As we’ve noted before, men enjoy a golden age of shaving. We have a selection of great 4-, 5- and 6-blade razors, and even more important, there’s any number of excellent (or at least fun) shaving creams and shaving oils to be had. These things are probably the best possible Christmas or birthday gifts to give to a guy when stumped for gift-giving. You simply can’t go wrong with any of the creams we discuss here. As always, all products described here were scientifically tested using My Face. Your mileage and preferences may vary, but I can guarantee you that everything here is far beyond the cheap canned stuff from Target, Walmart or Safeway, and lasts a lot longer.
For all of these, I recommend a badger’s hair shaving brush.
Santa Maria Novella – By far the most expensive in the list, a single container of SMN Crema da Barba will last about six months. It has an Old-World-esque scent redolent of Tuscany lemons, manufactured in Italy for centuries. It’s a real treat to wake up in the morning and actually look forward to shaving, and using something like this is a darn good start. You will still need a sharp razor and pre-shave lubrication, as I’ve found that despite the intoxicating scent (it really does smell like what a billionaire (or James Bond) is supposed to smell like), this isn’t necessarily the best shave in its category, because the razor burn is still pretty strong. You need an after-shave balm to get the most out of Crema Da Barba, which SMN thoughtfully offers in a variety of old-world flavors. Definitely a great Christmas or birthday gift for the man who has everything.
Art of Shaving – Art of Shaving New York is a purveyor of multiple shaving products under its own brand (as a wholly owned subsidiary of Proctor & Gamble). As a pricey specialty retailer, with multiple ‘flavors’ in Sandalwood, Ocean Kelp, Lavender and Lemon, their shaving creams are the best deal here. The real value-add for the retailer is in their pre-shave oils and after-shave oils and lotions, which are very expensive both in terms of cost and the small amounts you’re buying each time. Love their shaving creams, though; you can’t miss with any of them and the razor burn I experience with them is the least of any brand I’ve used. Just make sure the women in your household don’t start stealing it to shave their legs!
Crabtree & Evelyn – Here, for me, is my favorite shaving cream and shaving soap. C&E has a fantastic, luxurious West Indian Lime at a fraction of the cost of a container of Santa Maria Novella, possessing an equally intoxicating floral, citrusy scent whether using the tube cream or the refillable soap. They also have a reasonably priced after-shave lotion with more than twice the amount offered by Art of Shaving for a similar product. Of course, everyone’s tastes are different, but I don’t find this or any of the other products in this review to have that cheap perfumey smell you get with the canned stuff. Looking forward to trying Crabtree’s other ones, but since I have all three shaving creams in this review, I’m pretty much set for awhile. Tip: Crabtree’s shaving soap is half the price of Art of Shaving’s. Is it half as good? I don’t think so.
Final tip: pre-shave oils tend to be very expensive. Art of Shaving has an excellent one, but the cost is exorbitant. Kiehl’s Shaving Formula #31-0 is a reasonably priced pre-shave oil that doesn’t really match up in terms of quality of scent but is effective for the job it does.