Shaving Without Shaving Cream: Is It Okay and Best Alternatives

Shaving Without Shaving Cream: Is It Okay and Best Alternatives

Shaving cream is a staple toiletry that is a must-have in the shopping cart of people who shave. Without it, your shaving routine will be incomplete, with disastrous results. But what do you do on days that you run out of shaving cream without time to get new stock? Whatever you think, shaving without shaving cream should not be on your list.

Here are the reasons why you should not shave on dry skin and what shaving cream alternative you can use:

What is Shaving Cream?

What Is Shaving CreamShaving cream is a lubricant that protects the skin from the harmful effects of shaving on the skin.

Shaving cream is a special skincare cream or foam specifically acting as a lubricant to protect the skin1 from the blade and ensure fewer risks of irritations, like redness, razor burn, and bumps. It is a shaving product that is denser than foam, and it cushions the fragile skin from the sharp razor and prevents the edge from jamming on the skin’s textures and hairs.

What Makes a Good Shaving Cream?

For dermatologists2, the best shaving cream should be moisturizing, non-comedogenic, and should have ingredients with excellent skin benefits, especially for men and women with sensitive skin types. All these work together in creating the perfect base that will guarantee minimal post-shave consequences.

In an interview with NBC, board-certified dermatologist Dr. William Huang recommends creams that create a “thicker lather that’s easy to rinse away, yet they provide a good amount of hydration and lubrication with ingredients that more readily penetrate your hair follicles.”3

A good shaving cream should have the following:

  • Glycerine - humectant that draws and keeps moisture or water to your skin.
  • Aloe Vera - natural moisturizer that reduces inflammation, decreases redness and moisturizes the skin.
  • Hyaluronic Acid - another humectant that also gives the skin a healthy look.
  • Antioxidants - protect the skin from damage from exposure to UV rays, oxidants, pollution, free radicals, and more.
  • Natural oils - rich in vitamins and nutrients that keep the skin soft and healthy.
  • Herbal infusions - nourish the skin for different skincare benefits depending on the botanicals used.
  • Salicylic Acid - a natural exfoliant that sheds the first layer of the skin to reduce redness and swelling.

Meanwhile, here are the shaving cream ingredients4 you should avoid:

  • Propolene glycol - humectant like glycerin that is more frequently found in antifreeze and brake fluid.
  • Triethanolamine (TEA) - a carcinogenic emulsifying agent that can be a skin irritant.
  • Sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulphate (SLES) - controversial skincare ingredients with health implications, like causing cancer.
  • Mineral oil - a byproduct of petroleum that is a common comedogenic ingredient that blocks and clogs pores
  • Synthetic colors and fragrances - highly irritating substances that mimic natural oils and extracts.

Remember that facial skin is thinner than the skin on the rest of the body.5 Shaving can easily damage the top-most layer of your skin with a sharp razor and over-exposure to water. Hence, it is important to choose your shaving lubricant wisely.

Can You Shave Without Shaving Cream?

Shaving without shaving cream is possible, although it should be done with great caution. The process of not using cream to remove hair with a razor is called dry shaving. It is a popular method amongst those who use electric shavers or trimmers and multi-bladed razors with lubricants, like cartridges and disposable razors. However, dermatologists recommend shaving wet to get a close, smooth, and non-irritating shave,6 mainly if you use razors with multiple blades on sensitive areas like the pubic area and armpit, and when you shave daily.

Risks of Shaving Without Shaving Cream

Shaving without shaving cream to lubricate your skin for easy and smooth glide would end up the opposite of your expectation. Shaving without cream or not having any of the alternatives poses a risk of skin damage and prickly hair. Here are some side effects caused by the absence of lubrication on the skin:

  1. Cuts and nicks
  2. Skin irritations like razor burn
  3. Damaging your razor
  4. Having hair ingrowns
  5. Having skin infections, like pseudofolliculitis barbae

Cuts and Nicks

Shaving cream lubricates and creates a layer that helps your razor glide smoothly on the skin. When you shave without it, the razor will drag harder on the skin and can get stuck on bumps and hair.

Shaving without lather on areas you want to shave is a growing menace. It can start from nicks and cuts until it increases your risk for a shaving injury. Little to no lubrication due to the absence of lather means less protection on your skin when you shave.

Skin Irritations Like Razor Burn

Microscopic cuts or microabrasions are just one of the damages shaving imposes on the skin, even while wet shaving. However, dry shaving increases the amount of these tiny wounds due to the lack of protection from the blade’s cutthroat edge.

Shaving on dry skin using disposable and cartridge razors causes more friction and microabrasions on the skin, which later on characterizes as razor burn or red rash that is a form of irritant contact dermatitis. It can worsen into a beard rash once untreated and the hair continues to grow over it, irritating the skin more than it already is.

If you are shaving wet with single-bladed razors, like straight razors, shavettes, and safety razors, the risk of burning, redness, itching, and stinging decreases, especially when shaving wet.

Damaging Your Razor

Shaving deforms a razor blade at a microscopic level,7 where a single strand of hair can chip its edge. Lather lessens the impact on the blade as it cuts through the hair and keeps it protected from the acids on our skin8 that may cause corrosion. Without shaving cream, there is a possibility that the edge of your razor will dull quickly.

Having Hair Ingrowns

Lather evens out the surface you are shaving, allowing the blade to cut at skin level with minimal stress on the skin. Without it, the edge tends to cut the hair at a sharp angle, which results in hair ingrown that later turn into razor bumps that appear days after shaving when the hair breaks off unevenly and curls back into the skin, resulting in a painful, acne-like bump.

Having Skin Infections (pseudofolliculitis barbae)

Doctors do not recommend shaving without shaving cream or dry shaving “as it produces sharp, beveled hair tips aiding penetration into the skin.”9 Pre-shave prep helps in swelling the hair shaft, decreasing the risk of hair strands cutting into a sharp angle, which is the cause of severe, infected razor bumps or pseudofolliculitis barbae.

In instances where you do not have any shaving cream, it would be better to look for shaving cream substitutes instead of shaving on dry skin.

How to Shave Without Shaving Cream

How To Shave Without Shaving Cream

Running out of shaving cream can be inevitable. Sometimes, you may be on a tight budget and cannot afford to buy a new stock, or you are not a regular shaver and have forgotten that your last shave finished everything in your container.

Do not worry. It is possible to shave without cream, but only if you have some alternatives at hand. Here is how to shave without shaving cream:

  1. Prepare your face with warm water
  2. Cleanse your skin
  3. Strop your straight razor
  4. Use a shaving cream alternative
  5. Shave along the grain on your first pass
  6. Wash off hair debris
  7. Apply an aftershave

Prepare your face with warm water

A shaving cream substitute doesn’t certainly guarantee to condition your skin all the time as a nice shaving cream would. This step of taking a warm shower or warming the face with a towel soaked in hot water is crucial because your beard will absorb the water at a warm temperature, making your facial hair softer and easier to cut.10 Also, the warmth relaxes facial muscles and makes shaving so much easier.

Cleanse your skin

The use of cleanser or exfoliating before shaving will loosen dead skin cells and clear your pores. It will also help prevent the razor from becoming overloaded with dead skin cells, which lessens its effectiveness. Exfoliating before shaving can provide your razor with a much smoother surface to glide across for a smoother shave.

Strop your straight razor

You’re out of the shower, ready to shave. But your straight razor is not. Nothing could be worse than gliding a blunt blade across your skin and shaving without cream that would serve as a lubricant. It is essential to strop your straight razor before using it to achieve a close shave, and running it along the strop keeps the blade straight and aligned.

Shaving cream alternatives

Shaving cream alternativesShaving Cream Alternatives

There are a lot of shaving cream alternatives that are easily accessible. Natural substitutes, like honey, pre-shave oil, coconut oil, shea butter, and natural shaving soap, will offer skin-beneficial nourishment and are safe to apply simultaneously.

Keep in mind to use a moisturizing agent directly on the skin before gliding your razor to shave off your beard. Otherwise, you might suffer from the consequence of permanently damaged skin.

  • Honey

    There is a great reason why honey is a favorite ingredient for some beauty products. It has the power to moisturize the skin from deep within. The enzymes in honey help condition and soften your skin, and it also has anti-inflammatory properties that reduce irritation after shaving.11 As a shaving cream alternative, honey provides a barrier that protects your skin while preventing potential damage.

  • Pre-shave Oil

    Pre-shave oil is a combination of natural oils that are good for the skin. The goal is to nourish and lock moisture to create a lubricated surface that your razor can pass over quickly. The best shave oil contains hydrating oils like argan, jojoba, olive oils, and aloe vera gel. It has a role in giving moisture to the skin and reducing post-shave irritation. Note, though, that pre-shave oil is not a permanent shaving cream substitute.

  • Coconut Oil

    Coconut oil provides extensive benefits to your skin.12 It acts as a moisturizer and rejuvenator that addresses dry skin and irritations that commonly occur after shaving. If you are prone to developing such, coconut oil has antifungal and antibacterial properties that help prevent razor burn from happening again, making it one of the best shaving cream alternatives that you can choose.

  • Shea Butter

    Shea butter can also be a great shaving cream substitute. The rich tree-nut oils in shea butter soak into your skin, making a soft barrier while locking the moisture.13 There are plenty of skin products with shea butter, but it is used traditionally as a moisturizing agent. It can thus be perfect for replacing your unavailable cream.

  • Natural Shaving Soap

    Usually, shaving soap will last you a lot longer than shaving cream, making it more cost-effective and a great shaving cream substitute. The lather you make from the soap can be just as effective for the skin. The more delicate lather also better suits straight, single-blade razors, helping them glide across the skin as smoothly as possible. Shaving soaps with natural ingredients permit a close shave without experiencing irritation.

These are natural shaving cream alternatives. Take caution when using, especially if you have any known allergies. You can also use shaving gel, body lotion, body wash, and hair conditioners, as these are more common in your household if the options above are not available. Both of these offer a moisturizing and sleek barrier that will soften your skin and hair for a smoother shaving experience.

Shave along the grain on your first pass

Whether you are dry or wet shaving, shaving along the grain is the best shaving direction to minimize skin irritations, especially razor burn. Matthew Gass from the British Association of Dermatologists recommends this: "Shaving against the grain usually produces a closer shave and faster results - but is also more likely to cause irritation than shaving with the grain” in an interview with BBC.14

Following the direction of hair growth while shaving may not get you the closest and cleanest result if you are not using a straight-edge blade. Nonetheless, you can opt for a second pass against the grain to clean off the leftover stubbles and get a smooth shave.

Wash off hair debris

Use cold water to rinse any product residue and hair debris off your face. The cold water will help tighten the skin and lessen any irritation present. It also cleans the skin, preventing further infection.

Apply an aftershave

Post-shave skin care is as crucial as your pre-shave ritual, especially if you are shaving without shave cream. Applying an aftershave is necessary to rehydrate your skin, treat irritations, and even stop nicks from bleeding.

However, remember that it might sting, or you might feel a burning sensation upon application. That is why choose a natural aftershave product that has little alcohol content, no artificial fragrances, scents, colorings, and humectants.

Where to Get Shaving Cream Alternatives?

Noah's Organic Shave SoapNoah's Organic Soap creates a mild and non-irritating lather, making it an excellent shaving cream alternative.

Shaving without shaving cream instead ends up with negative consequences. For that, Naked Armor got you covered. Most of the recommended alternatives on the list are safe to use before shaving and don’t present any more risks.

As they are natural, you can benefit from shaving creams' moisturizing and soothing factors. Remember that irritation can be possible whenever you try a new skincare product, especially if you possess sensitive skin. To avoid such a reaction, test the ingredient on a small patch of your skin before applying it to the area you want to shave, just to be sure.

Using a natural shaving soap can make a difference for your skin, specifically Naked Armor’s Noah’s Organic Shave Soap. It offers extra glide, protection, and lubrication to the skin from razor burn and irritation. With organic ingredients, it can also moisturize your skin at the same time. To learn more, you can read our article that guides you on which better option to use for wet shaving.

Compared to shaving cream, high-quality shaving soap can last up to six months of daily use, sometimes even longer. So, you can get a lot of nice, creamy lather for your money. Get yours below:

More Naked Armor Reads:

How Long Does Razor Burn Last?
10 Essential Wet Shaving Tips For Men
Cold Water Shaving: Better Than Shaving With Hot Water?


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  3. M. Godio. 9 best shaving creams, gels and foams in 2022. NBC. June 26, 2021
  4. E. Sennebogen. Are there harmful chemicals in shaving cream? How Stuff Works.
  5. Understanding The Difference Between Facial And Body Skin. The Beauty Chef.
  6. SCHAUMBURG, Ill. Tips for men: how to shave. American Academy of Dermatology. Feb. 13, 2018
  7. J. Chu. Why shaving dulls even the sharpest of razors. MIT News. August 6, 2020
  8. Why do razor blades get dull as they are used over time? Quora.
  9. Ogunbiyi A. Pseudofolliculitis barbae; current treatment options. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2019 Apr 16;12:241-247. doi: 10.2147/CCID.S149250. PMID: 31354326; PMCID: PMC6585396.
  10. Reasons To Shave With Warm/Hot Water. Woodlees. May 28, 2017
  11. K. Watson. How Applying Honey to Your Face Can Help Your Skin. Healthline. January 4, 2019
  12. F. Spritzler. 29 Clever Uses for Coconut Oil. Healthline. January 16, 2019
  13. K. Kukreja. 28 Best Shea Butter Benefits For Skin, Hear, and Health. Style Craze. September 22, 2022
  14. Should men shave their faces up or down?. BBC. May 14, 2014

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