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High-Priced Shaving Creams/Soaps: Worth It?

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lighter money to burn

Most product categories  have a range of prices, and traditional wet shaving products are no exception.  There are good, inexpensive products.  There are not-so-good, expensive products.  Then there are the highest-priced tier of products.  Are very high-priced shaving creams and soaps worth the cost–do you have money to burn?

I never thought Trumper or Castle Forbes shaving creams would be considered “bargain basement” until I came across some of the products here.

Acqua Di Parma

Acqua Di Parma Collezioen Barbiere Shaving Cream is available in a 2.6oz tube for $43 ($16.53/oz) and in a 4.5oz jar for $64 ($14.22/oz) on Amazon.  The scent has been described as “a really healthy dose of colonia:” top notes of citrus; middle notes of lavender, rosemary, verbena, and rose; and base notes of vetiver, sandalwood, and patchouli.  I have tried Acqua Di Parma and my poor sense of smell gets mostly the floral middle notes without much else.  For me and my hard water the performance is excellent but not noticeably better than a lot of other creams I use.

Martin de Candre

Martin de Candre (“MdC”) shaving soap is available in available in the original Fougere (fern), lavender, and unscented versions in 200g glass jars for about $70.  That’s about $10/oz….when it’s even available.  It is notoriously difficult to obtain and is often out of stock so it’s reputation sometimes reaches mythical proportions.

I have the fougere version.  It’s a very dense soap and it does indeed smell of fern.  But again, at least in my hard water, it does not seem to perform that much better than a lot of other, less-expensive shave soaps I have.

Santa Maria Novella

Santa Maria Novella shaving cream is about $70 for 7.8oz, $9.10/oz. and described as “coconut oil, menthol, eucalyptus, and camphor.”  I get mostly eucalyptus to my uneducated nose.  Apparently it has been reformulated recently and not as good as it used to be.  For me and my hard water it is adequate but no better.


Xpec shaving cream goes for about $75 for a 250ml tub.  That’s about $9.29/oz.  Another product that can be difficult to find (after go through a recent reformulation to remove parabens), the scent is…an acquired taste for many.  The scent is described as “notes of thyme, lemon, tuberose, fennel, pepper, ginger, cedar, and oak musk.”  Some users have a less-than-charitable description.  However a new, unscented version has just become available.

Many shavers say Xpec is the best shaving cream on the market. My own use of it is decidedly less impessive in my hard water.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s good (when I get past the scent)…but best…?

Are They Worth It?

As you can probably guess from my commentary above, the very expensive shaving creams and soaps I have tried don’t seem to perform well enough to justify the prices, at least in my shaving environment.  I can see paying premium prices for shaving hardware (razors or brushes for example) that is well-built and can stand the test of time.  But shaving creams and soaps, by definition, are consumable items.  When you run out…will you buy more?

What is the most expensive shaving cream or soap you have?  Why do you think it’s worth the price?  Leave a comment below!


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

24 thoughts on “High-Priced Shaving Creams/Soaps: Worth It?”

  1. I have a couple of MDC soaps, the Vetyver and Argumes, and I have to say I am very happy with them, both performance and scent-wise. Worth the price (37 British pounds, ordered from Scotland)? Not sure, but as long as the scent and performance is great, I tend to suppress what I paid for it … 🙂

    You mention a few times in this review that you have hard water and that performance isn’t that impressive, or at least not better than many other soaps. I’d have another whack at these soaps in better water to give them a fair chance to shine – could you adjust it with a chemical, for instance?

  2. I go for value over cost. If I’m able to get a sample first, I’ll usually go that route. If not and the funds permit and the item is held in high regard after doing some research, I’ll give it a go.
    If the difference in performance and scent doesn’t warrant the difference in cost (which, in my short-lived period of experience seems highly unlikely so far…) its most likely very easy to pass/move along. So when it comes to high cost soaps, there isn’t much risk involved because they retain their ‘intangible’ value.
    In a nutshell though, value over cost…always.

  3. I use 3 Martin de Candre shaving soaps, the Original, Fougere and Vetiver: in my opinion they are great soaps, with clean and natural but sophisticated scents. I believe I bought them directly (but not all at once) from the company in France, perhaps using some discount or in conjunction with other items, and, while expensive, they were less so than the asking price from retailers in the US. As with all luxury items, it is an emotional purchase, so all the talk about cost does not really apply here. All I know is that they make my nose (especially the Vetiver) and my skin very happy, and they seem to last forever…
    I also use Bayolea, which if I remember correctly I purchased directly from Penhaligon’s while it was on sale for about half the price. I have not used it much, but while not in the same league as MDC in my opinion, it is still an excellent soap with a very nice scent. These soaps are like luxury cars, they take you there like a budget car, but with greater comfort and style. I cannot afford a Rolls or a Ferrari, but a tub or two of Martin de Candre once or twice in a lifetime… why not?

  4. I don’t think there is a best cream or soap. It comes down to what is the best cream or soap FOR YOU…your skin type, shaving style, prep habits, beard type, facial contours, razor and blade choices, water, etc. As such…YMMV with every brand. I’ve tried tons of them. Including many you mentioned. For me personally and my OneBlade razor….Creams rather than soaps work best. My favs? Wm. Neumann Old Fashioned Soda, T&H 1805.

  5. I have read about most of those expensive soaps and from my own experience (50 yrs of wet shaving) it does not seem worth it. For years I used Williams Golden Yellow until it no longer was available. I’ve used Williams Mug soap, Van der Hagen or whatever I could find at the drugstore. At present I have a rotation of four soaps:
    Mitchells Wool Fat, Ogalalla Bay Rum, Pre de Provence 63, and Cella. All work well but behave differently. The Fat and the Ogalalla work best with my Omega Boar while PdP and Cella work better with my Badger. Remember this is shaving, Hot Water, a sharp blade and a little effort works wonders.

  6. 2 expensive soaps which are excellent :
    – Boellis Panama 1924 : the best shaving soap I know, excellent lather, natural almond scent.
    – Nuavia blue (there also exists a nuavia red), excellent lather, manly scent.
    My own comments on other comments:
    – Martin de Candre is better than most soaps, even if I find it too expensive;
    – Arko : it has an efficient lather but the scent of Arko soap is awful; I prefer Arko shaving creams, which are efficient and cheap, without the scent of the soap.

  7. The finest soap I have tried and is by far my go to soap is Boellis Panama 1924. It’s slick, it’s thick and builds great lather with little effort. Xpec – I can’t get past the smell and it lingers for hours. Martin de Candre will last a lifetime because it’s so concentrated, but for me it’s thin. Aqua de Parma is too expensive for a jar that will be hard pressed to last 40 shaves. And it’s hard to lather for my water at least. ABC I have had good days and bad. So my jury is out. The new Trumpers is terrible. D.R. Harris doesn’t get enough love. If I run out of money for Boellis and DR Harris, I’d go for Barrister and Mann Lathe line. It’s easy, loads of lather, and slick.
    P.S. I admit I have never tried MWF. But I don’t like the smell of wet wool or sheep. So I’m afraid to try it.

  8. I haven’t tried MDC, but I was fortunate to find two pucks, so I’m waiting for them to try them.
    My new favorite on your list is Santa Maria Novella. The aftermath is amazing. My face feels mosturized and the shave last forever, I can go a good eight hours and still feel smooth.
    The only other cream that offers a similar feeling is Castle Forbes, at half the price.
    I don’t mind spending money on a good product and that’s why I read your blog. Great reviews and objective analysis.
    Thank you!

  9. I haven’t tried MDC, but I was fortunate to find two pucks, so I’m waiting for them social try them.
    My new favorite on your list is Santa Maria Novella. The aftermath is amazing. My feels mosturized and the shave lasts forever, I ca go a good eight hours and still feel smooth.
    The only other cream that offers a similar feeling is Castle Forbes at half the price.
    I don’t mind spending money on a good product and that’s why I read your blog. Great reviews and objective analysis.
    Thank you!

    1. I have all the creams and soaps you mentioned, you forgot to add Antica Barberia Colla or most commonly called ABC.
      It is definitely a top performer and is my #2 after Santa Maria Novella, it cost $79 for the cream and $59 for the soap which I find to be better than their cream, the soap is 125g and this is one I would definitely buy again.
      Also would mention cream and the performance is right up there with Xpec, Aqua di Pharma and other higher end creams and soaps, it is only $30 for
      The latest among the high end soaps and creams is Nuavia Blu and
      Nuavia Rosa which is made by Panna Crema as a special edition. It comes with a heavy bowl for $64 plus shipping, unfortunately right now they don’t make a refill for it.

  10. I have tried many of the more expensive soaps, but I’ve never found anything to beat Arko for performance. The next closest thing I have used is Wool Fat. These are the creamiest, and best lubricating soaps I have ever used at any price.

  11. After hearing so much about XPEC I decided to give it a go. After hunting for to no avail, my wife found it & got it for my birthday. Not only was it expensive ($65 US I live norht of the boarder) but the S&H was another $30. That is one expensive cream. Granted it is a HUGE jar. The scent is definately not for everyone. First couple of uses it gave me a headache it was so heavily scented. It is a good performer for me, but as the article said when it is done would I buy it again…NO! I am fine with the cheaper & middle of the road products. My favourite scent is TOBS Eton College. As far as Acqua Di PArma goes I have never tried it, but bought RazoRock’s Stallion which is based on it. Considering it is a fraction of the price I will stick with that.

  12. Thank you for your overview! I agree with your assessment of a number of these soaps and creams though I have not tried them all. Like many others I prefer American artisan soaps with my favorite being Cold River Soap Works. CRSW ticks all the boxes that matter to me. These include performance, post shave face feel, scents and value.

  13. i have both MDCs in a place with soft water. I can’t consciously quantify the worthiness of this soap but I can subjectively say that they are part of the reason I enjoy shaving in the morning. MDC has a powerful scent, it is very dense, lathers great and it leaves a great feeling in your face. You could find a shaving soap that matches or beats mdc is some of its characteristics but not in all of them.
    I wouldnt buy acqua di parma soap because i already own two of its colognes, the original and essenza. Buying an expensive soap for its scent would be pointless in this case.
    I also bought a penhaligon puck to great disappointment.
    My conclussion on shaving soaps is that paying for luxury more or less tends to get you a better soap if you are a smart buyer. The curve of price to quality tends to go higher as you pay more. But its not proportional meaning you dont pay twice as much for a twice better soap. And along the way you find incredible deals that break the rules like mwf or tabac or tiki bar or pusher fancies.

  14. Your blog is already ruinned from the very beginning. Its the equivalent of saying supercars are not worth the money because you live in the congo where most roads are dirt roads and trying to make a general comment out of this context.

  15. It’s a lot of money for these products, so I probably wouldn’t buy on a regular basis … but I’d try them once to see what the big deal was about…!

  16. i think caties bubbles $20 8oz at $2.5/oz beats out in performance all of those soaps. I’ve tried most of them.

  17. I use ceo bigelow and williams. With the williams, I heat a cup of water in the microwave, pour it in the mug and take my shower. I use a well made bristle, a badger wont do, and all is well. I use a straight and the results are excellent.

  18. The most expensive cream I have is Castle Forbes Sandlewood and Cedar. $49.00. I will say this though, once I figured out how to use it (it’s a thirsty cream) the only one better in my honest opinion is Tabula Rasa.

  19. I have tried MdC and it is an awesome soap. However I think B &M soaps and Haslinger Schafmilch are awesome too and a quarter of the price. I don’t think these luxury soaps and creams are worth it at all. Do they give a 3 or 4 times better shave than other soaps? Nope. Even the ones with great scents seem kinda crazy to buy. The scent only lasts a few minutes after you rinse your face off so why pay so much for a scent?

  20. i think Trumper creams are worth every penny, I love their scents. I use a variety of less expensive soaps and creams that perform just as well though. I can’t see spending more for a cream or soap.

  21. Mantic, I agree with you that many of the more expensive creams and soaps are not worth it. However, I’d like to add that there are some soaps that may seem expensive because of the cost of the whole container, but the soaps last so long that the COST PER SHAVE is actually really inexpensive. (This happens with many hard-milled soaps.) Some examples of very inexpensive soaps–in a cost per have basis–are Tabac and Mitchell’s Wool Fat.

  22. Some time ago Penhaligons announced a new Sartorial shave soap which was getting rave reviews as it was thought to correct the poor performance of their reformulated soap. It was not yet available in the U.S., but my sister-in-law was going to London for a vacation and I impulsively asked her to bring me back a bowl. The price turned out to be $65 U.S. I like the scent and the performance is fine. However, I like Harris Arlington more at about half the cost. I also find the American artisan soaps I use to be at least as good – Mystic Waters, Mike’s, Strop Shoppe, among others, at 1/3 or less cost. I will continue to use Pens in my rotation but will feel no urge to replace it.

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