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 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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
|Brand||Average Price||Where to Buy||Weight||Price per Ounce / 30 grams||Rating 0 -5||Country of Origin|
|Acca Kappa||$24.00||Shop Now||150 grams / 5.3 oz||$4.80||4||Italy|
|Arko||$2.40||Shop Now||75 grams / 2.65 oz||$0.96||4||Turkey|
|The Art Of Shaving||$30.00||Shop Now||94 grams / 3.3 oz||$9.09||5||USA|
|Caswell-Massey||$16.00||Shop Now||94 grams / 3.3 oz||$4.85||3||USA|
|Cella||$37.00||Shop Now||1000 grams / 35 oz||$1.06||4.5||Italy|
|Czech & Speake||$38.00||Shop Now||90 grams / 3.2 oz||$11.88||5||UK|
|D.R. Harris||$15.00||Shop Now||100 grams / 3.5 oz||$4.30||5||UK|
|Edwin Jagger||$9.00||Shop Now||65 grams / 2.3 oz||$3.91||5||UK|
|eShave||$25.00||Shop Now||100 grams / 3.5 oz||$7.14||4.5||USA|
|Crabtree & Evelyn||$9.00||Shop Now||100 grams / 3.5 oz||$2.57||4||UK|
|Geo F. Trumper||$16.00||Shop Now||80 grams / 2.8 oz||$5.71||5||UK|
|Golddachs||$15.00||Shop Now||60 grams / 2.3 oz||$6.52||4.5||Germany|
|Floris London||$46.00||Shop Now||100 grams / 3.5 oz||$13.14||5||UK|
|Institut Karite||$15.00||Shop Now||100 grams / 3.5 oz||$4.28||3||France|
|Kent||$23.00||Shop Now||120 grams / 4.2 oz||$5.48||3.5||UK|
|Klar||$28.00||Shop Now||110 grams / 3.9 oz||$7.18||5||Germany|
|La Toja||$7.50||Shop Now||50 grams / 1.75 oz||$4.28||4.5||Spain|
|The Mens Soap Shop||$12.95||Shop Now||100 grams / 3.5 oz||$3.70||4||USA|
|Mühle||$38.25||Shop Now||65 grams / 2.3 oz||$2.39||4||Germany|
|Musgo Real||$8.00||Shop Now||164 grams / 5.8 oz||$1.38||5||Portugal|
|Penhaligans||$30.00||Shop Now||100 grams / 3.5 oz||$8.57||5||UK|
|RazoRock||$10.00||Shop Now||119 grams / 4.2 oz||$2.38||4||Canada|
|Scotish Fine Soaps||$21.00||Shop Now||100 grams / 3.5 oz||$6.00||5||UK|
|Speick||$5.50||Shop Now||481 grams / 1.7 oz||$3.23||5||Germany|
|Tabac||$15.00||Shop Now||125 grams / 4.4 oz||$3.40||4.5||Germany|
|Taylor of Old Bond Street||$13.00||Shop Now||100 grams / 3.5 oz||$3.71||4.5||UK|
|Truefitt & Hill||$26.00||Shop Now||100 grams / 3.5 oz||$7.43||5||UK|
|Valobra||$15.00||Shop Now||150 grams / 5.3 oz||$2.83||4||Italy|
|Wilkinson||$11.00||Shop Now||125 grams / 4.4 oz||$2.50||2||UK|
|Williams||$1.50||Shop Now||50 grams / 1.75 oz||$0.86||3||USA|
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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Adding a touch more hot water will normally provide re-lathering for second or third passes, if required, without using more soap.
- Empty excess water from the soap container and leave it open so it can air-dry.
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!
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.
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 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!