In these challenging days, what can be better than spending a little more time with yourself and finding new ways to make you feel good. And what can be a better way to treat yourself to a perfect old school shave that will make you feel refreshed, reinvigorated and ready to take on any challenge the day can bring.
Shaving doesn’t need to be an errand to quickly finish but it can be a short relaxing private time that makes you feel great with a luxury experience before you start your day, the kind of indulgence you could have in an old school barbershop in Venice, Barcelona or Istanbul where you have your best shaving experience in a comfortable chair, with hot towels, nice smells and stunning scenes of the Mediterranean Coast nearby.
One of the most important factors of a such great shave is the shaving soap that you use that can give you the experience of a true barber shop shave. While shaving foams and shaving creams are very popular and are quicker to use, using shaving soap will give you a perfect lather for a true glide and will give you the feeling of classic masculinity with the scent you prefer.
To help you discover the best alternatives, we have selected the finest old school shaving soaps you can find in the market today. But before we dive into specific products, we would like to tell you a little more about the characteristics of different shaving soaps.
TYPE OF SOAP
Most common old school shaving soaps are hard soaps. They are sold as a round puck and sometimes in a tin or jar. For some brands, they are even harder due to triple-milling process to remove as much moisture as possible from the soap. These soaps can be hard but when used with a good brush and lathered up properly they produce a thick, rich, cushioning lather and deliver excellent razor glide to shave on. These soaps can last 6 months to a year for typical shavers.
Contrasting this is the soft shaving soap with some very established brands from Italy and Germany. There is more water left in them during the manufacturing process, and this makes it easier to create a rich lather from a soft soap compared to a hard soap which requires a little more time and effort to create the lather. Soft shaving soaps might not last as long as a hard shaving soap.
It is always most desirable to go with natural ingredients in your shaving soap. The best quality shaving soaps contain a high level of fat (vegetable or tallow). 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 best indication of high fat content is a rich lather that coats the skin thickly and lubricates effectively without requiring pressure; glycerin made out of the fat in most shaving soaps helps to moisturize your skin instead of drying it out; your skin should feel soft and moisturized after shaving, rather than tight or dry.
Most old school shaving soaps are Tallow based, which is animal fat, and tend to offer a very creamy but stable lather.
Oil based soaps come in a variety of formulas, using various oils – olive, almond, palm, argan, coconut. These are generally seen as an ethical alternative to tallow, for those who are against the use of animal products.
Soaps vary wildly in their scent – from virtually unscented to deep, long-lasting stenches. You can go with unscented if you are allergic or prefer not to use and scents or go with a range of smells. It is critical to be highly aware of both the quality and length of scent you’re getting yourself in for.
If you have sensitive skin, for example, you will want to ensure that the soap you buy is hypoallergenic and possibly unscented; if you have dry skin, you’ll want a soap with plenty of moisturizing properties.
While you can make soap lather with your hands, we recommend you to use a good shaving soap with a good natural brush. A good brush will gently massage your skin and actually help you get a closer shave, by lifting the hair off your face. You don’t need to spend a fortune and there are many good alternatives you can select based on your budget starting at around $10. Shaving brushes from Omega Shaving Brush from Italy are some of our favorites as well as our own very high quality weighted Badger Hair Brush which is an exceptional value. Different soaps will react very differently to how you use your brush and questions like how easy it is to load the soap onto your brush and how quickly does it lather up are critical.
The best shaving soaps in 2020
Cella Shaving Soap – Handmade and almost completely unchanged since 1899, Cella Shaving cream and Shaving soap have their own following for over 100 years. It is a tallow based soft soap from Italy. It is 5.2 ounces densely packed into a small jar. It provides everything that is great about wet shaving – brilliant fragrance, wonderful lather, amazing performance, and a great price. It has an almond scent with a hint of bitterness. It provides a full rich lather, very creamy and has that residual slickness that gets better with each pass. Post shave is decent, and due to Tallow in the soap, there's definitely some softness and moisture left on the face. Barbershops and heavy users can also get the 1 kg package (35.3 oz) which is an exceptional value.
Another alternative from Cella is the new Cella Extra Bio. It is suitable for vegans, vegetarians and those with sensitive skin and it is formulated with selected precious oils and organic ingredients, its soft, soothing foam guarantees a deep, thorough, comfortable shave. Stiff foam helps the blade glide over the skin, protecting it against irritation and microscopic cuts and leaving the skin soft and moisturized. The pleasant & delicate fragrance of pink pepper and precious woods, makes this soap a unique product. It is the purest organic shaving cream certified by AIAB / Q Certifications. It is the result of an intense formulation research that starts from the original Cella 1899 processing protocol to offer the perfect synthesis between tradition, cosmetic efficacy and respect for the environment. There are also a few varieties of Cella Shaving Cream that can be used if your preference is to use a shaving cream.
Proraso Shaving Soap - It is a vegetable based soft soap from Italy Based in Italy, Proraso has produced superior shaving products since 1948 and is one of its country’s iconic brands. Its products have evolved over the years to feature all-natural products that including botanical extracts and natural oils that protect the skin both before and after the shave. The soap is made using a rigorous, hot soap making process and left to mature for 10 days in small batches. During this time, the moisture evaporates, and the product becomes solid and more "concentrated", perfect for a professional shave with a brush. Their products are also paraben-free, which is always a plus, and include no mineral oils or SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate) that strips away the natural oils of your skin.
The original soap and still the most popular is the Green that has Eucalyptus & Menthol which will give you a really nice cooling and refreshing experience when you are shaving in the morning, due to the invigorating eucalyptus and menthol, which also soothes the skin. This shaving soap will protect your skin before, during and after your shave, so that you can get a really close shave, without having to endure any nicks, or razor burn. The thick and dense lather of the Proraso soap will make the blade easily glide over the skin without any dragging or pulling and make shaving quicker and easier. The lather sticks to the skin and stays put while you shave, without dripping and making a mess and lubricates the blade really well, and it doesn’t leave any residue on your razor or your face which some shaving products do, it all rinses away easily, and won’t clog your razor.
There are other varieties of Proraso: White is an alternative for people with allergic skins. It includes oatmeal and green tea in its list of ingredients, both of which soothe and protect inflamed, easily-irritated skin. It also produces a creamy, rich lather that softens the skin while providing superb lubrication. Another thing to like about Proraso’s Shaving Soap for Sensitive skin is its scent, which has a light hint of lime and apple. It’s neither too citrusy or overpowering, but just the right mix that doesn’t enter a room before you do because it’s too strong. Red has Karite Butter and Sandal Oil. And Blue has Aloe Vera and Vitamin E. There are also a few varieties of Proraso Shaving Cream that can be used if your preference is to use a shaving cream.
Pre de Provence Shaving Soap
French Tiple Milled soaps are world famous and Pre de Provence is one of the best and most known brands. The soaps are actually quad milled and their shaving soaps include 2 different products that both come in a beautiful tin jar: Bergamot & Thyme and No: 63. The soaps are made of pure vegetable oil and enriched with Shea Butter. The ease and speed with which fantastic lather is produced is a feature of French shaving soaps in general. A few swirls on top of the puck and the lather explodes. Then you are able to generate a thick, well hydrated lather on your face or in a bowl without any trouble at all. Pre de Provence soap produces a very long lasting lather. After you load your brush from the puck and start building the lather, there is little need to add extra water or mess around with soap/ water ratios. The lather holds a good deal of water without breaking down, it is stable and consequently long lasting. The added shea butter in this soap gives the lather wonderful moisturizing properties. It makes for a very comfortable shave, and unlike some of the heavier, more moisturizing creams it doesn't leave your skin feeling oily.
When it comes to providing a slick shaving surface, the French soaps are in a league of their own. They create a rich, slippery lather that cuts very closely without sacrificing protection. There is a perfect balance between glide and cushioning where a comfortable shave is almost guaranteed.
The light, herbaceous fragrance of Bergamot & Thyme, offers a cool, gentle and refreshing aroma. While No: 63 has an enticing masculine scent with a blend of fruity and woody fragrances. It has the fresh smell of citrus and pepper which is balanced out by the richer scents of leather and tobacco complemented by the mild hints of cedar wood, juicy plum and violet leaves.
These two alternatives are great French Shaving Soaps compared to much more expensive brands such as Martin de Candre or Roger & Gallet and they offer a great alternative at a great price. They are also very easily usable in their attractive tin jars and last for ages due to quad milling.
Arko Shaving Soap – It is one of the classic shaving soaps with a soapy smell that is sold in a cheap looking tiny plastic tub or as a shaving stick and has this funny looking picture of a guy with a logo that looks like it came straight out of 1950s. Picture a stick of shaving soap, wrapped in foil and a label, that you apply directly to your damp face, and build the lather right there with your brush. It’s an incredibly easy way to pack and travel while bringing your wet shaving gear with you compactly. Regardless, the first thing you will notice while using Arko is the smell. It’s not a good smell or a bad smell, Arko just smells like soap. Arko shaving soap just works, lathers superbly and due to the tallow and coconut oil it has, the slickness and cushion are incredible. Your face will feel perfect after a shave with Arko, fully moisturized but not oily. The smell might be soapy and standard, the performance is outstanding. Given the very low price, this is the best classic soap value which will give you a great shave.
There are also many other alternatives and especially creative new brands manufactured in the US we can highly recommend:
- Jon’s Shaving Soaps offer Vegan, cruelty free shaving soaps made by hand in Delaware, Ohio. If you want 100% natural products fragranced with only essential oils make sure to try the Essentials line. If you don't mind a little fragrance oil and you want a bit more variety in scent and packaging you may want to check out the Dr. Jon's line.
- Wet Shaving Products offers real, manly, shave soap with real and natural ingredients in Chandler, Arizona. Rustic Shaving Soap offers Vegetable Ingredients with classic scents such as Barbershop, Lavenderwood, Tobacco or unscented Natural. The Formula T Line includes Tallow and provides more cushioning & moisturizing properties and is also more dense with a similar array of classic scents
- Rock Bottom Shaving Soap offers a natural goat milk soap with extra caster oil for a long lasting lather and bentonite clay to add extra slip for reduced bumps after shaving. It has a nice refreshing barber shoppe scent and is wrapped in a biodegradable shrink film.