If you are relatively new to the world of wet shaving you may not know the difference between a shaving cream and a shaving soap. Both products can produce a great lather and shaving experience, but there are some subtle differences that will be discussed in this post.
First, let’s take a look at what a shaving cream:
A cream is generally really soft and comes in either a tube or a tub. A cream is very soft and can be slightly viscous, which is why some are available in a tube, like a toothpaste tube. There are a few different ways to build a lather with a cream, depending on the type of container in which the cream comes. If the cream is in a tube, it can be applied directly to the brush, directly to the face, or placed in a bowl.
In the pictures above we see some different examples of creams. Barbus and Fine creams are in an easy squeeze tube. The Castle Forbes cream is the same consistency as the Barbus and Fine creams, but comes in a tub. Other creams, like Taylor of Old Bond Street, come in a tub like the Castle Forbes and have about the same consistency. The Moon Soaps cream is slightly harder than the Castle Forbes cream, but is not as hard as a soap (some may consider this a croap. A croap is in the middle between a cream and soap).
Tips on loading the cream:
If you want to load the brush from the tub with a soap, there are a few things to keep in mind. If the cream is very soft, like Castle Forbes or Taylor of Old Bond Street, start with a dry or only a slightly damp brush. The cream is soft enough that you do not need water for the cream to adhere to the brush. You can either dip the tips a few times to get enough cream into the knot, or swirl the brush a few times. A word of caution if you are using a very soft cream: DO NOT load from the tub with a wet brush! This will introduce excess water into the cream and can water it down over a short period of time. Of course, creams can easily be placed in a bowl to create a lather. For more information on creating a bowl lather, read this post.
Benefits of a cream:
Creams are wonderful to use, especially if you do not want to take a lot of time to load your brush and want to build a quick lather (really helpful if you are running late in the morning). Since creams are softer, they generally build a lather faster than a traditional shaving soap, or even some croaps. They also generally do not require as much water to be introduced when building the lather.
Now let’s take a look at some soaps:
Shaving soaps generally come in a tub, but can also come in the form of a shave stick. Soaps also can be on the softer side, or hard. Some soaps, like those from Phoenix Artisan Accoutrements may be considered a croap by some. Below are some examples of shave soaps that range in hardness.
The soaps pictured range in how hard they are in the container. The soap from Phoenix Artisan Accoutrements is the softest, while the 8th Dimension from Dr. Jon’s is the hardest.
Tips on loading a soap:
If you prefer to load from the tub, there are a few ways to do so. Depending on how hard the soap is will determine how wet, or damp, the brush needs to be. If the soap is really hard, like Fine Accoutrements or Mitchell’s Woolfat, soaping the puck (placing water in the container to cover the soap in order to soften the puck) may be recommended. If you are using a brush with a lot of backbone (how stiff the hairs or fibers are), a soap will load easier and will not require as log a load time. Of course, most soaps can be scraped out of the container and placed in a bowl for bowl lathering.
Benefits of a soap:
One of the big benefit of soaps is that since they tend to be harder than creams, they tend to last longer, meaning you will get more use out of a soap vs. a cream. Soaps can also take a little bit longer to lather than a cream (this can be a benefit for those who really enjoy either the face lathering or bowl lathering experience). Most artisans also create soaps instead of creams, so there is a wider variety in scents. Luckily there are many artisans today and there is a wide variety of scent profiles from which to choose. Even though this is a small example, none of the eight products pictured in this post smell the same.
When I first started wet shaving, I gravitated towards creams because they were easier to load and lather than a soap. I then gradually started to use more soaps, mostly because I wanted different scents. While some soaps can be a little challenging to dial in to get the proper consistency, they can be very rewarding to use. I generally tend to bowl lather, no matter if I’m using a cream or a soap. I have face lathered both creams and soaps and creams are easier to build the lather. I will say that a lather can be created quickly with a soap as well once you get use to the nuances of a particular soap. Over all, both products can provide a great lather that leads to a wonderful shaving experience. I recommend getting some of each (everything pictured is carried on the site) and find out what works best for you. I generally keep both on hand as I personally enjoy using both type of products.