Proraso has been long renowned as a maker of shaving products for the European masses. No slur is meant by that, as the European masses generally have been a bit more demanding in their shaving requirements versus Average American Joe.
[Ed. Note: Amazon and geni.us links are Sharpologist affiliate.]
Most of we Americans are quite pleased to use cans of compressed air and goo to shave with, along with out multibladed wonders, while Euros have generally preferred simpler DE razors, though that trend is shifting a bit over time as Gillette and their peers tempt the EU with multiblade cart designs.
Proraso does indeed make cans of compressed air and goo for Gillette trained Americans and those who shave like them, but most of the Proraso line is composed of the older and somewhat more honorable tradition of shaving soaps and creams. I recently did an article looking at the “core four“ color line products of that lineup (Green, Red, White and Blue) but have also been curious about a new subsection of the Proraso brand, the “Single Blade” line, which seem to be branded towards shavers who use DE blades.
Per the Proraso marketing blurb, these are “high performance formulas” made “initially for use by professional barbers” and are “specifically created for use with a single blade razor”. The Single Blade Shave line (SBS herein) is offered in different scents from the ordinary Proraso line. There are three scents: Azur Lime, Cypress & Vetiver, and Wood & Spice, and each scent line has a pre-shave cream, a shaving cream, and an aftershave balm. I used the Wood & Spice cream for this review, as it was the strongest and most interesting of the scents to me as I sniffed them in the crowded aisles of Pasteur’s Pharmacy.
These products do not seem to be available on either Amazon or specialty online wet shaving shops like Maggard’s or West Coast as of this writing, but can be ordered directly from Proraso USA or from Pasteur’s online. Oddly, you can also buy them online from Walmart, but they are priced twice as high as the given Proraso list price, and are shipped from a WM affiliate. So maybe you don’t want to get them from there!
So what’s in this high performance formula and how does it compare to the rest of the Proraso line? Let’s take a look.
Proraso “Refreshing” Cream (aka Green): Aqua (Water/Eau), Stearic Acid, Cocos nucifera (Coconut) Oil, Potassium Hydroxide, Glycerin, Lactic Acid, Sodium Hydroxide, Parfum (Fragrance), Menthol, Camphor, Eucalyptol, Eucalyptus globulus Leaf Oil, Magnesium Aluminum Silicate, Sodium Metasilicate, Pentaerythrityl Tetra-di-t-butyl Hydroxyhydrocinnamate, Tetrasodium Glutamate Diacetate, Geraniol.
Single Edge Wood & Spice Cream: Aqua (Water/Eau), Stearic Acid, Cocos nucifera (Coconut) Oil, Potassium Hydroxide, Parfum (Fragrance), Glycerin, Oleic Acid, Lactic Acid, Sodium Hydroxide, Menthol, Eucalyptus globulus Leaf Oil, Sodium Metasilicate, Pentaerythritl Tetra-di-t-butyl Hydroxyhydrocinnamate, Tetrasodium Glutamate Diacetate, Alpha-Isomethyl Ionone, Coumarin, Limonene.
Hm, the formulas are quite similar. A core base of stearic acid and coconut oil is supplemented with glycerin. Both formulas also include menthol and eucalyptus, but the difference in face feel is significant, as Refreshing feels a bit cooling, while Wood & Spice has a very neutral perceived skin feeling effect. The two things that stand out (other than the polysyllabic tongue twisting preservative names) are the higher fragrance concentration in Wood & Spice (more on this later) and the presence of oleic acid in the Single Edge base. Other Single Edge scents lack the menthol and eucalyptus, so I presume those are present in this case as part of the scent mix in SBS Wood & Spice.
Oleic acid is an inexpensive moisturizer and skin penetrator that also has mild anti-inflammatory properties, and is naturally found in olive oil, among other sources.
Label Stock Versus Sticker Shock
At first impression, the similarity of the two formulas seems to suggest little to no difference between them. The SBS costs roughly 20% more than PR’s standard creams in the US, so the easily disgruntled might ask if adding a dash of olive oil (oleic acid) to the old formula really is worth $2 more.
The best answer to that question is “what does practical testing show?”. (And those details are upcoming!) Even without hands-on testing though, the answer is a qualified “maybe”. Why? Well, the ingredient list is not designed to allow exact copying of a given formula, so precise percentages or quantitative amounts of component ingredients are not specified in the ingredient list. Instead, as per EU standards, the ingredients are listed in order of comparative quantity contained in the package.
So, unsurprisingly, the biggest component of each formula’s base is good ol Aqua. But we see for instance the third ingredient in each PR formula is “Coconut Oil”. PR Refreshing might have hypothetically 17% coconut oil in the mix, while the SB base might have, also hypothetically, 21% of that oil in the mix.
As long as coconut oil is still the third largest element present in that mix, it will be in the exact same position on the label of both bases, but in one case, it has 4% more of a share in the mix. So even with the exact same label sequence, the amounts of ingredients present could vary between two formulas and that difference might not be reflected on the label.
Now don’t get me wrong. 4% more coconut oil will probably not make much difference in the comparative performance of two similar formulas. But conceivably a fancier and costlier cosmetic ingredient like hyaluronic acid could make quite a difference with a formula variance of a few percent.
All of this by way to say label comparers should not necessarily feel that Proraso is selling them old wine in new bottles here. Certainly I was hoping for some more obvious differences between the two lines (like maybe SB excluding coconut oil altogether) but as I said above, usage comparisons will be the most relevant measurement of the comparative merits.
Shave Comparison Between Proraso “Basic” and Single Blade creams:
- Shave 1: Wolfman WR2 1.05mm gap SB razor w Gillette Platinum blade (4th use) along with Doglaration B4 28mm badger fan brush.
- Shave 2: Henson “Medium” aluminum AL13 SB .85mm gap SB razor w Platinum blade on its 5th use, along with Maggard 24mm Timberwolf synth brush
As readers of my Proraso “basic” lineup review know, PR creams did not amaze me. They provided a decent shave for the money, but I felt tallow-based soaps gave me much better outcomes, and even other creams with different formula designs gave me a better and more comfortable shave. How does SBS cream compare to Green Proraso cream?
Better in some ways.
SBS cream is more persistent on the skin, and I felt better about shaving a second time over a lathered area of face after the first pass removed the lather present. This second pass, using “ghost lather” is a big difference for me in efficiency and comfort in the shave. If I absolutely positively have to re-lather for each and every pass over my face, the shave will take much longer and will use more product. After years of shaving, any soap or cream that needs this iron-clad rule to be used so as to give me a comfortable shave ends up being binned or shoved all the way back in the closet.
PR standard creams tend to fall in this category, leaving little useful residual lather after a pass. SBS was much more pleasant to use and feels more like a modern artisan shaving product, where resilient and persistent ghost lather is the norm. In other words, SBS adheres more closely to the skin, giving added comfort and protection even for multiple passes on the same lather application.
Also of note: the Wood & Spice scent notes were both pretty and powerful. We are not quite at the level of Nuavia Blu scent design here, but we are remarkably close for a $12 cream. The woodsy scent of W&S is nuanced by saffron and cumin, two very unusual scents in men’s shaving, and there’s a neat hint of rockrose giving some earth and balsam notes. The saffron is on the leathery side and cumin is kind of peppery and spicy. The eucalyptus also adds a bit of a harder focus to the woods side of things.
So this is a combination of both solid woods and a mix of interesting spices. The really oddball thing is how long-lasting and powerful the scent is. Most shave soaps and creams are over and done with by the end of a shave, but SBS Wood & Spice lingered for maybe an hour or two afterwards. It was also a really powerful scent when in use.
Missus K remarked from the other side of the house on the power of the scent and commented several times over the next several hours as to how she could still smell the scent on me. Sadly, my spouse’s favorite scent is “unscented”, so she was not overly pleased with Wood & Spice, either at time of my shaving nor in the lengthy “drydown” of the scent thereafter.
To even use the phrase “drydown” when discussing shave soap or cream is mighty unusual, and indeed I’m not really sure if I’d term this persistence and longevity an asset. I always suggest dudes who want to smell nice for long after the shave just use an EdC or EdP, and I see no real need to try and use a shaving cream as a fragrance replacement. Still, if the concept appeals to you, here’s your product.
I would note that the other three SBS scents I sniffed at Pasteur’s all had far less power and personality to them, so maybe Wood & Spice is a bit of an outlier even within the brand.
So more persistent lather, interesting and powerful smell. What else? Well, not much else that was better, alas…
Comparable In Most Ways:
My face ends up being moderately sore at the end of shaves with both Proraso standard cream as well as with SBS. The problem for me centers around the issue of coconut oil’s usage in shaving products. The issue is moderately controversial in shaving, as many shavers with more robust visages than my own report no problems with the oil of the coconut. A significant minority, including this writer, have skin that feels dry and irritated at the end of any shave with s primarily coconut oil based cream or soap whether it be Proraso, or by Catie’s Bubbles, or even Martin de Candre.
If a cream relies less on coconut oil as its main ingredient, or just avoids it altogether, my skin feels much more comfortable than with any use of creams like Proraso, TOBS, etc. Even very inexpensive creams can avoid using the dreaded Coconut of Drying Discomfort and still meet a low price point, so I remain a bit surprised at how so many Euro creams just automatically wedge the damn stuff in most creams and many soaps. Yes, it’s a cheap ingredient to use, but Cremo hardly breaks the bank and yet gives me an infinitely better shave.
Anyway, if we factor out the uncomfy coconut oil factor, which may be specific to this reviewer, the bottom line is that Proraso (standard or SBS) lacks what some call “cushion”, aka “protection”. Most tallow soaps, and some of the more unique creams like the two linked above, leave my face feeling fine and comfortable at the end of a shave, no rawness or burn. Proraso SBS on the other hand (and Proraso Green in the standard line) leave my face hungering for post-shave.
If I put some nourishing and comforting cream on ASAP, all is well, but if I were forced to run from my bathroom after the shave but before the post-shave care application, like in the case of a giant monster attack or zombie apocalypse, I would find myself sore-faced and distracted during the crisis.
Besides the dryness and general post shave neediness, SBS has roughly the same efficiency as Proraso standard cream. A nut sized dollop will probably last one for a full shave, and the $12 SBS tube is likely going to last the average user for between two and three months of daily shaves.
Comparatively Deficient in One Way:
Unlike Proraso Green, SBS when dispensed from its tube was very dry and hard to work. I usually apply a dollop of wet PR on a brush and face lather, but SBS felt desiccated and hard and tended to just fall off / out of a brush when dolloped there. Instead, I was forced to bowl or palm lather SBS to build the cream, which is obviously not an issue for those who already do things that way, and only a slight problem for we face latherers. Not really a big deal.
The SBS did lather much more easily with a synth brush rather than a badger, but that is really the case with most creams so I can’t say the SBS’ desiccation when dispensed was really an issue.
The Euro folks generally give shaving cream a 12 month shelf life on their packaging, so maybe we ought to take them seriously in this case. Pasteur’s sometimes keeps stuff on their shelves for lengthy periods, so maybe this was “vintage” Proraso SBS, accounting for its dryness. Note though I do not feel this desiccation impeded either lathering or the shave in any way; just initial handling is a bit challenging but once lather forms, all goes well.
Like when one describes a first date as “interesting”, my evaluation of SBS is rather mixed. I like the more vibrant scent, and its odd persistence is certainly fascinating, though not really my thing. The more persistent lather was nice, and certainly the performance of SBS is as good or better than regular Proraso cream in virtually all aspects. The 20% price increase seems reasonable to me for the much better scent alone, but users should not expect a radically different experience from that which they get with Proraso standard cream.
I feel the Proraso Red cream offers a better technical shave than either Green or SBS, and the sandalwood scent of Red is almost as nice as the spicy complexity of SBS Wood & Spice. The persistent lather of SBS is a nice point though. Ultimately given the slight cost different and the more interesting scents in the SBS line, I’d view the two lines as being largely interchangeable, especially for those who don’t object to coconut oil as the main ingredient in their shaving products.
And the adversarial elephant in the room for Proraso Creams remains Cremo – a domestically produced inexpensive cream that is as cheap as any Proraso, and also uses a much more modern formula design that gives me a much better shave. As long as Cremo is available, I doubt I will be using much SBS or Proraso standard creams.
About The Author: Craig has been writing for Sharpologist on shaving and fragrance since 2015.