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How To Shave Without Shaving Cream

Updated On:

By: Adam Williams

Are you currently standing in your bathroom searching online for a quick alternative to shaving cream?  If so, then use one of these handy subtitutes:

  1. Baby Oil
  2. Pre-shave Oil
  3. Bar of Soap
  4. Face Wash
  5. Conditioner
  6. Body Lotion
  7. Body Wash
  8. Shampoo
  9. Aloe Vera
  10. Shea Butter
  11. Coconut Oil

Now, if you want to know why these can work as a good shaving cream substitute, check this out:

3 Key Properties of Shaving Cream

Shaving cream provides three fundamental properties:

  1. Lubrication: This property allows the razor blade to glide along the skin’s surface without causing micro-cuts.
  2. Cushion: This property helps to add a barrier between your skin and the razor blade.  Well-cushioned shaving cream will help to reduce irritation and razor burn.
  3. Heat Retention: A rich and thick lather will retain the heat on the surface of the skin.  This helps to make the skin more pliable, along with softening the facial hair.

These three properties help increase the comfort of the shave while also providing better performance from the razor blade.

When searching for a substitute, it’s essential to find products that provide these same properties.

Quick Comparison of Shaving Cream Alternatives

Here’s a table so you can quickly review the properties of each of the shaving cream substitutes.  Admittedly, this is very subjective as there is a lot of variance in each substitute (i.e. natural bar soap vs. mass-produced bar soap).

SubstituteLubricationCushionHeat Retention
Baby OilGreatPoorPoor
Pre-shave OilGreatPoorPoor
Bar of SoapGoodMildMild
Face WashGoodMildMild
Body LotionMildPoorPoor
Body WashGoodMildMild
Aloe VeraGoodMildMild
Shea ButterMildPoorPoor
Coconut OilMildPoorPoor

11 Shaving Cream Substitutes

Here are 11 substitutes that you can use instead of shaving cream:

1. Baby Oil

Thin and slick, baby oil is made from highly refined mineral oil.  Baby oil has a neutral pH balance and helps the skin retain its moisture better.  As slick as shaving cream, baby oil allows a sharp razor blade to glide easily.  Baby oil has a thin consistency and shouldn’t clog a cartridge razor.  

2. Pre-shave Oil

Very similar to baby oil, pre-shave oil is often derived from natural sources.  Designed to be used beneath shaving cream, it provides additional lubrication to increase shave comfort.  

Due to its reliance on natural oils like castor oil, jojoba oil, etc., it should moisturize skin, reducing post-shave irritation.  As we recently discussed, pre-shave oil is not a permanent alternative to shaving cream.

3. Bar of Soap

Shaving soap slightly deviates in formulation from a standard bar of soap – making the latter a considerable substitute.  When generating a lather from a traditional bar of soap, make sure that you use only a moderate amount of water.  A well-made lather from soap can provide an excellent lubricated base along with a mild cushion and heat retention.

Natural soaps can also work well as a substitute for shaving cream.

4. Face Wash

Much thinner than body wash, a face wash won’t clog your pores or your cartridge razor head.  Some cleansers are non-lathering, making them similar to latherless shaving cream.  Lubrication should be adequate with a face wash; however, cushion and heat retention will likely be absent.

5. Conditioner

Like shaving cream, conditioner provides a smooth, silk-like consistency.  Conditioner also helps to retain moisture to the skin; this can help reduce post-shave irritation.  When applied liberally, there can be some cushion provided for the razor blade. However, conditioner can be relatively thick, so clogging, particularly on cartridge razors, may be a concern – test accordingly.

6. Body Wash

Thicker than a face cleanser, body wash is a suitable alternative if you don’t have a bar of soap handy.  Ideally, you will want a body wash absent of any exfoliating beads or gritty texture as it may cause discomfort while shaving.  When mixed with water, a body wash may foam to provide some added heat retention and cushion.

7. Body or Face Lotion

Depending on the consistency, a lotion can work in a pinch.  However, most body lotions by design are relatively thick, so if possible, use a face lotion instead.  The lubrication properties of lotions are good but not great when compared to other products listed.  Additionally, the heat retention and cushion are next to nothing.  Only grab a lotion if you have a day or two worth of beard growth.

8. Shampoo

Like a body wash, shampoo can mimic shaving cream if prepared properly.  Not only is lubrication readily apparent, but a cushion and some heat retention can also be achieved with shampoo.

9. Aloe Vera

Aloe vera is used for a variety of medicinal purposes, including pain reduction and hydration.  The gel-like consistency is slick and should help reduce post-shave irritation.  It’s a non-traditional substitute for shaving cream that you can try using.

10. Shea Butter

Like body lotion, shea butter retains moisture and provides a slick base.  Overapplication, however, may lead to clogging of the razor blade.  Continuous clogging will require you to shave over an area several times – which can cause irritation and frustration.  Apply measurably.

11. Coconut Oil

Used in various products, coconut oil is a comedogenic ingredient, meaning it may clog pores and cause acne or blackheads.  Coconut oil should only be used as a last resort.  Coconut oil is slick and can help the razor blade glide easily on the skin.  Should you decide to use coconut oil, make sure to wash the area once you have finished shaving.

Kitchen Substitutes

Many guides like to get creative with shaving cream alternatives and say that kitchen items such as peanut butter, honey, olive oil, and other pantry items are suitable alternatives.

While some may exhibit the same properties as shaving cream, the chances are that the shave performance will be less than stellar.  Try to only consider products structurally similar to shaving cream instead.

Prepping Your Skin

When shaving with a substitute product, you are making a large compromise in overall performance.  Therefore, you will want to make sure that other facets of your shaving routine make up for the difference.  Keep the following in mind when using a substitute shaving cream:

  • Load a Fresh Blade: With a sharp blade, you can finish your shave in fewer passes.  This will lessen your chance of post-shave irritation.
  • Hot Water Facial Hair Prep: Given that many shaving substitutes don’t feature good heat retention like a quality shaving cream, make sure you take a warm shower or apply a hot towel before shaving.  This will soften your facial hair while also making your skin more pliable.
  • Clean Your Skin: A deep cleanse or exfoliation before shaving will clear your pores and loosen dead skin cells.  Cleansing will also help to soften your facial hair further.

Related: How to Get a Close Shave

A Few Things to Keep in Mind When Shaving

Here are just a few quick things to keep in mind while you are shaving with a substitute product:

  • Go Slow: Don’t rush the process.  If the results after one pass with the razor are irritable to the skin, stop and consider another alternative.
  • Rinse the Razor Repeatedly: This will keep the blades clean and clear for optimal performance.
  • Pressure: If you are using a thicker shaving cream substitute, try not to over-apply pressure.  Over application of pressure can lead to razor burn and razor bumps.

Post-Shave Checklist

Once you have finished shaving, consider the following:

  • Clean Your Face Thoroughly: Especially important if you used a product like coconut oil.  This will help to prevent acne or oily skin.
  • Aftershave Balm: It is especially important to prevent tightness, burning, or general post-shave irritation.  An aftershave balm will restore the moisture barrier for your skin.

Completely Different Alternatives

Rather than using one of the substitutes outlined above, consider the following:

  • Body or Hair Trimmer: If done carefully, you can cut hair down to only a few millimeters in length.  However, great care should be taken as an accidental nip with a trimmer can be pretty painful.
  • Hair Removal Cream: This can give you smooth results.  Be sure to follow instructions and do a patch test before complete application onto the face.
  • Plucking: This can be extremely painful; however, if you are adamant about smooth results, then more power to you.
  • Don’t Shave: Skin irritation may occur when using another product instead of shaving cream.  If possible, reconsider if you can just be patient and skip shaving for the time being.

We hope that this article provided you with a few handy ideas.  Of course, when you are ready to restock your shaving cream, check out our detailed guide to the best shaving creams for close, comfortable results.

Adam Williams

As the lead editor of Tools of Men, Adam loves men's grooming products. Particularly of interest is managing facial hair and perfecting the art of the modern man's skincare routine. His work has been featured or quoted in several publications, including New York Magazine, Vice, Sharpologist, MIC, Elite Daily, and more.

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