Most wet shaving aficionados are all about the luxury experience. Most don’t mind paying more for products that give them what they want. There’s also the supply and demand concept at work. But that’s not to say you have to pay more for something that works great. I have my own “bargain” favorites but I recently asked around the shave forums for some other recommendations and I tried a few products that cost wayyyyyy less than they should, based on their relative performance.
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Bargain Creams And Soaps
There are actually several shave soaps and creams that have been around for a while and are well known as “bargains.”
Arko is probably one of the best known (if not the best known) “bargain” wet shaving product. It’s just stupid-cheap…so cheap that it can be difficult to find a single stick for sale because shipping might cost more than the product (Maggard Razors is one of the few US vendors where you can get a single stick). Amazon sells a two-pack for about five bucks (US).
Arko’s only real downside is its scent. It’s been described as “urinal cake.” Still, evaluating it strictly on its price/performance ratio, Arko is tough to beat.
Ingredients: Potassium Tallowate, Stearic Acid, Potassium Cocoate, Aqua, Sodium Palm Kernelate, Glycerin, Parfum, Paraffinum Liquidium, Cl 77891, Tetrasodium EDTA, Etidronic Acid, Disodium Distrylbiphenyl Disulfonate, Amyl Cinnamal, Citronellol, Geraniol, Hexyl Cinnamal, Linalool.
Palmolive Shave Stick
Palmolive Shave Stick, although available mainly in Europe, it can be found on Amazon US (for under US $3!). It’s scent is relatively weak and has been described as generally “soapy” with some spice (though one reviewer termed it as licorice and pine). For a trip down memory lane check out this review of the Palmolive shave stick on Sharpologist from a few years ago.
Ingredients: Potassium Hydrogenated Tallowate Sodium Tallowate Sodium Cocoate Aqua Glycerin Parfum Olea Europaea Elaeis Guineensis Tetrasodium EDTA Tetrasodium Etidronate BHT Butylphenyl Methylpropional Citronellol Coumarin Hydroxyisohexyl 3-Cyclohexene Carboxaldehyde Limonene Linalool CI 11680 CI 12490 CI 74260 CI 77891
Palmolive Shave Cream
Palmolive Shave Cream is in a similar vein, more widely available mainly in Europe but available in the US from online sources. Although the most common version is the “Classic” formulation, there are a few variants (mentholated, sensitive skin, lemon-scented, etc.). The scent has been described by some as similar to Irish Spring soap in the US: mild notes of mint and citrus.
Ingredients: Aqua Stearic Acid Glycerin Potassium Hydroxide Coconut Acid Cocos Nucifera Oil Sodium Hydroxide Parfum Potassium Chloride Sodium Silicate Cocos Nucifera Extract Hydroxyisohexyl 3-Cyclohexene Carboxaldehyde Limonene CI 15985 CI 42051 CI 45350 CI 47005
Stirling Shave Soaps
Stirling Soap Co. is a well-established artisan cranking out great products (like their new liquid body soap) at more-than-reasonable prices. In fact, they’ve earned themselves praise in the community for a wide selection of excellent shave soaps at a price point way below other artisans. Vendors such as West Coast Shaving, Maggard Razors, and The Shave Shack of Texas stock them regularly.
Ingredient example (Unscented): Beef Tallow, Stearic Acid, Distilled Water, Castor Oil, Potassium Hydroxide, Vegetable Glycerin, Almond Oil, Shea Butter, Coconut Milk, Lanolin, Sodium Hydroxide, Sodium Lactate
A fair chunk of the artisan crowd on the shave forums recommended Noble Otter, too. Relatively new on the scene they have quickly made a name for themselves with shave soaps that “punch above their weight” given their price point.
Ingredient example (Unscented): Stearic Acid, Beef Tallow, Coconut Milk, Aloe Vera, Glycerin, Potassium Hydroxide, Castor Oil, Coconut Oil, Avocado Oil, Lanolin, Tucuma Seed Butter, Kokum Butter, Sodium Hydroxide, Bentonite Clay, Tocopheral Acetate, Citric Acid, Watermelon Extract, Whitewillow Bark Extract, Tussah Silk.
Italian Barber’s reputation is to offer “high value” products, and some of their shave soaps are no exception. There are some particular stand-out products in other categories, too. Check out the other sections below.
Speick Classic Shave Cream
Speick is a personal favorite “bargain” of mine. Although they expanded the product line a couple years ago, the original shave cream is somewhat spicy (peppery) and has always performed way above its price tag for me. Widely available, too! Check out this review on Sharpologist from some years ago.
Ingredients: Aqua, Potassium Stearate, Potassium Palmitate, Potassium Cocoate. Glycerin, Sodium Stearate, Sodium Palmitate, Cera Flava, Sodium Cocoate, Cetyl Palmitate, Potassium Myristate, Sodium Myristate, Lavandula Angustifolia Oil, Valeriana Celtica Extract, Fragrance.
Bargain Shaving Brushes
Shaving brushes are the most expensive wet shaving item for some people to acquire, particularly if they’re are looking for high-end badger hair on handles made with exotic materials by back room artisans. That’s not to say you can’t get a brush that performs great for a reasonable price though. In fact, there are a few genuine “bargains” out there.
Razorock Blondie Boar Brush
I mentioned the Razorock Blondie brush in a recent Sharpologist article on the best shave brushes for your individual needs. As I mentioned in that article, it can take a while for the brush to break in properly, but after some use it performs as well as brushes costing much more.
Yaqi Synthetic Brushes
Granted some shavers have issues with Yaqi‘s business practices. But from the pure price vs. performance standpoint some of their synthetic shave brushes definitely classify as bargains! Their “Tuxedo” and “Cashmere” brushes in particular perform far above their price (under US $20). You can sometimes score a “factory second” brush well for under US $10. If you are uncomfortable with ordering off AliExpress, West Coast Shaving carries some Yaqi brushes, too.
Maggard Badger Brush
This brush uses upgraded “two band” badger hair for a price that is significantly below its competition.
Razors are the “bread and butter” of wet shaving, so there is a wide variety of razors in all price ranges. But there are a couple that deserve special mention for their price vs. performance value:
Razorock Game Changer
The Razorock Game Changer razor is a Stainless Steel razor that costs a fraction (half or better) of competing Stainless Steel razors. It is also available with an alternate base plate for a different blade exposure.
Maggard V3 Razor Heads
Maggard Razors off several versions of their own well-built double edge razor head, for as low as US $3.95. It uses a standard screw thread so you can add it to the handle of your choice if you already have one, or a handle from Maggard that runs under US $10. So you have an all metal razor with the aggressiveness of your choice for under US $15. Bargain!
I know it’s not really a priority with a lot of “old school” shavers but I think it can be a lot of fun to search around for products that work better than their price would indicate.
Do you have a “bargain” shave product? Leave a comment here so others may benefit!