How To Pick The Perfect Shave Prep

In the ongoing battle that is the daily shave a man has no finer weapons than shaving creams, foams, oils and gels. Not only do they create the perfect protective cushion between you and your razor, they help – along with water – to soften stubble and keep it hydrated during the shave.

Without them, slicing through facial hair – which can be as tough as copper wire of a similar thickness – would be like hacking through a tropical jungle with a blunt machete. Problem is, with so many products out there, how do you decide which is the best for you?

Well, here’s a guide to help point you in the right direction…

Shaving Gels

The most popular shaving prep, gels combine all the convenience of a foam with the superior lubricating properties of a cream and many – like Clinique’s award-winning M Aloe Gel – are a hybrid of both, using pump-action technology to make the gel fluff up like a foam as it leaves the dispenser.

Formulated to ensure skin stays hydrated during the shave, some gels are transparent and low-foaming, allowing you to see exactly where you’re shaving – handy if you have sideburns or a goatee to navigate around.

Good For: Guys in a hurry and shaving newbies.

How To Use: Simply apply a small blob into the palm of one hand, along with a drop of water, rub together between your palms and apply to damp skin, taking a few seconds to massage the product in with gentle circular motions.

Not only will this ensure even coverage, it’ll help lift hair in readiness for shaving too.

For an extra rich lather try using your gel in conjunction with a shaving brush. Not only will you get better coverage, you’ll find it goes much further – and hence lasts longer.

  • Clinique M Shave Aloe Gel 125mlClinique M Shave Aloe Gel 125ml
  • Elemis Ice-cool Foaming Shave GelElemis Ice-cool Foaming Shave Gel
  • Bulldog Natural Skincare Original Shave GelBulldog Natural Skincare Original Shave Gel
  • Lab Series Maximum Comfort Shave Gel 200mlLab Series Maximum Comfort Shave Gel 200ml
  • The Refinery Shave Foam Gel 125mlThe Refinery Shave Foam Gel 125ml
  • Loreal Paris Men Expert Shave Gel – Sensitive 200mlLoreal Paris Men Expert Shave Gel - Sensitive 200ml
Shaving Foams

Created to speed up the shaving process once men’s lives became more hectic in the 1950s, the popularity of foams is primarily down to the fact that you don’t need to spend time fluffing them up with a brush or your fingers to create a suitable lather.

Their biggest advantage is their convenience but many of the cheaper ones are drying so if you’re prone to dry skin, irritation or sensitivity you’re best using another prep instead. Alternatively, you could consider a foam designed for sensitive skin or one formulated with skin-soothing aloe vera.

Good For: Men in a hurry, guys with oily skin and shaving newbies.

How To Use: Simply apply a blob about the size of a golf ball into the palm of your hand, rub between your palms and apply evenly to damp skin. Because they can dry out quickly, be prepared to apply a little more foam during your shave.

  • Proraso Shaving Foam Large Eucalyptus And MentholProraso Shaving Foam Large Eucalyptus And Menthol
  • Biotherm Homme Sensitive Skin Shaving Foam 200mlBiotherm Homme Sensitive Skin Shaving Foam 200ml
  • Gillette Fusion Sensitive Skin Hydra Shaving Foam 250mlGillette Fusion Sensitive Skin Hydra Shaving Foam 250ml
  • Nivea For Men Sensitive Shaving FoamNivea For Men Sensitive Shaving Foam
  • Noxzema Protective Shave Cocoa ButterNoxzema Protective Shave Cocoa Butter
  • Dove Men+care Shaving Foam Hydrate 200mlDove Men+care Shaving Foam Hydrate 200ml
Shaving Creams

Often cited the professionals’ choice, creams produce particularly rich, lubricating lathers and many are formulated with skin-friendly glycerine to prevent the cream drying out during the shave and ensure that skin stays hydrated.

Good For: Guys with dry skin and men with tough stubble.

How To Use: Shaving creams can be applied like gels, using the fingers to create lather, but really come into their own when used in conjunction with a shaving brush.

Apply a little into a shaving bowl, along with a drop of water, and whip into a fine lather. It’ll be ready to use when it forms little peaks when you pull the brush away from it.

  • Acqua Di Parma Collezione Barbiere Shaving CreamAcqua Di Parma Collezione Barbiere Shaving Cream
  • Baxter Of California Super Close Shave Formula 240mlBaxter Of California Super Close Shave Formula 240ml
  • Geo F Trumper Extract Of West Indian Limes Shave Cream BowlGeo F Trumper Extract Of West Indian Limes Shave Cream Bowl
  • Korres Absinthe Heady Shave CreamKorres Absinthe Heady Shave Cream
  • The Blue Beards Revenge Luxury Shaving CreamThe Blue Beards Revenge Luxury Shaving Cream
  • Taylor Of Old Bond Street Almond Shaving Cream BowlTaylor Of Old Bond Street Almond Shaving Cream Bowl
Shaving Soaps

Unlike face soaps – which are often alkaline and drying on the skin – shaving soaps are formulated to be moisturising and to create a rich, skin-friendly lather.

They’re great for guys who consider shaving an art and fans of traditional grooming but they can be messy. You will also have to shell out for a bowl to house them in and will need a shaving brush with which to whip up a decent lather.

Good For: Men who want to spend time achieving the perfect shave, old-fashioned gents and style gurus.

How To Use: Dip the tip of your shaving brush into warm water, shake off any excess and load the brush with shaving soap by gently swirling the tip on the surface of the soap.

Using a separate bowl for creating the lather itself is often less messy and more economical because you’ll waste less soap.

Remember, cooking up a good lather is a little like mixing cement in that you’ll need to experiment before you get just the right consistency – plus, no two soaps will lather in the same way.

Apply to damp skin using short backwards and forwards motions.

  • No.88 Small Anodised Aluminium Shaving Dish & Travel Soap BlackNo.88 Small Anodised Aluminium Shaving Dish & Travel Soap Black
  • Crabtree & Evelyn For Men Nomad Aromatic Shave Soap Refill 100gCrabtree & Evelyn For Men Nomad Aromatic Shave Soap Refill 100g
  • Geo F Trumper Sandalwood Shaving Soap BowlGeo F Trumper Sandalwood Shaving Soap Bowl
  • D R Harris Marlborough Shaving Soap In Beech Wood Bowl 100gD R Harris Marlborough Shaving Soap In Beech Wood Bowl 100g
  • Loccitane Pour Homme Cade Shaving Bowl And Shaving SoapLoccitane Pour Homme Cade Shaving Bowl And Shaving Soap
  • E-shave – Shave Soap With Nickel Bowl LindenE-shave - Shave Soap With Nickel Bowl Linden
Shaving Oils

Many men are scared to use shave oils, fearing that they’ll be greasy and tricky to apply. In reality, they’re simple to use and deliver great results. Not only are they ideal if you have dry skin, their transparency makes them perfect for men who maintain facial hair as they allow you to see where you’re shaving.

What’s more, some can also be used to condition the skin after a shave, in much the same way as a post-shave moisturiser.

A lot of users fear they will clog their razor or leave a mess in the sink but, generally, hot soapy water can clean both and remove any oil residues.

Good For: Guys with facial hair and travel/gym bags where space is of a premium.

How To Use: The secret to using oil is not to use too much. A few drops is often all that’s required to get a decent shave as long as you take time to massage the oil into your (damp) stubble.

They can also be used under creams, gels and foams to enhance overall lubrication, making them especially useful if you’ve got stubble tougher than Desperate Dan’s.

  • Clarins Men Shave Ease Two-in-one Oil 30mlClarins Men Shave Ease Two-in-one Oil 30ml
  • Big Green Tree Virtus Pre Shave OilBig Green Tree Virtus Pre Shave Oil
  • Elemis Smooth Result Shave Oil 35mlElemis Smooth Result Shave Oil 35ml
  • King Of Shaves Alpha Shave Oil Sensitive Skin 15mlKing Of Shaves Alpha Shave Oil Sensitive Skin 15ml
  • Aesop Moroccan Neroli Shaving Serum 60mlAesop Moroccan Neroli Shaving Serum 60ml
  • Ren Tamanu High Glide Shaving Oil 50mlRen Tamanu High Glide Shaving Oil 50ml
Key Piece: Shaving Brush

As you can see from the above, the majority of traditional wet shave preps will benefit from the use of a shaving brush.

A good badger-hair shaving brush will expertly retain water to generate a rich, creamy lather. The result is maximum longevity from your choice of shaving prep and a skin-protecting shave:

  • Geo F Trumper Super Badger Shaving Brush With Simulated Ivory CaseGeo F Trumper Super Badger Shaving Brush With Simulated Ivory Case
  • Muhle Shaving BrushMuhle Shaving Brush
  • Taylor Of Old Bond Street Super Badger Shaving Brush MediumTaylor Of Old Bond Street Super Badger Shaving Brush Medium
  • Kent Traditional Pure Silver Tip Badger Shaving Brush – Large Bk8Kent Traditional Pure Silver Tip Badger Shaving Brush - Large Bk8
  • Eshave Fine Badger Shaving Brush BlueEshave Fine Badger Shaving Brush Blue
  • Baxter Of California Pure Badger Hair Travel Aluminium Shave BrushBaxter Of California Pure Badger Hair Travel Aluminium Shave Brush
  • Taylor Of Old Bond Streetjermyn St Collection Shaving SetTaylor Of Old Bond Streetjermyn St Collection Shaving Set
  • Taylor Of Old Bond Street Pure Badger Luxury Brush And Cream Gift SetTaylor Of Old Bond Street Pure Badger Luxury Brush And Cream Gift Set
  • Taylor Of Old Bond Streetedwardian Shaving Set With Fusion RazorTaylor Of Old Bond Streetedwardian Shaving Set With Fusion Razor
Electric Pre-Shave Solutions

Whereas wet shaving relies on stubble being plumped up and softened by water to make it easier to cut, traditional electric shavers require the opposite (unless you’re using a wet & dry one).

In fact, when it comes to using traditional electric shavers the drier your stubble the better; if it’s stiff it’s easier for the shaver to slice. Pre-Shave solutions are great at helping lift hairs so they lie more evenly for shaving.

Good For: Electric shaver fans, guys who are time poor and travelling.

How To Use: Apply a little so that it forms a small puddle in the palm of your hand, rub together with your palms and apply evenly to the stubble.

Since many pre-electric solutions contain alcohol, avoid getting on areas where there’s no beard or you’ll end up with dry skin.

  • Lab Series Electric Shave Solution 100mlLab Series Electric Shave Solution 100ml
  • Jack Black Electric Shave Enhancer – 97mlJack Black Electric Shave Enhancer - 97ml
  • Kyoku Electric Pre-shave Optimizer 50mlKyoku Electric Pre-shave Optimizer 50ml
  • Aramis Classic Pre-electric Lotion 125mlAramis Classic Pre-electric Lotion 125ml
  • Billy Jealousy – Lightning Bolt Electric Pre-shaveBilly Jealousy - Lightning Bolt Electric Pre-shave
  • John Allans Slickwater Pre-shave Solution 59mlJohn Allans Slickwater Pre-shave Solution 59ml
Final Word

With plenty of shave prep options at your disposal finding the one that works best for you and your lifestyle is easy. The important thing is to use something. Also important, though, is that you wash off that ‘something’ properly after shaving.

Rinsing thoroughly after your shave will ensure that any shave prep residue, which can cause irritation if left sitting on the skin, is properly removed. Then all you need to do is pat the skin dry with a towel and you’re done – all thanks to perfect preparation.

Make sure you let us know your favourite form of shaving prep in the comments section below…