The Best Shaving Soap of 2018: Lather Like Your Grandfather

Shaving soap may sound like an archaic precursor to shaving cream, or something you’ll only get from a professional barber’s shave, but this seeming relic of the past is making a comeback in a huge way. Shaving soap may not be big with Baby Boomers or Gen X, who came of age during the level of high-tech shaving, but their sons, the Millennials, have shunned electric razors and nonsensical shave gels in favor of straight razors and shaving soap in order to achieve the ultimate wet shave experience.

To be short, our top pick is Col. Conk’s Shaving Soap. Interested in seeing why? Read on my bearded friend.

They shave the way their great-grandfathers did, and the smooth results speak for themselves. And a puck of shaving soap, and a DOVO straight razor are the primary ingredients for that good, old-fashioned shave that feels and looks better than anything an electric razor can produce.

Brand

Scent

Size

Learn More

Col. Conk

Bay Rum

2.25 oz

The Blades Grim

"Smolder"

4 oz

Proraso

Light lime and Apple

5.2 oz

Henry Cavendish

Unscented

3.8 oz

Sir Hare

Bergamot and oak moss

8 oz

Top 5 Shaving Soaps

Let's take a look at the current top rated Shave soaps on the market:

1. Overall Best Pick

First impression of Col. Conk World Famous Shaving Soap, Bay Rum

Col. Conk World Famous Shaving Soap is presented in an awesomely retro package. It’s a puck of soap with one of the best interpretations of Bay Rum I’ve ever smelled in my life. It’s slightly spicy with a masculine warmth and a certain undertone that mellows things out. It’s a rather perfect scent, in my opinion. The soap itself creates a very rich lather and does so easily in a shave bowl alongside your favorite shaving brush, and it feels good on the face. I got a perfectly close shave the day I used Col. Conk, and my skin felt immediately smooth just after that one use alone. And I don’t just mean clean-shaved. I mean the skin itself felt smoother, which I like. A bonus: The scent isn’t that strong and if you use aftershave, it’s not going to overpower it. It’s subtle; a girl would have to be right next to you to even catch a hint of it, which is how scents should be.

Classic Bay Rum scent

Bay Rum is the go-to classic shaving soap scent, which is why the best shaving soap brands tend to offer it as one of their scents. You might say that Bay Rum is one of the oldest scents for men. As early as the 1500’s, sailors in the West Indies would rub themselves with leaves from the West Indian bay tree, known by its scientific name as Pimenta racemosa. It’s quite different from the bay leaf found in European cuisine, which is Laurus nobilis. Bay Rum was first made in St. Thomas; aside of the West Indian bay tree leaf, Bay Rum also includes clove oil, cinnamon oil and citrus oil. Different brands tend to have their own signature Bay Rum scent, but many describe Bay Rum in general as spice meets vanilla with a hint of citrus. Bay Rum’s classically masculine scent is why it’s a favorite of barbershops as well as Millennials looking to keep the old shaving ways alive.

Colonel Conk, Bay Rum Shaving Soap

Avocado oil

Avocado oil smooths your skin due to its natural moisturizing properties. In fact, avocado is such an effective moisturizer, you’ve probably seen your girlfriend literally slather the fruit on her face to reap its benefits. And these healthy skin benefits work for guys, too. Not only is it moisturizing, but avocado oil can also help get rid of blackheads, zits and reduce the inflammation around them, so your face has a better, clearer overall appearance.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E oil is highly moisturizing, but that’s not its only benefit. It’s an antioxidant, which means it protects your skin from free radicals and pollutants. Also, it’s anti-inflammatory properties reduce redness and inflammation in your skin, which makes it great for guys with prone to redness and dryness.

Glycerin-based

Glycerin soaps, in general, are super-moisturizing and it’s been theorized glycerin may attract moisture from the air, providing even more smoothness for your skin. Glycerin is also considered a very safe ingredient which is why many of the best shaving soap brands tend to use glycerin as a base. Glycerin can be plant or animal-based. In the case of Capt. Conk World’s Famous Shaving Soap, the glycerin is made from plant oils, so it’s safe for vegans.

Stearic acid

Stearic acid is a type of fatty acid that promotes the rich lather that shaving soap, especially Col. Conk, is known for.

PROS

  • Vegan Friendly
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    Glycerin-based
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    Super rich lather
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    Classic Bay Rum scent is both masculine and subtle
  • Highly moisturizing
  • Facilitates a perfect shave

CONS

  • Some have found it hard to get a heavy lather. However, this isn’t a problem for most. This discrepancy likely points to user error; it can be hard to whip up a rich lather if you’re not used to shaving soap. It takes some practice, but in the end, it’s worth it.

2. Runner-up

First impression of The Blades Grim Gold Luxury Shaving Soap, “Smolder”

The first thing that meets the eye about The Blades Grim Gold Luxury Shaving Soap is its shining gold container with a straight-razor wielding grim reaper. It’s distinctive and cool.

Opening up the container, it’s pretty noticeable this soap is a lot softer than traditional hard shaving soaps, but that’s not really a bad thing, because it lathers amazingly. It gives your skin a nice silky feel when you’re done.

A softer shaving soap

Most shaving soap is hard like the hockey puck it’s shaped like. The Blades Grim soap is a good bit softer. If you’ve been looking for a relatively soft shaving soap, this might be right up your alley.

Smolder scent

The Smolder scent is one of the most well-liked attributes of this shaving soap. It has notes of mandarin and orange peel for a citrusy quality, while coriander and star anise add some spice; the whole scent profile is grounded with Tonka bean, which gives it a vanilla-like quality, which is more masculine than the traditional feminine vanilla you may be thinking of. The reason it’s called Smolder is that all of these things combined to create a slightly smoky scent, more like wood smoke than tobacco. It’s the sort of smell that will make her want to curl up with you on a crisp autumn night. It’s both refined and manly, a hard line to walk, but Smolder walks it.

The Blades Grim Shaving Soap

Thick, protective lather

The Blades Grim Luxury Shaving Soap is renowned for its thick lather. Furthermore, its lather is quite slick, so you will be able to make a second pass of areas you may have missed initially without worrying about razor burn.

Stearic Acid

Stearic acid, a fatty acid, is a mainstay in shaving soaps because it provides moisture and aids the lathering process.

Coconut oil

Coconut oil is great for your skin. It hydrates and cleanses at the same time, so not only will you get a close shave, your skin will be smoother and cleaner.

PROS

  • Handmade in America: Handmade soaps often have a certain quality that makes them standout from big corporation factory-made soaps. Also, the fact that it’s made in America will be a big plus for Americans looking to support their countrymen.
  • Swanky gold packaging with a distinctive grim reaper whose scythe has a straight razor instead of a sickle blade, which is just plain cool.
  • The Blades Grim Gold Luxury Shaving Soap is softer than most hard shaving soap pucks, so if soft soap is your bag, this is probably going to be the best shaving soap for your preference.

CONS

  • Some guys find it difficult to get the right lather consistency: As with any shaving soap, this is more of a trial and error thing, which is why you will often see wildly mixed reviews for shaving soaps in general. So, while you may have to experiment a bit, the end result is worth it.
  • Contains lye: While this isn’t a deal-breaker for most men, lye can be a mild irritant for certain people with sensitive skin. If you’ve tolerated lye products well in the past or aren’t prone to sensitive skin, this won’t be an issue for you.

3. Best Gift

First impression of Proraso Shaving Soap in a Bowl

I’m probably one of the few people who has never tried or even seen Proraso Shaving Soap before, so I was highly intrigued to try this one. I found it interesting that it wasn’t a puck; it’s softer than that, but definitely not a soft soap.

I like the fact that it comes in its own bowl, if for the convenience alone. And I think other guys will like it, because one thing that puts dudes off of shaving soap is having to have all the gear that goes with it. The fact that Proraso is contained in its own bowl is a point in its favor for those who value convenience. Although we usually buy pucks, and we use a shaving scuttle or bowl to create lather, the bowl was definitely a nice added luxury. 

I’m typically not a fan of minty smells, but Proraso actually smells more fresh than straight-up like menthol. I think guys who like a “clean” smell will really like this one. My brother is one of those guys. After I told him about Proraso, he bought some and it’s his favorite now, which speaks to the power of Proraso: A lot of guys will latch on to it and it will become their go-to, just as it is the go-to of Italian barbers.

Proraso Shaving Soap With Bowl

Three-generation history

Proraso has been around for three generations and touts itself as the favorite shaving soap of Italian barbers. Its longevity alone speaks well of it and it’s highly-regarded today among professionals and average joes alike.

Coconut oil

Coconut oil is a natural moisturizer that’s light and doesn’t clog pores like other oils can, which is why it’s such a common ingredient in well-known shaving soap brands.

Eucalyptus oil

Eucalyptus might not be a cure-all, but it has a lot of health benefits for your skin. Firstly, it’s anti-inflammatory, which reduces skin redness. Eucalyptus is also naturally antibacterial and antiseptic, so in the unlikely event you were to nick yourself, eucalyptus can discourage bacteria from taking hold. And as a bonus, it helps you breathe clearing while you shave, thanks to its decongestant properties.

Menthol

Menthol soothes and cools the skin, giving a nice, clean feeling when you shave.

Lactic acid

Lactic acid is a natural remedy for skin coloration, so this is a shaving cream that can actually get rid of dark spots and even out your skin tone.

PROS

  • Paraben-free
  • Dermatologist tested
  • Moisturizing stearic acid
  • Made with glycerin
  • Cooling menthol
  • Refreshing and anti-inflammatory eucalyptus
  • Lactic acid improves skin tone
  • Moisturizing coconut oil
  • Produces a rich lather
  • Proraso is a well-known, respected brand. Dating back to 1948.

CONS

  • Some people with sensitive skin don’t tolerate menthol well, while others with sensitive skin find it soothing. If you’re the type who doesn’t tolerate menthol well, this obviously may not be the product for you. But for those who like the feeling, it shouldn’t be a problem. After all, everyone is different and you just got to go with works best for you.

4. Best Unscented Option

First impression of Henry Cavendish Himalaya Shaving Soap with Shea Butter & Soy

The packaging is very classy and English in style, which a lot of traditional shavers will like since we keep to the old ways.

This is a mug-sized shaving soap, so I wasn’t alarmed when I saw it was smaller than the standard puck size. I would highly caution folks to read the product description because this is meant for mug and brush. This isn’t a bowl-sized puck. Not paying attention may lead some to be disappointed—but they shouldn’t be. I’ve had this shaving soap the longest of them all—three months—and it’s still going strong. I reckon it will make it to six months or more. I do have a few other soaps in my rotation, but I think that even if a guy used it every day, it would still last for three months, at least.

The Himalayan scent is both exotic yet old world. It’s a nice balance of exciting and refined, which you get the feeling that’s what they were going for at Henry Cavendish.

Henry Cavendish Shaving Puck

Mug and brush shaving experience

Mug and brush is a classic way to experience shaving. One of the benefits is you can melt the soap in the mug if you need to, which is why a lot of guys prefer this method.

Soy

Soy naturally evens out your skin, reducing dark spots from acne scars and sun damage. Soy also makes your skin softer, so it’s a very natural way to not only improve the look of your skin, but to promote a better shave.

Shea butter

Shea butter is both moisturizing and anti-inflammatory. Both of these qualities work to prevent the dryness and inflammation that lead to red, irritated skin.

Unique Himalaya-inspired scent

The fragrance is inspired by the Himalayas. It’s woody, containing notes of Himalayan blue pine and Indian cedar. These woody notes are complemented by amber and cashmere musk, which soften the wood and make for a very masculine, classy scent. Its overall refinement tends to attract ladies not just to you but the scent itself because they find it very wearable if they’re the type of girl who likes to share her man’s cologne. Some couples find it a very sensual thing to share fragrances and shaving soap, so this may be a point in the Henry Cavendish Himalaya soap’s favor in that respect.

3 to 6 months of usage

Since shaving soaps designed for mug use tend to be smaller than larger puck soaps, a shorter usage period can be a problem. However, the Henry Cavendish soap lasts a lot longer than standard mug shaving soaps, so you should be able to get comparable usage out of it to what you’d expect from a standard-sized puck.

PROS

  • A masculine scent that both men and women love to smell and love to wear; great for couples who share their shaving soap.
  • 100% toxin-free formula
  • Long lasting compared to other mug shaving soaps
  • Contains natural, skin-health-promoting ingredients like soy and shea
  • More moisturizing than solely synthetic shaving soaps
  • Great lathering soap

CONS

  • While it has a great scent, the scent doesn’t stay with you all day. If you’re the kind of guy who wants a scent that lasts, you might want to opt for a scented aftershave.

5. Best Bulk Option

First impression of Sir Hare Shaving Soap for Men

I’m a big fan of the retro packaging with a jaunty hare in a bowler hat on the front. The smell is very unique—the bergamot really makes it. And it creates a great lather. This will definitely be a fixture in my shaving soap collection, because it’s simply likable, as well as convenient, thanks to the fact you don’t need a bowl for it.

Its container doubles as a shaving bowl

If you’re new to wet shaving, gathering all the accouterments can be daunting, and finding the right shaving bowl even more so. Because Sir Hare’s container doubles as a shaving bowl, you don’t have to worry about that. Better still, the label is waterproof so you don’t have to worry about the container’s quality deteriorating either.

Made in small batches

Sir Hare Shaving Soap for Men is made in small batches in the United States. The small batch production aids in better quality control. And the fact that it’s a small business means they have to really rely on their ingredients’ superiority to draw in customers; this further ups the high-quality factor.

Sir Hare Shaving Soap For Men

Tallow-based

A lot of modern shaving soaps are made with vegetable oil-based glycerin, but Sir Hare is made with tallow. While it’s not vegan-friendly, this is the traditional way of making shaving soap. And because it’s natural and highly moisturizing, it’s good for sensitive skin.

Good for 100 shaves

You get four ounces of shaving soap goodness in each container, which Sir Hare boasts will last for 100 shaves.

Great scent

The scent is a masculine combination of oakmoss, cedarwood, and bergamot. If you’ve never heard of bergamot, it’s a citrus fruit from which all other citrus descends; it’s also the ingredient that sets Earl Grey tea apart from the rest, and as well as the ingredient that makes it smell amazing.

PROS

  • Great for sensitive skin
  • No artificial preservatives
  • Natural ingredients
  • Smells great
  • Lasts for 100 shaves
  • Retro packaging
  • Made in small batches
  • Small-business made
  • Made in the US

CONS

  • It’s made with tallow, so it’s not going to be suitable for vegans or vegetarians, but this probably won’t bother most who don’t fall into those categories.

The Benefits of Shaving Soap

The biggest benefit of buying shaving soap is the high-quality rich lather it produces. Shaving soap is made from slightly different ingredients than body soap. Some of these differing ingredients are used to make the soap pucks shaving soap typically comes in harder; others are designed to create the distinctly rich lather from shaving soap. The specific combination of ingredients is tailored to creating the thick lather necessary for a proper wet shave. Another benefit of shaving soap is that, unlike a can of shaving cream, you can travel with it on a plane in your carry-on bag. It’s compact, so you don’t have to alter your routine if you travel a lot, which is a big plus for those who work for corporations where you have to travel all over the world and look good while doing it.

Shaving soap is more moisturizing than shaving cream or gel. This creates a better, closer shaving experience, because the blade of your straight razor or safety razor can get extremely close to the skin when facial hair is softened. The result is a smoother shave, with less chance of nicks or irritation afterward. A practical benefit to buying shaving soap is that it’s way better for the environment than anything that comes in an aerosol can. So, if you like to be environmentally friendly, that’s definitely a factor to consider. Shaving soap is often more cost-effective than shaving cream in a can. You use less of it; it last longer per unit. You can see how that adds up. A lot of men go for shaving soap for that one aspect alone. Finally, one of the top benefits of buying shaving soap is that its part of the traditional shaving experience. For the first time in fifty or so years, a lot of men have realized that a traditional shave with their best shaving soap is not only better for basic grooming, it’s an art that was almost lost. And that near-loss of the art of traditional shaving would be a detriment to men everywhere. When you shave with shaving soap, you know you’re keeping the superior shaving knowledge of our forefathers alive.

What to Look For

Shaving soap typically comes in two forms: a puck or a stick. Generally, pucks are more common and more preferred. Some men find they prefer sticks for traveling, since you can usually just rub it across your face. However, the downside of the stick is that it doesn’t give you the best lather the way a puck and a brush can, which is why most men prefer pucks for home usage, and it’s why they’re generally used by professional barbers too. Some shaving soaps are still made of ultra-traditional tallow (animal fat), while others use vegetable oils like coconut and avocado in its place. If you’re a vegan or a vegetarian, you’ll definitely want to avoid tallow soaps. And some men may prefer the vegetable oil-based soaps anyway, because of the healthy skin benefits of coconut oil and others, for instance. Most soaps don’t use parabens anymore, but it’s best to avoid brands that do use them, if you can, because it’s better for you and the environment. Shaving soaps come in a variety of scents; some you may already be familiar with, others may be a bit retro. In general, shaving soaps cater to a manly crowd, so scents tend to be traditional and not overwhelming.

Tips on how to choose the Best Option

There are a few things to remember when choosing the best shaving soap for your needs:

  • If you’re vegan, avoid tallow, because it’s just another word for animal fat.
  • If you have sensitive skin, go for options with gentle ingredients like coconut oil, as that will be the best shaving soap for your skin type. Coconut oil is close to PH to human skin and it also doesn’t clog pores the way some oils can. In general, for sensitive skin, the more basic the formula, the better off you are.
  • If you already have a shaving bowl or mug, you might want to consider buying an already compatible soap size, or, consequently, you can use melting methods to resize and reshape the soap. (It’s not uncommon for guys to microwave their shaving soap.)
  • Consider portability. Generally, shaving soaps are small enough for air travel, but some larger pucks may not be, so keep that in mind.
  • If you’ve never bought shaving soap before, research the scent and choose a scent type or family that you already know you like. That way, you’re more likely to use it.

Wrapping Things Up

After testing each of these shaving soaps, the clear winner of this roundup is Col. Conk World Famous Shaving Soap in Bay Rum scent. Not only is the Bay Rum scent superb and classic, the rich lather you get from this puck offers the best shave of them all.

References

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