Perhaps no other grooming ritual is more personal than the way a person chooses to shave (or not shave) their face. Part of that is social, of course; shaving as a practice is something that advertising tells us is shared between parents and children, rooted in tradition and the very essence of the child’s admiration and desire to copy their parents.
For decades, shaving choices were limited to a handful of drugstore brand shaving creams, aftershave and either a straight razor — think the long, thin handled blade wielded by a barber — or a safety razor, that clunky metal handle. The safety razor became so ubiquitous that many houses built after World War 2 contained medicine cabinets with a series of slits in their base so men could safely dispose of the single-edge blades from a month's worth of morning shaves.
Now that we have more advanced shaving technology to create your desired look, check out the best shaving products for men, ranging from high-end razor blades, subscriptions and accessories.
The History of the Razor
The idea of shaving as a disposable consumer product is credited to a familiar name in grooming products — King C. Gillette. Gillette's patent of a safety razor made from stamped steel took off in the early 1900s, and by 1906, the company was selling hundreds of thousands of blades a year. The safety razor and blades were so ubiquitous that they were offered as standard shavers in shaving kits issued to American service members in World War 2.
A combination of improvements in shaving technology, manufacturing and distribution has revolutionized the morning shave, just as it has changed almost every other consumer grooming product.
Today's razor blades build on Gillette's original idea, using improvements in technology and often skipping having a presence in retail stores. And Gillette's original business model — selling the handles at near or below cost and making huge profits on the blades themselves — continues to persist. That huge margin has led to the growth of several mail-to-order subscription shaving companies, each offering direct-to-consumer shipping.
Here are our picks for the best blades, handles, creams, gels and a few other products to leave your face in tip-top shape.
Best Shaving Creams and Gels
No matter if you plan on shaving your face everyday or shaving your entire head, we’ve got a product for you below. Check out the best creams and gels for any and all shaving needs.
Best Overall: Cremo Shave Cream
One of the most exciting consumer products in recent years is Cremo Shave Cream. Its original formula (one of their best sellers), with a light scent that suggests citrus fruit, is a thick and concentrated cream that stays close to the skin.
Company founder Mike Boone was motivated by his desire to find a superior shave cream after being dissatisfied with typical drug store products for beard care and skincare. Individual molecules in the cream bond with water to create a slick surface that minimizes razor burn, nicks and other typical shaving irritations to develop a comfortable shave. And with a price point just over $10 for two six-ounce tubes found on Amazon, the product won't break the bank either.
The company has grown from a niche brand to a large cosmetics company offering a full line of hair, skin, beard and shaving products. Their retro-style packaging stands out on the shelf, as did their radio commercials featuring daytime Wheel of Fortune and Love Connection host Chuck Woolery.
Best Shaving Ingredients: Marlowe Shave Cream
Another cream entry, Marlowe Shave Cream, is at a slightly higher price point but offers more high-quality ingredients in their products. The components in Marlowe Shave Cream such as shea butter, deep-sea algae extracts, willow bark extract, green tea and passionflower are traditionally found in higher-end skincare products. Marlowe's entire line, presented with a decidedly clean and mid century modern look to its packaging, claims to be for the no-nonsense man.
Their website frequently offers deals that allow you to get a discount when bundling combinations of their array of face, body, and skin products as well.
Best for Shaving Heads and in the Shower: Baxter of California Super Close Shave Formula
At $22, Baxter of California Super Close Shave Formula is one of the most expensive options on this list but is also one of the best for those who prefer to shave in the shower. It's also trendy among men who use a razor to shave their heads. The coconut extract provides moisture to the skin and the peppermint oil helps to reduce razor burn, making this a product designed to be applied and left on wet skin in order to properly penetrate and soften for a smooth shave.
The vision of an entrepreneur named Baxter Finley, the company is one of the oldest making cosmetic products for men; his frustration at a lack of products for men led him to create his own beginning in 1965. Baxter, as a brand, has strong ties to Los Angeles, especially the skateboarding and surfing communities. The company also operates the Baxter Finley Barbershop in Los Angeles.
Its grooming products are based on the concept that there is no one right way to groom, but rather the company sees personal style as a sign of authenticity.
Best for Sensitive Skin: Aveeno Therapeutic Shave Gel
For men who require or just prefer a more straightforward approach with no added fragrance, the Aveeno Therapeutic Shave Gel is a solid choice at an affordable price to most consumers. While a majority of shaving gels are infused with mint or citrus-based scent, this Aveeno product is safe even for customers with sensitivities to natural fragrance. One of the best products for sensitive skin types, the gel contains emollients, vitamin E and oats, all intended to help hydrate the skin while reducing or eliminating ingrown hairs and razor bumps.
Ingredients and Products That Help Create a Smooth Shave
Regardless if you prefer gels, lotions or creams, check out these ingredients that help provide a smooth shave with a minimum of irritation:
- Aloe Vera: A popular plant designed to moisturize and soothe skin.
- Essential oils: Popular ones such as eucalyptus, lavender, peppermint, tea tree, jojoba, and jasmine oil may balance hormones and reduce wrinkles.
- Glycerin: Known as a humectant, it seals in moisture to combat dryness.
- Oatmeal: Hulled oat grains that stave off eczema, psoriasis, and rashes.
- Shea butter: A triglyceride acting as a moisturizer to nourish the skin.
- Vitamins A/C/E: Antioxidants protecting skin from environmental hazards.
Best Razor Handles
One of the most popular and classic-looking handles is the Black and Horn Handle from Art of Shaving, designed to fit the Mach III razor cartridge. The handle of natural bovine horn sports the unique colorations and imperfections of an organic product, with no two razors being alike.
The most classic design, which resembles a hoe, is the standard safety razor in metal, which is nearly 150 years old. Merkur's double edge safety razors are a contemporary version of the classic design. One of their most durable and stylish models is the Merkur Mk34C, the traditional heavy-duty steel razor that looks like the one your grandfather probably used. It's a durable product that is among the best-selling razors in the world. New York Magazine's recent survey of barbers called the 34C the best overall razor for men.
For something with more contemporary visual appeal, the Bolin Webb R1 and R1S razors are offered in a series of bright enamel colors. They are finished to the same standards as the paint on luxury cars and also work with mass-market Gillette Mach III cartridges.
The British company began 11 years ago and sold razors through an agreement with the legendary department store Harrods, which became the brand's flagship retailer.
The R1 is offered in many colors, including a Union Jack design inspired by the Mini Cooper automobile and a bright red version, known as Monza Red, inspired by the legendary Italian race track.
Best Shaving Subscription Companies
By far, the most significant change in shaving has been the number of smaller, boutique-type branded products, particularly in the area of blades and handles. There are several subscription products, each with their own distinguishing characteristics, all promising a shave that rivals or exceeds more expensive, multi-blade products from the traditionally retailed national brands. Most are available at price points far beneath typical drug store brands.
Among the first subscription-based plans was Dollar Shave Club. Beginning in 2011, this direct-to-your-mailbox plan marketed itself as offering high-end, precision blades and handles delivered directly to the customer's mailbox. The club has expanded to provide blades in two-, four- and six-blade iterations and associated productions for oral care, hair care, and other cosmetic needs. Dollar Shave Club is one of the most extensive subscription-based products, having been acquired for $1 billion in 2016 by Unilever. This multinational corporate giant focuses on consumer products in nutrition and cosmetics.
A similar approach is taken by Harry's, which boasts of owning its own factory in Germany, thus cutting out a series of steps that, according to them, increase the price of traditional blades. In its seven-year history, Harry's has emerged as a market leader while also devoting a large portion of the company's energy towards its social mission. It regularly supports mental health causes with a donation of 1 percent of sales, helping men gain access to therapy and other mental health resources.
One of the newer entrants into the subscription marketplace is the Defender Razor. Headquartered in Los Angeles, Defender claims to be the first company in over 70 years to develop and manufacture in-house. Their blades and handles are manufactured in Israel. Offered in black and rose gold versions, their handles use their proprietary blade cartridges, which are available in regular, sensitive and extra-sensitive models. The cartridges' multiple blades are spaced more widely than many other brands, allowing for a cleaner rinse of the razor and less clogging with soap and hair. Their entry-level subscription, at just $5.95, is among the industry's cheapest.
A Bonus Brand
A number of online retailers focus on men's grooming (think beard oils, shaving brushes, aftershave balms, menthol face washes, etc.). There is one, however, that focuses on shaving and grooming and has a particular knack for finding high-style and cutting-edge products is Fendrihan. Their carefully curated selection of products includes creams, gels, razors of all types and a large selection of high-style handles that fit the most popular multi-blade cartridges like the Mach III and the Fusion. Fendrihan offers a wide variety and ships five days a week from its Florida facility.
Lather Up For Your Best Shave
Now it's time to whip out your blade of choice and get to crafting your desired facial hair look (or lack thereof). From creams and gels to blades and handles, we hope that you can find the perfect shaving experience for your day to day life.
You might also be interested in: The 8 Best Razors For Men [And 4 Subscription Boxes]
11 Of The Best Shaving Products and Subscriptions For Men: