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What Is The Best Shaving Soap In 2023 For Your Best Shave Ever? [NEWLY UPDATED!]

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Updated August, 2023! Sharpologist’s “best shaving soap” article from 2014 has consistently been one of the most-popular on the site (and with search engines) and I continue to update it. What is the best men’s shaving soap now? Here are the top 12 shaving soaps (plus 12 honorable mentions) and the data behind the picks.

Contents – Skip To:

Summary

Criteria For Judging The Best Shave Soap

So What Is The Best Shave Soap?

“Back In The Day”

The Anatomy Of Shave Soap

The Best Shave Soap – TL;DR

What is the best shaving soap?

First the TL;DR list (in alphabetical order), then the data, details, and honorable mentions:

1. Ariana And Evans (“K2” or “Ultima” base)

2. Barrister and Mann (“Omnibus” base)

3. Captain’s Choice

4. Catie’s Bubbles

5. Chiseled Face

6. Declaration Grooming

7. Noble Otter

8. Phoenix Artisan Accoutrements (“CK6” base)

9. Stirling Soaps

10. Southern Witchcrafts

11. Wholly Kaw (“Donkey Milk” base)

12. Zingari Man (“Sego” base)

Honorable Mentions

Links may go a product choice page where you can select where to find the product: the brand’s website and alternate sources (Amazon [localized to the reader’s country when possible], Grown Man Shave, Pasteur, Phoenix Artisan Accoutrements, Smallflower, The Razor Company, and West Coast Shaving links are affiliate).

Product recommendation from Cut Throat Club

Merkur 34C Safety Razor

Price $39.95

The Merkur 34C has a classic design, looks fantastic, but is also highly functional. If you want a safety razor that offers superb performance, but also has a timeless style, this is the perfect choice.

Learn more about the Merkur 34C by clicking here

A Set Of Criteria For Judging The Best Shaving Soap (And Why Trust Sharpologist)

So what are the “best” shaving soaps? To be sure, there are many excellent shave soaps, mostly from artisans making products in small batches with quality ingredients. But artisans come-and-go, they often have limited availability, and their formulations tend to change more often. So let me propose a set of criteria for determining what rises to the top:

  • Superior shaving experience (based on over ten years of research on review sites, blogs, forums, and the experiences of Sharpologist editors and readers who have actually used the product); with both “cushion” and “lubrication” much better than most others.
  • Ease of lathering with a shaving brush using water with a variety of mineral content (in other words it works well in both “soft” water and “hard” water).
  • Good post-shave feel for all skin types (not overly-drying).
  • Available in a variety of scents (you won’t use even the best soap if you don’t care for it’s smell) or no scent at all.
  • Availability (whether a soap is usually in stock and available from several sources).
  • Artisan’s time in the market.
  • Price.

Remember, “Your Mileage May Vary” with these recommendations: although there is a large majority that like these products there will always be some for which a soap does not work as well.

And an omission from this list does not mean it’s a bad productthere is a lot of great stuff out there! 

This article will be updated regularly. Be sure to come back every few months.

Previous lists have been a “top 10” but there are so many really good shave soaps that it’s getting more and more difficult to come up with just 10.  So the list has been expanded to 12.

Looking for a shaving cream instead of a shaving soap? Check out Sharpologist’s best shaving creams list! What is better, shaving soap or shaving cream? It’s largely personal preference, though the conventional wisdom holds that shave soaps cut a bit closer and shave creams provide a bit more protection to the skin. Many think that the distinctions are subtle, though.

So What Is The Best Shaving Soap?

Now for the details and honorable mentions. First, the top 12:

Ariana & Evans

spartacus shave soap

Ariana & Evans (A&E) Like Barrister & Mann, Catie’s Bubbles, and some others, A&E is very “fragrance-oriented.” But beyond fragrance they also have an excellent, regularly-evolving shaving soap base, now referred to as “Ultima.” Their “K2e” base is also outstanding. A&E shave soaps are often praised for not only their voluminous and “slick” lather but also the post-shave moisturization as well. A&E recently worked with West Coast Shaving on some new soaps for them.

Barrister And Mann

Barrister And Mann is another established artisan with a reputation for product scents, and their “Omnibus” shave soap base performs very well even in “hard” water. They have even experimented with unusual ingredients like synthetic menthol.

Captain’s Choice

Captain’s Choice shave soaps may be a bit weakly scented to some but no one complains about the performance! I find Captain’s Choice lather exceptionally long-lasting: if you’re looking for a particularly long or leisurely shave (maybe you are a beginner and taking more time as you work through the learning curve?) you will have plenty of lather to use for the entire time. Here’s Sharpologist’s review of the Bay Rum version.

Catie’s Bubbles

Catie’s Bubbles is another favorite artisan brand for their scent profiles: some of them seem to evoke a strong emotional reaction. Their shave soap bases are also excellent, particularly the “Premium” base. Check out my recent update review of Catie’s Bubbles “X” shave soap.

Chiseled Face

Chiseled Face shave soaps enjoy an excellent reputation, particularly within the enthusiast community. Ghost Town Barber, their take on the ubiquitous barbershop scent, is a particular stand-out. Cryogen is another highlight among “menthol heads” for it’s extreme cooling (OK, freezing) properties.

Declaration Grooming

Declaration Grooming continues to make strides. Their “Milksteak” shave soap base is widely considered to be some of the best in the business, providing a really thick lather. Reviews often end up using words like “amazing” and “astonishing.”

Noble Otter

Noble Otter has steadily improved their shave soap base and reviews have been enthusiastic–so much so that it continues to take a while for supply to catch up with demand.  Read Sharpologist’s review of Noble Otter’s take on the ubiquitous barbershop scent, “Barrbarr.”

Phoenix Artisan Accoutrements (PAA)

Phoenix Artisan Accoutrements (PAA) has a constantly changing soap inventory with a wide variety of scents that tend to be a mix of reproductions of classics and whimsical takes on culture. Phoenix Artisan Accoutrements’ shave soaps use their excellent “Crown King” formulation now in its sixth revision, CK6. It’s easy to get a creamy, lubricating, cushioning lather with PAA shave soaps but I think the highlight is a really outstanding post-shave feel on the skin.

Stirling Soap Co.

Stirling Soaps is another well-established, well-respected artisan whose products are widely available. They have a wide variety of scents (three of which, Ben Franklin, Executive Man, and Port au Prince, have been reviewed here on Sharpologist) and an active laboratory cranking out updates on a fairly regular basis. The reputation of Stirling Soap’s price:performance ratio is outstanding.

Southern Witchcrafts

Southern Witchcrafts is making a name for itself with their bold, strong scents and an excellent vegan-based shave soap formulation that’s been turning heads. Check out my review here.

Wholly Kaw

Wholly Kaw is another wet shaving artisan that has made an impact in the shaving soap world. Their “claim to fame” is the use of donkey milk (some use a less charitable term for donkey) in some of their shave soaps. Donkey milk contains a number of proteins, vitamins, and other ingredients friendly to the skin and often used as an alternative to Lanolin, which can be irritating to some people. Post-shave moisturization and skin feel are particularly good with these formulas.

Zingari Man

Zingari Man came on the wet shaving artisan scene in 2019 and after a bit of a shaky start have been surprising shave enthusiasts and reviewers with some outstanding shave soaps that produce a really rich lather formulated with their “Sego” base.  Here is Sharpologist’s review of one of their shave soaps, Wanderer.

Honorable Mentions

I decided to limit the “best” list above to 12 to keep things manageable. There are a number of products that barely missed the cut for one reason or another, but are still excellent and well worth discussing. Others are mentioned for special reasons. Here are another 12, again in alphabetical order:

Cooper & French is another artisan brand with a solid effort.  Check out the review of their Authentic Barber shave soap. Their already excellent lather even seems to improve noticeably while “percolating” in my shave brush between passes, so my second and third passes can be quite confident.

Ethos Grooming Essentials have a significant commitment to using the best skin-friendly ingredients and essential oils. Performance is outstanding. Check out Sharpologist’s recent review for more detail.

Fine Accoutrements was previously on the ‘best’ list until they reformulated their soap base a couple years ago. It was removed from the list here out of abundance of caution to avoid confusion between formulations. Enough time has passed and sufficient reviews posted online to conclude the new Fine shave soaps are as-good or better than the older base. So back on the list they go!

Grooming Dept is another one of those artisans with a stellar reputation (with their “Kairos” soap base) but hampered by inconsistent output. However there is sufficient inventory at several wet shaving vendors like West Coast Shaving and Pasteur. Check out my review of one of their shave soaps for an example of their quality.

Lothur (Løthur) Grooming is a relatively new artisan out of the UK, with limited availability in North America, but they are making waves in the wet shaving enthusiast community with their shave soap formula that contains Dimethicone. Here is my review of one of their soaps, “Tears.”

Mike’s Natural shave soaps is an artisan who sort of “flies under the radar,” even in the enthusiast community, though it’s been around for some time now. But the shave soaps are the real deal: quality ingredients with a minimum of chemical extras (most use essential oils for fragrance). Many reviews mention the ease in which Mike’s soaps lather up. Unfortunately availability is very limited.

Mondial labels them as a shave cream but they’re really a shave soap, and a fairly firm one at that. Like some other Italian shaving brands, Mondial has recently expanded into the U.S. and carries some really excellent wet shaving products, including old-school shave soaps.

Murphy & McNeil may not be a well-known name (even in the enthusiast community) but they are cranking out some great shave soaps. Their regular tallow-based soaps are very good but it’s their “Kodiak” base that’s been raising eyebrows among reviewers.

Saponificio Varesino is another Italian brand making inroads into traditional shaving in the U.S., with a high-quality lineup of products that continue to be refined and improved. Availability in North American is happily robust, with their own U.S.-based website.

Shannon’s Soaps is an artisan sometimes overlooked in the enthusiast community…to the community’s loss.  Here is Sharpologist’s review of their Botanica shave soap.

Tallow + Steel has been around for a few years and their tallow soap base is definitely in the “best” range. Their scents evoke exotic destinations with names like “Himalaya,” “Madagascar,” and “West Indies” but the real focus should be the performance: most everyone comments on the lubrication ability of these soaps. Post-shave feel is also noteworthy. Availability is not as widespread as other names on this list though so it may be more difficult to obtain.

Wet Shaving Products (WSP) “Formula T” shave soap is a “croap” with some fantastic scents and a tallow-based formulation that is both “minimalistic” and excellent-performing.  Read Sharpologist’s review of WSP’s “Mahogany” shave soap for details.

Some Special Cases

There are a few shave soaps that are not on the above lists but are still worth mentioning for specific reasons :

Martin de Candre (“MdC”) is insanely expensive, difficult to get, and often out of stock. But admittedly this shaving soap is at the top of many shaver’s “best” list. Originally available in only a single scent they have now branched out with some additional scents.

Mitchell’s Wool Fat Shaving Soap (“MWF”). Available in a single (mild) scent, some consider it the only shave soap they will use. However, since it contains lanolin, some with sensitive skin may have trouble with this soap.  And a reformulation has caused some concern in the enthusiast community.

Proraso is an established brand with a loyal following: previous versions of this article often have comments along the lines of “what about Proraso shaving soap?!?” Other “best” shave soap lists from men’s grooming sites that often concentrate on what is available on Amazon have Proraso shaving soap. But personally, although I think it’s a good shave soap (particularly the “Sensitive” version with the white label) it does not hold up to the other soaps on Sharpologist’s “best” list.

Keeping An Eye On….

There are a number of other shave soaps that I’m keeping an eye on for possible inclusion in a future update. Some are new to the market. Others have had a recent change in their business circumstances. Some have recently changed their soap formulation. And some are here simply because I don’t have enough information for a full evaluation yet.

If you use a line of shaving soaps that match the criteria but aren’t listed be sure to leave a comment defending your favorite! I plan to update this post as products arrive and leave the market.

The Best Shaving Soap “Back In The Day”

Not too many years ago there were a few high-quality, old-school, tallow-based (more on that below) men’s shaving soaps from the established high-end names (Trumper, Taylor Of Old Bond Street, Truefitt & Hill, DR Harris, etc.) that were familiar to those who use a safety razor; and some low-end, every-man products like Williams Mug Soap, Burma-Shave Soap, and (a little later) Van Der Hagen.

And virtually nothing in between.

Oh sure, you could find a hardy artisan toiling away in their kitchen–if you knew where to find them. But they were few and far between (one notable “old-timer,” Emsplace, is still around, having stayed in business largely by word of mouth).

Now

Now there are shave soaps covering the entire range of price, performance, and scent. And a lot of shave soaps perform solidly–if not exceptionally–and can provide a close, comfortable shave indeed!

Let’s look at this “embarrassment of riches” to try to determine which are merely really good and which are the top 12 shaving soaps.

The Fall Of The English And The Rise Of The Italians?

Between “Back In The Day” and “Now” there has been an interesting evolution of some of the Old World shave soap. Many of the old school, traditional English shave soaps from the classic brand names (especially Trumper and Truefitt) have been reformulated, no doubt to cut costs. The performance of these products have dropped noticeably over the past few years.

Meanwhile the classic shave soap from Italian sources (Officina Artigiana, Saponificio Verasino, Tcheon Fung Sing, etc.) seem to have improved over recent years. Even the classic value brand Proraso made some improvements a few years ago. Click/tap here to read my article on Italian shaving brands.

This change is reflected in this article’s list with the inclusion of several Italian shave soaps.

How Do You Make Shaving Soap? The Anatomy

When discussing soap, especially shave soap, a lot of terms get thrown around: hot process, glycerin, tallow, triple-milled, etc. But what do they really mean? And is one ingredient or process inherently superior to another? Let’s look at a general overview.

Processes

There are basically two ways of making artisan-style soap: hot process and cold process. They each have their advantages and disadvantages:

Hot process uses an external heat source to (carefully) speed up the soap-making process (“saponification”). Hot process soaps generally take less time to make: a couple hours for saponification and about a week to cure. Extra ingredients are added near the end of the “cook time” and the texture of the soap is generally rough-looking.

Cold process may also use a heat source but it’s used to liquefy solidified oils for mixing. The real saponification comes from an exothermic heat reaction between the fatty acids of the oils and and a lye (“base”) they’re mixed with. Cold process soaps take about a day to “cook” and take several weeks to cure. Extra ingredients are added early on and the soap’s texture has a smoother look.

You may also see the terms melt and pour or glycerin. The term “melt and pour” defines the soap base as a ready-to-use item as opposed to someone saponifying fats and oils themselves: in effect, the most difficult and time-consuming aspects of the process are already complete. Some artisans then add additional ingredients and/or fragrances. Most of the time the prepared bases are made in large production facilities using specialized equipment. You may also see it referred to as a glycerin soap. This is a misnomer however for all shave soaps contain glycerin–it’s a by-product of saponification.

Animal Tallow vs. Vegetable

gentleman floris puck

Another common debate rages on, about “tallow-based” vs. “vegetable-based” (or perhaps “animal” vs. “vegetable”) shave soap foundations. The process of making either type of soap is the same. The only difference is the fatty acid profile that results from the oils and fats used. Despite the “conventional wisdom,” it is technically not appropriate to call non-tallow based soaps “glycerin based.”

Glycerin is a byproduct of saponification but it is not typically the main base ingredient in a non-tallow based shaving soap. The main ingredient in vegetable based soaps is most likely Stearic Acid which can be derived from various vegetable sources including Palm Oil, Kokum Butter, Mango Butter, and Cocoa Butter. Stearic acid, when combined with Potassium Hydroxide makes lather. Additional ingredients like coconut oil and shea butter can enhance the ingredient mix.

This is why tallow, and other high stearic fats are commonly used in shaving soap formulas. Most of the time there is a combination of ingredients used as there are many different kinds of triglycerides that provide various benefits in shaving soap. It’s important to make a soap that has great lather but it’s also important that the soap is moisturizing, creamy, bubbly, slick, and protective. Tallow was used back in the day as a source of stearic acid. It was a super cheap by-product of the meat industry.

Triple Milled

You may have heard the term “tripled milled” (or perhaps “French milled”). These are products that have been passed between large steel rollers, squeezing more air and water out of the soap (and it also provides some additional mixing of the soap, making it more uniform). Because more air and water have been removed, triple milled soaps are denser and last longer than un-milled soap.

“Croap”

The opposite of triple-milled soap is probably a “croap.”  The term croap is an abbreviation for cream soap, a very soft shave soap.  The consistency is firmer than a shave cream (actually, similar to a dehydrated cream) but softer than the “typical” shave soap.

So What Is Better?

In my opinion, none of these processes or ingredients are inherently better for a shaving soap. I think a great shaving soap comes from using quality ingredients, mixed in the correct proportions. Despite “conventional wisdom” there are tallow-based shave soaps that are nowhere near “best” (*cough*WilliamsMugSoap*cough*). There are vegetable-based soaps that are excellent. And vice-versa. While “melt and pour” soaps sometimes get knocked because they are thought of as short-cuts, there are examples that are very good.

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Author

Shave tutor and co-founder of sharpologist. Also check out my content on Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest!View Author posts

65 thoughts on “What Is The Best Shaving Soap In 2023 For Your Best Shave Ever? [NEWLY UPDATED!]”

  1. I would love to read your opinions on the Badger Balm shave soap. For me it’s terrible. But the ingredients are so good. And it smells incredible. Maybe I’m doing something wrong? Would like to hear from a seasoned pro.

  2. Wow!great comments. For me I love all the soaps out. Love Arko, but I’ve only been back to DE shaving for 7yrs. I have lots of all creams & cropes, tripple milled. I really love the ones that challenge us. Had some casswell-Massey, that was nearly scent less & grooling to get a lather, but probably slickest I have ever used. Use what works for ya & let you be the judge. Oh & keep wet shaven 👍

  3. Great article!!! And i hate the topic: “Best Shaving Soap” like “Best Aftershave”, it’s all a matter of opinion, skin type, and how good you are at working up a good lather and routine!!!

    It doesn’t matter if a Shaving Soap or Cream, or Aftershave cost 100$, it’s no better than one costing 1$ Afterall, if you think about it, it’s called “WET SHAVING” for a reason, all you need is water, the rest, is nothing more than a little bonus to make things smoother, and typically having a nice scent, that’s all it is, but it is NOT NEEDED!!!

  4. I will have to disagree, respectfully of course, with your criteria for qualifying a soap to be in your top list.
    1. I don’t care if the product is available in a number of scents, or even any scent at all. To me performance is the only useful criterion as long as it doesn’t smell bad, like Arko. The scent only remains while you’re shaving. If there is any scent remaining it means you haven’t washed it off completely. Also, what’s the difference if it has a wide choice of scents if you don’t like them?
    2. Availability from several sources? Why? You only need one.
    3. Time in market? Why? Are only old soaps worthwhile? Can’t a new soap be good?

    I suppose for some of these reasons you precluded Mike’s Natural Soap from the top tier. It is a small shop with narrow availability and breadth of scents but to me it is the best performing soap around.

    1. You put Arko as smelling Bad, which is just an opinion…

      You seem very angry at something so simple… You don’t even need Soap or Cream, it’s just a bonus for some extra glide, but it’s called “WET SHAVING” for a reason, you only need water!!!

      Oh and it sounds like you’re trying to promote a brand just because it wasn’t on the list of your liking 😉

      1. That is ridiculous!
        Nobody shaves with just water. It would be very painful and bloody. Why even use water when you can pull out each individual hair with a tweezer?
        I mentioned one brand because it is better than some of other brands mentioned and I feel was excluded only because it didn’t meet Mantic59’s criteria which had nothing to do with the quality of the product.

  5. I’m not sure I’d agree that MdC is “insanely expensive”
    There is a high upfront cost to the soap, yes, however it lasts. On a per shave basis it’s going to be cheaper than most of the artisan soaps.

  6. Nice list, thanks.

    A week ago I discovered the brand “Sweyn Forkbeard” in Camden Town.

    Their Lavender shaving soap is one of the best I have ever used.

    Happy shavings!

  7. Thnx a bunch! Never had good luck w/ PAA , my experience of 3- ocassions was lax- luster-robotic-customer service. I also agree Sterling is top notch,they made me fell apart of something. I look forward to shopping w/ them. Hell I might go back to drinking coffee. I may never have a shave spot but service is the business. No service no business.

  8. Cough “Williams Mug Soap” cough, I get a good, slick lather with Williams. The scent isn’t much, but that’s fine. I prefer a no scent soap. I get more than enough lather for three passes plus some touch ups.

    Is it as good as my go to no scent Stirling (Sheep or Naked & Smooth) or another quality artisan soap? No, but given the price difference and performance I get from Williams, artisan soaps aren’t that much better, either.

    1. Whether a high-quality artisan soap is worth the price difference depends on the value the individual places on the difference in the shaving experience, and that will vary from person to person.

  9. Nice list, I am Influenced greatly by Swedish soap artisans likes of Laugar of Sweden, Grön Lycka and Swedish Witch who’s vegan soap base’s are as good as or if not better than most tallow based soaps though many would debate. And other British artisans likes of Løthur grooming and Signature Soaps and also Obsessive Soap Perfectionist and Wickham soaps as well as Phoenix and Beau. Which could all so easy make top 10 list.

    My favourite classic Italian soap is Valobra which is fabulous and in my opinion is head and shoulders above Proraso and both soap base’s are equally as good. I just wish that they were still in production, though the Helden Lounge website still had the unscented soap in stock last time I checked.

    1. Thanks for your comments. I’m planning to update this list soon. And as a matter of fact I *just* got a tub of Løthur in yesterday, will be trying shortly!

  10. I did a keyword search for mantic59 vegan soap, and nothing came up on Google. Would you do an article on how to weed through the choices with vegan soaps and to make sense of the ingredients?

  11. I just received my order of a new formulation of shave soap from Mr. Fine. I like their aftershave scents, so I’m trying the new shave soap.

  12. PAA has been banned from most shaving groups online for deceptive business practices. Additionally, one of the largest resellers liquidated all of their PAA products and will no longer sell it because of those same business ethics/practices. I don’t think that was taken into consideration.
    Personally? I have most soaps on that list. My favorite is Stirling. Not only is the performance top notch but they sell a massive amount of items in your favorite scent. The owners Rod and Mandy are as nice as they come with the best ethics you can ask for… and their price ratio simply cannot be beat. $13.60 for a HUGE 5.8 ounces. HAVERFORD lover for LIFE! (right up there with intrepid man, executive man, stirling gentleman)

    1. I have to say that I have bought many products (shaving soap, aftershaves, razors, and the like), and I have never been deceived. The vagueness of your smear suggests to me that it is not well-founded. Moreover, the rumor you report also lacks specificity.

      The internet abounds with conspiracy theories, rumors, and smears. If you have some specific charge or complaint, that’s one thing. Repeating scurrilous rumors is another.

      I also like Stirling soaps, and enjoy his novelty soaps like Texas on Fire. I’m not sure how a huge 3.8 oz differs from a plain 3.8 oz :), but if you like bargains check out the 1-lb (450ml) tub of J.M. Fraser shaving cream for $19 from Italian Barber. It’s a very effective shaving cream.

      That said, I find Phoenix Artisan’s CK-6 formula to deserve the “ultra-premium” label, which I would also apply to Declaration Grooming’s Milksteak formula, and Grooming Dept.’s soaps. (Just this morning I shaved with a donkey-milk, duck-fat, lamb-tallow soap from Grooming Dept. that was absolutely first rate.)

      1. To be honest and clear as crystal, PAA has NEVER been removed from any stores or participated in any deceptive sales practices. Since the inception of Phoenix Shaving transparency and clarity has always been our goal, being sure to dot all our I’s and cross all our T’s. Heck, that is why we chose the Phoenix as our brand name.

        Traditional wet shaving is my passion and we have worked our tails off over the years always trying to better what we do & better who we are, and if that wasn’t the case we wouldn’t still be here. Our products and quality by this point speak for themselves. We have also worked really hard in an effort to grow the wet shaving world and spread the word to the masses (for everyone involved). We work hard 7 days a week morning and night and give back as much as we can to the community that got us where we are today…and we are VERY grateful for that.

      2. The Sterling shave soaps are 5.8 ounces not 3.8.When panning another person posting……get your numbers right.Your other opinions are absolutely spot on.

        1. Apologies for the incorrect number. My eyes are not so good, and I must have misread “5” as “3.” Thank you for the correction — a significant correct: 5.8 oz is just over 50% more than 3.8 oz.

    2. You have no shortage of options for unscented shave soaps; Mike’s Naturals in Wisconsin, The Sudsy Soapery in St. Louis, MO, and Stirling in Arkansas are all excellent tallow based choices. Hub City Soap Co. in Lubbock, TX. also makes an unscented shaving soap.

    3. I have been dealing with PAA for years and they are a top fine company to do business with. You can purchase PAA with confidence. And Douglas has done a lot to help the shaving community.

  13. Greetings from a new double edged shaver!

    What would you recommend as a good unscented soap? Most fragrance products make me slightly nauseous, so unless I’m specifically wearing all the cologne I try not to have fragrance in anything.

    I’m using basis soap right now, which I’m actually pretty happy with, And I’ve use this in the past when I used a brush.

    Thanks, you have a great site

      1. Leisureguy,
        As it turns out Mystic Waters is only 5 miles/8km from my home, so I bought that. So far, great! Any smell is only slight and goes away very quickly (even before rinsing off).

        I did read some comments about problems with lathering, but her aptly named Lathering instructions page is good about giving simple and effective ways to do this.

        The video is the easiest to follow, and I learned much about lathering in general

        1. Recently one of my blog readers urged me to try bowl lathering (load brush with soap, move to a bowl to work up the lather, adding driblets of water as needed). I have done bowl lathering, but not for some years (countertop real-estate issue), but I’m open to trying things.

          One advantage of bowl lathering (which I discuss in my Guide) is that it makes it easy to experiment: you can continue working the lather as you periodically add small amounts of water until the lather is clearly too loose/wet. Along the way, you can observe lather at each stage of development and figure out (by look and by (literal) feel, by rubbing some lather between your fingers) the ideal lather. Doing that sort of experiment on your face is pretty much impossible — it requires a bowl.

          I use a bowl for only a few shaves, but I found that when I returned to lathering on my face, I was getting better lathers. The bowl lathering had helped me improve my lather process: I loaded the brush better, and I knew better the optimal amount of water — and what a good lather looked/felt like.

          I have some Mystic Water soaps on their way to me now. I’ll definitely check out the link you suggest.

    1. I fancied a change recently, and I tried the Extro Cosmesi range (an Italian Company), ‘Fra Rinik’ shave soap and Aftershave Cologne, to be precise; The range is quite extensive, reasonably priced, and excellent quality (without ‘nasty chemicals’ too apparently). Highly recommended.

  14. My dear Mantic59,

    This is an excellent article indeed. It is “skin-watering” to read about these artisan soaps with their unique scents, but… they are not easily (at all ?) available outside the US !! Or if they are, the shipping costs are exorbitant!

    So, what is left to us, poor Southern Europeans ? The British brands (DR is very good indeed), MWF (I love it and have no problem with lanolin), Proraso of course (they do have a spice version which I ordered and will let you know how it feels, if you’re interested) and then the Italian finer things like Cella, Saponificio Varesano, etc.

    Keep up the great work ! (Even if it is too far away for us 🙁 )

    1. Hi Alex– The list has always been targeted more for North America because that’s where most of the readers are. But you are right, European countries are under-served. I will work on a separate list for them!

    2. FWIW, some soaps from the EU that I like a lot: Eufros by Jabonman (Spain), Meißner Tremonia (Germany), Tcheon Fung Sing (Italy), Antica Barbiera Colla (Italy), Institut Karité (France), and Colonia (Italy).

      1. Thanks for the info. I checked out the availability and prices in Europe and, wow, these are quite over the top ! Especially the Eufros range (over $35), the Antica Barbiera (over 55EUR), Messiner (at 21 EUR for 75gr)… Only TFS has a normal price (at 11EUR)

        So, perhaps I must go back to MWF, Cella and Tabac after all !

    3. I tend to get all my shaving supplies from the Executive Shaving online store, situated in Glasgow, Scotland – they have a very good selection of soaps, aftershaves, etc. Recently I bought Fra Rinik by Extro Cosmesi (An Italian Company) – it’s really nice, and there’s a large range to suite most, if not all tastes.

      1. Thank you MJP. THe thing is that, now with Brexit, a number of problems have shown their ugly face for orders outside the UK: very long delivery delays, tazes and tariffs added to the price making online shopping from UK addresses a rather expensive sport.

  15. Just an observation in the tallow vs vegan soap debate. Many people won’t use animal based products and prefer vegan options due to their ethics and personal philosophy, which is fair enough. However, some vegan products can contain palm oil which can be extremely non animal friendly.

    In countries like Indonesia and Borneo, huge swathes of rainforest are cleared for palm plantations. It’s a very profitable business at the moment, but at the expense of animals such as orangutans and the pygmy elephants in particular.

    If we could get soap makers to let us know the source of their palm oil (when used) it would make life a lot easier!

    regards
    Andrew

      1. I try to avoid palm oil, as a few commenters have stated, it’s actual providence is very rarely forthcoming, the most information one usually gets is that ‘it is sustainable’, whatever that means.

  16. Always enjoy your revised lists! A couple of worthy contenders for me are: Lisa’s Natural/Herbal Creations—just superb shaving soaps—Le Pere Lucien, The Holy Black—both their own distinctive fragrances and the great shaving soaps they make for Caswell- Massey.

    1. Hi Ed,I am a Barber and have worked for 47 years I also own over 100 shaving soaps and 76 aftershaves.The Holy Black products are absolutely terrible!I bought the so called collection in the wooden box the made sound when opened.It consisted of a shave soap an aftershave and an EDT. bottle.The shave soap was so bad after four uses I shelved it …..when I moved it the cheap glass container cracked.The aftershave and the EDT. both were so weak that they only lasted a few minutes after applied on top of each other.In short the product was worthless.The cost of the set was around 200.00 with shipping.I called The Holy Black and they would not credit or return my money and since the shave soap glass container cracked-they didn’t have replacements -I can’t resell the set and the batteries that made the spooky sound died too.WHAT A LOUSY COMPANY…..LOOK AT THEIR WEBSITE AND TELL ME WHAT THEIR INTERESTS ARE-SKATEBOARDING?

  17. No soap I’ve ever tried lathers as well as Tabac, although, admittedly, the scent is love-it-or-hate-it. I’m on its good side. Mitchell’s Wool Fat is also wonderful, although my face has no problem with lanolin. Col Conk is also in my rotation. I’ve taken out Soap Commander and Cello as below par. Oh, and Van Der Haggen Deluxe is better than you think for a discount soap – better than its ‘luxury’ soap.

  18. Great article. Your wise decision to list the soaps alphabetically confirms what I have maintained – that there is no “one best soap”. I have tried several on your list and many not on your list and I have come to believe that no one soap really stands out. It’s as if they all rely on the same basic ingredients with minor variations resulting in a twelve-way tie for first. Of course, each offers their own panoply of scents but in the end that is all very subjective. In my “what about” list I would include Tabac and La Toja, but that’s just my valid opinion.

    1. The first thing I check on encountering a new shaving soap is the list of ingredients. My experience differs from yours: I find the ingredients vary a LOT and different soaps often have markedly different ingredients. Of course, we may be looking at different soaps. I invite you to compare the list of ingredients for Phoenix Artisan CK-6, Declaration Grooming’s Milksteak soaps, the Grooming Dept’s formulas, and Van Yulay soaps (whose ingredients vary from soap to soap) with each other and also with the ingredients found in, say, Arko — or even D.R. Harris.

  19. Phoenix Shaving’s CK-6 soaps are my go to soaps. Hands down the best soap I’ve ever used. I recently discovered that I can actually use fragranced soaps by trying their Sangre De Drago CK-6 soap. I had a bad experience with another vendor’s soap that left my face feeling like it had been blistered. I was hesitant to try another scented soap, but I had enough loyalty points to get a discount on PAA’s soap/aftershave combination. So I took the plunge and got the Sangre De Drago combination (it’s my “signature fragrance”). It was a wonderful, CK-6 experience that further proved to me that PAA is the way to go for all my shaving software needs.

  20. Good list, and I concur regarding those I’ve tried — and you certainly tempt me to try more. I have to add that I find the Van Yulay shaving soaps quite good. The formula varies from soap to soap, so it’s important to read the ingredients list for the soap of interest. They do sell samples, so you can try before you buy. (I also like their aftershave splash.)

    Declaration Grooming’s Milksteak soaps, Phoenix Artisan’s CK-6 line, and Wholly Kaw’s soaps are solid stand-bys that I always enjoy.

    1. I have used Arko. In my experience, it simply is not in the same league as the other soaps mentioned. I invite you to use Arko side by side with (say) a Milksteak or CK-6 soap. You’ll find (a) the fragrance is MUCH better (plus, unlike with Arko, you have a choice of fragrance), (b) the lather is better, and (c ) it leaves your skin feeling much better. If you do the direct comparison, I’d be interested in your comments.

      It should be noted that price was not a factor in creating the list. Quality was the only criterion. Price (for this list) is irrelevant.

      1. It is really hard to beat Arko, there is a reason why all Turkish barbers use it, it just works! Just add lots of water, if in doubt, try watching some videos of Turkish barbers on Youtube, they use really hot water, and use way more water than one normally would, but it works 🙂

        That being said, you don’t even need soap / cream, just water for a good shave 🙂 I have a friend who is a turkish barber, and has been for over 20 years now, he sometimes just use a wet towel, no soap or cream, and then just use a simple cream as an aftershave, and it works 🙂

        1. I imagine all Turkish barbers use Arko for the same reason that McDonalds sells more burgers than anyone else: very cheap and adequate. Arko makes a reasonably good lather and works pretty well even if the water is somewhat hard, but in terms of fragrance and kindness to the skin, it doesn’t hold a candle to (say) Declaration Grooming’s Milksteak formula or Phoenix Artisan’s CK-6.

          I invite you to do what I’ve done: side-by-side tests comparing Arko and one of those two soaps. The difference is obvious to me and, I think, would be to most.

          Just to be clear: I have used Arko and I’ve also used Milksteak and CK-6 soaps. My comments are based on my direct experience in comparing them.

          1. No real produced shaving soap and or cream, that comes from famous companies, is good for the skin 😉 There is always something beneath the surface, and always remember, just like in the food industry, certain things doesn’t need to be put on a label, like:

            “Fragrance and flavor ingredients do not need to be listed individually on cosmetic labels, because they are the ingredients most likely to be “trade secrets.” Instead, they may be listed simply as “fragrance” or “flavor” (Title 21, Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Part 701.3(a)).”

        2. The fact that Turkish barbers use Arko does NOT in any way mean that it is a very good soap !! The fact that the majority of Koreans drive Huyndais does not make them equal to Mercedes or Porsches…

          I know this is an open forum for anyone expressing their opinion BUT we should always try to help each other, not just punch through our preconceptions.

          1. So true! This is a discussion forum where anyone can express his personal and fair opinion. But the objective is not JUST to express one’s opinion (cf. Famous Clint Eastwood’s quote) but to share with the community one’s experience and receive advice from others.

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