help soothe irritation that can arise from shaving, she adds.
Also to note: If you’ve been using a men’s shaving cream (or want to switch over to one, because it’s cheaper… hello, pink tax), that’s totally okay by dermatologists. “Generally speaking, men’s and women’s shaving creams are interchangeable,” says Dr. Zeichner. Just like moisturizers, those marketed for men contain basically the same ingredients as those for women—however, they may have different textures and fragrances, he says. Bottom line: It’s just about personal preference.
If You Have Acne-Prone or Sensitive Skin
If you have sensitive skin, there are two things you need to keep in mind. First, the shaving creams for sensitive skin often have less of the ingredients that are irritating, such as alcohol and fragrance, and more of the ingredients that are calming and soothing, says Dr. Nazarian. Another thing that makes them stand out from other shaving creams and gels is that they may contain ingredients that allow for less friction and easier gliding on the skin, which decreases the risk of razor burn and irritation of the hair follicles, she adds.
The good news: A decent sensitive-skin shaving cream can actually be used for all areas of the body—including your more intimate areas—since it tends to have a gentler formula. “Certain areas of the body, like the bikini area, are easily irritated by fragrance and perfumes, and products with high alcohol content,” says Dr. Nazarian. So, while you can certainly use a regular shaving cream for your bikini line, products advertised for sensitive skin are going to be the best bet for your delicate lady bits, since they don’t contain these irritating ingredients.
And if you have acne-prone skin, you should steer clear of shaving creams with heavy oils, such as coconut oil or shea butter, warns Dr. Jaliman. While these ingredients are typically great for the body, be careful when using them on your face if you tend to have oily skin or suffer from breakouts, she adds.
Can’t You Just Use Good Ol’ Soap and Water?
Believe it or not, regular soap and water are not good enough for shaving—hence why shaving creams exist. “Classic soaps typically strip away too much of the oil barrier and are quite irritating,” explains Dr. Nazarian. Not to mention, bars of soap can tend to harbor bacteria and germs, unlike shaving cream or other products that come out of bottles, adds Dr. Jaliman.
However, a gentle cleanser, such as Dove Fragrance-Free Body Wash (Buy It, $11, amazon.com), or another non-foaming unscented cleanser—even though it’s not marketed as a shaving cream—would work. “You don’t need to use something that is specifically shaving cream, but you do need to use something that has a high ability to moisturize the skin, and can decrease surface tension as you move the blade across your skin,” says Dr. Nazarian.
And if you’re one to use conditioner in a pinch, that’s actually a good substitute, in terms of skin protection, notes Dr. Nazarian. “It has a high volume of emollients that improve hydration in the skin and offers easy glide for the blade to decrease pull on the hair follicle—which leads to less irritation,” she explains. But there is one itty bitty problem with using conditioner in place of shaving cream: It’s chock-full of fragrance and perfume. “Putting fragrance and perfume on delicate skin, especially right before you traumatize it with a shaver, can cause irritation in people that are susceptible,” warns Dr. Nazarian. While it’s not a problem for everyone, it is for some, so you might want to avoid using conditioner around your bikini line, in particular.
The Best Shaving Cream, According to Derms
Below, the best shaving creams, gels, and oils, according to skin experts—from wallet-friendly options to super luxe picks and products that can do double duty for cleansing and shaving.
Best for Sensitive Skin: Aveeno Therapeutic Shave Gel
Having sensitive skin doesn’t have to mean spending extra on shaving products—and this $4 find was a unanimous pick from all three derms. Dr. Zeichner likes this shave gel because it features soothing oat, which helps protect the skin barrier. Dr. Nazarian also loves this pick for those with sensitive skin, because it contains skin-calming vitamin E and “has a high level of lubricants that are really moisturizing.” And Dr. Jaliman notes that it’s especially great for the face and bikini area and for those prone to razor bumps.
One reviewer wrote: “If you are a hairy gal with sensitive skin like me, this product will literally transform your life. I wish I had found/tried this YEARS ago. My underarms are actually clear—as in, less red and less bumps! My legs are softer too and I was less embarrassed in my shorts all summer! Worth the extra money and have already purchased more.”
Best for Dry Skin: eos Ultra Moisturizing Shave Cream
This is one of Dr. Jaliman’s favorite brands, so you know it must be good! The shaving cream, in particular, features ultra-moisturizing shea butter, aloe, and oats—all the ingredients she recommends and looks for in shaving creams or gels, herself, she says. But she also loves that it contains vitamin C and E, which are antioxidants that help with inflammation and to revitalize skin.
“I was in complete shock at how amazing this product worked,” said a customer. “After reading many reviews about shaving cream, EOS had one of the best ratings. Let’s just say I am amazed. You don’t need much of the product, it goes on smoothly, and smells amazing. Not to mention my legs stay moisturized for days after.”
Best Drugstore Option: PURE by Gillette Venus Manuka Honey and Vanilla Shaving Cream
Shea butter and manuka honey not only allow razor blades to glide smoothly over the skin and seamlessly remove hair without knicks, but they also help prevent irritation and hydrate to leave you with silky smooth skin post-shave. Amazon reviewers love that it “does a good job moisturizing,” “protects against razor burn,” and that the scent is “pleasant and not overpowering.” Plus, you can’t ignore the 4.6-star rating.
“WOW! This is so rich and creamy. It really leaves my skin incredibly soft and feeling moisturized. Normally I don’t use anything special for shaving my legs but now I can’t imagine using anything else. If you are used to something that lathers up just know this is not going to do that is is more like a lotion. No issues with any kind of irritation using this amazing shaving cream,” shared a shopper.
Buy It: PURE by Gillette Venus Manuka Honey and Vanilla Shaving Cream, $16.90 for 2, amazon.sg
Best Hybrid Product: Dove Rose Oil Body Wash Mousse
This body wash-shave gel hybrid gets Dr. Nazarian’s stamp of approval. It helps prevent and soothe irritation, thanks to anti-inflammatory rose oil, and is also gentle enough for those with sensitive skin, since it doesn’t contain harsh sulfates or parabens (both ingredients that can be irritating), says Dr. Nazarian. The best part: It’s meant to be used as a body wash and shave gel together, which just makes things simpler in the shower, she adds.
“I felt this was an excellent product. The foam was luxurious, rosy pink, and sweet-smelling. It was also moisturizing and makes an excellent shaving cream,” said a buyer.
Best for a Close Shave: Tree Hut Bare Moisturizing Shave Oil
It may not be a cream but this shaving oil gets the job done. The nourishing formula contains vitamins, oat, shea butter, jojoba and sesame oil, and botanical oils such as grape seed oil—which has fatty acids and polyphenols which help with premature aging—to moisturize and protect skin from free radical damage, says Dr. Jaliman. Another perk: Because it’s an oil, your razor will glide effortlessly without any friction, offering a super close shave, she adds.
One reviewer wrote: “Want to actually SEE where you’re shaving?? Use this!! My legs are smoother than the bottom of freshly newborn 6 lb 9oz baby Jesus. I highly recommend. I don’t even have to use a full pump on each leg, a little goes a long way; like when you’re cooking rice. You’re probably going to need way less than you think. ETA: almost a year later and both my husband and I will only use this for shaving from now on.”
Best Budget Pick: Flamingo Foaming Shave Gel
With an impressive 4.8-star rating, 95 percent of Target reviewers would recommend this to a friend. Packed with antioxidants, vitamin B, and aloe vera, this shaving gel quickly balloons into a fluffy foam and allows for a smoother shave while minimizing inflammation and nourishing skin for a healthy glow. And you really can’t beat the $5 price tag.
“This stuff is the BEST hands down,” raved a customer. “So I don’t love the flamingo razor, but I cannot live without this shave gel. Recently, I went back to using the other drugstore brands, and I noticed I was irritated again and it just didn’t feel great. As someone with shaving bumps and irritation, I really appreciate this gel.”
Best for Avoiding Pink Tax: Neutrogena Men Sensitive Skin Shave Cream
Don’t let the black packaging or blocky letters spelling out “MEN” fool you—ladies can also benefit from using this shaving cream. “It contains several anti-inflammatory ingredients, including aloe and soybean extract, and even though it’s marketed towards men, it is one of my favorite shaving creams,” says Dr. Nazarian.
“I’m a female ‘blessed’ with facial hair due to meds I take,” said a buyer. “This is a wonderful product. Best I’ve found. My skin no longer is irritated with “tells” other that either I shave or there’s something wrong with my face. If you’re a female having problems like I do, look into men’s products for shaving. Would assume it’d be great on legs too.”
Best for Your Bikini Line: Coochy Plus Intimate Shaving Cream
Dr. Jaliman is a fan of this shaving cream because it has some of her favorite ingredients: shea butter, aloe, jojoba oil, and avocado oil, which is rich in vitamins, minerals, and omega-3 fatty acids and will help with inflammation, she points out. Dr. Zeichner agrees that this is a good pick for the bikini area: “This shaving cream is loaded with extra hydrating oils to protect sensitive skin in the bikini and help enhance glide of the razor against the skin.” Also nice: While it’s great for all areas of your body, the special formula helps maintain a healthy pH balance for your hooha to promote freshness and minimize the chances of vaginal odors.
One shopper wrote: “Going to the beach and need a quick shave without having to worry about all those little beach bumps later on??? Look no further, THIS is what you need!! Need to shave your pits in a rush? Look no further, THIS is what you need!! Bikini line…..? No problem, THIS is what you need!!! I can’t say enough about this! Ladies….you know what I’m talking about! As far as I can tell, I’m sure it’s gonna be great on a man’s face/neck too!!”
Best Against Cuts and Razor Burn: Cremo Moisturizing Shave Cream
Packed with aloe, macadamia seed oil, calendula extract, papaya extract, and other natural ingredients, this shaving cream is great for all skin types (including sensitive). Customers swear that it’s a godsend if you tend to end up with nicks, cuts, and razor burn post-shave. Why? It contains slick molecules that help your razor blade to glide effortlessly over your skin with as little friction as possible, leaving behind flawlessly smooth skin.
“I’m a mess when I shave and always end up with a cut, knick, razor burn, or some epic combination. Since I’ve started using the Creamo, I’ve had ABSOLUTELY NO WOUNDS!!!!! Best shaving cream I have ever used!” raved a reviewer.
SHAPE and the SHAPE logo are registered trademarks of TI Gotham Inc., used under license. © 2019 TI Gotham Inc., a subsidiary of Meredith Corporation. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or part without written permission is prohibited.