Oooh That’s Nice: The Best Shaving Soap for Sensitive Skin
If you’re a man with sensitive skin, discovering wet shaving can be a revelation. The blades, the technique, the ritual—there’s something about it that just seems so much kinder to your face, which is exactly what you need when you’re more prone to redness and irritation.
With that in mind, here are our picks for the best shaving soap for sensitive skin. Each of these has something unique going for it, and as fellow sufferers of sensitive skin, finding these has been a somewhat-painful but absolutely-worth-it project. Hopefully, one of the shaving soaps we’ve falling in love with can nourish your skin and keep it calm when you shave.
Summaries: Our Top Picks
Here are our picks, summed up—and please note, we’ve included a few creams, and we explain why below:
Proraso Shaving Soap in a Bowl Sensitive Skin: From the old-school Italian brand, this is our top pick for those who need good protection, easy lather, and don’t mind a light scent or a hint of cooling menthol.
Henri et Victoria Unscented Shaving Soap for Men: If you’d rather skip the fragrance, we think this unscented artisanal shaving soap might make your skin very happy.
Van Der Hagen Men's Luxury Fragrance-Free Shave Soap: This fragrance-free soap could be a great entry-level option for newbies, especially if you have oily skin.
Mitchell's Wool Fat Shave Refill Soap: Made with an extra dose of lanolin, this moisturizing soap can be a solid choice if your skin is pretty dry.
Proraso Shaving Cream for Sensitive Skin: This creamy version of our favorite soap is even easier to lather, and it’s made without menthol so you may find that it’s a little more gentle, as well.
Art of Shaving Unscented Shaving Cream: If you’d prefer something richly cushioning, unfragranced, and easy-to-lather, we think this unscented shaving cream is worth a look.
Taylor of Old Bond Street Shaving Cream for Sensitive Skin: This shaving cream is rich and concentrated, with a clean, masculine scent that men who want a gentle, non-irritating fragrance may appreciate.
Shaving Soaps for Sensitive Skin: Our Full Reviews
OK! Let’s get into the details. We’ll start with a wonderful brand, and one we’re surprised has a “sensitive skin” offering:
Best Overall: Proraso Shaving Soap in a Bowl Sensitive Skin
Proraso is one of those old-school Italian shaving brands. They have been in the business of making shaving soaps for over a hundred years now—a history that really shows in their soaps.
The Proraso Shaving Soap in a Bowl is an old-school formula that we think creates a very rich, creamy lather thanks to a large amount of coconut oil as well as the fatty acid stearic acid. Because the lather is so creamy, you may find that it helps the razor glide pretty smoothly over the skin, for an overall more cushioned shave.
This soap’s texture is a little softer than a lot of other shaving soaps we’ve tried. Instead of being a hard puck, it’s a little more pliant which can make forming a lather a little easier. This could be pretty convenient if you’re new to wet shaving and still learning to form a lather.
Since it’s designed for sensitive skin, it has a light, fresh smell that we think is quite mild and pleasant. It still contains a bit of a hit of that cooling menthol, but the amount is lower than what you’re likely to find in regular shaving soaps, which may reduce your chances of irritation. Proraso also added some ingredients intended to act as skin-soothers to boost its gentleness, like oat and green tea extract—a very nice touch.
Best Artisanal: Henri et Victoria Unscented Shaving Soap for Men
The Henri et Victoria Unscented Shaving Soap for Men artisanal soap could be a great option for men who react to fragranced products. It’s an unscented formula from Henri et Victoria, which is an artisanal shaving brand based in Canada.
We think the ingredients in this soap are very simple and actually quite similar to Proraso, with a more pliant formula that’s heavy on the stearic acid and coconut oil. There’s also a bit of unsaponified shea butter (this mean that it was added to the blend after the stearic acid and coconut oil were turned into soap), which adds lubrication and enhances the moisturizing effects of this soap.
We think that because it’s quite soft, it creates a lather pretty quickly, although that will also depend on your shaving brush and overall lathering technique. For us, at least, it was pretty easy, and the result was a thick, creamy, and moisturizing lather that made for a fairly comfortable shave.
Because it’s fragrance-free, it admittedly doesn’t smell very good, at least to our nose. It just smells like pure soap, which is an odd, difficult-to-describe smell. While we don’t think it’s as pleasant as using a scented soap, we know that for men with fragrance sensitivities it’s probably less likely to cause irritation. That’s well worth the slightly less pleasant shaving experience!
Best Entry-Level: Van Der Hagen Men's Luxury Fragrance-Free Shave Soap
If Henri et Victoria’s unscented soap seems a little “hoity toity” to you, you may find the Van Der Hagen Men's Luxury Fragrance-Free Shave Soap more approachable. It’s a more typical shave soap puck, so we find that while it takes a little longer to create a lather, we think the final result is firm and thick. You may find that you need to use a lot of water when you foam it up.
The lather we created with it had a good amount of “slip” (although perhaps not as much as Proraso or Hentri et Victoria) so, in our experience, it helped the razor blade glide nicely over the skin. Another benefit is that it was formulated with a lot of hydrating glycerin, which may help soften facial hair a little further, for easier cutting.
The formula is an interesting hybrid of soap and synthetic surfactants (the kind of cleaning agents you’ll find in a regular body wash). This might be a problem for some natural wet shaving purists, but we think that for a lot of guys with sensitive skin, it might be a benefit. The average soap’s intense alkalinity can actually be a little irritating to the skin compared to more neutral cleansing agents.
The only issue we had with this soap is that it seems to contain fewer oily, non-soap ingredients that leave the skin moisturized after a shave. It’s advertised as being made with shea and mango butters, but we didn’t feel it. We found that it left our skin a little dry after the shave, but a layer of aftershave balm was a quick and easy solution. As always, your mileage may vary! If your skin is oily or you already use an aftershave balm regularly, this might not be an issue at all.
Most Moisturizing: Mitchell's Wool Fat Shave Refill Soap
Last but not least is a cult-favorite shaving soap: Mitchell's Wool Fat Shave Refill Soap. This lightly scented soap has a more traditional formula that we find to be very moisturizing. We think it might be the best shaving soap for sensitive skin that leans dry.
Since it’s a hard puck of soap, it’ll probably need more water and elbow grease when you lather it up. The resulting lather seemed very slick to us, and did a beautiful job of cushioning our skin, which is the most important element in a shave soap if you ask us.
The main ingredient here is sodium tallowate, which is tallow (i.e. cow or sheep fat) turned into soap. It’s a meat industry byproduct that used to be very common in soaps, but these days it’s harder to find as most brands are trying to appeal to vegetarian and vegan shoppers. If you’re not a vegetarian, it’s worth considering since we think it surpasses plant oil-based soaps when it comes to creaminess and lubrication.
There is also added lanolin, or wool wax. Lanolin is a powerful moisturizer that may help keep the skin hydrated even after a shave. If your skin is sensitive due to dryness or dehydration, it may work very well for you. For others, lanolin can be a little irritating, so we’d recommend patch testing this soap first. Skin sensitivities are very unique from person to person, so it’s hard to predict what will work and what won't.
Finally, it is made with a light fragrance that we thought was pretty pleasant! If you have issues with fragrances, though, please avoid them!
What About Shaving Creams?
There are some incredible shaving soaps for sensitive skin, but we also wanted to recommend a few creams while we’re at it. A lot of men with sensitive skin find that creams are kinder to their skin when compared to soaps, and even though we’re supposed to be writing about soaps, we’d be remiss if we didn’t include some alternatives.
Compared to shaving soaps, shaving creams are often a lot creamier. Chances are that they often contain a higher percentage of moisturizing ingredients (although it can vary from product to product). If that sounds like something your skin might like, here are some options:
Best Overall Cream: Proraso Shaving Cream for Sensitive Skin
Proraso Shaving Cream for Sensitive Skin is Proraso’s cream made specifically for men with skin sensitivity, with a formula that bears quite a few similarities to the soap. Like the soap, this shaving cream is designed to be lathered up with a shaving brush. You can also lather it in your hands, but we find that a brush always gives better results.
It’s heavy on the coconut oil and stearic acid, which contribute to a lather we think is best described as “luscious.” That’s high praise—we only use the term “luscious” to describe 1) shaving creams that make the grade, and 2) the great Luscious Jackson. Anyway!
The Proraso Cream is very creamy and lubricating, which may help prevent irritation, and there’s an added touch of glycerin which is an ingredient meant to help keep the skin hydrated. Like the soap, the formula also includes soothing oats and green tea, for protecting sensitive skin a little better.
Unlike the soap, the cream doesn’t include menthol, which will help those with sensitivities to this ingredient. It does have a similar scent which Proraso describes as “apple and lime.” We find that it’s not overpowering, and it definitely keeps the shave more pleasant for us—if fragrance is an issue for you, however, then we suggest you opt for a fragrance-free option instead.
Best Unscented Cream: Art of Shaving Unscented Shaving Cream
The Art of Shaving Unscented Shaving Cream is among our top picks for men with skin issues. We think this formula is pretty gentle and moisturizing, so it might be a nice choice for men whose skin also gets pretty dry.
We find that while it doesn’t create the thickest or fluffiest lather, it does a good job where it counts—actually protecting the skin during the shave. The blend of fatty acids in this formula does a nice job of cushioning the skin and improve blade glide, which is the most important benefit we want out of a shaving cream.
This shaving cream comes in a squeeze tube or tub. We generally prefer the squeeze tube, since a tub can be a little messier to use, and we don’t like sticking our shave brush directly inside—it doesn’t feel as clean. That’s us, though! Others disagree. C’est la vie, amigos.
Best Scent: Taylor of Old Bond Street Shaving Cream for Sensitive Skin
Taylor of Old Bond Street is one of the original British men’s grooming brands, with a very long history of making shaving products. If you like the idea of heritage products, their Taylor of Old Bond Street Shaving Cream for Sensitive Skin can be a great choice.
It’s designed specifically for sensitive skin, with a lighter fragrance than their other creams. We find that it smells clean, pleasant, and masculine. A glance at the ingredient list shows that the scent is probably hypoallergenic, since there are no potentially irritating fragrance compounds listed.
As for the lather—we think it lathers pretty easily, and at least for us, a small amount goes a surprisingly long way. It doesn’t take much water, either, and we find we are able to create a soft but voluminous lather. There is a touch of coconut butter in this shaving cream, which may provide an added protective layer over the skin, as well as allantoin which is an ingredient known for its soothing effects.
How to Choose the Right Shaving Soap for Sensitive Skin
Finding the best shaving soap for sensitive skin requires a little added care. These are the things to consider when your skin is more prone to irritation.
The main job of a shaving soap is to act as a cushion between your skin and the blade of your razor. For this, it has to be very slick and lubricating, with both soapy ingredients and some unsaponified oils that create a moisturizing layer over the skin.
This was one of the main things we considered when making our selection, since men with sensitive skin are much more prone to irritation and razor burn after shaving.
Right for Your Skin Type
A lot of the time, we associate sensitive skin with dry skin, but that’s not true. Men with sensitive skin can still have other skin types anywhere on the spectrum between dry and oily, and it’s important you choose a shaving soap that’ll work with your skin.
If your skin leans dry: You’ll likely want to choose a creamy shaving soap with added skin moisturizing ingredients that leave the skin soft after you’ve shaved. Our pick from Mitchell’s is a great example of such a soap.
If your skin is oily: You will probably prefer a soap they can rinse off completely and that won’t leave any residue on the skin, like our pick from Van Der Hagen.
If you’re somewhere in between: The shaving soaps from Proraso or Hentri et Victoria should work well for you!
Whether you’re new to wet shaving or a total old-hat, it’s nice to have a shaving soap that’s easy to lather. Lathering, if you’re not familiar, is the process of adding water and agitating the shave soap to create the soft, creamy foam with which you cover your face to shave. If you don’t know how to lather up a shave soap, by the way, check out our ultimate wet shaving guide for instructions!
In general, softer soaps and shaving creams like Proraso and Henri et Victoria are often easier to lather, since they often already contain some water. However, you may find yourself going through them faster. If you don’t mind spending your time building a lather, you may not mind harder soap pucks like Van Der Hagen.
Another great way of helping prevent irritation in sensitive skin is by using a shaving soap with soothing ingredients. There are a lot of different kinds of soothing agents, from the oat and green tea extract in Proraso’s soap and cream to the allantoin in the Taylor of Old Bond Street shaving cream. However, these ingredients still get rinsed off once you’re done shaving, so they’re no replacement to your aftershave balm or soothing splash.
Scent: A Mixed Bag
Wet shaving can be a whole olfactory experience, and the smell of the shaving soap is a big part of that. However, fragrances (including ones made of natural essential oils) can be irritating for some men with sensitive skin. At the same time, having sensitive skin isn’t a guarantee that you’ll react to fragrances, and reacting to one fragrance doesn’t mean you’ll react to another one.
That’s why we decided to include both fragranced and unfragranced products on our list of recommended shaving soaps. The fragranced soaps we picked are designed with sensitive skin in mind, so the scents seem pretty mild to us, but if your skin is highly reactive, you may want to go with an unscented option.
How to Patch Test Your Shaving Soap
When you have sensitive skin, doing a patch test will allow you to find out if you’re allergic to the soap you bought before you rub it all over your face. Here’s how to patch test correctly:
Lather. Lather a very small amount of your shaving soap using your finger and some water.
Rub. Rub the soap on a small area of your skin, like below your jawline, on your forearm, or behind your ear.
Wait. Leave it on for 3 to 5 minutes, and check for any signs of irritation. If you do experience any redness, stinging, or itchiness, rinse it off immediately.
Use it! If all is well, you can go ahead and try shaving with your new soap!
Keepin’ It Slick
Not two guys are the same, and that also applies to those with sensitive skin. With our selection of the best shaving soaps for sensitive skin, we hoped to give you a few options—we think that at least a few of these soaps or creams will protect your skin in the unique way that’ll suit it. So good luck, and we wish you a gentle shave!