The “Nick Shaves” Youtube channel recently did a video about favorite products and “tagged” me to list mine. It’s been a while since I have discussed my favorites so I took up the “challenge.”
The “5-4-3-2-1 challenge” is to list your five favorite shave soaps, four favorite aftershaves, three favorite shave brushes, two favorite safety razors, and one favorite double edge razor blade. As someone who is constantly testing new products it’s nice to reflect on what I still grab off the shelf when I’m shaving just for the pleasure of it. Here are my picks.
Note: Amazon, OneBlade, PAA, and West Coast Shaving links are affiliate.
5 Shave Soaps
I generally gravitate towards stronger scents (my sense of smell is frustratingly insensitive) with effervescent, citrus, or spice components. In alphabetical order:
DR Harris Arlington – described as “…a subtle blend of citrus and fern, created to be refreshing and stimulating, whilst not overwhelming. Notes of Lemon, Bergamot, Orange, Neroli, Rose and Musk.”
I get scent notes of mostly citrus and musk, myself.
As I’ve said in the past, I think DR Harris shave soaps may be the last of the “old school” British soaps that are still of decent quality. The “3 T’s” of British wet shaving have steadily reformulated their shave soaps into inferior products–particularly compared to the many artisan choices these days.
Fine Accoutrements American Blend – “Inspired by Rive Gauche Pour Homme (2003) by Yves Saint Laurent…”
I avoided Fine American Blend after it first came out because people kept comparing it to Tabac…and I hate the scent of Tabac. When it finally dawned on me that they were comparing the two on performance instead of scent I finally gave American Blend a try. Some of the artisan crowd are beginning to surpass Fine’s base formulation but I still turn to American Blend on a fairly regular basis.
Italian Barber Don Marco – “a refreshing blend of Neroli and Bergamot, with a unique ‘twang’ that will put a zip in your step!”
I’ve been using Don Marco for ages. Scent-wise I think it shares many of the same attributes as DR Harris Arlington mentioned earlier…at a much friendlier price point. Italian Barber reformulated the base so I imagine it performs even better than earlier versions but I’m still working on a puck of the original version and I think it’s quite solid.
Genuine Ogallala Bay Rum Shaving Soap – “A stronger than usual Bay Rum with distinctive tones. A traditional ‘old-time’ product, which is as good a performer as it was years ago.”
I like Bay Rum scents (particularly “pure” versions close to Bay Rum’s baseline, St. John’s Bay Rum Cologne). The performance of the Ogallala soaps may not be up to the level of the best artisans (and I’ve read some fairly recent reviews that indicate the consistency of production runs may be a little uneven) but it works well enough for me to be satisfied with it.
PAA Atomic Age Bay Rum – “…true West Indian Bay on it’s own, already smells swell, it just has so much untapped scent potential that really needs to be worked and tweaked into a harmonious blend…. Being the star of the show Bay needs a good cast of supporting actors to lift it up and diffuse some of it’s rougher qualities…[s]elect West Indian Herbs, Spices & Citrus Notes….”
While I said earlier that I prefer pure Bay Rum scents, one “riff” I do like is PAA’s Atomic Age Bay Rum. The addition of more spices gives PAA’s version a nice little “zip” that I really enjoy, and PAA’s Crown King base formulation works really well for me both in shave performance and after-the-shave moisturization.
I know I’m limited to five shave soaps but I would like to give a nod to a few products that I use seasonally:
In the Summer, Caties Bubbles Waterlyptus – Here is my review of Waterlyptus.
In the Winter, Barrister And Mann Nordost – Here is my review of Nordost.
But, all that said, to tell you the truth I’m more of a shave cream guy than a shave soap guy. My favorite shave creams:
Castle Forbes Limes – I like to say the scent is “like getting smacked in the face with a key lime pie.” And of course performance is outstanding.
Oneblade Black Tie – Although it comes in only a single fragrance (a moderately-strong lavender) that I like–I wish they offered more–the performance is right up there with the best of the top shelf shave creams.
St. James Of London Black Pepper And Lime – To me it’s more of a spicy citrus scent than anything specific. Nevertheless I love the smell and the performance.
Truefitt & Hill Trafalgar – Probably my oldest “favorite” as I got my first tube very early in my wet shaving interest. The performance of T&H shave creams may not be quite up to the level of other premium shave creams but the scent more than makes up for it to me.
Special mention: Cremo Cooling shave cream during the Summer months on those hot, humid Texas days when I decide to go brushless for some reason.
My home in southern Texas tends to get very hot and humid in the Summer, and very dry in the Winter. So my favorite products tend to wax and wane with the weather and the seasons. I prefer aftershave balms with little or no alcohol–I’m definitely not one of those guys who wants to “feel the burn.”
Castle Forbes – Easily the strongest-scented aftershave balms I have and could clash with a cologne or EdT, but since I usually don’t wear fragrances anyway it’s not a problem for me. This balm’s consistency is something I can use year-round but it’s still very nourishing to my skin and it deals with irritation without drama. I usually reach for the Limes scent but go with 1445 when I want to smell classy for a while. 🙂
Cremo “Cooling” Post Shave Balm – One of the few mass-market balms that I like (Nivea Sensitive is another), I like using Cremo’s “Cooling” balm in the summer months. It has just enough menthol for me for a mild cooling effect without going overboard about it.
Taconic Aftershave Splash – A relatively light aftershave splash that comes in a number of mild scents (I prefer Excaliber). Like Cremo, I like Taconic’s lighter consistency and mild cooling effect in the hot, humid time of year here.
Village Barber – Basically unscented and a bit too heavy for me in the hot, humid Texas summers but otherwise it’s tough to be this balm’s performance. Exceptionally good for me at healing shave irritation and skin moisturization (Burke Avenue is another balm that I find similar performance with).
Special mention: Lucky Tiger Aftershave And Face Tonic – I mostly use it as a post-shave cleansing and toner product: I’ll soak a cotton round with it and wipe down my face to get rid of any shaving lather residue that still may be on my face, helping to avoid ingrown hairs and toning my face, too. Then I’ll rinse with cool water and apply a balm/moisturizer, though sometimes in the summer months I keep it on as a refreshing splash that is “good enough.”
3 Shaving Brushes
I admit to still preferring badger hair brushes for their performance but it’s clear that the new generation of synthetic fibers have pretty much caught up with all but the very highest-end badgers. Right now I reach for:
Stirling badger – A terrific value for a badger brush: it works really well for me. I can “abuse” this one (if I have to) without feeling bad about it.
OneBlade “Tuxedo” – Although it’s not marketed that way this is my travel brush. It’s relatively small so it’s easy to pack, it performs well, and it dries quickly.
Wet Shaving Products (WSP) Monarch HMW – Another good value for the quality of hair it has. I’ve seen similar brushes go for much more.
Special mention: I have an original Shavemac “Variable Loft Brush” (VLB). In terms of hair quality the best badger brush I have ever used…and I’ve tried a lot. Unfortunately I broke the mechanism but I hold out hope Bernd at Shavemac will make them again sometime in the future!
2 Safety Razors
It won’t come as a surprise to those who have followed me for any length of time that I really like adjustable double edge razors. The Merkur Progress was my original “pry it out of my cold, dead hand” razor but now?
I often turn to my Rex Ambassador for its performance and pure “sexiness” of design. But sometime I wonder if I’m using just to justify paying the price for it. 🙂
Most of the rest of the time I pick up my Parker Variant. It reminds me a lot of the Merkur Progress, without the little annoyances I had with the Progress (like the lined but otherwise smooth handle!).
I should mention though that I’m assuming the “challenge” applies to double edge razors. If it’s opened up to any safety razor I would immediately choose my OneBlade Genesis. Yeah, yeah, I know some folks have “issues” with it: some have an problem with the relative lack of blade choice. Others say the shave is too mild. Some think a razor isn’t a razor if it has a pivot (*snort*). Then there’s the price. And some give me the stink eye because Sharpologist gets a small advertising fee for referrals. But—for me—the Genesis gives me consistently outstanding shaves.
1 Double Edge Blade
If I had to choose just one double edge blade to use it would be the Parker. I find it the best “compromise” for me between sharpness, smoothness, and durability. Of course with blades “your mileage may vary” so consider my preference accordingly.
What is your “5-4-3-2-1” list? Leave a comment below.