If there is one product that harkens back to the olden days of being a man, its going to be a shaving soap.
A classic product that has been around for several years, shaving soaps are able to provide a great lather and lubrication at an incredibly affordable price.
To understand shaving soaps fully, we here at Tools of Men have spent countless hours pouring over all the different types of brands on the market to determine which one deserves the title of being the absolute best shaving soap for you.
To summarize our findings, here is a table we put together:
|Van Der Hagen Shave Soap||Williams Mug Shave Soap||Col. Conk Glycerin Bay Rum Shave Soap||Proraso Shave Soap|
|Dominate Scents||Clean/Citrus||Soapy||Bay Rum (others available)||Menthol / Eucalyptus|
|Shave Brush Required?|
|Moisturizes and Nourishes Post Shave?|
|Country of Origin||USA||USA||USA||Italy|
|Size||3.5 oz||1.75 oz||2.25 oz||5.2 oz|
|Peer Review Average||4.7||4.4||4.4||4.6|
|Overall Score (1-10)||7.8||5.9||7.5||8.0|
|Details||Full Review||Full Review||Full Review||Full Review|
Before a decision is made on the best shaving soap for you morning shave, its critical to understand a bit about the product in order to make sure you don’t waste your money, and most importantly, find one that will suit you the best in order to deliver a high quality performance.
Difference Between A Quality Shave Soap vs. Shave Cream vs. Latherless Shave Cream
As the title implies, there are a lot of options out there when it comes to actually using a product on your face in order to deliver a comfortable shave.
While this is a review of the very best shaving soaps on the market, its critical to understand its role in the greater world of products that deliver a comfortable shave, especially given all the options.
First and foremost, shave soaps are the quintessential lathering and lubrication method for several generations. This was the shaving product that your grandfather and great grandfather used on a daily basis (there is even a shaving soap we reviewed that is over 176 years old!).
Typically coming in either a wooden or plastic container, shave soaps are like a hockey puck and come in a pretty heavy disk form or are molded to the container they are housed in.
On average a shave soap will last you several months of shaving (with daily use).
While we will go over proper techniques in just a minute – the biggest determining factor to using a shave soap will be the entire loading and lathering process.
Of all the product options available to you, shave soaps, while the most traditional, do take a longer time for prep.
Traditional Shaving Creams
Probably one of the most popular products used by wet shavers (straight edge, double edge, and cartridge based) is going to be a traditional shave cream.
Now I say “traditional” purposefully due to the compound that makes up this product. Traditional shaving creams come not in a can, but rather in a tube or tub form and are physically similar in nature to toothpaste.
If you are a novice wet shaver, most experts would agree that using a shaving cream is preferred over a shave soap given its forgiving nature on generating a nice lather.
Lathering a shave cream is pretty straight forward, all you need to do is simply:
- Soak your shave brush in warm water for a few minutes
- Squirt about an almond sized amount of shaving cream into the center of your shave brush
- Lather by going in a clockwise motion either in a scuttle (i.e. ceramic mug or bowl) or your hand for about 40 seconds
- Apply shaving cream to your face
There are even some men who forgo the shave brush and scuttle steps and just simply wet their face and coat their whiskers with a bit of shaving cream and then begin the process.
While we don’t recommend doing that, as general skin irritation and razor burn are much more likely to occur, the few extra minutes in the morning should be spent lathering properly (as outlined above).
Another point of distinction when it comes to shaving creams, especially when compared to cheap/can style shave creams is that they may often contain beneficial oils within the product. Often you will see on the nicer shave creams the inclusion of carrier or essential oils that deliver all sorts of great benefits.
Which brings up a very important fact:
The sole purpose on why men prefer using a quality shaving soap or shaving cream is due to not only their lathering and lubrication properties to ensure a super comfortable shave, but also their moisturizing and nourishing tendencies post shave.
After using a shaving soap, your skin will stay well hydrated. This will ensure that you don’t have any sort of post shave ashiness or flaking (especially if you live in a dryer climate).
If you are interested in using a shaving cream over a shave soap, we invite you to check out our full review on the best shaving cream.
Latherless Shaving Cream
One of the more modern products on the market today will be latherless shaving creams. These products, such as Creamo Shaving Cream or Jack Black’s Beard Lube are designed to specifically be applied directly to your face with your hands as opposed to a shave brush.
When applied to your face, these latherless shave creams will leave a very thin, but slippery, line of shaving cream and lubrication.
These products are incredibly beginner friendly, especially if you are coming from a background of using a canned shaving cream.
While these latherless shaving creams don’t have the suds that many wet shaving enthusiasts are after, they still do contain many of the key carrier and essential oils that will leave your skin feeling and looking its best.
Traditional Shaving Soap
As we mentioned earlier, the prep time required for a shave soap is indeed a bit longer than a traditional shaving cream.
However, the long prep time of a shave soap shouldn’t overshadow the terrific shaving cream that can be derived from this product.
With a few rounds of practice on generating a lather for a shaving soap, most wet shavers are able to generate a lather that is going to have a slicker lubrication that will likely deliver one of the most comfortable shaves of all the products.
If you are using a straight edge razor, usually a shave soap will provide the highest level of lubrication to ensure a comfortable shave.
Now when deciding on a shave soap they come in a variety of types. Often times you will see some higher end soaps being advertised as “triple milled”.
What this means is that when the soap was originally molded, the manufacturer would break apart the soap and run it through a milling process again. Effectively a triple milled soap is one that has gone through the process three times.
Why is this important?
You see when a soap has been milled over three times, the ingredients that make up the soap become well mixed together of which will deliver an end product that delivers an even better and more comfortable shaves.
However with such artistry put into the shave soap, the price is likely to also climb. Therefore for a triple milled shave soap you can expect to pay north of $20 for a single bar. However, as with most shave soaps, they will last for a few months and is usually well worth the investment.
Contrary to triple milled soaps, another popular soap type is going to be glycerin based. Glycerin, typically derived from vegetables is a solution that comes in liquid form and provides a terrific lubrication.
Glycerin is found in a variety of beauty products as well as food products. This sugar alcohol compound is a natural humectant. A humectant helps a delivering and locking in moisture for your skin.
While its typically an underlying theme for shaving in general, the key to a comfortable shave is lubrication, moisture, and heat retention.
Required Products In Order to Use a Shave Soap Properly
Unlike a latherless shaving cream or the aerosol shaving creams that many men may be accustomed to, shave soaps do require additional products in order to perform at their absolute best.
Therefore you should consider the following when picking up your first shave soap:
Shaving Brush (required):
While some men might try to squeak by and not use a shaving brush when applying a shaving cream, that simply can’t be the case with a shaving soap. A shaving brush is required when using this product. Shaving brushes help in many ways besides just simply applying a soap to your face.
Shaving brushes help to provide a nice gentle pre exfoliation to your skin that will loosen any dirt or oils that are trapped within your pores.
Shave brushes also lift your whiskers on edge allowing for a cleaner cut of the follicle in order to prevent any sort of tugging or pulling on the root of your hair when making the pass with your razor.
Shave brushes typically come in a multitude of fiber types, however badger hair is highly preferred among both beginner and expert wet shavers alike. We further outline all the benefits of shave brushes in this post as well.
Shaving Stand (optional):
While not necessarily required, if you have to pick up a shaving brush, you should also consider a shaving brush stand. Stands allows your brush to hang dry greatly reducing the occurrence of bacteria growing within the knot (part where the fibers attached to the handle) of the shave brush.
Shaving stands also help to maintain the structural integrity of the fibers in the brush.
Whether its to soak your shaving brush or your shaving soap, a scuttle is a key component to using a shaving soap properly.
While a scuttle is simply a shaving mug or bowl, this is likely a product you have lying around in your kitchen cabinets already and doesn’t require an additional purchase.
A simple coffee mug will be more than sufficient in this case. If you do want to have a dedicated scuttle for your soap and brush, we recommend picking up one that is ceramic and will help retain the heat a bit better.
Also keep in mind that since this is being used in a bathroom setting, we don’t recommend using a glass in case of an accidental drop.
Generating a Shave Soap Lather (The Right Way)
Theres much debate on how to generate a rich lather for a shaving soap. However through our research we have found the following to be the most effective and reliable time and time again (to note though, there are several different methods and no “wrong way”):
- To begin you will want to soak your shaving brush in a hot water for a few minutes. Typically most men will leave it resting in their sink, scuttle, or shaving mug for several minutes while they take their shower. Soaking your brush is critical to the long term health of the brush. Soaking it allows for the hair fibers to absorb moisture in order to deliver a quality lather, but also softens the bristles so they don’t break when loading the brush and ultimately applying the shaving soap.
- Depending on the shave soap that you own, whether its a single puck by itself or its affixed to a bowl, we would recommend placing a bit of water within the bowl. Or if its a puck, place in a separate bowl and add warm water with it. The key here is to submerge your soap within the water. This process is known by wet shavers as the blooming process.
- After a few minutes of letting your shave soap bloom and your shave brush soak, you will want to first squeeze out all the excess water in your shaving brush and set it aside. Don’t worry about shaking it out too vigorously as you don’t want any of the fibers to be removed from the knot of the shave brush.
- With the shaving soap fully bloomed, many wet shavers like to take all the excess water and rub it on to their face as much of this water is mixed with the rich oils from the soap and will provide a great base moisture prior to applying any of the shaving soap yet.
- Once the water has been removed from both your shaving brush and your soap, you will then need to load the brush. The loading process of the brush can vary depending on the hardness of the soap and how long it had been blooming. To load the brush, just simply take your brush and then turn in a clockwise or counter clockwise motion on top of the puck or shave soap dish. The key here isn’t to create a lather, instead, you are looking to simply get the shaving soap transferred from the soap puck to your brush. A typical load time will take about 30 seconds.
- Once the brush has been loaded, then you will want to begin applying the shaving soap directly to your face. Initially you will want to go in a circular motion for all the areas that you are shaving for about 30 seconds. The key point to look out for while you lather your face is that you don’t want to have the shaving soap seem dry or tacky. A great method is to add a few drops of water to your shaving brush if necessary (and it likely will be). We like to apply the 30-10-30-10 rule. Run the shaving brush in a circular motion for 30 seconds followed by 10 seconds of painterly strokes. Do this two more times and you should have a lather that is both well moisturized and extremely slick.
- After your face has been fully moisturized, then you will want to go ahead and make the appropriate passes with a razor of your choice. For any subsequent passes with the razor, your shave brush should have more than enough soap loaded into it in order to provide an ample cushion.
Ingredients to Look Out For When Selecting The Best Shaving Soap
When it comes to selecting a shaving soap, generally speaking the ingredients in most soaps are pretty safe.
Usually when looking out for any sort of cosmetic products that you apply directly on to your skin with regularity, you always want to be wary of parabens.
However, generally speaking, parabens have been falling in popularity and are starting to get more rarer in men’s and women’s products alike.
To quickly check if a product contains any parabens, simply look for the suffix “paraben” on the end of chemical sounding names. Examples include:
While the use of parabens may be dwindling, one ingredient that still is prevalent in many shave soaps (and shaving creams for that matter) is the use of fragrance.
Sure the name fragrance may sound pretty harmless and innocent, however its been rated a relatively hazardous ingredient according the Environmental Working Group (8 out of 10).
Well the term fragrance is actually a generic term that can actually account for up to 3,100 different types of chemicals. Therefore when you see the term ingredient on the side of a product, its an umbrella term that can mean several different things of which the manufacturer isn’t required to disclose.
While just about every shaving product that we come across contains this ingredient, its just worth mentioning that if you find one that doesn’t have it, it may be worth checking out, especially if you prefer all natural products.
Lastly, another popular ingredient that you will find in shave soaps is sorbitol. If sorbitol sounds familiar it should, found in many food products as a sugar substitute is also found in your shaving soap. While we don’t recommend eating your shaving soap :-), sorbitol in this case acts as a thickening agent and will help provide moisture.
Review Process To Determine The Best Shaving Soap
When it comes to deciding what the best shaving soap is, we take a variety of factors into account. Here are our key points of consideration:
Price – While shaving soaps are pretty cheap in their own right, any one of them commanding a price tag greater than $20 must be looked at with more scrutiny. Therefore we look at this component objectively on a price per ounce basis along with the quality of the actual lather derived from the soap.
Performance – The most critical component of this review will rely on the actual performance of the shave soap being used. If this shave soap has a hard time generating a good lather that will leave the blade skipping across your skin, then the rating will be reduced accordingly. Therefore a shaving soap should be able to comfortably provide a great cushion and lather that will allow for a comfortable shave with up to three passes of a double edge safety razor.
Scent – While this is the most objective component of the review process, a key point of consideration is the actual scent of the shaving soap. Lower ratings will be given to soaps that leave you smelling similar to a cheap bar of soap, while those that elicit a classic barbershop sandalwood smell are graded higher. Generally speaking, a shave soap scent should be a compliment to your face, not a cologne replacement.
Peer Review – Taking in the thoughts of other wet shaving enthusiasts across the world, we look at how this shave soap is respected within the wet shaving community. If its generally disliked then it will be noted. In addition to a qualitative perspective, we will also look at it through a quantitative lens and determine from an analytical perspective how men rate this product at major retailers.
Overall Score – After everything is tabulated, we will distill it down to one overall score that takes into all the points of consideration outlined above. So the question remains, which soap manufacturer has the best shaving soap?
Van Der Hagen Shave Soap Review
This widely distributed shave soap can be found across the country and many of the large retailers along with many drug stores as well. We were able to find this one at a local CVS just a block away.
This shaving soap is a glycerin based one, as opposed to a shave soap that has been milled two or three times (i.e. triple milled shave soap) and has an incredible price tag at only $5.
Unfortunately this shave soap is a bit temperamental when compared to others. On the whole it does rely on other products in order to perform at a maximum level. Therefore if you are looking for a shave soap that provide ample lubrication, we recommend either adding in additional glycerin to the scuttle or simply using a pre shave oil prior to use.
In addition, your skin may feel a bit dry afterwards, therefore you may want to consider a post shave balm or aftershave that provides the required moisture.
For the ingredient list of this product, it does include some suspect components including fragrance and SLES (Sodium Laureth Sulfate). To Van Der Hagen’s credit though, this product does include shea, mango, and cocoa seed butters.
If you are in a pinch and need a shave soap, then this one should be able to perform adequately, especially given its price tag. However if you have a few extra bucks we would recommend investing in a higher quality soap that provides a much more comfortable shave without the reliance on other products.
7.8 out of 10
Williams Mug Shaving Soap
By and far one of the oldest shaving products that we reviewed, the Williams Mug Shaving soap has been around since 1840.
To put that in to perspective, Williams Mug was founded the same year that both Claude Monet and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky were born!
Unlike other shave soaps that are either glycerin based or are of the milled variety, this shave soap is tallowate based. While we go a bit more in depth about tallowate in our full review of this shaving soap, on the brief tallowate is typically derived from either vegetables or animal fats. We weren’t sure on William’s soap the source of the tallowate, so if you are an animal conscious wet shaver, it may be worth noting the prevalence of this ingredient.
In addition to tallowate, this soap like others reviewed does contain the use of fragrance within the puck.
The one reason that men may try out this shaving soap is due to its long history as a manufacturer. On a lather stand point, its incredibly difficult to get a passable lather with this shave soap.
Even when blooming for several minutes, this shave soap has a hard time when trying to load the brush. Once you can achieve a passable load with this shave soap, the actual lather is also an additional challenge to achieve.
Much like the Van Der Hagen, this shave soap does rely heavily on other components in order to achieve a shave that won’t leave your neck on complete fire due to discomfort. Therefore you will need to pick up pre shave oil and a post shave balm in order to remain comfortable.
To Williams credit, this shave soap is incredibly cost effective. However, given that its pretty cheap, you will be losing any savings on the required complimentary products to keep this soap as passable.
5.9 out of 10
Col. Conk Glycerin Bay Rum Shave Soap Review
One of the most popular budget shave soaps is the glycerin based shave soap by Col. Conk. Totaling up to about $5 and some change, this shave soap by Col. Conk delivers a relatively good shave for the price point.
If you are starting out with using a shaving soap or are generally a wet shaving novice, this shave soap is beginner friendly with a low investment cost.
However, like most other glycerin based soaps, this soap doesn’t last nearly as long as its triple milled counterparts. But if you are in the exploratory phase of trying to find a shave soap, Col. Conk’s should be more than fine.
When using this shave soap, much like the Van Der Hagen, you will need to transfer and store it in a separate container, or simply in your scuttle.
Their simply isn’t much to the packaging of this soap thus requiring a separate storage container. Some wet shave enthusiasts love to melt this down a bit as well so it will take shape of the scuttle allowing for easier daily use as opposed to a loose puck moving around.
This shaving soap does come in 4 distinct scents, which include the following:
- Bay Rum
Of all these, we would recommend trying out the classic Bay Rum scent.
The ingredients for this shave soap were a bit hard to find, however we were able to get in contact with the manufacturer and listed them fully in the in-depth review.
When it comes to performance, the biggest takeaway with this shave soap is all about experimentation. While it might take a bit of work to get a proper load on the brush (about a 2 minute load time), once you strike the right balance with the lather, it should provide a comfortable shave with enough lubrication and cushion for any blade type.
7.5 out of 10
Proraso Shaving Soap Review
When it comes to major shaving brands that exist in the market place, one of the names that carriers a huge amount of clout is the Italian brand Proraso.
Founded by Ludovico Martelli nearly 90 years ago has served men well since its inception. Known for both their shaving creams and soaps, Proraso is the one brand that many men likely try when starting to test the waters of more higher end shave creams and soaps.
This shave soap by Proraso is considered their flagship brand and is a “general use” shaving soap. Their other variations of shave soaps include a white version for sensitive skin types and a red version that is for thicker whiskers and provides more moisturizing and nourishing properties.
Like many of the shaving soaps we reviewed, this one also has a glycerin base ingredient.
However, unlike many of the others, this one does actually come packaged within its own bowl. Therefore the need for a separate scuttle or mug for a shaving soap is not necessary when investing in this shaving soap.
When it comes to price for this shaving soap, compared to some of the cheaper shaving soaps that we reviewed, this one does command a bit higher of a price tag at $10.
But does the performance make up for the increased cost?
Generally, yes. But before we touch on the performance aspect, we will first cover the ingredients and scent of this shave soap.
Overall the ingredients for the Proraso shave soap are relatively pretty standard with the exception of fragrance, which we have covered during our intro. Another noteworthy ingredient in this product is the inclusion of Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate, which commonly gets mistaken for Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) – these are not the same. Therefore Proraso does not contain SLS.
We were confused with the inclusion of fragrance in this shave soap. As advertised boldly on the front of the box, this shave soap contains both Menthol and Eucalyptus oil. Which smells bright and refreshing. Therefore makes us wish that fragrance was excluded given the natural ingredients that were included.
If there is a downfall of this product is that it tends to run a bit dryer. Therefore you will need to add a bit of water during the lathering process in order to achieve a passable lubrication and cushion.
To help with the dryness, we recommend that you let the soap bloom fully prior to loading your shaving brush.
Many men report that if you live in a area with with hard water this soap may not perform nearly as well, we didn’t find this in our testing – likely due to our location in a urban area (NYC). To help keep up the lubrication, some men may add a few drops of glycerin during the blooming process to help increase the slickness of the lather.
Ultimately though, once you have the right mixture, the lather of this shaving cream is top notch and delivers an incredibly comfortable shave.
While there are a few short comings in this shave soap, if this is your first foray into unique shaving products, we do recommend checking out this shave soap (or the white or red variants) from Proraso. It delivers a comfortable shave that should serve you well.
8.0 out of 10
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