shaving soap guide

The Shaving Soap Guide

With the rise of bottled body wash and liquid hand soap, real bar soap seems to be going the way of the DoDo. That’s a shame because the only real difference between bar soap and liquid soap is water, some added stabilizers and chemicals, and a bit of extra convenience. Shaving soap is a prime example of a classic men’s grooming essential that’s been overshadowed by its canned cousins even though the newer product is actually worse than what it attempts to replace!In today’s guide, we’ll share how to find a quality shaving soap, why it’s better than canned gels and foams, how to use it and recommend some of our house favorites.

Shaving during World War I

Shaving during World War I

Shaving soaps made their first appearance in the 14th century and were the only choice for shaving men until World War I, when shaving creams became widely available. Until today shaving soaps still remain in high esteem with shavers who savor the traditional aspect of the wet shaving experience, and with men who appreciate having a bit more control over one of the most important products used in a shaving regimen. It also happens to be long lasting, a good value, and no more difficult to use than canned shaving gels or creams.

Assorted Shaving creams

Shaving creams come in tubes and tubs and need a shaving bowl to be lathered

What is the Difference Between Shaving Soap & Shaving Cream?

The difference between a shaving soap and cream is basically the time and effort you have to invest to get a good lather. Shaving creams are easier to work, because they already contain some water, though they won’t last as long. If you use a good product, it is nearly impossible to make out a difference between the lather of soap and a cream. The advantage of a concentrated soap lies in the cost per shave; it is cheaper due to the fact that it will last much longer. Shaving soaps will last even through daily use over several months.

Applying lather to the face with a brush in a circular motion

A good quality shaving soap will thickly coat the hair

What Makes For A Quality Shaving Soap?

The oldest soap recipe in the world – containing oil and ash – came from the Sumerians. For over 5,000 years, the principles of soap manufacturing have remained essentially the same. Oils and fats are boiled with alkalis (sodium or potassium hydroxides) to create a soap base.

Buying Considerations

The essential function of soap during a shave is to act as lubrication between your skin and the sharp blade, in combination with water and heat to soften the hair. The cleansing aspect of soap is merely a bonus!

When you’re looking to buy a new shaving soap you want to take a few things into account:

Williams Mug Shaving Soap for as low as $1 per soap bar

Shaving soap in a bar form strips out unnecessary ingredients such as stabilizers for a high-fat, high-lubrication lather

Fat &  Glycerin Content. The best quality shaving soap contains a high level of fat (vegetable or tallow) and glycerin. Glycerin, ideally derived from vegetable oil, is important because it serves as a humectant, which locks in water and hydrates the skin. It is also an efficient emollient because it softens the beard and leaves the skin smooth and moisturized while creating an effective barrier between the blade and your skin. The fat content is essential because it provides the necessary lubrication and protection for the skin during the shaving process so that the blade glides over the surface of the skin without irritating or nicking it. The higher the fat and glycerin levels, the better the lather in most cases.  Ideally, the soap should have a fat content of at least 30 to 50 percent, though it can be hard to determine based on the label alone as ingredients lack percentages and are listed by their chemical names. The best indication of high fat and glycerin content is a rich lather that coats the skin thickly and lubricates effectively without requiring pressure; your skin should also feel soft and moisturized after shaving, rather than tight or dry. Good quality soaps are often milled multiple times, such as a “triple-milled” soap, which increases the profuseness of the lather and produces very creamy foam. Aside from reading reviews and seeking out tested and recommended products (see our list below), experimentation is usually the only way to test the fat and glycerin levels of a soap.

Price. Price and quality aren’t always correlated in the shaving product world, but it can be an indicator of quality especially on the lower end. Bargain bin brands cost less because they’re usually nothing more than bath soap disguised as a puck. They offer little to no protection and can cause significant irritation when shaving. That being said, a good quality soap that cost $25 may last you for half a year, which comes down to cents per shave.

Gillette may have a big brand name and low prices, but the product is inferior

Brand. When it comes to shaving soap it’s very important to stick with reputable brands. This does not necessarily mean Gillette or any of the products you’ll find at your local drugstore. Reputable brands have been around for years, have loyal followings, don’t rely on flashy marketing and claims, and have excellent reviews about the performance of their products.

Geo F Trumper's Almond Shaving Soap

Geo F Trumper’s Almond Shaving Soap; it smells good but won’t linger on the skin

Scent. For many, the scent is very important. Popular scents come in almond, eucalyptus, sandalwood, cedar, mint, lavender, rose and lemon. Sensitive skins should avoid fragrances and scents if possible, because they can irritate the skin. Men also need not worry that the scent of shaving soap will linger for long; since soap is washed off after a shave, it is usually added simply because it adds a pleasurable aroma for you while you shave.

 

The Gentleman's Gazette Shaving Guide

BrandAverage PriceWhere to BuyWeightPrice per Ounce / 30 gramsRating 0 -5Country of Origin
Acca Kappa$24.00Shop Now150 grams / 5.3 oz$4.804Italy
Arko$2.40Shop Now75 grams / 2.65 oz$0.964Turkey
The Art Of Shaving$30.00Shop Now94 grams / 3.3 oz$9.095USA
Boellis$50.00Shop Now250 grams / 8.8 oz$5.684Italy
Caswell-Massey$16.00Shop Now94 grams / 3.3 oz$4.853USA
Cella$37.00Shop Now1000 grams / 35 oz$1.064.5Italy
Czech & Speake$38.00Shop Now90 grams / 3.2 oz$11.885UK
D.R. Harris$15.00Shop Now100 grams / 3.5 oz$4.305UK
Edwin Jagger$9.00Shop Now65 grams / 2.3 oz$3.915UK
eShave$25.00Shop Now100 grams / 3.5 oz$7.144.5USA
Crabtree & Evelyn$9.00Shop Now100 grams / 3.5 oz$2.574UK
Geo F. Trumper$16.00Shop Now80 grams / 2.8 oz$5.715UK
Golddachs$15.00Shop Now60 grams / 2.3 oz$6.524.5Germany
Floris London$46.00Shop Now100 grams / 3.5 oz$13.145UK
Institut Karite$15.00Shop Now100 grams / 3.5 oz$4.283France
Kent$23.00Shop Now120 grams / 4.2 oz$5.483.5UK
Klar$28.00Shop Now110 grams / 3.9 oz$7.185Germany
La Toja$7.50Shop Now50 grams / 1.75 oz$4.284.5Spain
The Mens Soap Shop$12.95Shop Now100 grams / 3.5 oz$3.704USA
Mühle$11.50Shop Now65 grams / 2.3 oz$5.004Germany
Musgo Real$8.00Shop Now164 grams / 5.8 oz$1.385Portugal
Penhaligans$30.00Shop Now100 grams / 3.5 oz$8.575UK
RazoRock$10.00Shop Now119 grams / 4.2 oz$2.384Canada
Scotish Fine Soaps$21.00Shop Now100 grams / 3.5 oz$6.005UK
Speick$5.50Shop Now481 grams / 1.7 oz$3.235Germany
Tabac$15.00Shop Now125 grams / 4.4 oz$3.404.5Germany
Taylor of Old Bond Street$13.00Shop Now100 grams / 3.5 oz$3.714.5UK
Truefitt & Hill$26.00Shop Now100 grams / 3.5 oz$7.435UK
Valobra$15.00Shop Now150 grams / 5.3 oz$2.834Italy
Wilkinson$11.00Shop Now125 grams / 4.4 oz$2.502UK
Williams$1.50Shop Now50 grams / 1.75 oz$0.863USA

How to Use Shaving Soap

The traditional shaving soap is lathered up with a shaving brush in a container – a mug, bowl, deep dish, and a jar or directly from a stick. To build up a good lather, follow these steps, or check out our Shaving Guide for a complete video.

Lathering shave product with a brush and bowl

Use circular motions in the bowl to build lather

  1. Wet your brush under running hot water or fill up your sink with hot water and leave the brush in the water for at least a minute. A badger hair brush is always a good choice. Unlike synthetic fibers, badger hair is naturally soft and retains water like a sponge
  2. Make sure the brush bristles have soaked up the hot water. The point is to retain the moisture in the brush so that it gets directly to your face to soften your beard hairs and open pores. So, don‘t tap too much excess water off the brush.
  3. Lather up the soap using circular motions directly in the container. At first, the bubbles will appear large, but as you keep going, they will increase in number and become smaller and smaller until you can barely see them at all. After 25 seconds, you should have achieved a thick, warm lather.
  4. Apply and massage the warm lather with the soaped brush evenly across your face in circular motions. This will also increase the density of the lather, soften your whiskers, and allow them to stand up, allowing the razor to sit close to the base of the hair follicle. The longer you whisk, the richer the lather, the smoother the shave and the more your skin will be protected.
  5. Adding a touch more hot water will normally provide re-lathering for second or third passes, if required, without using more soap.
  6. Empty excess water from the soap container and leave it open so it can air-dry.

The Gentleman's Gazette Shaving Guide

Recommended Shaving Soaps

When we put together our shaving magnum opus, the Shaving Guide, we personally tested more than 150+ shaving products to see how they performed. Our expert testers have extensive experience with all the shaving methods (cartridge, DE/safety, and straight razors), techniques and tools. Finally, products were tested comparatively by the same team, so that only our best-rated products made it onto this list. Enjoy them without hesitation!

Edwin Jagger Limes & Pomegranate Shave Soap

Edwin Jagger Limes & Pomegranate Shave Soap

TOP PICK: Edwin Jagger Traditional Shave Soap – Limes & Pomegranate

Rich and luxurious, this is our top pick for shave soaps. It lathers easily with a high-quality shave brush and has a fresh citrus scent. Perfect for use with a DE or straight razor. Get the Edwin Jagger Lime & Pomegranate Shaving Soap here.

DR Harris Lavender Shaving Soap in Wooden Shave Bowl

DR Harris Lavender Shaving Soap in Wooden Shave Bowl

D.R. Harris Lavender Shave Soap

Well crafted with a lovely aroma, we enjoyed all the products we’ve tried from D.R. Harris. Truly a magnificent brand, we enjoyed the consistency of the product line but also liked the subtlety of the fragrances. For men who enjoy a softer, more elegant fragrance in a high-quality shave soap, this is a great pick for you. Get the D.R. Harris Lavender Shave Soap here.

 Col. Ichabod Conk Shave Soap

Col. Ichabod Conk Shave Soap

Col. Ichabod Conk Rio Grande Lavender Natural Shave Soap

One thing that Col. Ichabod Conk did well is stretch the imagination. They moved away from the standard scents and adopted a unique approach to aromas. We really enjoyed the scents, despite them smelling slightly synthetic. They’re not too overpowering but they will get noticed by those around you. This shave soap lathered fairly well, but we found we it was quick to dilute and needed about ten extra seconds of lathering with a brush. Get the Col. Ichabod Conk Rio Grande Lavender Soap here.

Our Best Shaving Content

Shaving is a ritual that involves products, tools, technique and knowledge to create a smooth, closely shaven face. Each man has different needs, and even though we love a deep dive into one part of shaving, we know that the Big Picture is just as important. To answer the many shaving questions and concerns that we receive from men every day, we put together the most comprehensive Shaving Guide out there. Take look at the video below!

Summary
The Shaving Soap Guide
Article Name
The Shaving Soap Guide
Description
All you need to know about shaving soap: How to find a quality shave soap, how to lather it & Comparison Guide of 30 products.
Author
Publisher
Gentleman's Gazette LLC
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32 replies
  1. Vito says:

    Wet-shaving is great. I have loved it ever since I discovered it a few years back. I use the Proraso Shave Soap and I love it. It’s a fantastic product. I’m trying to get all my friends to convert to this method of shaving. I don’t know why we ever left this for the cheap plastic replacement.

    Thanks for another great article! Cheers!

    Reply
  2. J.A. Shapira says:

    As an almost exclusive straight-razor shaver (safety razor on a busy day), I really enjoy shaving soaps and while I do use a cream as well, I find that the soap lasts that much longer. Currently, I use Truefitt & Hill shave soap and Taylor of Old Bond Street Sandalwood shaving cream. I’m very happy with both products and for anyone using the bargain-basement brands, I would highly recommend upgrading, regardless of what type of razor you use. You will really notice a difference. Just remember not to buy soap unless you have a brush to apply it with.

    Reply
  3. Martijn Koop says:

    Yeah, Alex, I like the l’Occitane too. Always great.

    For now sticking to my sandalwood Taylor of Old Bond Street soap though (next to the Oscar shaving cream that I sometimes use as well). I like it!

    Happy shaving!
    Martijn

    Reply
  4. Tim says:

    Thank you for this incredibly useful article. I would like to recommend that any readers steer AWAY from trying Williams brand shaving soap. I have used Williams for a few years now, as it is the only shaving soap stocked at my local supermarket, and I have found the lather it produces to be very poor. I was in fact surprised to see it rated as highly as a “3” on your chart! Rather than let my negative experience with a single brand put me off of shaving soaps altogether, however, I will use the resources you have provided here to try different brands until I find one to my liking.

    Reply
  5. Park Jacob Weatherby says:

    Greetings Mr. Schneider,
    I enjoyed this informative article on shaving soaps ( as equally as well as I did the one on shaving creams) my preference however is shaving soaps in addition after reading your information and viewing the videos I’ve been able to learn more about the preparation of shaving soap I know this will certainly enhance my shaving experience.

    Best Regards,

    P J Weatherby

    Reply
  6. Elliot Nesterman says:

    There is an inexpensive and little considered alternative to traditional shaving soaps, and that is Dove brand soap. It is formulated to be very gentle and its composition includes 25% moisturizers. It lathers well and the moisturizing cream in it makes for a smooth shave that won’t dry the skin. In fact, Dove is the soap most pediatricians recommend for newborn babies, which speaks to its gentleness.

    The only drawbacks are that it has not the cachet of manliness of shaving soaps and its oval shape does not sit that well in a mug. But it does give a smooth and gentle shave.

    But be sure to get the un-fragranced version, unless you want to smell like a maiden aunt.

    Reply
  7. Claudio Cannizzaro says:

    Funny coincidence! Just one day before you published this article I was in London and at Penhaligon’s in Burlington Arcade I’ve bought their shaving soap in wooden box.
    Despite my young age I prefere to use shaving soap, well my grandfather was a barber in his young age and I’ve learned some “tricks”, after this moment in My closet there’s no more foam

    Regards

    C. Cannizzaro

    Reply
  8. Lorenz says:

    Great advice, as usual. My main reason for using soap bars instead of liquid shaving creams is also that I can easily carry them as hand luggage when traveling. And usually they are more natural, without all that Sodium Lauryl Sulfath that just dries your skin…

    Reply
  9. Mike Sakas says:

    I’ve used quite a few of the above mentioned brands. Especially the British ones. When ever I visit London I buy a few from whatever shop I happen to pass. Geo Trumper if I’m on Jermyn looking for new shoes and shirts, or Regent street, Penhaligon. However, I have a hack to shaving that while it sounds complicated, results in my razor blades lasting atleast 6 months. I actully find I can’t remember when i last changed it or bought a new batch.
    First I do my shaving in the shower at the end of the shower.
    When I apply shampoo, I put some on the beard
    When I apply conditioner, I put some on the beard.
    When I rinse, I rinse the hell out of my beard. So in essence, my beard has stayed wet and lathered for the duration of the shower, without actually adding time to my routine.
    It then foam up the mug/bowl in the shower , apply , wait a few and shave.
    I wave the water out of the brush, blow off the razor and it sits on a shelf up high to dry.
    Moisterizer is applied after drying off a bit at the sink.. I am of Greek origin and have a heavy beard, No pseudo folectilitis barbe or any other problems.

    Reply
  10. Bob Sherman says:

    I’ve been using shaving soap from “Stirling Soap Company” in Arkansas for about six months, and have found the lather is comparable to the more expensive imported brands, with the added feature of a wide variety of scents (I’m currently using bergamot-lavender (they also have unscented soap available). The list of ingredients is:

    Beef Tallow, Stearic Acid, Distilled Water, Castor Oil, Potassium Hydroxide, Vegetable Glycerin, Essential Oil, Almond Oil, Shea Butter, Coconut Milk, Lanolin, Sodium Hydroxide, Sodium Lactate

    Reply
  11. John Bebb says:

    I have been using a safety razor and shave soap for many many years. I am a fan of Williams, partly because it is easy to find in my area and it makes a nice lather. I will look for some of the others to try now. But I don’t imagine I will try the most expensive ones, I just can’t justify it. One thing mentioned in the article and in the shaving guide that I just need to reinforce. For years I used a cheap shave brush-I don’t even know what the bristles were made of-and I used a lower quality razor as well. A year or so ago I treated myself to an upgrade to a badger brush and a higher quality razor with a longer handle. IT was a great experience. I wish I had done it a long time ago.

    Reply
  12. Attila Karpati says:

    My favourite is the Proraso, although, I didn’t try too many others. The cheap Wilkinson stick is good too, and I have a handmaid soap made by a Hungarian soapmaker.

    Reply
  13. Mark Jones says:

    I make my own soap mainly because store bought soap discs don’t fit into my mugs. There is a very good website with recipes for shaving soap. There are only a few ingredients. Soap base, bentonite clay, glycerin and fragrance. You can use your favorite cologne or aftershave. All available on the worldwide web. The soap base melts in a microwave. You mix up your recipe and pour directly into your mug. Perfect fit.

    Reply

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  1. […] I introduced our guide to shaving creams and shaving soaps, but there is another tool that is at least as important: the shaving brush.A few decades ago […]

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