Shaving cream history reflects a longstanding priority for men and women - to change their appearance. Whether shaving was for hygiene, ritualistic decoration or fashion, shaving and a shaving lubricant have enabled men and women to remove body hair efficiently and less painfully.
While there's no hard evidence, prehistoric man certainly had the tools to remove hair from his body, using flint knives for scraping. Another option might have been tweezing, using clamshells, flint blades or fingernails. It is unknown whether lubricants were used on humans, but it makes sense that animal fat or even water was used to prepare the skin for shaving, similar to how fur was removed from animal hides.
Ideas about hairlessness varied in different cultures. Some areas did not embrace shaving; other cultures, such as ancient Egypt (3,000 B.C.), invented copper razors capable of leaving the body hairless. Perfumed animal fat was used to lubricate the razors and soften the hair. Starting around 300 B.C., Greek and Roman barbers often used oils or soaps when wielding iron razors, giving young men the clean-shaven look they desired. Ritualistic shaving also required oils for body smoothness and the hairless face promoted by some of the leaders of the day, like Scipio (202 B.C) and Julius Caesar (around 50 B.C.).
Middle Ages to 1700s
As hair fashion changed over the decades, shaving and shaving soaps evolved to accommodate. Oils and soaps were the primary forms of shaving lubrication and razors of copper, obsidian and forged iron were most common in medieval Europe. There were no real developments or advancements in shaving or shaving soaps until the 1700s, beyond perfecting the ingredients used to not only shave parts of the body, but clean the entire human form. The art of shaving extended to women as well, with many French and British noblewomen shaving their eyebrows and heads in order to wear the latest fashionable powdered wigs.
1700s to present
In the 1800s, high lather soaps emerged as a specialized product, designed to be used only for shaving. Moving beyond regular soaps, shaving soaps were designed to create a stiffer, longer lasting lather. In the early 1900s, George Washington Carver created a cream that was easy to store and lathered up nicely, allowing the razor to glide smoothly over the skin. After World War II, aerosol cans became popular, dispensing shaving cream and many other household products. Although canned shaving cream dominates the market today, many companies have moved away from the canned creams and back to a more natural method of dispensing shaving creams to consumers.
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