shaving oil vs cream

Shaving Oil vs Shave Cream: The Clear Cut Differences

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When it comes to the world of traditional wet shaving, it can get pretty damn confusing.

Even if you have been shaving for years, understanding the nuances between aftershave balms, lotions, and splashes can still trip up the most experienced of men out there…

…and that’s completely ok!

Like aftershaves, one common source of confusion for men is the before shave ritual…

…specifically around shaving oils and shaving creams.

If you are looking up the differences between these two products, we are willing to bet that you have been dealing with some lackluster results when it comes to shaving.

Whether you are battling ingrown hairs, razor bumps, post skin irritation, or just generally piss poor performance – the info we are covering here today is definitely going to help.

Here’s a brief overview of these two unique grooming products and how they can make things feel WAY more comfortable:

Shaving oils and shaving creams serve two unique purposes

To cut right through to the answer know this:

Shaving oils can’t be used in lieu of a shaving cream. 

They are a supporting product that are used in tandem with a shave cream.

Shaving creams can be used by themselves.

However, shaving creams are WAY better when used with a shaving oil.

Even if you are using a shitty old canned shaving gel a decent shave oil that costs no more than $10 bucks can make what would be a crummy disposable razor perform much better.

So, you are probably wondering…

What makes shaving oil any good?

And if you have apprehension from some person on the interwebs telling you to use some miracle oil while shaving…

…I don’t blame ya.

I had the same bullshit detector up as well when I was first learning about the stuff too.

It wasn’t until I actually tried shaving oil that I started to believe the hype.

Here’s why shaving oils actually work…

Know this:

Shaving oils are a pre-game prep for your skin.

Largely made up from carrier oils and in some cases essential oils (largely for scent rather than therapeutic reasons), a shaving oil works in two ways:

First, the oil from the solution will lock the moisture into your skin.

Therefore, if you shower or apply some warm water to your face prior to shaving, the shaving oil will help keep that water against your face and to further swell and soften your whiskers.

How does this help you?

A softer and swollen whisker will be able to get cut much easier.

This ultimately makes even the dullest of blades perform well.

In addition, a byproduct to an easier cut means that the root of the hair will never get tugged or pulled out.

This helps by reducing the chance of an ingrown hairs / razor bumps.

+1 here for shaving oil.

Now, if getting a clean cut on the hair wasn’t enough for you, shaving oil has got some other good shit as well – specifically for your skin.

As much as you want to have a clean cut on that long whisker of yours, remember this fact:

You are dragging a damn razor across your skin!

And not just one blade.

If you are using one of those top rated cartridge razors, you are effectively swiping 4,5, or 6 blades across your face!!

For Christ’s sake, are you a mad man!!?!

shaving oil vs cream cuts

^^I am trying help and make sure you don’t end up like this dude!

When you lather that oily goodness on your skin, it helps to make your skin pliable.

Therefore, when the razor blade glides across the surface, your skin will more easily bend with the razor blades when shaving oil applied.

But check this out:

Based on my personal first-hand experience, if you are using a cartridge razor, the results just don’t seem to be nearly as huge especially compared with an old-school safety razor.

I am not saying you shouldn’t try out a shave oil (cause you still get all the great softer and swollen hair benefits), I am just saying that if you are struggling with holding a cartridge razor, there may be bigger problems to deal with here (namely shave technique).

Should you always go all natural with shaving oils?

Ok, so I am not a naturalist.

I am not a member of the Greenpeace.

When I go on the occasional hike I don’t stop and dry hump a tree while eating Nature Valley bars…

…ok, I might be eating a Nature Valley bar or two!

But when going bareback with a shaving oil, its typically recommended to go au naturale.

The reason is that you are dragging a friggin’ razor on your skin.

And in the event you somehow cut yourself, probably mixing chemicals with an open wound won’t be the most comfortable feeling in the world.

But check this out:

There are products like Shave Secret.

With over 1.8k reviews with a largely positive rating.

Jesus Christ.

What’s the fucking secret!?!?!

I dunno.

Anything that doesn’t list the ingredients one by one probably has something to hide.

Now I am not saying to avoid this product (as they state it does have a natural blend of ingredients).

What I am saying, is that if you want a shave oil that dudes tend to go ape shit over, try it out.

Just be sure that you don’t slice up your face and let it seep in.

I am no doctor, but I sure as shit would make sure I know how to confidently (and error free) shave before I loaded this up and scraped it off with a razor blade.

One shaving oil myth I wish would die

The internet is a horrible place.

It truly is.

Do me a favor real quick – answer this poll.

It’s a one question poll.

I’ll wait while you do it…

…don’t worry, we aren’t going anywhere.


Ok, sweet.

So, what did you answer?

Yes or no?

Ok – check this out:

Pores are NOT muscles (Google it if you don’t believe me – or check out this medical site).

Therefore, they can in no way shape or form open when you apply shaving oil.

Even if you took a bath in this stuff (not recommended), your pores will still be the same size.

Shaving oil is only part of the story – next up, shave cream

review of the best shaving cream

So, all this article has mostly been dedicated towards shaving oil.

It’s a super important product, but one that simply can’t stand by itself.

In order to shave (even with shaving oil) you still need a shave cream.

When it comes to a shave cream though, you gotta use something that is halfway decent.

Shave creams that insulate your skin and retain the heat will allow just about any razor blade to perform alright when you go to shave.

But here’s the kicker:

With shave creams, there are a metric ton of options out there

But basically there is only one rule you need must follow:

Don’t use a shave cream with alcohol.

That stuff is horrible for your skin.

Not only will it dry it out, but it just simply makes for a much more uncomfortable shave as well.

Now we don’t want to be patting ourselves on the back too hard here, but we did put together a pretty sweet round up of the best shaving creams you might want to check out.

These are shave creams that you can use (even without shaving oil) that will perform miracles on that beautiful mug of yours.

Shaving oil is a 2-in-1 product

Ok, so the laissez faire attitude for the FDA is great and all…

…but sometimes it’s a little too hands off for my comfort.

Especially when it comes to the beauty and cosmetic category.

Basically, when it comes to labeling a product they don’t give a damn (source).

Really they won’t step in until a product makes ridiculous claims that you will “INSTANTLY LOOK WOMB NEW IN 1 EASY APPLICATION” .


So, with shaving oil, it’s not really on their radar.

But basically here’s our take on it:

In most instances, shaving oil is nearly identical to beard oil.

Yeah, the same stuff you coat on your beard when its long is the same stuff you use on your face when shaving it off…

…tricky marketers!

Really the biggest difference between the two is scent and perhaps a carrier oil or two.

Clearly the men’s grooming market tends to think that when you grow a beard you want to smell like pine trees, but when you shave it off you prefer sandalwood.

I dunno – I am just reporting what I see!

But if you are a guy that watches your budget (nothing wrong with that), you should in most cases be able to use the same product for both scenarios – especially if it’s one that is dubbed as all natural (i.e. containing just carrier and essential oils like jojoba, tea tree, sweet almond, argan, etc.).

So, before you drop another $20 on a grooming product, look through the medicine cabinet at some old dusty supplies you might have lying around and see if it can pull double duty.

Shaving oil and creams on your junk and rest of body

Whether it’s your chest, armpits, twig and berries, or anywhere else you plan on shaving, nothing is stopping you from using shaving oil and fancy shaving cream wherever the hell you want (who are we to judge).

Just know that the benefits (especially with shaving oil) is likely going to not be that great as most of the skin on your body will be much thicker.

Now if you are thinking of using a shave oil on your armpits or junk, you might want to go with an unscented product.

This is just so you don’t somehow have a mild reaction to any of the essential oils that may be in the bottle.

After all, who wants to run the risk of having a nasty itch downstairs after you cut the bush?

Anything else between shaving oils and creams you should know?


That is all.

About The Author

Shawn Burns

Shawn is the founder and senior editor at Tools of Men, the leading style and grooming source trusted by men in 187 countries. He started this site with the goal of teaching men proper grooming habits and sensible style. He is an expert in all things men's grooming related. His work has been mentioned on countless sites including The Wall Street Journal, NBC, AskMen, Vice, WikiHow, and the New York Times.

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