Hair removal probably doesn’t come close to being the most enjoyable part of your beauty routine, but shaving creams, foams, and gels can make it more bearable. Not only do they soften hairs and create a slick surface for a razor to glide over — reducing nicks and snags — but they can also include hydrating ingredients that keep skin moisturized long after you leave the shower.
To help you navigate the overwhelming number of options, we spoke to skin and hair experts to find out what to look for, as well as their favorites. If you already have an idea of what you want in mind, skip directly to the section that suits your skin type from our table of contents below. Otherwise, read on for nine options for every body part and skin type.
What we’re looking for
Ingredients: Dr. Naana Baokye, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Bergen Dermatology, recommends looking for humectants, or ingredients that draw water into the skin, for hydration. Glycerin and hyaluronic acid are common humectants, and Dr. Baokye says she’s also a fan of gentle exfoliators like alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) to improve skin’s texture and tone.
Texture: Shaving aids come in all sorts of textures, but the most common are creams, gels, and foams. While many products are labeled as shaving creams, not all of them are made with a high quantity of oils, which makes them more hydrating, says Dr. Susan Binder, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Binder Dermatology. Gels, meanwhile, are the most concentrated of the three and offer the most hydration. Some produce bubbles after being massaged in, but others stay glossy, which can make it harder to track where you’ve already shaved. Gels can also clog razor blades faster, meaning you’ll have to buy replacements more often. Finally,with their cloudlike texture straight from the bottle, foams don’t need any lathering. This does save a step, but it might not allow sufficient time for the hair to soften, which could result in irritation. And because foams aren’t as hydrating, Dr. Binder says they’re best for those with a normal skin type.
Best overall shaving cream
Aveeno Positively Smooth Moisturizing Shave Gel $9
now 56% off, $4
Vitamin E, Soy, and Aloe | Gel
This lightweight gel earned the top spot on our list for its soothing ingredients and accessible price point. “For those who prefer a gel, this contains a combination of soy, aloe, and vitamin E to soothe the skin,” says Dr. Marisa Garshick, a board-certified dermatologist and clinical assistant professor at Cornell. And while fragrance is usually a derm no-no, Dr. Garshick says she doesn’t mind this one because it’s so subtle. Dr. Binder also loves this option for its vitamin E and aloe, which “help condition both the hair and skin.” And for its emollient-rich and sensitive-skin-friendly formula, two dermatologists even gave the Aveeno their stamps of approval for facial use in a previous roundup.
Because of its popularity, I decided to put it to the test. The cool-to-the touch gel lathered up quickly, and it helped me safely navigate tricky spots like knees and the tops of toes. My skin felt so supple and smooth after shaving that I even skipped lotion. And at $6, it’s a budget-friendly option for first-timers or those with easily irritated skin.
Best foaming gel
Gillette Ultra Sensitive Shaving Gel
Vitamin E, Glycerin and Shea Butter | Gel
Dr. Karan Lal, a board-certified and fellowship-trained pediatric dermatologist, and Dr. Purvisha Patel, board-certified dermatologist and founder of Visha Skincare, both like this foaming gel for its emollients, including glycerin and shea butter. (Dr. Lal even calls it “very elegant” for its sophisticated-for-the-price-point ingredients.) Texture-wise, it comes out as a gel but foams up quickly. It does contain fragrance, so if you’re sensitive, you might want to pick another option from our list.
In a previous version of this story, readers named another Gillette shaving gel their favorite for its affordable price, not-too-thick consistency, and non-drying formula. “I have very sensitive [skin], and this gel keeps my legs moist while I shave them,” one user says. Another even claims to have “no more cuts [and] no more irritation.”
$10 at Walmart, $8 at Bed Bath & Beyond
Best shaving cream for dry skin
Bliss Lemon & Sage Body Butter Maximum Moisture Cream $29
now 59% off, $12
Shea Butter, Coconut Oil, Soybean Oil, Hyaluronic Acid, Candelilla Wax | Lotion
This isn’t a traditional shaving cream — in fact, it isn’t a shaving cream at all, which in some cases could actually be more beneficial for skin health than foams and gels that can exacerbate dryness. (Dr. Patel says you can technically use anything that will make your skin slick enough for the razor to glide.) This cult-classic body butter comes recommended by Dr. Garshick, who points to the shea butter, coconut oil, and sodium hyaluronate as key for moisturizing and nourishing the skin pre- and post-shave.
Another nontraditional option with a moisturizer-like texture, Malin + Goetz’s Vitamin E Shaving Cream “doesn’t foam up like most other shaving creams, but that’s because it’s formulated with more natural ingredients,” says Soren Roi, senior barber at Fellow Barber in New York City. “What it lacks in lather, it makes up for in vitamins and oils.” Like the Aveeno and Gillette picks above, this is also infused with vitamin E, so it conditions even after you rinse off, while the menthol leaves a tingly finish.
$12 at Amazon, $13 at Ulta Beauty
Best shaving cream for sensitive skin
Glycerin | Cream
Vanicream was mentioned by more dermatologists than any other cream on this list. Though it may not be the flashiest, what it lacks in packaging and active ingredients, it makes up for in results. Both Dr. Garshick and Dr. Binder say the Vanicream is safe for those with sensitive skin, as it’s free of fragrance, preservatives, formaldehyde, and parabens. (In fact, Dr. Binder says she prefers sensitive-skin shaving creams in general, as “I do not like putting a lot of foreign ingredients in sensitive areas.”) This cream is also suitable for allergy-prone skin, Dr. Lal notes, with a gentler, preservative-free formula to decrease the chance of irritation.
Best natural shaving cream
Andalou Naturals Lavender Thyme Botanical Shave Cream
Fruit Stem Cells, Aloe, and Argan Oil | Cream
It might not lather on contact, but this lightweight lotion does stay put so you won’t have to keep reapplying. Though the texture might not be what you’re used to, Dr. Garshick says the formula is suitable for all skin types, with probiotics, aloe vera, and rosehip and argan oils to “soften, hydrate and smooth, allowing the blade to glide easily.” In our research, we found that products with similar ingredient lists are typically priced much higher, so at $11, this soothing lotion is a very good deal.
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