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What are the key ingredients for a good shaving product?

edited April 2014 in Ask the Beauty Brains
I have been using the Close Comfort Shave Gel from Paula's Choice for quite a while, but unfortunately it is not available anymore. Now I have been experimenting with different other shaving creams but nothing is as good as the PC product. Most are drying, stinging or don't give sufficient protection from the shaving blade. Some people advice to use hair conditioners, or just mild facial washes when you have sensitive skin, trying to avoid the fragrance, foaming and drying effects of normal shaving creams.

But if a facial wash or conditioner could work, what ingredients are essential to make the product a good shaving product? And are there other things to consider, pH maybe? Looking at the Paula's Choice product I should be looking at something like glycerin I think, could the facial wash I use at the moment be something which could work as a shaving cream for example only looking at the ingredients? 

Paula's Choice Close Comfort Shave Gel:
Aqua, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Glycerin, Polysorbate-20 , Ethoxydiglycol, Epilobium Angustifolium (Willow Herb) Extract, Chamomilla Recutita (Chamomile) Extract, Camellia Oleifera (Green Tea) Leaf Extract, Bisabolol, PPG-12 Buteth-16, Glycol Stearate, Carbomer, Triethanolamine, Copper PCA, Phenoxyethanol, Caprylyl Glycol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Hexylene Glycol.

Face Wash I use at the moment (pH 5.5):
Aqua, Glycerin, Butyrospermum Parkii Butter, Hydrogenated Polydecene, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Cetearyl Alcohol, Dicaprylyl Carbonate, Sucrose Polystearate, Caprylyl Glycol, Glyceryl Stearate, Ascorbyl Palmitate, Helianthus Annuus Seed Oil, Tocopherol, Dimethicone, Sodium Polyacrylate, p-Anisic Acid, Hydrogenated Polyisobutene, Xanthan Gum, Sodium Stearoyl Glutamate, Lecithin, Phenethyl Alcohol, Citric Acid.


  • Something like a face wash might work ok, but I generally prefer products designed specifically for shaving because they offer a bit more protection for your skin and help the blade glide more easily. A face wash or conditioner might start to dry out and lose slickness while you were mid-shave.

    I'd recommend you look into the shaving cream by Nancy Boy, a small company from San Francisco that the Beauty Brains had previously praised for their honesty about what their products can and can't do (see the description of their eye cream for an example.) You'd have to order from them online, as their products are only sold from their California location. 

    I have very sensitive skin. I often use their Replenishing Shave Cream and I love it. It does have a scent but it's very mild and not irritating for me.  The ingredients are: 
    Distilled water, potassium stearate, sodium myristate, sodium stearate, glycerin, coconut oil, organic aloe leaf juice, natural cucumber hydrosol, lemon essential oil, avocado oil, allantoin, pistachio nut oil, extracts of yarrow, burdock, calendula, chamomile, bitter orange, sea kelp, elder flower, comfrey and cucumber, methyl gluceth-20, polyquaternium-7, sorbic acid, hydroxyethylcellulose, vitamin E.
  • Thanks for your comment ChicagoGuy! It would be very nice if one of the Brains could explain also some of the science behind shaving products. Especially because I remember reading somewhere in a patent that shaving products need to have a high pH and use special ingredients to add a slippery feeling, also you see very often ingredients like stearic acid and potassium stearate for example.  So maybe there really is some good reasons to use a proper shaving cream instead of a conditioner or face wash, but it could also be nonsense, maybe a product that gives some protection from the shaving blade is good enough and you don't need special ingredients and product properties to give a good shave.
  • Sorry we don't get many shaving questions and I haven't had a change to look into this to get a definitive answer. The reason that stearic acid is used is because it makes an "in situ" soap when combined with an alkaline base. These soaps (which include potassium stearate) are very fatty and slippery. They hydrate the beard hair and lubricate/cushion the skin. You could shave with conditioner but it's not optimized to give the same effect. Also, conditioners contain quats which could be irritating to skin. (Of course high pH soaps are not that great for skin either.) 

  • Interesting, I wonder what is best for your skin. It seems all options do have some advantages (good lubrication with a regular shaving foam, less skin irritation with the face wash I mentioned looking at ingredients and pH), but also some disadvantages (less lubrication/cushioning with the face wash, foam/soap and high pH with the shaving foam). I wonder how Paula makes the shave gel work, because she does use an alkaline substance (triethanolamine) but not stearic acid or something. And the product doesn't foam and has a pH of 5.3, which seems to be milder for skin I think. When you come across some useful (and scientifically correct ;-)) information on what makes a shave product a good one, that would be nice to know.
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