The Best Non-Toxic Shaving Creams (Based on Ingredients)
Over the past 2 weeks we researched the ingredients in the most popular shaving gels from brands who represent their products as being natural.
Today we’ll be looking at…
- The problem with traditional shaving creams.
- Ingredients of concern in shaving creams.
- The best non-toxic shaving creams and where to buy them.
You might be wondering, “Why should I care about the ingredients in shaving gels when they simply wash down the drain after use?”
It’s true that conventional shaving creams can be filled with ingredients that can be potentially harmful to human health.
There are two compelling reasons to be concerned about these ingredients, both stemming from the fact that shaving leaves your skin more susceptible to harm.
Firstly, the warm water used during shaving opens up your pores, increasing the likelihood of absorbing the substances applied to your skin. Secondly, as you shave, you exfoliate the top layer of skin, revealing the fresher, more delicate layer beneath. This makes your skin even more vulnerable to any potentially harmful ingredients in the product.
The problems with traditional shaving gels…
Like most other personal care products, shaving gels are made as cheaply as possible.
Not only are many of these ingredients possibly irritating to the skin, or even worse, potentially causing serious health effects, but they also have an impact on our environment.
All of these ingredients go straight down the drain, ending up in our water supply, having an unknown effect on our environment.
Thankfully, we’ve seen a big push for cleaner and more conscious products in recent years, and this also applies to shaving products.
There are several natural and even organic shaving gels available that skip the nasty ingredients and replace them with natural, nourishing ingredients that leave the skin feeling better than before.
The Ingredients To Avoid In Shaving Gels
Standard shaving creams and gels all have a similar set of ingredients. You’ll find about 80% water in most products, with the remaining 20% consisting of ingredients that lather, propellants to get the product out of the can, and binding the lathering ingredients to the water.
If you shop for a traditional shaving gel, it’s almost a guarantee that it’s going to be full of ingredients that could potentially be harmful.
Did you know that the term “fragrance” on a product label can conceal numerous potentially harmful chemicals? It’s true: under this simple word, hundreds of undisclosed chemicals can be hiding, many of which are known allergens, irritants, and endocrine disruptors.
The term fragrance, when used in products, is an umbrella term, and there are currently 3619 chemical ingredients that can be used in fragrances. And what’s worse is that manufacturers can just list “fragrance” and not the individual ingredients that go into the fragrance.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t end there. Some fragrances can lead to skin irritation, allergic reactions, and even migraines. To make matters worse, certain fragrances contain phthalates, a group of toxic plasticizing chemicals associated with hormonal imbalances, birth defects, and considered a probable human carcinogen when exposed at high doses. Phthalates can be absorbed through the skin and have been detected in women’s urine after using phthalate-containing products.
Mineral oil is often used in shaving gels and creams as a moisturizer. Mineral oil is derived from petroleum, and sits on top of the skin, blocking the skin pores. Better shaving gels will use natural, plant-based oils.
Mineral oil has also been found to be comedogenic, meaning that it can clog pores and lead to the development of acne and other skin problems. Additionally, some studies have suggested that long-term use of mineral oil may interfere with the skin’s natural ability to moisturize itself, leading to dryness and other skin issues.
On the other hand, natural, plant-based oils are derived from renewable sources and are often packed with antioxidants and other skin-nourishing ingredients. They can penetrate deep into the skin, providing hydration and nourishment, and are much less likely to cause irritation or clog pores. Some of the most popular plant-based oils used in shaving gels and creams include coconut oil, jojoba oil, and almond oil.
TEA (triethanolamine) is a common ingredient in many cosmetic products, including soaps, shampoos, and lotions. It is primarily used as a surfactant, pH adjuster, or preservative. Despite its widespread use, there have been concerns about the safety of TEA in cosmetics, particularly with regards to its potential carcinogenic effects.
The European Union and Canada have responded to these concerns by setting limits on the concentration of TEA that can be used in cosmetic products. However, despite these regulations, it is still important to be aware of the potential risks associated with using TEA in cosmetics.
According to a study by the National Toxicology Program, there is evidence to suggest that TEA may be carcinogenic. The study found that although oral carcinogenicity studies found that TEA was not carcinogenic to rats or mice, it was found to be toxic to the kidneys of rats, particularly female rats.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate / Sodium Laureth Sulfate
These ingredients are commonly found in cleaning agents and various soaps, but also shaving creams. They act as surfactants and generate the foaming effect you’re familiar with in shaving creams.
However, there is some concern with Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) that you should be aware of.
Here are some facts about SLS/SLES:
- SLES originates from SLS and is less irritating; however, it has the potential to be contaminated with ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane, both of which are possible carcinogens.
- A comprehensive German study examining SLS as a contact allergen involving 1600 patients discovered that 668 (41.8%) experienced an irritant reaction to the chemical.
- In another more compact study, seven volunteers had skin irritation when regularly exposed to SLS. Once exposure ceased, their skin irritation vanished.
- Furthermore, research has demonstrated that SLS caused significant epidermal alterations in animal lab studies and could potentially lead to hair loss in high concentrations.
- The American Academy of Dermatology suggests steering clear of sulfates for individuals with rosacea, eczema, contact dermatitis, or sensitive skin.
Allergic reactions to sulfates appear to be increasing, providing another solid reason to avoid them. Symptoms such as skin redness, rashes, swelling, itchiness, and hives may indicate an allergy to sulfates.
For these reasons, we advise against using shaving creams containing SLS or SLES.
Recent evidence has shown that triethanolamine is potentially carcinogenic. Oral carcinogenicity studies found TEA not carcinogenic to rats or mice, but toxic to the kidneys of rats, especially females.
BHA / BHT
BHA and BHT are synthetic antioxidants frequently used in cosmetic products, food, and packaging to extend shelf life by preventing the oxidation of fats and oils.
The European Commission on Endocrine Disruption has determined that BHA (Butylated Hydroxyanisole) may possess the potential to interfere with the endocrine system. BHT (butylhydroxytoluene) has been associated with hormonal disruption and is included on California’s Prop 65 list as a possible carcinogen. BHA and BHT are often found together, and the combined effects of these two chemicals remain unclear.
Ethoxylated ingredients, such as PEGs (polyethylene glycols) and some polysorbates, are used as conditioners’ emulsifiers, solvents, and stabilizers. The ethoxylation process can lead to contamination with 1,4-dioxane, a potential human carcinogen. While 1,4-dioxane is often present in trace amounts, long-term exposure may pose health risks.
Propellants are commonly used in conventional aerosol shaving creams to dispense the product from the canister, creating a thick, foamy lather. While they may offer convenience, these propellants can have a negative impact on both the environment and human health. They’re also quite flammable and caution should always be exercised—don’t use them around open flame!
The most commonly used propellants in shaving creams are hydrocarbons, such as propane, butane, and isobutane. These chemicals are known to contribute to air pollution and are classified as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which can react with other pollutants to form ground-level ozone, a key component of smog.
Exposure to high levels of VOCs can lead to various health issues, including respiratory problems, eye, nose, and throat irritation, headaches, and dizziness. Furthermore, some propellants have been linked to more severe health problems, such as liver, kidney, and nervous system damage, when exposure is prolonged or in high concentrations.
The environmental impact of propellants is also concerning. The use of aerosol products depletes the ozone layer, increasing the amount of harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation that reaches the Earth’s surface, which can cause skin cancer, cataracts, and other health problems in humans, as well as damage to ecosystems and agriculture.
Whenever water or aloe is in a product, it always needs a preservative. There’s no way around this, because without one, mold and bacteria grows. Not only does it spoil the product, but mold and bacteria can often be invisible.
While many people would like to avoid preservatives, it’s simply not safe to have a product like a shaving gel without them. You won’t be able to find one that doesn’t have preservatives.
Preservatives To Avoid In Shaving Gels
- Parabens – Anything ending in -paraben. This includes: methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, isobutylparaben, isopropylparaben, and benzylparaben.
- DMDM hydantoin
- Imidazolidinyl urea
- Diazolidinyl urea
- Sodium hydroxymethylglycinate
- 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3 diol
Better Preservatives in Shaving Gel
Because it’s necessary to have some kind of preservative in a shaving cream, look for ones like these, which are safer to use.
- Sodium Benzoate
- Potassium Sorbate
- Dehydroacetic acid
- Vitamin C / ascorbic acid
We researched the internet, online stores, and social media for the most popular clean and natural shaving gels.
Each ingredient in every product was researched and analyzed for safety based on available public research. Where possible, we include sources for all information.
Products are ranked from best to worst with an internal score based on the ingredient rankings.
Brands are rated on the three pillars as follows:
This ranking is for the best of the best. Only exemplary brands will receive a ranking of best for any category.
This ranking is for brands that are typically quite good, but don’t go above and beyond like our best choices.
This ranking is for when we find something we find iffy. Not a good sign.
This ranking is reserved for the worst of the worst.
Shaving Gels Rated: Best
This shaving oil from Well Kept contains a very simple list of natural ingredients. If an oil works for you, this might be a great option.
Potential irritants: 1*
This shaving soap contains a list of organic ingredients and has no potential irritants whatsoever. For this reasons, we give this product our best rating.
With a clean list of ingredients, only one potential irritant, and a great price, this shaving cream tops our list of natural shaving gels.
Potential irritants: 1*
Shaving Gels Rated: Good
This shaving cream from Weleda contains a safe list of ingredients. It does contain fragrance, but it’s an essential oil blend, which generally only carries the risk of potential skin irritation.
Potential irritants: 4*
Kiss My Face
This fragrance-free shaving lotion from Kiss My Face contains a relatively clean list of ingredients. It’s a safe choice for anyone looking for a shaving gel with natural ingredients.
Potential irritants: 2*
Pacific Shaving Company
This shaving cream has a long but natural list of ingredients. Rather than water, the main ingredient is organic aloe.
Potential irritants: 3*
Benzyl alcohol is the only ingredient of concern for those with sensitive skin or a tendency for allergic reactions. There are a few other potential irritants as well, but other than those, this is a clean shaving cream with organic ingredients.
Potential irritants: 3*
This shaving cream has a clean list of ingredients, with the only downside being for those with sensitive skin. This product contains a substantial list of potential irritants, but this shouldn’t be an issue for most people.
Potential irritants: 9*
Shaving Gels Rated: Iffy
Polysorbate 20 has a risk of being contaminated with ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane, both of which are linked to carcinogenicity. For this reason, we can’t recommend it over other products.
Potential irritants: 4*
This shaving cream is fragrance-free. However, it contains polysorbate 60, which carries a risk of being contaminated with 1,4-dioxane and ethylene oxide. For this reason, we can’t recommend it over other shaving creams.
Potential irritants: 5*
This shaving gel is formulated with a few ingredients that give us pause. First of all, cocamidopropyl betaine is a well-recognized contact allergen. Secondly, the gel contains fragrance, and although the brand claims it’s “natural” fragrance, this doesn’t exclude it from possibly containing phthalates. This ingredient is often added to fragrance to make the scent last longer, and it’s a possible carcinogen.
For this reasons, we can’t recommend this shaving gel over others we rated.
Potential irritants: 4*
Shaving Gels Rated: Bad
This shaving cream is far from natural, containing a long list of potential irritants as well as mystery fragrance. We cannot recommend this product.
Potential irritants: 11*