Article by: Perry Romanowski
Click here for a complete list of the the Cosmetic Formulation Basics series.
Shaving cream is a product put on the skin (primarily face and legs) to provide lubrication which helps prevent razor burn and discomfort during shaving. It comes in a wide variety of formats including creams, gels and most commonly foams.
What shaving creams do
Shaving creams are placed on the area of the skin in which shaving will take place. The cream is spread in a thick layer where it coats the hair that will be removed. One benefit of the foam is that it lets the consumer know where they still need to shave. The consumer (or operator) then takes a razor and slowly runs it through the shaving cream. This removes the cream and hair. The razor is rinsed and subsequent passes of it on the skin removes the rest of the unwanted hair.
How shaving cream works
Shaving cream formulations have a number of different ways in which they help in the removal of unwanted hair. One function is to soften the hair via moisturization to make cutting easier. Wet hair is easier to cut. Another function is to act as a lubricant between the razor and the skin. This inhibits cuts and knicks but does not interfere with hair removal.
Shaving Cream ingredients
While shaving creams can take many forms from liquids, lotions, gels, and creams, they all contain ingredients that help soften the hair and lubricate the skin. The primary ingredients include surfactants, solvents, humectants, conditioning agents, lubricants and aesthetic ingredients.
The most common surfactants used in shaving creams are soap based surfactants such as Stearic Acid, Palmitic Acid, or other coconut fatty acids. These are neutralized with TEA, NaOH, or KOH. Additional foam stabilizing surfactants may also be used such as Sodium Lauryl Sulfate. The surfactant system typcially makes up about 10% of the formulation.
To lubricate and moisturize the skin, humectants and other conditioning ingredients are included. These can be mineral oil, lanolin, glycerin, guar gums, or a variety of polyquaternium compounds. These ingredients make up around 5-10% of the formula.
The other ingredients include aesthetic materials like fragrance, preservatives, pH adjusting materials and sometimes colorants. For aerosol systems a propellant is needed. This can be something like Isobutane. In California, there is a 5% limit on the amount of VOCs that can be used in a shaving cream foam. Fortunately, the typical propellant level is between 3 and 4%.
Below is an example of a typical shaving cream formula (click to enlarge).*
*Formula from HallStar.
Click this link if you are interested in learning more about our cosmetic science training program.