Shave creams are soft, gel-like lathering substances (usually based on a soap or detergent) that can be easily put on a brush or, more recently, put into a can and dispensed with compressed gas. If based on soap, the soap is usually made with a higher percentage of potassium hydroxide, as potassium lye soap is more soluble in water. Some shave creams are brushless, meaning they come out of the tube/can ready to be applied as shaving lather, whereas other shave creams are meant to be built into shaving lathers in the same manner as shave soaps. One of the earliest brushless shave creams (sold in a jar and later, a squeezable tube and a pressurized can) was Burma-Shave, introduced in 1925.
Categories of Shave Cream
The most commonly sold shave creams today are pressurized shaving lather in aerosol cans, but on Badger & Blade, most references to shave cream refer to a semi-liquid soap or detergent product instead.
Traditional Shave Cream
Shave soaps with a higher percentage of potassium hydroxide (KOH) are more readily soluble in water and can be prepared into a semi-liquid gel-like soap. This consistency makes it easy to apply the cream to a brush.
Pressurized Shaving Foam
The first pressurized cans of shave cream appeared in 1950, and quickly captured market share. They produce a shaving lather instantly, although the quality of the shaving lather is perhaps disputable. Aerosol cans (initially using CFCs as propellant, but now more commonly pressurized with propane or isobutane) produce more waste than traditional shave soaps and shave creams, but their convenience was a major factor in their adoption by the mainstream.
Shave gels, often referred to derisively as canned goo, are a translucent brushless lather product that are commonly available. They differ slightly from canned, pressurized shaving foams, but both occupy the same market niche. Gel appeared in the late 1980s as a new product to compete with pressurized shaving foams. Nowadays shaving gels are also available in non-pressurized form, typically in plastic tubes and can be applied similarly to shaving cream - by pressing the tube container onto a brush or onto the spare hand and then applying in a bowl or onto the face. These products are less popular among the Badger and Blade community than more traditional lather preparations, but may be an expedient choice for some shavers.