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March Madness in August -The Scent-Free Soap Competition

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OK, “March Madness” may have come and gone but it’s still a great time for a NCAA tournament-style, head-to-head comparison of scent-free shaving soaps’ performances. Lots of soaps have outstanding fragrances, but it’s often helpful to have an unscented or fragrance-free product on hand. Maybe you’re going someplace where scents are inappropriate or perhaps you’ve got some unpaired scented aftershaves and balms that would work well with an unscented soap.

The Scheme

The articles will use the March Madness playoff scheme. We start with 16 unscented or fragrance-free soaps that editor Mark (@Mantic59) and I selected. The list doesn’t include every available soap because we had to have either 16 or 32 entrants, but it’s a good representation. We paired the soaps and put them into brackets for one-to-one performance comparisons. The higher-rated soaps from each pair will move to the Elite Eight and then on to Final Four, which will produce an overall winner and the runners-up.

Judging Criteria

Here are the ratings factors and scoring criteria:

  • Lack of noticeable scent
  • Easy lathering with shaving brush
  • Lather’s moisture retention on face
  • Lubrication
  • Protection
  • Post-shave skin feeling (not overly drying)

Points awarded for each factor:

  1. Poor
  2. Fair
  3. Good
  4. Very good
  5. Excellent

My experience with soaps has been that it usually takes a few shaves to dial in the water requirement and brush technique for optimal performance. Good soaps work better for me after experimenting with them for three of four shaves; low-quality soaps generally don’t improve with usage. To give the soaps a fair review, I plan to use each one exclusively for a week, which will result in three to four shaves. I’ll also spend time lathering each one on the weekend before I start using it to get a better sense of how much water and brush work it needs.

Other details: The hardware for the shaves is a PAA Peregrino brush and a Merkur Progress razor with Gillette Nacet blades. For aftershave balm, I’ll use whatever is on my shelf, including unscented balms, to check for any interactions with the soaps.

Fragrance-free versus Scentless

A quick explanation of two terms that get used with scent-free soaps. The result that your nose detects—no obvious smell from the soap—is what matters for most of us but there is a difference worth noting if you’re trying to avoid fragrances. Here’s an understandable definition from the Environmental Protection Agency (

  • Fragrance-free means that fragrance materials or masking scents are not used in the product.
  • Unscented generally means that the product may contain chemicals that neutralize or mask the odors of other ingredients

As with all Sharpologist soap reviews, we’ll list product ingredients.

The Line-Up

[Editor’s Note: Amazon and PAA links are affiliate]

Here are the pairings and brackets for the Sweet Sixteen Round 1:

Group 1

Chiseled Face Natural vs. Zingari Man Unscented

Wholly Kaw Bare Naked vs. WSP Rustic Unscented

Group 2

Declaration Grooming Unscented vs. PAA Scentless Handcrafted Scent Free (CK6 formula)

Mike’s Unscented vs. Chicago Grooming Co. (formerly Oleo Soapworks) Canard, Unscented

Group 3

Wholly Kaw Bare Serio vs. Shannon’s Soap NIL

Noble Otter Bare Shaving Soap vs. Captain’s Choice Unscented

Group 4

PAA Scentsless Scent Free vs. Talbot (Facebook page) Shaving Soap, Trust

Martin De Candre Nature Artisan Unscented vs. Taylor of Old Bond Street Traditional


I am paying for all the soaps myself (although the idea of a Go Fund Me page has crossed my mind when I see the credit card bills).

Upcoming Round 1 Matches:

  • Chiseled Face Natural vs. Zingari Man Unscented
  • Wholly Kaw Bare Naked vs. WSP Rustic Unscented
  • Martin De Candre Nature Artisan Unscented vs. Taylor of Old Bond Street Traditional


Ed McCarthy

Ed McCarthy

7 thoughts on “March Madness in August -The Scent-Free Soap Competition”

  1. I’m slowly transitioning to all unscented soaps mainly because I accumulate way too many matching scented soaps and aftershave. Right now one of the tops is Stirling Unscented with Bees Wax. Very good performer, highly recommend. However, t be honest I have not tried many and didn’t even know of some on your list.

  2. The beginning of the article identifies two valid reasons for wanting an unscented soap. I would like to add two other reasons for your consideration. First, the shaver’s skin may be particularly sensitive to scent ingredients, resulting in red ski, blotchy skin, etc. Secondly, the shaver (or spouse/partner/family member) may have legitimate medical issues that are irritated by scented shaving soaps; such medical issues could include asthma, COPD, heart failure (in which the heart does not pump a sufficient volume of oxygen to the lungs), and other medical issues.

    Just a thought for your consideration. Thanks for taking this project on. I will be watching closely.

    1. As this is the first time for this kind of thing we’ll jointly decide on issues as they come up. 🙂

  3. Great concept!
    It looks like it will take 4 weeks to decide, if there are no ties. BTW, what are you going to do if there are ties?
    It seems a lot of the criteria are subjective. Are you going to permit appeals?
    It also seems that a mediocre soap in a weak flight might advance while a very good soap in a stronger flight might not.
    What about those soaps that didn’t fit within your limits of 16 and 32? Do they have to play in the NIT of shaving soaps?

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