Vintage Shaving Cream: The History and Best Options for Today

Did you know that the shaving products found in supermarkets and convenience stores all around the world today were only invented 70 years ago? However, the arguably superior shaving creams and methods around date back to the 19th century. If this is news to you, join us in exploring the history of grooming and the best vintage shaving creams around today.

The best vintage shaving creams still available today practice the art of wet shaving: a technique that relies on a safety razor, brush, and luxurious shaving soap. Some of the best brands of old-fashioned shaving soap available include Taylor of Old Bond Street, Proraso, Castle Forbes, and Omega.

Whether you’re an expert in grooming or just establishing a new shaving routine, this is the place for you. Get ready to dive into the history of shaving from animal fat to aerosol, learn about why new isn’t always better, and find the best vintage shaving creams on the market today.

History of Shaving Cream

History of Shaving Cream

Shaving didn’t always include three-blade razors with gel strips, foamed aerosol cream, or musky aftershave. And electric razors? Forget about it. While these techniques are modern in the grand scheme of things, shaving is a 5000-year-old routine.

Sumerian Shaves

The first official record of shaving dates back to 3000 B.C. in Sumer, a part of Mesopotamia or modern-day Iraq. That’s right — grooming is an ancient tradition practiced by the earliest known civilization in the world. It’s a part of who we are as people.

However, the act of shaving and the tools involved were a lot different back then than they are now but still included a luxurious cream. Well, it was made of animal fat and wood alkali (think potash from burned wood), so maybe not quite as elegant as the brands we keep in our bathrooms today.

Fun fact: this mixture was inspired by the methods Sumerians used to remove fur from animal hides.

Masculinity and Manscaping in Egypt

It didn’t take long for shaving to become a staple practice in Egypt, but there’s a lot to unpack on this front.

Much like the Sumerians, Egyptians made their shaving creams out of animal fat and oil to accompany their bronze razors. The process was by no means comfortable and was typically practiced by rulers and other authorities.

While many Egpytian upper-classmen sported a clean-shaven look, they also heavily associated facial hair with masculinity. So, when it came time for ceremonial practices, wars, or really anything that involved strength, power, and association with the gods, Egyptians wore fake beards. Surprisingly, this wasn’t just a male practice: women wore them too!

Renaissance Razorburn

Shaving cream didn’t see any significant improvements for hundreds of years. Throughout the better part of the first millennium, soap was the accepted shaving cream. People used it to create a foamy lather that allowed their razors to glide, but these bubbles left much to be desired.

Regularly using pure soap on the face can be immensely drying. If you frequently wash your hands or live in a dry climate, you know that skin dryness makes you much more susceptible to minor cuts and nicks. Now imagine that on your face.

Around the 1700s, as powdered wigs grew in popularity, people were shaving their heads too. The need for a better shaving alternative became even more prevalent.

While this century wouldn’t experience the luxury of real shaving cream, modern instruments like the badger hair brush (which facilitates a closer shave) were invented in this period.

Shaving Soap Savior

In 1840, a company called Vroom and Fowler changed the face (pun intended) of shaving entirely — they created the world’s first shaving soap!

Vroom and Fowler’s Walnut Oil Military Shaving Soap was a highly concentrated soap pressed into a tablet. This new soap format was the first to be made specifically for shaving as it lathered up significantly better than alternatives at the time. The wet-shaving industry quickly took off, with few knowing this method would be a classic forever.

20th Century Turmoil

Everything changed in the 1900s — for the best and the worst!

For starters, the first pre-lathered, brushless shaving cream by Burma-Shave was brought to the United States in 1925. This was a massive step towards the cans of shaving cream found in every supermarket and convenience store today. Things were looking upwards, but then World War II hit.

Like many other products at the time, shaving cream became rationed to support the war effort. The grooming industry went back in time as people turned to old-fashioned shaving creams like oils instead.

On top of that, the electric razor, invented by Jacob Schick in 1923, began to take off. No shaving cream needed! Sales began to skyrocket with millions buying Schick’s new device.

Related: Learn about the vintage shaving kits you get today

The Modern Market

America’s involvement in World War II changed shaving forever. A tiny device invented amidst the mayhem transformed the industry into what we know and love today: the aerosol can.

Aerosol canisters were initially invented as “bug bombs” used by the United States military to spray insecticide in war-times. Soon enough, the beauty and grooming industry was all over this new mechanism.

These new shaving cream vessels were much more convenient than the old-timey shaving soap and brush method, but their contents paled in comparison. The shaving cream’s quality was poorer than their pre-existing counterpart and was also pricier — yet that didn’t deter most.

However, companies began competing for the lowest prices on the market, leading many to introduce cheaper, inferior creams.

These days, most Americans favor the convenience of a ready-to-go aerosol can, but true grooming enthusiasts know that the best results come from a brush and some shaving soap.

Best Vintage Shaving Creams Available

If you’re looking to upgrade your shaving routine, old is always better. Take some time to slow down, dial in, and relish in the simple pleasures of a great shave using one of these modern brands with a vintage flair. You deserve it!

Taylor of Old Bond Street

The 19th century U.K. company Taylor of Old Bond Street was founded on the same principles it still thrives on: pure, natural shaving products at an affordable price.

Anyone who uses this classic shaving cream is bound to fall in love with it. The sandalwood scent perfectly balances the lighter floral top notes while maintaining a hardy musk. Most importantly, Taylor of Old Bond Street creams lather into luxurious consistencies that moisturize while they work. What more could you want?

Proraso Refreshing and Toning Shaving Cream

Proraso, founded in 1919, is one of the original shaving cream brands. They’ve been in the business for over 100 years, so you know they’re doing something right!

Every product created by Proraso is made of natural ingredients without parabens, silicone, mineral oil, or SLS for a high-quality, non-irritating shaving experience. The Refreshing and Toning Shaving Cream features cooling menthol alongside invigorating, purifying eucalyptus oil that you’re sure to love.

Castle Forbes Lavender Shaving Cream

If you’re hesitant to try new products due to sensitive skin, Castle Forbes is made for you. Each of their shaving creams is designed to prevent skin irritation, achieving the most enjoyable experience for all.

The company originated as a Scottish perfumery, so you can bet that all of their scents are truly revered. Better yet, each aroma is crafted with natural essential oils. Artificial fragrances, be gone!

Omega Shaving Brush Set

New to soap and brush shaving? Fret not! This set by Omega features both an excellent shaving soap alongside a natural boar bristle brush to exfoliate the skin and a stand to hold it. All you need is a razor, and you’re ready to go!

This shaving soap builds into a perfect lather and leaves the skin irritation-free. One shave with this eucalyptus-scented soap and specialized brush will convert you to wet shaving for life.

Further Reading

Now that you’re hooked on traditional wet shaving methods check out these grooming blogs to stay up to date on the best techniques, tools, and more:

Final Thoughts

The art of shaving has changed drastically since it was first practiced by ancient Sumerians 5000 years ago — and so have the accompanying creams. Shaving soaps have transformed from mixtures of animal fat and ash to sprayable aerosol cans. However, when it comes to shaving, new isn’t always better. Most grooming aficionados agree that 19th-century wet shaving methods with a safety razor, shaving soap, and brush are superior.

If you’re looking for a great brand of vintage shaving cream, try Taylor of Old Bond Street, Proraso, Castle Forbes, or Omega.

About Megan Wray

Megan Wray is a Japanese-Canadian freelance writer based in Winnipeg, Manitoba. She is passionate about all things vintage: from rugs to typewriters to mirrors and everything in between. When she's not working, Megan loves to cook vegan meals, spend time with her dogs, and compose poetry. Learn more about Megan by visiting her website.