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What Is Patchoulli And Why Is It In My Shaving Stuff?

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Image courtesy of Despositphotos

Sharpologist’s continuing series on shaving scents continues.  We’ve previously looked at ingredients like Menthol, Tea Tree, and Sandalwood,  This article looks at patchouli.

Introduction: What is Patchouli?

Patchouli is a type of plant that is indigenous to southwest Asia and northeast Africa but is is now extensively cultivated in tropical climates around the world, though Indonesia currently produces over 90% of the global volume of patchouli oil. The name patchouli comes from the Arabic word for tar, which is why this plant is often called tar wood. Patchouli oil has been used in Eastern medicine for centuries, and it’s also used in perfumes and cosmetics.

More specifically plants in the genus Pogostemon cablin, P. heyneanus and P. plectranthoides are all cultivated for their essential oil, known as patchouli oil.  This fragrant oil derived from the leaves, stems, and flowers of Patchouli, extracted by steam distillation or cold pressing.

What are the benefits of Patchouli oil?

Patchouli oil has been used for centuries in traditional medicine and Ayurveda to promote well-being and aid in relaxation. Some of the claimed benefits of using patchouli oil include reducing stress, improving mood, and boosting cognitive function. Patchouli seems to have a calming effect on the central nervous system and has been used to treat depression, anxiety, insomnia, and stress. The oil may also be able to prevent seizures, which are caused by chemical imbalances in the brain.

Patchouli oil has a strong antibacterial effect against the bacteria that cause acne. It also has anti-fungal and anti-viral properties, making it an excellent treatment for fungal infections such as athlete’s foot, ringworm, and jock itch.  It can help reduce the appearance of wrinkles and age spots, and improve skin tone.

What Does Patchouli Smell Like?

The oil is used in perfumes and cosmetics.  Patchouli has a characteristic scent that is often described as earthy, peppery, or smoky. Some say patchouli smells like clove. Patchouli oil is a key ingredient in many colognes because of its earthy, woodsy, and smoky smell. The scent is said to be attractive to women and can add masculinity to a man’s scent.

What Are Some Shaving Creams And Soaps With Patchouli?

The use of patchouli in shaving creams and soaps, like that of colognes, is usually that of a “partner” rather than “star.”  Patchouli is usually used along with other scents to create particular scent “feel” or “vibe.”

There are a few shaving products with a straight-up patchouli scent though.  Tabula Rasa offers a patchouli shaving soap (US affiliate link, NZ link, UK link).  Mama Bear Soaps (US) offers a patchouli glycerin shave soap.

But you’re more likely to find patchouli as one element of shave shave soap or cream:

St. James of London Mandarin And Patchouli shave cream

Catie’s Bubbles La Terre Verte shave soap

Barrister And Mann Cheshire shave soap

Saponificio Varesino Cubebe shave soap

Summing Up

In my opinion, patchouli is a potent and full-bodied essential oil that works well as a base note in colognes, shaving products, and incense. In small doses it has a sweet, earthy and even spicy aroma. While I can’t speak to its use in traditional Indian or Tibetan medicines, I suspect it may have been used for a variety of ailments. I have found that the scent of patchouli is quite popular and useful in a variety of applications.



Shave tutor and co-founder of sharpologist. I have been advocating old-school shaving for over 20 years and have been featured in major media outlets including The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and Lifehacker. Also check out my content on Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest!View Author posts


5 thoughts on “What Is Patchoulli And Why Is It In My Shaving Stuff?”

  1. St. James doesn’t have any patchouli oil in it. Nor mandarin oil. Scent is completely from the “Parfum”

  2. Mike at Mike’s Natural Soaps makes a really nice Rose, Patchoulli, and Cedarwood that is one of my favorite scents and his soaps are quite good. It’s one that is always on my shelf. Ok OK… I went to college in the 70s, too. 🙂

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