Finding the best shaving soap is always going to be difficult. With so many brands and scents to consider you have to try a lot of shave soap to find the right one for you.
That said, here are some of the best shaving soaps to help you start.
- What Makes a Top Shave Soap?
- Types of Shaving Soap
- Top Choice – Taylor of Old Bond Street Sandalwood Shaving Soap
- Best Budget Option – Van Der Hagen Scented Shave Soap
- Lather & Wood Shaving Soap – Traditional Tallow
- Proraso Shaving Soap – Fresh Eucalyptus
- How To Use Shaving Soap
What Makes a Top Shave Soap?
Some soaps foam up nice and thick when massaged with a shaving brush and hot water. Others take a lot more effort or don’t stay as thick foam for long. A good lather is warm and satisfying, and also helps to keep your bristles upright and away from the skin so they are easier to shave.
Shaving is a chore every morning so start the day right and make it worthwhile. Find a scent that makes you happy to be up and heading to work. Many shaving soaps go for old fashioned scents like bay rum and sandalwood so consider if you want this or a fresher menthol scent like Proraso.
If you have a particular aftershave you like to wear then you may want to go for a soap with very little scent so you don’t end up clashing. On the other hand many of these brands like Taylors of Old Bond Street offer aftershaves and eau de toilettes to match their shaving soap scents.
Types of Shaving Soap
Shaving soaps come in three different consistencies; a hard soap, a cream soap, and something the shaving community fondly calls a “croap”, which is between a cream and a soap. Croaps are also commonly referred to as Italian style soaps.
Puck Shave Soap
This is a disk of hard soap, often with a shaped bottom to fit in a shaving mug. It can take a little bit of work depending on the size and shape of your mug. At first it will probably slip and spin a bit but over time it will weld itself into the form.
Puck shave soap tends to last longer as it’s so dense. It can also take a bit more time to build up a good lather. On the other hand using a proper shaving bowl can often help to build up a nice hot lather.
“Blooming” is the process of gently wetting the top of the shaving soap with hot water to soften it up.
Blooming the soap is highly recommended for hard shaving soaps and can solve many issues. Blooming makes it much easier to load a brush up to its full capacity and hydrates the top layer of the soap.
Shaving Cream in a Bowl
Some brands offer this product that’s not so soft that it can go in a tube and doesn’t need a shaving brush, but is still too soft to come in a hard puck. Instead it comes in its own shaving bowl with a screw-top.
This can be much more convenient than having to buy a shaving mug. Plus the experience tends to be much better with a richer lather with less effort.
One minor issue is you should really let the shaving soap dry out between uses and so you should resist the urge to screw the top back on right away.
Throwing away the (usually) plastic bowl does feel a bit wasteful but in reality one of these tubs will last for months. That said, the nice screw tops mean you could definitely re-use them for storing things.
Shaving Soap Cream (croap), Often in a Tube
This shaving cream is so soft it can literally be scooped up. This is quicker and more convenient for busy modern lives – which is exactly why some people choose to reject it and favour a harder soap that requires more of a ritual. However, our top choice is Proraso shaving cream.
While shaving cream soaps or croaps are usually soft enough to not require blooming to help load a brush, they also benefit from the soap being hydrated.
However, if you want to bloom the scent or make the cream a little runnier, you can submerge the entire container in hot water to warm up the cream soap. This works for cream soaps in both containers and tubes.
Top Choice – Taylor of Old Bond Street Sandalwood Shaving Soap
This classic shaving brand has been providing great quality products since 1854. Their range of shaving soaps is no exception and form a perfect middle between hard shaving soap pucks and tubed cream. Instead these shaving creams are like a thick paste that comes in it’s own shaving bowl.
The sandalwood variety is the most popular and with good reason. Taylor of Old Bond Street shaving soap is known for its smooth texture and still provides a thick lather with very little work.
The scent is subtle yet satisfying with top notes of geranium, lavender, rosemary and liquid amber supported by a heart of carnation, fern and orange blossom resting on a sumptuous base of patchouli, sandalwood, vetivert, powdery musk and rock rose.
Taylors offer a range of great shaving soap scents. Try 16 varieties with their sample pack.
Best Budget Option – Van Der Hagen Scented Shave Soap
Van Der Hagen offers something more like a “puck” style shaving soap. That means you need a shaving mug or shaving scuttle to take full advantage of it. However, this is surely a more eco-friendly means of shaving than the solid plastic bowls of Taylor shave soap.
Of course you can just use it like a bar of soap and still rotate your shaving brush on it but this seems a little clumsy when you can treat yourself to a mug. For this reason it is much harder than the Taylor of Old Bond Street shaving cream. You might also struggle to get it to fit your mug but you can always trim it so size.
Overall Van Der Hagen offers a great product for a great price. The lather and scent are great and a single puck lasts for ages, making a great value piece of premium shaving equipment.
Lather & Wood Shaving Soap – Traditional Tallow
Lather & Wood offer a sizeable 4.7oz tin with incredible vintage graphics – and that’s before we even open it!
Sticking to the classic sandalwood, Bay Rum and “Barbershop” fragrances, Lather & Wood is handcrafted in small batches to ensure premium quality. Like Taylors, this is more of a shaving cream than a hard soap puck and so you use the tin itself as a shaving bowl.
Tallow (animal fat) and shea butter make an incredibly thick lather that is also smooth and nourishing. Of course this offers an obvious drawback that it isn’t vegan but you can decide how much that matters to you. This might be more of a concern if you are considering shaving gift sets.
Proraso Shaving Soap – Fresh Eucalyptus
Proraso offers a smooth cream in a nicely shaped bowl and a strong eucalyptus and menthol scent that’s more reviving and refreshing than the other old fashioned scents we’ve tried. That said if you like this then try Taylor’s lime scent.
Proraso’s shave soap is still made following a ‘hot soap’-making process during which it’s left to mature for 10 days in small batches to thoroughly dry out. This results in a more concentrated soap that produces an amazing lather.
How To Use Shaving Soap
If you’re used to shaving foam out of a can having only just switched to using a safety razor then you may be a little confused about how shaving soap works.
We’ve already covered what does shaving cream do, and shaving soap performs much the same function. However, while you’re used to rubbing shaving cream on your face with a hand from your aerosol, shaving soap requires the use of a good shaving brush to create lather.
What is a Lather?
Soap molecules are long molecules that have one end that is attracted to water and the other end that is attracted to oil. When soap molecules and water are combined with friction, lathering usually occurs.
This addition of water causes the soap to form orderly layers (the walls of a soap bubble). The friction incorporates air into the mix, pockets of air develop, and each of the air pockets become coated by the oil in the soap.
Different types of oils make different size air pockets (bubbles). If you do this in a controlled manner, such as with a shaving brush and shaving soap, you create lather.
Soak Your Shaving Brush
To use shaving soap, you should first soak your shaving brush in hot water to soften the hairs. You can do this at the same time you prepare your face for shaving with a hot towel – unless you are shaving after a shower. Either way you want to leave the brush in hot water for at least a minute but preferably longer.
If you have a synthetic brush you can now run it under some water and get it wet. Give it a gentle squeeze to get rid of some of the excess water but do it very gently. Synthetics do not soak up water so you need to retain a little more in the bristles.
How To Bloom Hard Shaving Soap
Next we want to make sure the soap can load onto the brush. To do this we are going to “Bloom” the soap. This consists of placing a layer of warm water on the soap and letting it soak in. This accomplishes three things.
- It softens the soap and allows it to be loaded onto the shaving brush easier. A very common mistake is to blame the soap for making poor lather when in reality you have not loaded enough soap onto your brush.
- It partially hydrates the soap, making it easier to lather. Many soaps can be picky about how much water is added when creating a lather. This problem is greatly reduced is you start out with a “wetter” soap and need to add less during the lather building process
- It releases the fragrance of the soap for greater enjoyment. We all buy scented soaps because it smells good.
Once the soap and brush have had enough time to get all of the benefits they can get from a good soak it’s time to load your brush.
Put the brush to the side and take a look at your soap.
Using the Shaving Brush
Take your shaving brush out of its container and discard the soaking water. Hold your brush over the sink and give the bristles one good squeeze to get rid of excess moisture. Do not squeeze it more than that or flick it to get rid of more water. You need that water to create lather so make sure the shaving brush is wet but not dripping.
One reason shaving soap offers a better shaving experience is because of this process of brushing the skin, opening and cleaning pores as well as softening bristles and exfoliating the skin. Can you shave with regular soap? Of course – but you miss out on a more luxurious experience.
Place the shaving brush bristles in the soap and apply just enough pressure to cause the bristles to splay out slightly. Too much pressure and you risk damaging the bristles, to little and you will not be able to properly load the shaving brush.
Whirl the shaving brush around the shaving bowl your shaving soap comes in to build up a rich lather. Don’t apply too much pressure and also consider adding more hot water until you get the right foamy consistency.
Swirl the brush back and forth in a clockwise/counter-clockwise motion for a full 30 seconds.
After 30 seconds the top of your brush should be fully coated in soap and the tips should be starting to clump together a bit. You may see what looks like an early form of lather forming as well. If you don’t see this then you can try loading the brush for another 10 or 15 seconds.
Using Shaving Cream Soap/Croap
To load your brush with a cream shaving soap perform the following.
Scoop up and apply a portion of cream approximately the size of a pea to the top of the bristles. You can use your finger, the handle end of your toothbrush, or be a real gentleman and use a “snurdle”.
Take your finger and rub the cream on the top of the bristles to work it in a bit.
A brush loaded with a cream soap does not visually resemble a brush that was loaded from a hard or croap shaving soap.
I’m on a mission to help millions of people around the world ditch expensive and wasteful plastic cartridge razors and switch to traditional safety razors that are far better for the planet.
I discovered the joy of traditional shaving when I was just 14, less than a year after I even started shaving at all. I loved the time-honoured ceremony, precision and quality of soap, brush, razor and aftershave.
My double-edge safety razor from Merkur is still the same one I use every day, although I’ve enjoyed experimenting with a range of models over the years.
Paradoxically I have also been through a long list of interesting facial hair styles, but have never stuck with a full beard. Instead I am normally sporting very intricate mixes of sideburns, moustache and goatee that makes a good shaving system essential.