Do you remember your first time? My first time was in college.
I suppose because it was my first time away from home. I was surrounded by girls, and all the guys in my dorm were doing it too.
It was steamy, messy, bumpy, and a little painful because I didn’t use enough lubrication, but I still remember that one morning in the guy’s bathroom.
Yes, that was the first time I ever shaved.
What did you think I was talking about, weirdo?
In my high school years, I wasn’t particularly good at shaving. My dad never really showed me how, but then again, he always used an electric razor to shave.
Because I only ever had a few patches of sprouting hair in high school, I never really needed to go with a full shave, lathering cream, and repeating passes across the grain.
I usually touched up the patchy bits with a quick pass of the electric razor. Once every three or four days was usually good enough.
Until I got to college.
There, I was a long way from home, and nobody in the dorm either had an electric razor, or had one they were willing to share.
I couldn’t let myself be all scruffy and unkempt in front of all these girls, so I HAD to do SOMETHING.
I bought myself a cartridge razor from the grocery store one day, and I went for it in the guy’s bathroom one morning.
I didn’t buy shaving cream, so all I could do was shave my face after a shower and hope for the best.
I remember wetting the blade and trying to go slow, because I was terrified of cutting myself. But I got the job done.
The next time I tried, one of the guys saw me shaving without shaving cream, and he let me borrow his.
I don’t think I’ve ever shaved without cream since.
Let me ask you this:
Have you ever been in a situation where you needed to shave but had no cream?
It could have been in college when you were too lazy (or poor) to get shaving cream.
Maybe you got to the hotel the night before your big presentation and you realized you forgot to pack shaving cream in your dopp kit.
You only have a few minutes in the morning before you need to rush out to work.
Or you stayed up late last night watching Rambo: First Blood and you’ve been pumping yourself up for a challenge to shave dry with your Bowie knife to appear more manly and self-reliant.
If you’re like me, then you understand that stalled feeling of not knowing how to shave without your precious cream.
You look at your stubbly, scraggly face in the mirror and ask:
What am I supposed to do now?
Don’t fret. Plenty of guys can shave without cream (or water). You don’t have to be extreme, but you can learn to get a wet shave without using a branded shaving cream for your face.
Let’s MacGuyver the crap out of this problem.
Why Use Shaving Cream?
I’ll fill you in on something:
Shaving cream isn’t an essential item. You can get by without it. I’ve heard of guys who’ve been shaving for 20+ years without ever using a shaving cream, lotion, or foam.
But that doesn’t mean you should toss it into the bin.
Because shaving cream has a few purposes:
Moisturizes your face – Each cream contains some sort of moisturizing agent. Shaving your face every single day can leave your skin dry and flaky. For guys in a dry climate, this can be especially harmful.
By using a shaving cream, you’re preemptively avoiding a dry, itchy, irritated face with a moisturizing cream to prevent it.
Lubricates the Blade – The thought of drawing a sharp blade across your dry face should bring chills to that spot at the base of your spine. It’s a horrifying feeling. The only thing worse would be shaving your pubes without shaving cream.
Sorry for that image in your head.
Shaving cream lubricates the blade so that it can glide across your skin while cutting the hairs. It doesn’t catch or pull on your skin as it glides across. You can avoid that skin rash and irritation with a well-lubricated blade. Good lubrication can even make up for a slightly duller blade.
It also makes the hairs easier to clean after each pass.
Softens your Hairs – Although using a shaving cream or gel does soften your hairs, it is mainly hot water that prepares your beard hair for shaving. The shaving cream just extends that period of softer hairs.
Having softer hairs means you don’t need to apply as much force when you pull your razor. If you’re not pulling hard, you’re not going to cut yourself or cause any irritation or in-grown hairs.
Some people also say that shaving cream helps you track where you’ve already shaved on your face. But I say that if you’re having trouble remembering where you’ve shaved on your face, then you might have bigger problems than simply not having shaving cream on hand.
What You Can Shave With
Now is not the time to freak out. You have plenty of items nearby that you can use in a pinch to help you shave. If you can get something that both moisturizes and lubricates your face, you’re most of the way there.
If you’ve found yourself standing in front of the mirror after your shower, looking in vain for the shaving cream, you know that panic.
But don’t stress out. You’ve probably already got 4 or 5 items around you that you may not have thought of just yet.
Baby Oil – If you have any sort of baby oil on hand, this is going to be one of your prime choices. It already lubricates really well, so you don’t have to worry about getting your blade caught on your hairs.
Baby oil is a popular choice for women who need to shave their legs in a hurry. It’s clear so you can easily see where you need to shave.
But let me say this:
Don’t use more than a few drops otherwise you could get your cartridge razor clogged up really quickly.
Hair Conditioner – Go back into the shower and grab that bottle of hair conditioner. It’s a fantastic way to soften up the hairs on your beard just as much as it softens the hairs on your head.
Take some time to really lather it into the skin, and you can start shaving almost right away. The conditioner will make your shave nearly as smooth as a proper shaving cream.
Bar of Soap – Okay, if you’re getting low on options, you can always use that bar of soap. It’s not ideal, but it will moisturize your face while giving your blade some lubrication.
Be sure to pluck all rogue hairs off the soap before applying it to your freshly-shaved face.
Naturally formulated bars of soap will be preferred for maximum comfort.
Body Lotion – Body lotion will work in a pinch as well. It lubricates the skin and provides your face with a barrier to prevent any dry or bumpy skin after the shave.
The lotion you use should ideally be unscented as you don’t need a floral bouquet on your manly skin. It doesn’t pair well with your aftershave or cologne either.
Besides, you should already have this stuff on hand given all the great benefits we outlined in this article.
(That’s not my kitchen BTW)
Ok, so your bathroom is a bit skint of good shaving items, but you don’t need to freak out.
Head to the kitchen to find some odd, but effective, choices for your alternative shaving cream.
Peanut Butter – FOR OBVIOUS REASONS, please don’t shave with this if you have allergies. That’s just asking for trouble.
Peanut butter is oily so it will lubricate and moisturize your skin.
I’m not saying that this is the best choice. But if you’re trapped in a mountain cabin, you’re stranded by a raging blizzard, and you need to shave with the only items in the bare pantry, choose the peanut butter.
Honey – FOR OBVIOUS REASONS, please don’t shave with this if you work closely with bears. That’s just asking for trouble.
Yes, honey can work for you. It’s a good source of lubrication and it will moisturize your skin quite well.
High-end spas use honey as part of their skin therapy for a reason, because it works well as a natural moisturizer.
Olive Oil – This is what you should grab first if you’re looking to get something from the kitchen. Especially, if you have an old bottle around that’s no longer suitable for food.
Olive oil is also a good natural moisturizer and it will lubricate your blade well. Again, use oil sparingly because it can quickly overcome your blade if you don’t rinse it enough.
Before we get into the “how to” section of this guide, ask yourself this:
Can stubble work for me?
If you can manage to go for a stubble look, go for it. If you’re just temporarily without cream and you have no urgent or pressing need to be clean-shaven, stubble could be your friend.
Just use an electric razor or a body groomer to tidy up the neck and cheeks. I find that if you look like you’re intentional about how you groomed your facial hair, that’s 90% of the battle.
Prepping Your Skin
If you don’t have cream, let’s prep yourself as much as possible. Even if you only have a couple minutes to spare because you’re running late, the extra time to prep your skin will pay off when you don’t have an ugly rash or red bumps from a poor shave.
Load a Fresh Blade
Here’s the thing:
If you aren’t going to use shaving cream, aim for as few passes of the razor across the skin as possible. I would suggest using a safety razor to use just a single blade across your unprepared face.
Load a new (quality) blade into your safety razor. If you don’t have one of those, change out your cartridge razor for a fresh one. You want to aim to use as fresh and as sharp a blade as you can get your hands on.
Use Hot Water
Hop in the shower or take some time to splash warm water on your face. The hot water will loosen your hair follicles and open up your pores.
If you prepare your face with hot water, you’re doing the job of softening the bristles to make each pass easier and use less force. Take as much time as you can afford to put hot water or steam on your face. The softer the bristles, the less this will hurt.
Clean Your Skin
Because you’ll be opening up your pores, take the time to get rid of any dirt on your face.
You’ll avoid cuts and you’ll also keep yourself infection free. Win-win.
Shaving without Shaving Cream Steps
Here’s one thing I need to warn you about:
If you normally shave with shaving cream, you will want to perform your normal routine.
Your body wants to slip into memory mode. If you’ve been shaving for 10+ years, you probably don’t even engage your brain anymore when you shave.
It’s all automatic response.
But if you need to do an emergency shave without cream, you need to be conscious of how you shave.
Your face isn’t used to this new way of shaving, and you’re not used to how your face will feel after this.
Go slow with your first couple times across your face. You want to make sure you’re not getting any excess friction, that your skin is fully lubricated, and that you aren’t catching or pulling on your skin.
You are also using a product on your face that (probably) you haven’t tried before. You don’t know how your skin will react, so watch it.
You could get a bad reaction to the oil/conditioner/peanut butter, and you need to be ready for that.
Change Products If You Must
At the first sign of any trouble, don’t keep going. Persistence will not be your friend.
If your face isn’t lubricated enough, or you simply aren’t getting close enough with your alternative lotion, swap it out.
Clean Your Razor…Lots
Again, your body will want to go into automation. You probably don’t rinse your blade after every stroke (you should, but you probably don’t).
That needs to change.
If you’re using an alternative cream, your blade is at risk of getting clogged. Remember, you want the blade that touches your bare face to be as clear and fresh as possible.
Here’s the bottom line:
The more pedantic you are about washing your blade after every pass, the better your result will be. You could even use just water to shave if you can keep a fresh, clean blade.
Clean Your Face
You may have been using some weird stuff on your face. After your shave, make sure it’s COMPLETELY rinsed off.
After a fresh shave, your open pores are prone to infection, and your hairs could become in-grown if you don’t give your face a thorough rinse afterwards.
Use Aftershave Balm
Even if you didn’t use a cream, an aftershave balm would be appropriate here.
It will close those pores and keep them from losing moisture or absorbing any unwanted products. It will also help your face from getting that red rash or bumpy look after a bad shave.
Alternatives to Shaving with Creams
If you’re wondering, these aren’t your only options if you’re stuck without a gel or foam for your face.
Electric Razor – Like I said earlier, you can go with a stubbly look if you simply want to reduce hair. Or you could use the electric razor to get rid of all your hairs.
I’ve never found an electric razor to be as effective as a cartridge or safety razor, but in a flash, it can give you a close enough shave to get you through your day.
Plucking – I only mention this because of this guy who ended up plucking out all his beard hairs and counting them as he went. He ended up close to 20,000 hairs on his face, and it took him 11 hours!
Maybe not the best way to shave if you’re short on time…
…or don’t like pain.
Don’t Shave – Call it No-Shave November, call it a new lifestyle change, or simply rock an unshaven face for a few days. You probably won’t die, and nobody will matter that much anyways.
You could actually get used to the bearded lifestyle.
Whatever you choose to do, let this be a life lesson for you. There are no failures; only ways you learned not to do something.
So, don’t get caught without shaving cream again. Go buy a travel size that you can keep in your car, or that you can slip into your bag wherever you go.
It’s always going to be the best option, and you’ll never again be scrounging the cupboard looking for that Extra Chunky Jif.