If you have been reading this site for any amount of time, you no doubt have realized that one of my missions in life is to get guys to do a proper shave.
Doing a shave the way our Grandad used to is not only for nostalgia, but will give you a much better shave and a whole other host of benefits.
Using a shaving soap instead of a foam, cream or, worst of all, a gel is something I think every man should be doing.
If you have landed on this page then clearly you are thinking of diving into the world of wet shaves. You want to know if a shaving soap is worth it and which is the best shaving soap out there.
I will answer those questions and more in this article so read on!
- Blades Grim Gold Shaving Soap
- Reviews Rating:
Spicy, warm and sweet
- Lather & Wood Shaving Soap
- Reviews Rating:
- Maison Lambert Shaving Soap
- Reviews Rating:
- WSP Unscented Shaving Soap
- Reviews Rating:
Best Shaving Soap vs Cream vs Gel
If you get nothing else out of this article, that you don’t walk away with a purchase of fantastic shaving soap, I hope that you at least will understand why aerosol shaving foams and gels have ruined shaving for men.
Using a can is easy and quick, but it does nothing aside provide glide for your razor and unfortunately, the marketing around them makes it seem like this is the most important thing when it comes to shaving.
So here is the difference between shaving soap vs cream.
There are two types of shaving foam out of a can. The actually foamy type and a gel that transforms into foam after you’ve applied it.
Yes, they are quick and easy to use, but they are full of chemicals that are bad for your skin and only serve one purpose: to provide some lubrication.
Now, obviously, you want to lubricate so your razor doesn’t burn you. The ironic thing is that using a gel or foam actually contributes more to razor burn than using a block of traditional shaving soap.
It doesn’t have much, or any, water in it so it doesn’t get absorbed by the skin or stubble. This just helps the razor glide without actually focusing on how it shaves.
Here are some harmful chemicals found is shaving foams and gels:
- Triethanolamine (TEA), diethanolamine (DEA) – These chemicals get absorbed easily by the skin and within hours can be found in the bloodstream. They are hormone disruptors and may have been linked to some cancers.
- Isopentane – Besides being a harsh solvent, this will cause your skin to dry out, may cause rashes in those with sensitive skin and even result in frequent headaches.
- Polytetrafluoroethylene – This long and hard to pronounce word should raise red flags on its own, but knowing it is the same chemical found in teflon it is worrisome. It has been linked to breast cancer in men and osteoarthritis.
- BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene) – Listed as the 37th most toxic chemical, it is a preservative in shaving creams that can cause skin, eye, and lung irritation and has been linked to some cancers.
That is just a partial list of the harsh chemicals in shaving foam and gels. Even if you don’t care about that, the fact that they don’t really do much for your shave should have you pass them over.
If you want to use a shaving foam from a can then I suggest Proraso from Amazon.com. It does contain a lot of those chemicals, but it also works way better than any other shaving cream from a can. It has more water than most so it does get the skin and stubble wet, which is fundamental for your shave. Plus it smells awesome.
This is different than the kind in the can even though that foam is often referred to as shaving cream.
In this case, it is literally a cream or paste that can be spread directly onto the skin before the shave or used with a shaving brush to apply.
For the sake of this comparison, I am referring to the cream used in wet shaves.
They are usually easier to use as they can lather up more freely and can stay wet longer.
Using a shaving cream is easier to use than a shaving soap but it is also easier to not realize that you have the water to lather ratio wrong. The key is to have very high hydration and it might not be obvious when that ratio is achieved when you make a thick lather easily.
That said, if you are new to wet shaving and wonder whether shaving soap vs cream is better then I would suggest a cream.
The most obvious difference between the best shaving soap vs cream is that soap is a hard disk. Now, many people use these terms interchangeably, but in this article, shaving soap will always refer to the disc.
Usually, most of the ingredients in the shaving soap vs cream are the same but with a hardening agent in soap and a softening agent in a cream.
You can only use the soap with a good shaving brush as it has to be whisked around on the disc in a bowl or jug to form a lather.
Mastering this does take some trial and error, and I will go into how to use shaving soap later on in this article after the reviews.
But what is ideal about soaps is how much water is used so it gives you an authentic wet shave experience.
How to choose the best shaving soap
Since shaving soaps are pretty artisan, they are almost all good. This makes choosing somewhat difficult since you can’t really go wrong.
That said, there are different types that may make a difference in your decision-making process.
The types of shaving soap fall into three different categories.
Soap needs to be cured for quite a while to let excess water evaporate out of it to make it milder and create a better lather.
To make it more consistent and take less time, the soap is grated by a special machine and then melted and reformed. This is done three times to extract all of the water and make for a very refined and highly latherable soap.
This process also makes for a much more concentrated and harder puck which will last longer.
This soap has not been milled to extract the moisture. Instead, it is allowed to cure and the water evaporates over time.
Since it doesn’t get milled, it does have some moisture remaining which makes it less dense than a triple milled.
This water does make it slightly easier to get the water to lather ratio right. Though it doesn’t last as long as triple milled.
This odd word means that the soap is rather loose compared to the other two types and in some cases could even be considered creamy.
This is essentially a soap that is neither milled nor cured. It is easy to work with, but it doesn’t last very long.
Ingredients in shaving soap
Without getting too deep into the ingredient list of different soaps, it is important to understand a couple of key factors.
Soap needs fat to lather and serve as an emollient, which lifts dirt away from the skin. It may seem like information that you couldn’t care less about, but if you are a vegan or like to avoid animal-based products then it is essential that you read this section.
Tallow is just animal fat that has been rendered and processed. It is what McDonald’s used to use to fry their French Fries in fact.
For centuries this is what was used to make just about any kind of soap. And, if you have even seen the movie Fight Club then you already got a short primer on why fat is essential in soap making.
To save money, many soap manufacturers started using synthetic instead of tallow, but the tide is turning once again and tallow is making a comeback.
Purists will say that it is far superior and there is no substitute. I believe that these days you would need to be an expert to really deduce any benefit from it and most other types of fat will do just as well.
If you are a vegan you don’t need to hit that back button just yet.
Many soaps use high-quality oils like olive, argan, and coconut to get the right lather. These oils also have a lot of benefits to the skin that you don’t get from tallow based soaps.
Olive oil has a lot of antioxidants and argan oil is a wonderful moisturizer for example.
The lather may not be as rich or as thick as a tallow based one, but you will get enough for a satisfying shave plus the other benefits from the properties of the oils.
This is a bit of a tricky ingredient. Glycerin is very highly latherable and is also very moisturizing. A glycerin based soap feels good on the skin and gives a very satisfying lather.
The problem is that glycerin can be derived either from animal fat or from vegetable-based fat.
If you don’t see tallow on the list of ingredients, but see glycerin, you will need to look further to see if the glycerin is plant based or animal based.
If you are a vegan then make sure you buy a soap labeled specifically began or 100% plant-based ingredients.
Glycerin is ideal for most people since it is very gentle on the skin.
Many shaving soap manufacturers lately pride themselves on how natural and chemical free their soaps are. Which includes using essential oils for their scent.
Others like to use synthetic fragrance for a more intense and proprietary scent. The problem with fragrance, or parfum as some labels will identify it, is that you can’t really know what they are made out of.
Some people are sensitive to certain chemicals in fragrances. Especially if you have sensitive skin.
Even scents made only with essential oils can be harsh on some skin, so it is important to use a fragrance-free soap if you have sensitive skin.
Best Shaving Soaps
Now that you know what to look for and have some idea about how shaving soaps work, here is our list of the best ones. After you’ve found one you like, don’t forget to keep scrolling for the section on how to use shaving soap. This way you will get the most out of your newfound obsession!
The Blades Grim Gold Luxury Shaving Soap
If you’re going to ditch the aerosol can and avoid harsh chemicals, then the best shaving soap should be as natural as possible.
Blades Grim shaving soap is all natural and uses vegetable glycerin making it vegan as well.
I highly recommend this shaving soap for a beginner since it lathers very fast. Within just a few seconds it produces a thick rich lather. You don’t need a lot of experience, but with the right brush that can get charged with a lot of water, you’ll have exactly the right ratio of water to lather.
Just the right amount of cushion from the lather will keep your blade gliding and prevent any razor burn. Of course, razor burn will be a thing of the past once you master the wet shave, but while you are learning the ropes it is a welcome bonus that your razor won’t leave your face on fire.
This comes in a disc that is in a tin so you don’t need to use a shaving bowl or scuttle. This can be seen as a good or bad thing as some people really prefer to use a bowl. At least there is minimal clean up when you use it in its own container. Then the tin can be used later on to stash your odds and ends.
The scent is also very nice. It is called smolder I assume since it will ignite the passion in your significant other and not because it has a smoky fragrance.
With subtle hints of vanilla and musk, it has a deep, rich fragrance with some citrus to brighten it up.
The scent doesn’t last long, obviously as it is shaving cream and not an aftershave so there is no need to worry about it conflicting with your cologne.
Lather & Wood Shaving Soap
Another all natural best shaving soap that is a pleasure to lather up and offers exceptional performance is this classic from Lather and Wood.
It is not vegan though as this is a tallow based shaving soap. Whether or not it is due to the tallow the lather is as dense, rich and satisfying as it gets. It could also be because it contains shea butter and a healthy dose of glycerin for good measure.
With a ridiculous amount of cushion from a dense lather, your razor will glide so easily across your skin. It is an absolute pleasure to shave with this soap.
It takes a bit to work up a lather. This doesn’t go as quickly and easily as the Blades Grim soap. With some work, it can get as dense as you prefer.
After the shave, your face will feel soft and plump as the shea butter not only works as a lubricant for the blade glide, but also as a skin moisturizer. Not that I think you’ll experience razor burn, but the shea butter will soothe inflamed skin in case you went in a little too aggressively with your blade.
Though working up the lather for the uninitiated might be a bit tricky, the fact that the lather lasts a long time will help the newbie to wet shaves. When you are new, it can take a while to complete a shave. Luckily, your laher won’t dry out on your while you work on it.
And there will be plenty left for your second and third pass. The slickness on the later passes is also very pleasant and will keep your shave very close while also very comfortable.
It comes in three scents, Sandalwood, Bay Rum and Barbershop. My favorite being the Barbershop as I have a soft spot for that classic scent of an old school shop. It has hints of woodsy aromas combined with the softness of talc and the brightness of some citrus notes. Bay Rum has a nice bit of island spiciness, and Sandalwood is your classic masculine woodsy scent with a slight brightness.
Maison Lambert Shaving Soap
Enjoy this all natural, and mostly organic, best shaving soap guilt-free since it is vegan and never tested on animals. It is also free from sulfates, parabens and especially petroleum-based ingredients.
Even the color is free from dyes and the fragrance is all naturally derived from essential oils.
Since I mentioned the fragrance, I’ll start with the scent.
It comes in two different fragrances. The classic cedarwood for a masculine, woodsy aroma. For a more floral and unusual fragrance, you can try the lavender and patchouli. The fragrance of either one does last quite a while considering it is a shaving soap.
Creating a lather only takes a few seconds of vigorous whipping for a dense a cushiony foam. It is a slightly croap soap, so it is fairly soft and pliable. It can be scraped out of the jar and out into a bowl, for instance.
It isn’t super cushiony, however, so blade glide is only going to be as good as the job you did with the preparation of your wet shave before you brought the blade.
Like the other shaving soaps in this best shaving soap review, the Maison Lambert version is highly moisturizing. And, if you do end up being too aggressive with the razor and end up with some razor burn, the aloe vera will take that edge off.
In addition to the aloe, it has argan oil, shea butter, and jojoba oil, among other hydrating oils, to leave your face feeling incredible and skin very supple.
WSP Hypoallergenic Unscented Shaving Soap
For the guys that really don’t want a scent to their shaving soap, then try this fragrance-free, unscented version from Wet Shave Products. Whether you have really sensitive skin or just prefer to not have a fragrance to compete with your cologne, then this is the best shaving soap for you.
It is a croap shaving soap that is not quite as soft as some others may be. This will last slightly longer than you normally would expect from a soft shaving soap. Even though it is soft, it is very concentrated to help the durability.
The lather is decent, but not the best of the bunch of the shaving soaps reviewed in this article. Definitely respectable, however.
Although the lather is not particularly dense and cushioning, it is very slick and provides an incredibly close shave. When you lather up, don’t be disappointed when you see a thin layer of lather. Don’t think it isn’t working or is inferior, it is supposed to be this way.
It won’t dry out thanks to ingredients like shea butter and coconut oil. In fact, you will get over 4 passes with the same lather without any problem.
You can enjoy the shave guilt free from this one, as well since it is all natural and vegan. It only has six ingredients and none of them are sulfates or parabens, either.
Overall, this is an excellent shaving soap and seriously underrated.
Even if you don’t have sensitive skin, I recommend this. It does come in some interesting scented versions as well if you don’t need it unscented.
How to Use Shaving Soap
Before we get into the how-to guide, let’s go over what you need to be able to use your shaving soap. Remember that when comparing shaving soap vs cream, there is a bit more to do to work up a lather so the right tools and technique are very important.
I have a detailed guide on the best shaving brushes, but I’ll keep it brief with the basics of how to choose the right brush for shaving soap vs cream.
If you’ve read that full article on choosing a shaving brush then same rules apply but with a modification.
With shaving soap, it is a bit trickier to get a lather going than with cream so you need a shaving brush with a good backbone. I personally am not a huge fan of boar bristle shaving brushes, but they are very effective when it comes to getting a lather working with a triple milled shaving soap. The bristles are firm and have the right rigidity to work the soap into a lather.
I prefer badger hair brushes since I have sensitive skin, but I look for brushes with a good backbone. The Art of Shaving Pure Badger Hair Brush from Amazon.com is a good one for not too high a price that gives good performance with shaving soap.
Shaving Mug or Bowl
Some of the soaps reviewed in this article come in their own tin so you can lather up directly from there. I prefer using a bowl or mug as you can get a much better lather going if you have a deeper area to allow you to whip the soap.
You can find bowls or mugs that fit a puck in perfectly. In the case of a soap that comes in a tin, you will have to melt the soap and pour it into the mug and let it harden there. More on that in a minute.
To say that you need a sharp razor is a bit of a Captain Obvious moment. Of course you should be using a sharp razor.
What type of razor should you use?
Well, when you do a wet shave with a good quality shaving soap, the razor you use actually takes on less importance. You can use a good disposable cartridge razor if that is what you prefer.
I recommend using a safety razor with a double edge disposable blade. They are easy to get the hang of and when used in conjunction with a quality soap, can give you the shave of a lifetime.
If you are bold or are very determined to make shaving as authentic an experience as possible, then try your hand at a cut throat razor.
If you have a shaving soap in a tin and want to use it in a mug or bowl then you need to melt it and pour it into your vessel of choice.
If it is in a tin you obviously can’t microwave it, so place it in a pan and fill the pan with water until it gets to about halfway up the side of the tin. Put the heat on medium low and keep an eye on it until the soap is melted. The gently remove it and pour it into your mug or bowl. Let it harden and it is ready to use.
It is soft you can scrape it out of the tin and put it into the mug. Microwave it in the mug or bowl until it is melted and then let it harden.
Once it is hardened then follow the next steps.
Moisten It Up
To get the soap ready to use, it needs to start hydrating. And so does your shaving brush, incidentally.
If you plan to shave after your shower, then get ready by adding some hot water to your mug or bowl with the soap in it. Place your brush in the water too and let them sit for about 10 minutes.
After your shower, dump out the water and squeeze the brush slightly to remove the excess. It should still be wet, just not dripping excessively.
Whip It Up
Vigorously whisk the brush around on the soap while applying some slight pressure. You want the bristles to be bent roughly halfway. You don’t want to use a lot of force or you risk the bristles coming loose, but you don’t want to be too gentle and only use the tips. You need the lather to penetrate into the brush.
After a few seconds, take the brush out of the lather and use your fingers to kind of work it around in the bristles of the brush. This will help form a thicker lather and ensure all the bristles are coated. Then dip it into some water and whip it again until you have a bowl of nice, dense lather.
Apply It to Your Face
It may seem like the lathe ris done and all you have to do is wipe it across your face at this point. This may apply the lather but you aren’t just looking to do that. The key to a wet shave is to really penetrate the skin with water, soak the stubble to soften it, open the pores, lift the stubble and exfoliate the skin.
To do this you need to really use the brush against the skin which will continue to create lather. I highly suggest reading the link I provided earlier about how to do a wet shave. The preparation is the most important part of the shave when using shaving soap. More important than the razor, in fact.
This process from when you started building the lather to being ready to use the razor can take up to 10 minutes, but it is worth it.
Do Multiple Passes
You should have made enough lather to go over your face with the razor a few times. Each time is called a pass and expert shavers can do 5 or more passes without causing any razor burn or irritation. For most people, three passes are enough.
Each successive pass only needs a very thin layer of cream to give the blade some glide.
If you are new to the wet shave game, then I guarantee any one of these soaps on the list will be the best shaving soap for you. You really can’t go wrong with any of them.
I really get into this topic in case you couldn’t tell. This is a great way to try to better yourself by learning something new to keep your brain firing. And the reward is an exceptional shave that only comes when you understand how to use shaving soap with the right tools and techniques.
Yes, I understand that this takes time and we all live very busy lives. It might seem too much to suggest that we start doing a wet shave that can take upwards of twenty minutes when a typical shave can be done in less than five.
I think that it is worth it to wake up twenty minutes early to do this kind of shave and slow down our lives a little bit. Take more control of your life in these simple ways and you will find your life is richer with experiences.
I don’t want to digress too much, I just want to stress that I think this is important. Do you have any wet shave rituals that you enjoy and want to share? Do you have questions about these soaps or how to do a proper wet shave? Either way add a comment to the box below and I will get back to you as soon as I can!