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Battle Of The Inexpensive Shave Creams: Arko Shave Cream Vs. Derby Vs. CO Bigelow

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Arko shave cream tube

Mention the word “Arko” to anyone who wet shaves and they probably have an opinion of the short stick that has a unique smell. The shave stick, which goes for as cheap as $1.99 on some websites, has been around for decades. Created in Turkey in 1957, the tube still has what looks to be the same artwork around the foil-wrapped stick. Say what you will about scent, which is unique, it provides a decent lather and shaving experience. 

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Arko Shave Cream

Arko shave cream in scuttle

While I am mainly a tallow-based soap guy now, I have owned more than my fair share of creams. When I spotted Arko “Cool” shave cream I decided to see how it performed. I paid less than $7 for it online. 

As soon as I opened the box, I remembered what had been picking at the back of my brain since I decided to try this cream. I had tried a similar product years ago, Derby! I doubt there’s many wet shavers that didn’t have a tube of the stuff when they started out. I wondered how this Arko would stand up to another Turkish shave product. Then I thought…what else did I shave with when I first began? C.O. Bigelow, of course! It is actually made by Proraso, but I remember it being a solid cream. Now I had a definite comparison!

First, the Arko. The cream looks like what I remembered, shiny and white. I squirted in my scuttle what I remembered being a good amount for a four-pass shave and went to work on with my synthetic Yaqi brush. 

Arko lather in scuttle

It felt weird not loading the brush but after about 30 seconds I got a decent amount of lather. The smell was clean and pleasant. The  lather had some small bubbles that started to disappear the more I whipped it with my brush. 

Arko lather on brush

After 45 seconds, there was a good amount of lather. It was pretty firm-looking and defied gravity. It still had some bubbles but not big enough to bother me.  I had enough for a four-pass shave. The lather’s performance was solid. It had good cushion, glide and protection. I used it to shave my head as well and afterwards, it felt decently moisturized. I can’t pronounce most of the ingredients, but I felt like it did a pretty good job overall.

Ingredients: Aqua, Glycerin, Palmitic Acid, Coconut Acid, Potassium Hydroxide, Sodium Hydroxide, Cetearyl Alcohol, Parfum, Myristic Acid, Sodium Silicate, Lauric Acid, Potassium Chloride, Tocopheryl Acetate, Benzyl Salicylate, Hydroxyisohexyl 3-Cyclohexene Carboxaldehyde, Linalool & Limonene. 


Derby shave cream in scuttle

I put approximately the same amount of cream from the Derby in the scuttle and used my RazoRock tricolor brush again to whip up some lather. 

Derby lather in scuttle

It didn’t create the same amount of lather as the Arko. It is the “normal” expression from Derby and it had a clean scent that wasn’t overpowering. 

Derby lather on brush

While it seemed a bit skimpy in the scuttle, it did fill the brush. 

As for shaving, I did have enough lather for a four-pass and to shave my head. Just to clarify, I tested each of these one day apart, each time using a new Astra Platinum blade in my Rockwell T2.

While the Derby created plenty of lather, it did not provide the same amount of slickness and protection as the Arko. My face and scalp felt slightly dry, the opposite of the Arko. 

C.O. Bigelow

co bigelow shave cream in scuttle

I think I have given away three or four of these massive green tubes since I started wet shaving. I remember it being a solid performer, but one that I eventually moved on from to higher-priced creams and then soaps. 

co bigelow lather in scuttle

The roughly same-sized amount of cream produced a respectable amount of lather with my Yaqi brush. I had used Bigelow or Proraso cream in years and this definitely brought me back to my early wet shaving days. That unique eucalyptus and menthol scent is one thing Proraso “green tube” is known for. 

co bigelow lather on brush

On the brush, a couple of large-ish bubbles appeared, but it was still a fairly dense lather. Like the other two, there was enough for a four-pass and to shave my head. 

Compared to the Arko, the Bigelow had slightly better cushion and glide but felt the same protection-wise. It did leave my skin feeling as moisturized as the Arko. 

As for pricing, the Bigelow was $10 for a 5.2 oz tube, the Arko was $6.99 for a 3.5 ounce tube and the Derby was the same price and size as the Arko.

So, Who Won? 

I believe the C.O. Bigelow, AKA Proraso, edged out the Arko because of the slightly better cushion and slickness, what I call “glide.” Both were better than the Derby. I seem to remember years ago adding my tube of Derby to a PIF for a new wet-shaver. Shaving with it again, I remember why. It’s not great, it’s good. But that won’t cut it for me when you’re up against the rest of the shaving world. 

The Arko did impress with the cushion, glide, protection and moisturizing qualities. I think I’ll keep it near my collection for those mornings when I just don’t want to load a brush and still want a quality shave. 

Jay Harrell

Jay Harrell

4 thoughts on “Battle Of The Inexpensive Shave Creams: Arko Shave Cream Vs. Derby Vs. CO Bigelow”

  1. Thanks for your advise Jay. There are so many options out there, so I do take my time to research online and ask questions, then narrow down to what I really want to achieve with any item. I believe that way one could avoid stocking up so much more than is needed per time.

  2. C.O. Bigelow was the very first shaving cream I ordered, having started my wet shaving experience with ordinary dove soap because I couldn’t readily get any proper shaving soap or cream the day I first started. It did make quite a solid impression with it’s cooling menthol effect, so when I learnt that they also made proraso, I made proraso my standard shaving cream and soap. Still quite young in wet shaving (just a year + since I dumped electric shavers for DE Safety razors😊), I shall experiment with soap and cream varieties until I can narrow down to the best 3-6, then stick with them (proraso/Bigalow included).

    1. That’s awesome! My advice, from someone who has enough shaving supplies for literally 5 lifetimes, weigh how much you want to spend versus how much you *should spend, then peruse several websites at the same time and order it all! 🙂 I’m glad you’re on the journey with the rest of us!

  3. I have not tried C.O. Bigelow and did not care for Derby. Cremo was okay until I discovered Arko Cool. Though called “cool” there is no menthol just a faint aquatic scent which I prefer. What was great about Arko is it actually lathers with just my hands and I can see it. No brush or bowl needed. I now use Arko for travel or quick shaves when I don’t have time to bowl lather.

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