Morgan Noll
Updated May 15, 2020
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Shaving is rarely the spa-like experience you see in razor commercials. In reality, it can be an awkward, slippery charade that can leave your skin feeling like it’s on fire by the end. If you choose to shave and you have sensitive skin, that experience is especially real. Shaving can lead to irritation, inflammation, redness, and razor bumps. For this reason, it’s important to factor in your skin type when thinking about your hair removal routine.

Shaving creams act as a protective barrier to make the process go smoother, which is essential for people with sensitive skin. “Shaving creams help hydrate and moisturize the hair during shaving, leaving the hairs softer and easier to cut,” says David Lortscher, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist and CEO of skincare brand Curology. This can help counter any irritation from friction and reduce the potential for ingrown hairs.

The shaving cream you choose, however, is the most important part, especially since sensitive skin tends to be easily irritated by topical products. Stephanie Smith, an esthetician in Tennessee and partner to Suki Skincare, explains that some products can strip the skin of its natural oils, leaving it more vulnerable to irritation. To help find products that will work for the most sensitive skin, we asked Smith and Dr. Lortscher for advice on exactly what to look for (and avoid) in shaving creams.

What ingredients should people with sensitive skin look for in shaving creams?

Smith recommends looking for products that are rich in noncomedogenic oils, meaning they’re not going to clog the pores and potentially lead to breakouts. These oils—such as sunflower seed oil, grapeseed oil, jojoba oil, and hemp oil—can also have anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial benefits.

For hydration, Dr. Lortscher loves hyaluronic acid. “It’s a humectant, meaning that it draws moisture from the environment and deeper layers in the skin and enhances the skin’s capacity to hold water,” he says. He also advocates for aloe vera, which has soothing properties; shea butter, which softens the skin; squalane, which fights free radicals; allantoin, which forms a protective barrier around the skin to keep it hydrated; and ceramides, which decrease dryness and irritation.

What ingredients should people with sensitive skin avoid in shaving cream?

Fragrance and alcohol topped both Dr. Lortscher’s and Smith’s lists. Artificial fragrance is a commonly known irritant for people with sensitive skin, and alcohol (often listed as denatured alcohol) “may dry your skin out, lead to inflammation and irritation, and increase the chance of breakouts,” according to Dr. Lortscher. Smith adds that another rule of thumb is to look for products with a creamy texture rather than products with a foaming agent, since those often contain harsher and oil-stripping ingredients.

Dr. Lortscher says that these seven other ingredients can aggravate the skin by drying it out or clogging the pores: glyceryl stearate SE, glycine soja oil, sodium lauryl sulfate, laureth-23, isopropyl palmitate, isopropyl myristate, and coconut oil. “This does not mean that if you have sensitive skin you should avoid all these ingredients all the time,” he explains. “But knowing what may be causing irritation can help you be a detective if you are going through a tough time with your skin.”

The 5 best shaving creams for sensitive skin

1Best soothing shaving cream: Aveeno Therapeutic Shave Gel

$5.49
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Available at Walgreens

Dr. Lortscher recommends this drugstore shaving cream for its lubricating and soothing benefits. The product is specifically formulated for dry and sensitive skin and contains soothing oatmeal and vitamin E for moisturizing benefits.

2Best fragrance-free shaving cream: Vanicream Shave Cream

$9.99
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Available at Dermstore

This shaving cream is free of all of the most common irritants like dyes, fragrance, parabens, and formaldehyde. However, it’s not what isn’t on the ingredients list that makes this cream so special, but rather what is. The product uses moisturizing ingredients like glycerin and coconut and palm extracts, plus cottonseed oil to calm redness and inflammation.

3Best organic shaving cream: 100% Pure Pink Grapefruit Seaweed Shaving Cream

$22
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Available at 100% Pure

Smith recommends using an organic shaving cream in order to avoid harsh and potentially irritating ingredients. This shaving cream by 100% Pure is packed with natural, soothing ingredients like tea tree, eucalyptus and peppermint. Honestly, it smells like a spa in a bottle.

4Best pubic area shaving cream: Fur Shave Cream

$28
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Available at REVOLVE

The product has a no-foam and oil-packed formula created with skin protection and moisture in mind. It’s full of antioxidants and vitamins, with soothing ingredients such as aloe, shea butter, hemp seed oil, olive oil, and lavender oil. Plus, the ingredients in all of the brand’s products are both dermatologically and gynecologically tested and are formulated to be safe for the pubic area.

5Best shaving cream for the face: Neutrogena Men Skin Clearing Shave Cream

$5.99
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Available at Walgreens

Dr. Lortscher recommends this skin-friendly cream for shaving facial hair. The oil-free and no-foam formula is designed to create a moisturizing, protective barrier on the face without clogging pores. And don’t mind the gendered packaging—the product uses ingredients like soothing aloe, hydrating glycerin, and acne-fighting salicylic acid that work for all people.