In July 2009, I had gone on holiday to Russia. As I always do when I travel, whether on work or for pleasure, I carried with me a small blue toilet case, which has all the toiletries I need while on tour in “check-in luggage friendly” sizes. However, when I unzipped the case in Moscow, I realised that after my previous trip, I had thrown away the empty tube of shaving gel and hadn’t replaced it. Rather than cry over the missing item, I rather stolidly wet my face, lathered my palms with the toilet soap provided by the hotel, liberally applied it to my face and ...... started shaving. There was no pain or any discomfort. What was more, I thought I could shave better, because unlike traditional shaving creams and gels, which are very foamy, the lather from toilet soap merely covers your face with a thin transparent film. For the whole of that trip, I relied on plain toilet soap to get the stubble off my face.
After that trip was over I went back to shaving the way I usually did – which was to lather my face from a gargantuan can of shaving foam. However, when it was time to buy another ozone-busting can, I took a brave decision, one that I have not regretted so far. I started shaving the way I had in Moscow and St. Petersburg, with lather generated from a toilet soap. And it made no difference to the end result. What was more, the actual shave was easier for reasons mentioned above.
Which brings me to the question posed in the title of this piece. Is shaving cream really necessary for a shave? Can it provide a benefit which toilet soap cannot? Other than being foamy and more fragrant, is shaving cream any different from ordinary soap? Have a few generations of men from all over the world been misled by manufacturers into buying something they don’t need? Come to think of it, adverts for shaving cream don’t really address any of these questions, do they? And finally, if shaving cream is a waste of money, what of shaving brushes which, when I last checked, cost a small fortune?