Self heating shaving cream in the 1960s

I used it a few times and thought it was great. You just squirted it in your hand and the foam got hot. I guess the FDA finally decided the idea of an exothermic reaction on your face might cause problems. Or maybe it did cause problems and Gillette bailed. Or maybe someone like the Mythbusters put a case of it in a car in the sun and shot it. Or some kid ahead of his time put it in a plastic bag on his head and huffed the vapors (Oh, Gee…) Or maybe it just didn’t sell.

A search turned up only a few threads in other forums like this. I thought it was “Hot Stuff” but it looks like it was “The Hot One”.

Is MSDS info fully archived? I tried a couple of free sites but no luck on the product name. They only had few things made by Gillette.
Aha! A few different search terms produced a 1971 PDF covering the topic at:

Unfortunately it requires paid access but from the brief description you can see:

“…The heat source in the new self-heating shaving creams such as Gillette’s “The Hot One” is a chemical reaction involving hydrogen peroxide and a reducing agent. A small polyethylene bottle filled with hydrogen peroxide is placed inside the aerosol can. This bottle is then surrounded with the …”

So. Rocket fuel. I have purchased 35% food grade H2O2 and don’t recall any strict cautions on the label so this stuff must have been potent, or the reducing agent was optimized. I wonder what the reducing agent was.


What’s the question? What was the reducing agent?

The full paper doesn’t have any additional information–it’s literally a single paragraph:

I was only aware of the heated dispensers. You put a regular car of shaving cream in and it heats the can I guess.

Never had one, I didn’t start shaving till well into the 80’s.

I thought heating a pressurized can was bad, but chemical reactions?

I have vague memories of another type of heated shaving cream that involved running hot water over a metal coil. The foam was then warmed as it passed through the coil.

Add potassium Iodide and you should very quickly have a big hot foamy mess. However, my lack of chemistry knowledge and my reliance on google tells me the H2O2 would be the reducing agent in that equation.

First thing to always do when looking into something like this is to check the patents.

What is revealing is to check the newer patents that reference this one.

$40 for 2 days access. Yikes!:eek: That’s a bit steep.
Here is a print ad for it. I vaguely remember it. I wasn’t shaving yet then, so I probably ignored ads for it.

Like mixdenny posted, is it possible that nothing was harmful about it but it just didn’t sell very well and they pulled the product?

I’ve always wondered about things like that. If a product bombs and the company discontinues it, why don’t they reintroduce it years later. Maybe a different generation might like it. This does sound like a novel product and I’d be willing to give it a try.

Good searching! I just realized that since it was a process it might have a patent but Francis beat me to it. And there is a small photo in this discussion that shows a different version of the can. Now it has got to be a collectible!


I remember my father had one of those heated dispensers. And Googling, I see that these things are still available.

Relevant answer from the link above:

"The reductants which have been found to possess all of the foregoing characteristics are thiourea and compounds having the structure in which R may be hydrogen, lower alkyl, lower hydroxyalkyl, lower alkoxy, or lower alkanoyl, and R may be any of the foregoing except hydrogen and may in addition be phenyl. Among such compounds are l-phenyl-Z-thiobarbituric acid, 1 phenyl-5-ethyl-2-thiobarbituric acid, 1- methyl-Z-thiobarbituric acid, l-methyl-S-methyl-Z thiobarbituric acid, 1-methyl-S-ethyl-Z-thiobarbituric acid, 1- ethyl-S-ethyl-Z-thiobarbituric acid, l-phenyl-5-methyl-2- thiobarbituric acid, and the like, all of which are soluble in weakly alkaline aqueous media. The oxidants which may be used with the foregoing reductants to produce the desired results include hydrogen peroxide and urea hydrogen peroxide.

The oxidant is present in an amount from 0.8 to about 2 percent by weight of the total."

H2O2 would be the oxidant according to the description in the patent.

Hey, Gillette’s “The Hot One”! I used that stuff!! Pretty damn hot, it was. I wonder why it didn’t last. After it was unavailable anymore, I moved to one of those heating systems. Then I threw it all over for an electric razor and haven’t gone back to shaving cream since.

I used to go to a barber who would use hot lather on the back of my neck before shaving it with a straight razor. The warmth was very pleasant. (I have no idea how he heated the lather but the thread just reminded me of the experience.)

The barber shop I go to still uses heated lather and a straight razor.

Very old fashioned. Feels very civilized.

It’s worth finding an old style barber who not only trims up a haircut with straight razor and hot shaving cream, but who’ll give you a full shave that way. Trouble is, I’ve no barber open early in the AM to give me that shave on my way to work.

Mine will do a full shave with a straight razor if you ask for it (as well as the back of the neck), but to be honest, although it feels great, I give myself a closer shave with my DE razor at home. So I’ve only indulged once.

And after reading said patent (the sacrifices I make to advance knowledge!) I found this:

So grab yourself some hydrogen peroxide and some form of thiobarbituric acid and have at it!

I used to use one of those. It didn’t heat the can. It heated the foam after it came out of the can by running it through some heated tubing.

Also, from jasg,

My dad bought a few cans of that. Gillette, maybe? It worked fairly well, but then he got a plug-in heater as a present, so he used that. I think it was Schick brand.

At this point in the thread, it’s time to show the clip from Frasier, where Niles encounters Martin’s old shave cream heater.