An Alternative Shaving Cream

So you need to have a shave but you’re out of shaving cream?

What do you do?

Well, you have a couple of options. The main function of shaving cream is to lubricate your face so that the blade can glide across your skin without shaving.

Conventional shaving creams are made up of essentially foaming surfactants and lubricating oils such as lanolin (a natural lubricating compound that comes from wool). The purpose of the foam is essentially to give it some body so that it occupies some volume on your face.

The first option you have is ordinary old soap, with a shaving brush and cup (yes, they still exist). You put the soap in the cup with some hot water, and whip it up to a lather with the shaving brush, which you then use to brush it on your face.

Soap is of course slippery, so it acts as a good lubricant, although with time it of course it has the effect of drying your skin. This is perhaps why our grandfathers had skin that looked like leather.

But there’s a better option. There is a bathroom product that is remarkably similar to shaving gel – toothpaste gel.

These products come in an aluminium can and are dispensed under low pressure when you press the actuator. It’s a thick gel, and when you rub it into your skin it readily foams up into a thick lather.

The thick gel is generated by PEGs (polyethylene glycols) and forms a highly effective smoothing raft over the skin. The additives are different, of course – the shaving foam contains lanolins, whereas toothpaste contains things for your teeth – fluorides, silicas and menthols.

But none of that matters – the toothpaste does a great job, and feels no different to shaving gel.

With one exception. The menthol in the toothpaste has a very bracing effect on your skin, almost to the effect of stinging – rather like the effect of aftershave actually. It’s a pleasant sensation, however, and leaves your skin feeling very refreshed.

 

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