What is Shaving Gel?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Shaving gel is a lubricating product designed to be applied before shaving in order to soften the hair being shaved, along with moisturizing the skin and preventing the razor from dragging along the skin, potentially creating razor burn. It comes in tubs as well as cans, and is usually designed to foam into a thick, dense lather. Most companies which manufacture conventional shaving cream also make gels for shaving, as many of the basic ingredients are the same, and some consumers prefer more options.

Aloe gel is a good moisturizer.
Aloe gel is a good moisturizer.

As compared to shaving cream, shaving gel tends to be more efficient, because only a small amount is needed for each shave. This is because the consumer lathers the gel before or while he or she is applying it, rather than dispensing an already lathered product, as is the case with shaving cream. When dispensed in a can, the gel is kept under pressure so that it will dispense when needed. It is also available in tubs into which the shaver can dip a hand or shaving brush.

A shaving gel with added lavender can soothe sensitive skin.
A shaving gel with added lavender can soothe sensitive skin.

In most cases, shaving gel will foam when it is gently agitated in the hands or on the surface of the face. In other instances, it is intended to be applied in a thin lubricating layer which does not foam. Some specialized gels function like this to provide more moisturizing properties, or to soften particularly thick hair. When shaving gel does not foam, it is usually lightly colored, so that the person shaving can clearly see which areas of the skin have been lubricated.

Ingredients for this product can vary. Some gels use alcohol as a medium, which can unfortunately dry the skin. Alcohol based shaving gels also cannot be used very effectively in the shower or by people who prefer to wet shave. Most gel packaged in tubes has alcohol, unless the label suggests otherwise. Tubs of shaving gel, however, tend to use glycerin, which can be used to wet shave. Other ingredients may include aromatic compounds, moisturizing products like colloidal oatmeal, and skin soothers like cucumber, chamomile, aloe vera, or lavender.

When shaving, it is important to moisten the area first with hot water to relax the pores, soften the hairs, and relax the muscles. Apply shaving gel as directed on the packaging, and use a very sharp razor to gently skim the skin, cutting the hairs, rather than pulling them out. Most disposable razors do not provide a high quality shave, and will also tend to irritate the skin; if possible, use a double edged safety razor to glide over the skin, rather than pressing in. If a razor is used correctly, the shave will be smooth and close, but will not cause nicks or razor burn.

Lavender can be an ingredient in shaving gel.
Lavender can be an ingredient in shaving gel.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


For Charlie89: go easy on the razor, do not push it too hard against your skin. Almost all shaving creams, foams, gels on sale will do.


One thing to remember too is that your after shave gel needs to be of high quality. Some guys will spend big money on a fancy razor and the best shaving gel on the market, only to slap some cheap, alcohol based after shave on afterwards.

Your skin needs good care before, during, and after your shave if you want it to really be healthy and look good. So remember, if you use an after shave gel, make sure that the ingredients are good. You don't want to undo all your good work with a few quick splashes, right?


@charlie89 -- Sorry to hear you're having so many problems finding the best shaving gel for your skin type.

If you're having so many issues with such a wide range of men's shaving gel, then you may have one of two problems.

First, have you considered changing razors? That sounds really simple, I know, but if you're using a really cheap razor, or even just shaving too close, then that could be the cause of your problems.

The other possible issue you could be having is an allergy to an ingredient found in shaving gels. I know you said you had used a lot of different ones, but are you sure there's no common ingredient in them? That would explain the rash if it's not razor burn.

One thing you might want to try is shaving with a hot shaving gel. Sometimes that can relax your skin more and make it more prone to irritation.

And finally, make sure that you follow good shaving hygiene. Always wash out your razor afterwards, and don't share razors or towels -- you can get a fungus that way!

If it doesn't clear up after you try all of these things, then I would advise you to see a doctor or dermatologist. They'll be able to figure out what's going on, and to give you an idea about what you can do to avoid the irritation.

Best of luck!


Can anybody tell me how to choose a first shaving gel? I am just starting to shave, but all the gels I've used so far have caused me to get this horrible rash afterwards.

I've tried everything from the normal Skintimate shaving gel to the fancy organic men's shaving gel that they sell at a hair salon near my house.

So far nothing works for me -- I still get this crazy rash. I don't know if its razor burn or what, but I'm getting kind of desperate, because I really like being clean shaven, but hate looking like I shaved with a lawnmower.

Do you guys have any tips, or any idea why I could be having such crazy reactions to every shaving gel I try? I'd really appreciate the help -- my girlfriend doesn't like it when I get all hairy.

Thanks guys.

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