Table of Contents
And speaking of lather, this guide will help you identify and understand how to get the very best shaving soap for men. So that you can appreciate not only the outstanding results and performance but also the ritual and pleasure of a traditional shave.
Here at The Manliness Kit we had the great joy of covering several wet shaving topics in the past. And the time has come to cover my favorite traditional wet shaving software – the shaving soap.
Even before I started this blog, I was particularly interested in shaving with shaving soaps.
I inherited a skin prone to irritation from my dad. And it wasn’t until I shaved with a soap that I started appreciating a great close shave with a razor. It’s not only the rich cushioning of the lather that convinced me but more like the amazing slickness certain soaps give you.
Besides these two great features, the refreshing feeling that some brands give you after you splash your face with cold water is second to none when it comes to lathering products.
Coming closer to the present, once I started this blog, I’ve had the chance of trying out a lot more soaps. And to be honest, these are way more than I can handle and I’ve got tens waiting for me in their original packaging.
Last time I checked, I had more than 15 that I used maximum 5 times and another bunch that I haven’t even started shaving with. I guess that’s one of the perks of writing for The Manliness Kit.
It’s a lot of fun.
Luckily, most of the soaps I’ve shaved with, left me very satisfied with their performance, though I would consider only a few of them top of the line.
There’s no doubt that getting and using one isn’t rocket science. However, there are a few things that you can bear in mind before getting one. And these criteria may be the ones that will determine the shaving soap that is best for your needs.
In this post, I will share with you the greatest shaving soap based on several criteria, filtered by my experience and preference.
Even though this guide is a bit biased based on what I like in a wet shaving set up, you’ll find useful information. First, on what to look for before you get one and next, the shaving soap that is ideal for sensitive skin, for cushioning, for slickness and for the price.
There are hundreds, if not thousands of brands and products which makes it rather hard to pick only one soap that scores high on all criteria.
Needless to say that I haven’t tried not even close to half of the shaving soaps that are out there. There’s a great chance that I may have missed some really great ones. This is why I’ll be focusing on the 5 shaving soaps that I consider great, according to my experience. These are the following:
The 5 best shaving soaps for gentlemen
- Proraso Shaving Soap, Menthol
- Col. Conk Shaving Soap Bay Rum
- Taylor of Old Bond Street Shaving Soap, Sandalwood
- D. R. Harris & Co Marlborough Shaving Soap
- Tabac Original Shaving Soap
Before we dig into the details of each one of them, I’ve got a quick table for you that shows the most important features for each product.
Later on, we’ll get an understanding of what a shaving soap is and the criteria to consider before getting one. Lastly, we’ll discuss each of the 5 shaving soaps separately so I can help you decide what is more suitable for you.
Now, go ahead and have a look at the table first.
Here are top 5 shaving soaps reviewed today:
The 5 Best Shaving Soaps For Men
|Proraso||Col. Conk||Taylor of Old Bond Street||D.R.Harris||Tabac Original|
|Country of Origin||Italy||USA||England||England||Germany|
|Size||5.2 oz / 147 gr||2.25 oz / 64 gr||3.5 oz / 100 gr||3.5 oz / 100 gr||4.4 oz / 124 gr|
|Scent||Menthol & eucalyptus||Bay rum||Sandalwood||Floral, woodsy & cedar||Old fashioned, floral|
|Ease of use|
|Value for money|
What’s a shaving soap really and what makes one better than others?
Despite popular beliefs, shaving soaps aren’t as old as one would assume. Believe it or not, they’ve been around for no more than 150 years.
To put this in the right perspective, this is really negligible compared to shaving creams that first appeared thousands of years ago in their primal form.
Shaving soap is much more than a normal soap and some basic chemistry can build the foundation of my arguments. Or at least, I’ll try to give you an overall idea with my far from decent knowledge in chemistry.
More specifically, the ingredients a soap contains is all that matters to make it better than its peers.
Animal and plant fat
Shaving soaps are surfactants and they’re all made in a similar way, sharing common ingredients and characteristics.
The main ingredient of a shaving soap is fat, either animal or plant fat. When it comes to animal fat this is usually tallow, either beef or sheep fat.
When it comes to choose the type of fat that a soap should have, a great alternative or even addition to tallow is natural plant oils. Plant oils can be anything from olive oil to coconut oil, palm oil and others.
Now comes the interesting part.
In order for the soap to produce lather, the fat has to be mixed with alkali as a saponification agent.
The most common alkalis used in soaps are potassium hydroxide and sodium hydroxide. When the soap and the saponification agent come in contact with water, lather is produced with the help of a shaving brush.
Let’s dig a little deeper in these alkalis, shall we?
Potassium Hydroxide – Sodium Hydroxide
Both of them are common in shaving soaps. Soaps that have higher potassium hydroxide are generally softer than the ones that contain sodium hydroxide.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t use both of them in the same product.
Potassium hydroxide is found in shaving soaps more often than other soap types. And there’s a good reason why.
It produces thick lather that is so much needed for for cushioning and ultimately,for a comfortable shave. And just because it makes a softer soap, it loads on the brush without too much effort.
Besides the above mentioned ingredients, soaps contain other crucial components that determine the appearance, properties and performance.
Here’s what we have in random order.
Glycerin is added as a humectant and it moisturizes the skin while offering lubricity so that the razor cuts the beard hair easily minimizing the chances of a razor burn.
Stearic acid is a fatty acid that is found in shaving soaps in two ways.
Either as an ingredient derived from plant extracts like mango, coconut and other natural products or indirectly from animal fats that are already part of the shaving soap mix.
The purpose of using stearic acid is to help the soap to produce thick and dense lather.
Chelating agents such as Tetrasodium EDTA and Pentasodium Pentetate are the ones that make the lather more stable. There are a few controversial opinions of some chelating agents whether they pose a health threat but there’s hardly any evidence that proves something that should make you worry.
Fragrances are also common in shaving soaps. These are either synthetic or all natural. The natural fragrance is normally coming from a blend of essential oils..
Top shaving soaps criteria.
Ease of use
This refers to several things when using a shaving soap.
First and foremost, a great shaving soap should be easy when it comes to loading the shaving brush. The softer a shaving soap is, the easier it loads.
Then, it’s preferable to build lather quickly and without too many swirls in the shaving bowl or on your hand while maintaining the necessary slickness and moisture.
It might also refer to the ideal amount of soap and water that is required for building good lather. Some soaps need less experimentation, until you find the right percentages, than others.
Finally, once you build the lather, it’s important to be able to apply it with your shaving brush on your face while maintaining all the properties we mentioned, plus decent cushioning.
Even though it’s not considered crucial when it comes to a shaving soap, cushioning is important for stopping the razor from digging into the skin.
This happens by making the blade or the razor head float and preventing razor burns as well as nicks and cuts.
Cushioning is heavily dependent on the type of ingredients a shaving soap contains and more particularly, the saponification agents and certain fatty acids like stearic.
Besides cushioning, slickness is possibly the number one reason why you want to buy a good shaving soap.
When talking about slickness, we refer to a thin layer on the skin that prevents the razor from creating friction on the surface of your skin. The slicker a shaving soap is, the more comfortable the shave. Additionally, the hair is cut easier and you also get a closer shave.
We talked briefly about the most common ingredients a good number of shaving soaps share.
Though, there are certain ingredients that really separate the mediocre soaps from the best.
By that, we don’t mean only the difference they make in terms of performance. You’ll also want to get a product that consists of natural ingredients -where possible, while keeping an eye on the potentially harsh chemicals.
That being said, you shouldn’t overlook the chances that harsh chemicals might cause irritation and infections. This could be a convincing reason why you might want to reconsider the type of shaving soap you want to use.
The way a shave soap smells has nothing to do with performance. However, the least you want to do is getting one that you hate. After all, keep in mind that there’s a very limited number of products that will get closer to your nose than the lather. So, you better like what you smell.
In most cases, shaving soap producers add natural fragrance which tends to be a blend of all natural essential oils.
There are brands however, that include synthetic ones that might contain alcohol. Generally, if you have a sensitive skin that’s prone to irritation, you might want to avoid any soap containing alcohol or byproducts of alcohol in the mix.
This is the criteria that might make it or break it for some soaps.
As in most of your purchases either this is online or offline, it’s not the final price that matters but more like the cost per given quantity of product that you get.
Next, you want to read reviews when/where possible and understand if the soap, no matter the size, actually lasts a considerable amount of time.
Generally speaking, all soaps last longer than any other lathering product, including creams, pressurized foams, gels, etc. At least, this is what I observed over the years.
In this post, most reviewed shaving soaps are priced between $5 and $25. Even the one with the highest price isn’t necessarily expensive since it comes with a nice wooden bowl. If you choose the refill instead, you should expect to pay way less.
No matter the soap you get, it’s going to last you a few good months even if you wet shave on daily basis. That could be anything between 3 and 10 months even with daily use.
Now let’s get to the details of each shaving soap.
What is the best shaving soap for men who appreciate tradition?
The shaving soaps that I reviewed and the assessment of the criteria mentioned above are heavily affected by the hardness of water in my area as well as my shaving routine and technique.
With this in mind, I’d like to note that when I say that some shaving soaps are better than others, my opinion is somewhat biased in that respect.
Without wasting any more time, here are my findings.
Proraso Shaving Soap, Menthol
|Water||Stearic Acid||Coconut Oil|
|Potassium Hydroxide||Sodium Hydroxide||Glycerin|
|Lactic Acid||Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate||Menthol|
|Camphor||Eucalyptol||Eucalyptus Globulus Leaf Oil|
|Pentaerythrityl Tetra-di-t-butyl Hydroxyhydrocinnamate||Tetrasodium EDTA||Hydroxyethylcellulose|
I’ve used a good number of products from Proraso already and If my memory serves me right, it’s the first ever shaving soap I’ve used.
Even though it’s been years since I first tried it out, there’s a good reason why I’m still including it in my shaving sessions from time to time.
First of, it comes in a durable round plastic container. Not that it’s going to break on the way but it makes it perfect for storing it once you’re done shaving. It’s also perfect for travelling with it.
As for the shave, it’s a pleasure. Loading the brush is very easy as it’s among the softest soaps you’re going to use. It feels something between a soap and a cream.
You only need a bit of water on the shaving brush, tap it in the soap and start swirling in the shaving bowl.
The lather doesn’t take more than 40 seconds to build, though, you need a shaving brush with enough moisture retention.
The cushioning of the Proraso shaving soap is fairly thick and creamy and gives you the impression that you’ve got whipped cream on your face.
One of the things that could do better is the lubrication.
It’s definitely not something you should worry about and it will surely give you a slick shave. For guys with thicker beards, it might seem that it’s not slick enough. One way to improve this is to mix it with other soap or glycerin, or even lather it after applying a good pre shave oil on your face.
I’ve used it with all types of shaving brushes but I found that it’s performing much better with the ones that have soft bristles. More specifically, I liked it how it works with badger and synthetic shaving brushes.
It’s not that it doesn’t lather well enough with horse or boar. I feel that, as with creams, you load and lather a soft soap better and faster with soft bristles rather than with stiff ones.
As for the scent, it’s a refreshing menthol and eucalyptus blend that gives you a great feeling once you’re done shaving and splash cold water on your face. I wouldn’t recommend it for guys with sensitive skin though as you might experience some irritation.
Price wise, it’s more like on the low side and it’s one of the better shaving soaps you can get within a range of $5-$15.
In my opinion, this is the shaving soap that you want to get as a beginner. Needless to say, that all wet shavers, including experienced ones, enjoy a great shave with this product.
Col. Conk Shaving Soap Bay Rum Scent
|Triethanolamine||Glycerin||SLES (variation of sodium Laureth Sulfate)|
|DI Water||Propylene Glycol||Soap Flakes|
|Stearic Acid||Tetrasodium EDTA||Titanium Dioxide|
Col. Conk is very popular brand when it comes to wet shaving. And if you ask me, their shaving soaps should be their flagship.
The first thing that you notice when you get the soap is the unimpressive size.
But don’t be so quick to judge.
It comes in a small plastic case that you can remove afterwards and place it anywhere you like.
Personally, I melted placed the soap in a ceramic bowl that I’ve got, placed in the microwave and waited until the soap is melted. This way, I got the shaving soap in my favorite bowl.
Tip: If a shaving soap is produced with cold process, heating it up isn’t going to work and you’ll deteriorate the soap.
Let’s talk a little bit about the performance.
If you’re new to wet shaving, you might have some difficulties building a good lather with this soap.
So, why is that?
First of all, you need more water than most soaps. At least, more than the soaps that I’ve personally used.
Here’s how it looks like.
You load the brush, swirl in the bowl, add a bit of water and you start again with loading and so on. You might have to repeat two or three times until you get a rich lather.
Once you succeed, you start painting your face with the lather. You might notice that it starts dissipating after a while, especially if you don’t shave quickly enough. Again, that’s not something to be worried about. The slickness is still there.
Speaking of slickness, this is really the best feature of this soap and the main reason to give it a go.
Even though it’s one of the cheapest shaving soaps you can get out there, the slickness is of a premium product.
With this shaving soap, the razor can shave the thickest beard without too much effort while it doesn’t gunk up the razor. If I can make a guess, I would attribute its great slickness to the amount of glycerin this shaving soap contains.
The scent of the particular shaving soap is Bay Rum. This might not be the best scent for every man since it’s a traditional scent. As some guys might say, it smells old.
However, there’s the lime scent which is refreshing and uplifting with same performance.
Wrapping this soap up, the price can’t be beaten. With less than $6 is probably the top shaving soap you can get for this price.
In my opinion, every wet shaver needs to try this soap at least once in their life.
And why not? it’s got good performance and it comes with the price tag all men appreciate.
Taylor of Old Bond Street Shaving Soap, Sandalwood Scent
|Potassium Palmate||Sodium Palmate||Potassium Palm Kernelate|
|Sodium Palm Kernelate||Glycerin||Aqua|
|Parfum||Palm Kernel Fatty Acid||Sodium Chloride|
|Pentasoidum Pentetate||Tetrasodium Etidronate||Linalool|
|Butylphenyl Methylpropional||Citral||CI 77891|
I’m a big fan of Taylor of Old Bond Street and I’ve used quite a few shaving creams in the past.
In fact, I’ve shaved with their cream that has the same Sandalwood scent.
And since I mentioned the cream, I must say that I’ve got trouble deciding what’s best, the shaving soap or the cream.
This soap gives you a feeling reassurance that you made the right choice buying it. And this is obvious from the moment you unveil the soap from the package.
The first thing that you notice. It’s the manly, yet refreshing scent. And you can smell it even before you start building the lather. When you’re done shaving, the scent is going to stay with you a little longer.
The particular shaving soap is coming without the bowl and that’s why there’s a “refill” description on its label. That being said, you can get the same shaving soap with its respective shaving bowl with only a few more dollars -which by the way is awesome.
Speaking of which, you can place the soap either in a bowl you already have. Though keep in mind that it’s a fairly wide soap and won’t fit in many containers such as cups or mugs.
Let’s talk a little bit about the lather. I would say that it’s easier to produce it compared to previous soaps we discussed.
You only need a shaving brush that is previously soaked in warm water and you can start loading it. Maybe you need to insist a bit more on loading compared to other soaps like, for example, Proraso.
This is also why a shaving brush with a good backbone does a great job both in not only loading but also building the lather.
The good thing is that it doesn’t require too much water for the lather to start thickening. After a few swirls in the shaving mug/bowl, you notice that something good is happening -and it’s happening fast.
When you apply the lather on your face, you notice an excellent slickness and enough cushioning that prepares you well enough for an unforgettable -in a good way, shave.
Now that I said shave, yes, it’s as good as you anticipate after building this nice and rich lather. The razor glides nicely without getting stuck on the face and gives you a smooth experience.
When you’re done shaving and you rinse it all off, you still detect the sandalwood scent while keeping a slick and refreshing feeling from your wet shaving session.
Lastly, this shaving soap will last you at least three months with daily use. Depending on the number of passes, frequency and shaving technique, it might last you even up to a year.
It might not be the cheapest soap reviewed here but it is certainly one of the best shaving soaps you can get for the money and enjoy a barber-like shaving experience.
D. R. Harris & Co Marlborough Shaving Soap
|Potassium palmate||Sodium tallowate||Sodium palmate|
|Sodium palm kernelate||Aqua||Potassium palm kernelate|
|Petrolatum||Palm Kernel acid||Orthotolyl biguanide|
|Citral Tetrasodium etidronate||Pentasodium pentetate||Tetrasodium EDTA|
Just like with the Taylor of Old Bond Street shaving soap, I tried the D.R.Harris & Co shaving cream before I actually use their soap.
D.R.Harris & Co is probably one of the most premium producers of wet shaving supplies in UK and, not to mention, one of the oldest in world. These are only a few reasons why we’re talking about a top of the line product.
You’ll find this shaving soap in several scents. Though, the one I tried is the Marlborough because it seemed to me the most unique.
A complicated woodsy and floral blend. You notice some cedar afternotes (quite expected) while remaining very masculine. Although it might seem relatively strong, I really liked the scent while shaving.
Every shaving soap from D.R.Harris & Co is a unique masculine experience.
First the lather. It’s built easily with any brush I tried it with. Either stiff or soft bristles, there was no problem building a creamy lather.
When you apply it on your face, the lather remains rich without losing any hydration. It doesn’t dissipate quickly and this also allows you some time to enjoy shaving without rushing.
The slickness is also one of a kind. I’ve used it with all my safety razors -and mach 3 that happens to be the only cartridge razor I use. The razor cuts the hair effortlessly and there’s hard to say if there’s any time during shaving that the razor doesn’t make a comfortable pass.
Lastly, the reviewed shaving soap comes with a high quality wooden bowl where you can store your D.R.Harris & Co shaving soaps refills.
Just like with the Taylor of Old Bond Street soap, you can get the soap without the bowl and you can place it in a different container that you deem suitable.
In terms of pricing, this is the most expensive product among the reviewed ones in the post. On the one hand it’s a pricier brand, and on the other, it’s the only one that comes with a wooden bowl.
Speaking of the value, it will last probably between three to five months with daily shaving. If this isn’t your only lathering product, it will surely last you for quite a long time and you’ll enjoy it even longer.
All in all, leaving aside the cost factor, this is a great shaving soap for sensitive skin. One reason is the slickness and the other are the great ingredients. It’s also perfect for guys that want to experience the ultimate wet shaving experience. And what’s better than getting a soap from one of the most premium suppliers in the world.
Does it worth the money? In my opinion, hell yeah..
Tabac Original Shaving Soap
|Potassium Stearate||Sodium Stearate||Potassium Tallowate|
|Potassium Cocoate||Parfum||Sodium Cocoate|
|Sodium Tallowate||Potassium Hydroxide||Tetrasodium EDTA|
|Tetrasodium Etidronate||Sodium Hydroxide||CI 77891|
|Benzyl Salicylate||Geraniol||Cinnamyl Alcohol|
Last but not least, we’ve got the Tabac Original shaving soap. Another European brand, and this time, from Germany.
I got this shaving soap after I read some really raving reviews on shaving forums. All of them praising the outstanding wet shaving experience this product gives you.
It’s not the first time that I’m trying the particular brand. In fact, Tabac Original was one of the first brands that I used when I started shaving and more particularly, it was their aftershave.
Speaking of the aftershave, this shaving soap reminds me the exact same masculine and classy scent.
I’m not the best in describing scents but if I’m not wrong, the particular soap smells floral and very old fashioned. Almost like a man’s dresser. It’s very particular and strong smell and many guys might not appreciate it.
In any case, I would definitely recommend trying it out for once.
Now, the soap has a hard texture. Even so, both soft and hard shaving brushes are loaded quicker than you would expect.
This is also one feature that makes this shaving soap a must have. You don’t need to hit the sweet spot of right amount of water and soap to have great results as it happens with many other competitive products.
The lather that you produce with a small amount of water is fairly rich. Though I wouldn’t call it luxurious like the D. R. Harris & Co.. Nonetheless, it still provides a great cushioning and it doesn’t dry up quickly.
After you’re done applying the lather on the face, you notice the exceptional lubrication. And if you ask me, this is what makes this soap one of the best you’ll ever try. You can and you will enjoy a comfortable and stress-free shave.
Even though we’re not talking about the cheapest shaving soap you can get, it certainly delivers great value for money. The puck is larger than most brands out there.
In my opinion, it’s one of the top shaving soaps a man can get that doesn’t come with the price tag of premium British shaving soaps.
Let me explain this in a better way.
- Money- not such a big investment, especially if you think that you can get some good months of daily shaving.
- Quality- it’s the combination of rich and thick lather with the amazing slickness that makes you forget how much you paid for it.
- Value- You get a great product that is going to be with you for a while. How long? maybe between 7 and 10 months before you consider getting one again.
Should you buy this soap then? I believe I made my point clear.
Other great shaving soaps to consider.
Even though some shaving soaps didn’t make it to the top list, I would still recommend them for a tryout at least once.
Some of them are considered by wet shavers among the top shaving soaps you can get. In addition, they gather some really complimentary reviews in several forums. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the chance to shave with most of them.
So, here are my findings:
- Mitchell’s Wool Fat Shaving Soap
- Klar Shaving Soap
- Edwin Jagger 99.9% Natural Shaving Soap, Sandalwood
- Van Der Hagen Luxury Scented Soap, 3.5-Ounces (Pack of 3)
- RazoRock King of the Castle Artisan Shaving Soap – Lime
- The Blades Grim Gold Luxury Shaving Soap, “Smolder”
- Taconic Shave Bay Rum Shaving Soap
- Williams Mug Shaving Soap
- Barrister and Mann Tallow Shaving Soap – Bay Rum
What’s the best shaving soap for you?
There’s no right or wrong product really. If you’re transitioning from pressurised foam to a shaving soap, you’ll notice a huge difference in the quality and comfort of your shave.
This is particularly the case with guys that have sensitive skin and suffer from razor burns. In my humble opinion, you can’t get a better latherer for sensitive skin than a shaving soap.
With that in mind, any shaving soap you select among this short list, none will disappoint you. They all produce exceptional lather with enough slickness that will make your razor unstoppable.
Depending on your budget and the importance that you put in performance, you’ll be able to choose the product that fits your needs.
Let me know what you think. If you consider another shaving soap the best, or at least better than what I included, feel free to let me know. I’ll do my best to try it out and include it in this article.
If you liked this article, make sure you check out our other wet shaving guides: