Ever since I started making shaving videos, people have asked me what my favorite shaving products are. I’ve always resisted answering because I didn’t want to make it sound like I was making a blanket recommendation. But after all this time, my “short rotation” has been pretty stable for my circumstances (i.e. when I’m not testing something!) so maybe it’s time for me to discuss my favorite shave products.
I’m turning that old shave geek expression “Your Mileage May Vary” (YMMV) back on itself. These are products I like because of my personal circumstances. The two most important ones are that I prefer products that are strongly scented and lingering (I have been cursed by a relatively poor sense of smell), and that I have very “hard” water. I also tend to use products more roughly than usual, so a good build quality is a consideration too. I gravitate toward “milder” razors because of all the other products I try (if a product does not protect well I get razor burn on my neck fairly easily. I also seem to have a predisposition to ingrowns on my neck as well. A complication is that those shaving “boo boo’s” take a long time to heal. I just found out why, too: I was recently diagnosed with “late-onset” type 2 diabetes). So with that background in mind, here are my favorites.
Before The Shave Favorites
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If I shower immediately before shaving I don’t need to use a pre-shave product. Running copious amounts of hot water over my face, along with a moderate scrubbing with a soaked wash cloth (no soap), works well for me. For the times when I don’t shave immediately after showering, I clean and hydrate my face before shaving. My favorite pre-shave cleansers include:
- Musgo Real Glycerin Lime Soap (“MR GLO”). I don’t know what it is that sets this soap apart from other glycerin facial soaps (the touch of alcohol in the ingredients, perhaps?) but it consistently works to clean my face without over-drying the skin. And it has a great, natural lime scent too. Unfortunately it can be difficult to find in stock.
- RazoRock Artisan Lime Glycerin Pre Shave Soap was developed as a “MR GLO clone” and it comes admirably close. For me it may not work quite as well as MR GLO but the difference is subtle.
- Lucky Tiger Face Wash. My “gold standard.” A liquid vs. the soaps, Lucky Tiger’s product is chock full of great things like Aloe Vera, borage oil, cucumber, and Jojoba. This stuff not only cleans my face well it also is exceptionally hydrating to my skin.
Favorite Shaving Creams
I’ve tried a lot over the years. I currently have 35 shaving creams in the shave den, plus another dozen or so samples. Most perform very well but the ones that stand out for me include:
- Truefitt and Hill “Trafalgar.” I think this was my first “favorite” when I started wet shaving. I got a sample and when I took the first sniff I knew I was getting into uncharted waters (if you’ll pardon the Trafalgar pun). This terrific cologne-like scent really supercharged my shaving experience. Admittedly Trafaglar (along with T&H stablemate Grafton) is usually considered an “old man” scent. But, hey, I’m an old man. 🙂
- Speick. This German-made soap performs really well for me and it’s spicey, peppery scent never fails to impress me. It’s relatively low cost is a bonus!
- Castle Forbes Limes. I’ve often said that shaving with Castle Forbes Limes is like getting smacked in the face with a key lime pie. It’s probably the strongest-scented shaving cream I have–and that’s not a bad thing.
- William Neumann’s “Old Fashioned Soda.” Oh man, I love everything about this stuff. The scent combination of Orange, Lemon, Nutmeg, Coriander, Neroli, Cinnamon, Wintergreen, Clove, Birch, Star Anise, and Vanilla (that description is taken from the Neumann site) really does give it the feel that I’m sitting on a stool in an old-time soda fountain shop. And the performance is exceptional for me, even when used brushless: I have never failed to get a terrific shave from this cream. Quite probably my #1 favorite shave cream, my “stuck on a desert island” choice.
- Trumper’s “Violet.” Trumper’s whole line of shaving creams are excellent but there’s something about Violets that just seems to appeal to me. It was another very early “favorite” for me, probably because I did not realize how masculine a floral scent could be until I tried Violets.
For “brushless” products I prefer Cremo Cream and Lucky Tiger. Both get the job done well when I’m in a hurry and don’t have time for lathering with a brush.
Favorite Shaving Soaps
Yep, I have a bunch of shaving soaps too…28 pucks (not counting samples). Soaps seem to becoming more popular than creams: they’re probably easier for artisans to produce with ingredients that are both good quality and reasonably priced. There are many excellent shave soaps out there but these are my favorites:
- DR Harris “Arlington.” DR Harris’ line of old-school tallow shaving soaps perform exceptionally well for me and my hard water, but Arlington is the stand-out. Another cologne-like scent that just exudes “class.”
- RazoRock Don Marco. I have a number of RazoRock shaving soaps but Don Marcos gets the most face time by far. Generally their “La Familia” line works better in my hard water than other RR soaps for some reason and Don Marco’s Bergamot Neroli (“Bergamotto Neroli…think Orange Creamsicle” according the their website) is a very “Italian” scent to my nose (though I never thought of a citrus scent as being Italian to me until I used this soap).
- Crabtree And Evelyn Sienna. A couple years ago I started hearing rumblings from C&E that they were considering dropping the Sienna scent from their shaving line so I stocked up. Over the past year I have seen it appear and disappear from their stocklists, and now it appears to be gone for good. Such a pity. C&E’s prior generation of shaving soaps were excellent, glycerin-based but triple-milled for long life and luxurious performance. I have yet to try the ‘new’ line (actually there is just one completely new scent, West India Lime. The others are existing scents that have been re-launched) but reviews I have read indicate they are not as good as they used to be.
Favorite Shaving Brushes
I’ve collected quite a variety of shaving brushes over the years, 19 now, from my first grocery store boar brush from Burma Shave (ghastly brush…) to luxurious silver-tip badger models like the Shavemac Variable Loft Brush (the highest quality badger hair I have experienced). But I have discovered that–for me–the comfort of the brush handle in my hand is as important as what the hair is made of. These are the brushes I keep reaching for on my shelf:
- Shaveplace Havanna Handle. I bought this brush years ago from Emsplace (now Shaveplace) and it is still going strong, despite fairly rough use. Nowhere near “high end” as most think of it, the price is still quite reasonable. It is incredibly comfortable in my hand and makes lather like nobody’s business.
- Simpsons “Rover” Handle. This was a limited edition brush in “Best” badger that West Coast Shaving carried and my first full-size Simpsons brush (I have a Simpsons travel brush I got as a gift but it doesn’t see a lot of use). Up until then I had resisted buying a Simpson’s because I thought the premium for the name was not justified. I was wrong.
- Wet Shaving Products (WSP) Monarch in “High Mountain White” badger. I as impressed with the quality and value when I first bought it and I continue to be impressed with how it has held up to the test of time. It has a luxurious feel that belies it price.
When I first became interested in traditional wet shaving there were far fewer choices than there are now. Merkur was the 800 pound gorilla and pretty much the only choice other than vintage razors. Now there are established brands like Edwin Jagger and Parker, a number of excellent artisans like Above The Tie, and even some pretty decent Chinese knockoffs at the cheap end of things. But these razors are on the “short rotation” out of my 35 DE/SE razors when I’m not trying something new:
- Merkur Progress. My first “real” DE razor (the “first” being a cheap plastic Zorrik razor from India I found at an “everything’s a dollar” store), I have often said that you will have to pry my Progress out of my cold, dead hands. Yes, it has its quirks: the blade is bent quite dramatically so the angle that the razor is held at is quite different than most other DE razors, the handle could be more deeply textured for a better hand-hold, and the adjustment dial can only be described as ugly. Still, it gets 75% of my normal razor usage. The Progress just works so well for me under such a wide range of conditions and variables that it cannot be ignored.
- Bevel. Relatively new to my “stable” of DE razors, the Bevel shaves me pretty darn well. Though the handle took some getting used to, the somewhat mild razor sings when paired with a high performance blade like a Polsilver Iridium. And the head design makes symmetrical blade alignment a non-issue. You will have to get the entire Bevel kit–the razor is not sold separately–but it’s a good kit.
- Parker 92R. A lot of people like the Parker 99R but I prefer the 92. I really like the razor’s balance in my hand: it’s solid weighting, convenient TTO head, and middle-of-the-road shave aggressiveness just seem to “click” for me.
- Feather All Stainless (AS-D2). I was initially disappointed with the Feather All Stainless. I knew it had a reputation as a very “mild” razor but good lord it was difficult to get any kind of decent shave out of it. Then I tried it with a Feather blade. Dayum. It feels like I’m shaving without a blade but the stubble still disappears. 🙂 I have to be somewhat mindful of my shave using this razor because if I don’t I will almost certainly get a nick (or at least a couple “weepers”) but for a leisurely, luxurious experience the AS-D2 is hard to beat.
- iKon DLC Slant. Brand new to my “short rotation.” In the past I have not been a big fan of either iKon razors or DLC coatings. But this combination works for me. It can just plow through the heaviest, gnarliest stubble I have, without a complaint.
- King Of Shaves Hyperglide. Yes, a cartridge razor. Out of my 10 cartridge razors I use the Hyperglide when I am very short on time, or if I am travelling and don’t take a DE kit (e.g. flying with carry-on only). It’s the only recently-produced cartridge razor that does not feel like sandpaper running across my face. That I don’t need shave lather (if I prep very well) is a bonus.
I have discovered that a thorough after-shave cleansing reduces the amount of irritation and predisposition to ingrown hairs I get. I will do a warm water rinse then soak a cotton cosmetic pad in a toner, wipe down the shaved area, then follow with a cold water rinse. The products that seem to the best job for me include:
- Ursa Major “4 in 1” Face Tonic.” Its available in a bottle or as single-use Wipes. I take the wipes with me when I travel.
- Lucky Tiger “After Shave and Face Tonic.” Yep, another Lucky Tiger product. On really hot, humid days I will not rinse it off but rather use this as a light aftershave “splash” instead of a regular aftershave balm.
- Thayer’s Witch Hazel. I actually prefer the Astringent versions than the toners of this line. They just seem to clean better and since I usually follow up with a cool water rinse anyway it does not dry out my skin.
Aftershave balms tend to be a little tricky for me. 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:
- Trumper’s Skin Food. I normally use the Limes version in the Summer months or when it’s really humid. I’ve used Coral (really a rose-like scent) too but admittedly it’s an “acquired taste.”
- Village Barber Aftershave Balm. This balm is exceptionally moisturizing, particularly in the dry Winter months or in low humidity weather.
- Executive Shaving Intensive Moisturizing Balm. I just picked some of this up recently but it very quickly became a favorite. It strikes a balance between the other two products for me.
So there you have it, the products that I keep coming back to in my individual circumstances. I’m not recommending them to you but I am suggesting that you explore the products that are out there to find what works best for you!
Get Ready! 5 Pre-shave Soaps That Really Work
Lucky Tiger’s Success Comes From Decades Of Consistent Quality
Would Admiral Lord Nelson Enjoy This Shave? Truefitt & Hill Trafalgar
What Is The Best Shaving Cream?
What Is The Best Shaving Soap?
Hyperglide: Is King Of Shaves New Razor A Game Changer?
What Is the Best DE Razor?
Let the Great Bear Take A Swipe At Your Face: Ursa Major