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What’s the first thing you see when you look in the mirror? If it’s straggly facial hair, an unkempt beard or a five o’clock shadow that’s best kept in the dark, it’s time for you to shave.
If you prefer using a manual razor, you’ll want to prep your skin with a good shaving gel. The best shave gels are specially formulated to lift and soften your facial hair for shaving, so that the razor blades can glide more cleanly and comfortably. A good shave gel also forms a protective barrier over your skin, to give you a closer shave with less irritation.
What You Need to Know About Shaving Gels
Gel vs cream: Shaving creams (or shaving foams) are generally lighter and airier, and, as the name suggests, lather into a rich cloud of foam. Shaving gels tend to be a little heavier in weight and are more lubricating, forming a closer bond with the hairs on your face. They may not form as rich of a lather, but the best shaving gels will be more conditioning and nourishing than a foam. Razor blades also track better with a gel, offering a smoother shave with fewer strokes.
Skin types: The best shave gels are suitable for all skin types, but because of their thick lubrication, they’re especially suited to those with sensitive skin. Many shave gels are packed with soothing ingredients like aloe vera and chamomile, to cool and condition skin from razor burn. The best shaving gels will also protect against nicks and cuts, and they can help prevent razor bumps and ingrown hairs too.
How to use: Never shave on dry skin. It’s best to shave right after a shower, or apply warm water to skin to open up pores. Squeeze a quarter-sized amount of the shave gel onto your fingers and gently rub the gel over your skin in a circular motion to form a lather. Shave as normal, rinsing off blades and re-applying shave gel as necessary. Rinse off with cool water.
The gel creates a slick and even surface for your razor to glide through, preventing it from getting stuck, even in thick beards. And because the best shave gels also contain moisturizing ingredients, there’s less chance of any irritation before, during and after shaving.
1. Edge Shaving Gel for Men
Edge makes a number of great shaving gels, but we like this “Soothing Aloe” formula, which takes the calming properties of aloe vera and mixes it with a unique blend of emollients to leave you mug soft and refreshed after shaving — no redness or itching here.
Razor blades glide easily over the surface of your skin, with the shave gel forming a barrier to prevent nicks and cuts. Skin feels smooth but not sticky, and the gel rinses cleanly.
PROS: Edge says this “Soothing Aloe” gel has twice the aloe of its “Edge Sensitive Skin” shave gel. It also delivers a nice cooling sensation to calm irritated skin.
CONS: If you have sensitive noses you may want to choose an unscented version.
2. NIVEA Men Sensitive Shaving Gel
If you have sensitive skin that’s prone to redness, rashes or breaking out after shaving, consider swapping your current shaving cream for this NIVEA Sensitive Shaving Gel.
Harnessing NIVEA’s decades of experience as a skincare company, this shaving gel actually nourishes you skin, with a combination of natural ingredients (think soothing chamomile and witch hazel) and no dyes or alcohol (which can dry out your skin). The formula is also enriched with vitamin E which has moisturizing and healing benefits when applied to the skin.
The gel comes out clear but works into a rich, creamy lather that comforts and protects your skin while you shave. NIVEA says the gel actually works to soften stubble for a closer and more comfortable shave.
This set gets you a three-pack of the shave gel.
PROS: Alcohol-free, safe for sensitive skin.
CONS: Best for shorter beards and stubble; those with thicker facial hair may want to choose a heavier-duty shaving gel.
3. EZ Blade Shaving Gel
If you find traditional shaving gels too messy or prefer something that sticks to your stubble better, consider this non-foaming shave gel from EZ Blade. The company says its unique formula combines a pre-shave oil and a shaving gel in one product for a more efficient shave.
The oil-based formula goes on clear, and a thin layer is enough to prep your facial hair for shaving. Blades glide more smoothly and cleanly, as the gel opens pores and softens your beard and stubble. Fewer strokes are needed to get the job done.
EZ Blade says the product is even effective for a waterless shave, though we recommend at least prepping your skin with a hot towel to open up hair follicles beforehand.
PROS: The oil-based gel feels silky smooth on the skin and clings better to facial hair.
CONS: Doesn’t work into a lather; some may prefer a more traditional foaming shave gel. The oil may clog your razors a bit so we recommend a thorough rinsing of the blades after each shave. It may also take an extra few seconds to rinse the oil off your face as it’s extra lubricating.