Archive for the ‘Shaving Articles’ Category

Shave Soap Hotrodding

Posted: June 20, 2017 in Shaving Articles

In a recent review, I wrote about The Body Shop’s Maca Root shave cream. It is a very high performance cream, perhaps the slickest cream available from any vendor I have tried. It performs at least on par with the best of the English creams, in my view. However, this product has a very neutral, somewhat uninspired scent. I am not alone in this assertion, as this generally seems to be the only complaint levied against the product.

As much as I liked the performance of the Maca Root cream, I found myself using it only rarely, as there are so many great soaps out there, many of which have wonderful scents to fill the shave den with joy.

The Idea: 

But…perhaps I missed the great opportunity that the Maca Root cream presented. We aren’t without agency and recourse in our shaves. We can experiment, combine, and customize our shave experience to suit us. The lack of a strong or present scent in the Maca Root product, combined with the great performance, makes it a great candidate for “mad science”.

The first soap I did this with was the Mitchell’s Wool Fat, as it also has a lack of scent profile (other than just a sort of soapy smell). While that does work, Mitchell’s is tricky enough to lather without starting to complicate things with a lot of additional ingredients (for me). The Maca Root cream, on the other hand, wants nothing more than to lather, so there is no impediment to the experimentation.

The Components: 

Pinaud Clubman Special Reserve is a grand old scent, available for cheap. It is, unlike some of the inexpensive cologne/aftershaves, quite strong and lasting. To me, it’s a great smell, one that reminds me of dudes when I was a young kid. I really like it, but it’s a bit too much for me to wear in most situations, as I get fatigued with the scent well before it begins to die away. Thus, it has languished a bit.

A little light popped on in my head, and I started thinking about how the potency of Special Reserve and the great performance of the Maca Root cream would go great together. With this in mind, I went in to have my nightly shave, and put them in combination.

The Method:

I put a slightly greater volume of the cream into my lathering bowl, dipping a finger into the cream and depositing about as much as a few stacked dimes in the bottom. I then shook about as much of the Special Reserve into the bowl as I’d use to splash on my face (a few healthy shakes). With a soaked, squeezed brush holding a bit less water than I’d normally use, I went to work. The lather built like you’d expect, and the great scent of the Special Reserve filled the shave den. The water balance was just fine, and the potency of the Special Reserve worked right into the lather with no additional difficulty. Success, at least this far along.

The Results: 

With the great lather that one expects from the Maca Root cream, I now had a nicely fragrant shave cream. The added scent totally dominated the light scent of the underlying cream, and there was no negative interaction there that I could smell. The shave came off great, and though some of the scent lingered after the shave, it wasn’t nearly as intense as splashing it directly on the face. For me, I shower after the shave, so I didn’t have to worry about having a long engagement with the Special Reserve, and growing tired of the smell.

What Did We Learn?

If you have a reasonably potent aftershave or cologne scent that you’d like to utilize in a shave soap, but said soap isn’t made (or at least is not in your possession), you can make it happen. Just take a high performance, low scent soap base, then beat the added fragrance into the lather and you’re off to the races.

For the base, I think it’d be hard to go wrong with The Body Shop’s Maca Root cream. It’s so easy to work with and performs so well, that you’d be somewhat hard-pressed to find fault.

It isn’t simply fragrances that can be added. I’ve added some Osage Rub to give a menthol and eucalyptus kick, along with some lemon essential oil. That shave was a beautiful, summery affair, reminding me more than a little of Proraso White. All you need is your imagination and a few additives to experiment with. I’m sure that all the old-time scents you can still get at the drug store, like Old Spice or Brut, could easily be put into the mix with good results.

Final Word: 

Don’t stand around the shave den lamenting products that are good, except for that one thing. Don’t look into your morning coffee and sadly wish for a scent that no one seems to want to make into a soap. You have the power to do some hotrodding and get what you want. You might have everything you need to make it happen, already in your shave stash.

Cheers,  and happy shaving!


Ease of Lathering: Very easy. As with most Razorock soaps, the loading and lathering is essentially effortless with this formulation. My methodology is to swirl in one direction, then the other, then sometimes back and forth. It takes no time to get all the soap into the brush that you could want (less than thirty seconds). Lathering on the face, I follow my normal behavior, adding the requisite amount of water as I engage the brush on the stubble. The Emperor soap swirled up into an ideal lather about as easy as anything I’ve ever used.

Protection: I had not used the new “super tallow” formulation that Razorock employs on some of its soap up until now. I’d always been quite happy with the performance of the soap bases they’d been using, but I was interested to see if they could improve upon it. I am happy to report that the new formulation, which includes tallow, argan oil, and aloe vera, is a step up. At this point, it would be very difficult to find fault with the performance of this soap, in regard to protection. The lather is both voluminous and protective, with lots of cushion on the face. There is a substantial element to this new formula that didn’t seem to be present in the earlier soaps, when lathered. I am taking nothing away from their earlier formulas, because they have always worked fine for me, but this new stuff is really great.

Residual Slickness: Here is another area where the new formulation seems to exceed the earlier ones. This is slick soap, with more than enough residual on the skin to let you do auxiliary passes without re-lathering, which is part of my normal procedure with most razors. Your face is left feeling well taken care of. I’m not going to say that you won’t need a balm, moisturizer, or after shave, because these things are all variable and can’t be forecast. My feeling about post shave measures is that you have to adapt to the climate and the needs of your skin. What I can say about this new super tallow formula is that it shouldn’t act as a drying agent, any more than another good soap on the market.

Scent: Emperor has a scent profile based upon the popular Creed Aventus cologne. Pineapple, Bergamot, Black Pepper, Smoke and Leather is the list of notes they provide for this scent. It is a complex scent, with a very masculine characteristic. I would not say that this is an “old time” scent, or anything to do with a barbershop scent, to me. The scent strength for this one is somewhat more potent than most Razorock scents, many of which are fairly gentle. I would say that Emperor is of similar scent strength to Santa Maria del Fiore, for instance. Some of the soap scent will likely linger beyond the shave. I would say that the smoke and leather are the most lingering of the notes here, but they are never altogether alone in the mix. I find the scent to be one of my favorites in the Razorock lineup. It that power, success, influence sort of vibe for me. As always, your mileage may vary. I have not smelled Creed Aventus directly, so I can’t tell you how close the match is.

Production/Value: For the cost of this soap, what you get is a really amazing deal. For ten bucks American (Winter/Spring 2017), you get a great tallow formulation, very well done cologne-like scent, and perfectly serviceable packaging (with one of Razorock’s neat new labels). I can’t think of any soap in the price range that can be said to deliver more than this one. Another big win for Italian Barber here.

Notes: I may come off as rather a fanboy for Razorock soaps. I have, to the best of my ability, tried to approach each of the tests I do with an open mind. I know that I often joke about doing science in these reviews. Rest assured, I am aware that there is little actual science being done here. The vast bulk of my experiences and assertions are subjective. With all that said, I still stand by these reviews as being even handed. I’ve used many of the well-considered soaps out there, and I feel that I have a good enough experience with a cross-section of products to give a useful opinion. That is, of course, what these reviews are: opinions. There are a great many good or great products to be had today. More than any other time in wet shaving, from all I can gather. With all the excellent options out there, Razorock very much deserves your attention. Recommended. If you are a fan of the scent they are emulating here, it’s probably a must-try.

Since I’ve gone on record a few times about Taylor’s creams already, I’ll just make this one a discussion about scent only. Please look at some of my other reviews of the Taylor’s creams for full and painstaking detail about other details.

(For those of you just joining us, Taylor’s creams are reference level products. Easy to lather, smell good, have solid protection during the shave, rinse clean. They are mid-priced, but the least expensive of the classic English cream products.)

The Eaton College scent is a mild one. It is probably one of the less “forward” scents that Taylor produces. It strikes me as one that evokes an English gentleman of yesteryear. Not in a negative light, but it isn’t a cutting edge scent. It has that vintage quality to it. One could imagine catching a faint wisp of it arising from an open window of an old Bentley. It pulls of the surprising trick of being a primarily floral scent, while at the same time not seeming feminine in nature. Not sure how that is done, not being a perfumer by trade.

If you’re in the mood for a mild, classy scent that calls to mind an expensive cologne from the days of yore, this might be the very thing.

Cheers, and happy shaving!

Ease of Lathering: Easy. This is another soft soap, as is quite common with artisan shops these days. It was easy to press into a bowl with just my finger, and responded to the brush with alacrity. Upon face lathering, I was able to coax a good bit of water into the mix, and ended up with a very rich, luxurious end result.

Protection: Very nice protection is available here, letting the razor go safely about its business. No complaints at all.

Residual Slickness: Quite a deal of slickness is left over after the lather is scraped away, yet the soap is not difficult to rinse or oily upon the completion of the shave. The razor glide is very good. I didn’t notice any dryness after the shave, so the formulation appears to have more than enough rich oil in there. This is a tallow and lanolin soap, and also has a high amount of coconut oil. These ingredients, while not absolutely necessary, certainly do a nice job in keeping your face happy and protected.

Scent: There’s not a lot to talk about in terms of scent. This is a menthol complex soap, and there doesn’t appear to be any scent added beyond the light native scent of the ingredients. Which is just fine. It does have that somewhat antiseptic scent of menthol and soap. If you prefer to add scent post-shave, this would not have any impact on whatever you’re planning along those lines.

Production/Value: This soap occupies a nice price point, right in the mid priced area for the artisan makers. With the high quality ingredients, it’s certainly a warranted and fair price. No concerns here.

Notes: With a name like “Polar Vortex”, one would expect that this soap has a marked cooling effect during the shave. One’s expectations would not be left unfulfilled. Although this is probably not among the highest menthol soaps available, it certainly provides palpable cooling during the shave, with the sense of it growing with each pass. The menthol sensation carries through for a few minutes after the shave, even with an aftershave splash and a balm applied. I would say that it might be just the thing for people who want more menthol, but not ALL THE MENTHOL. Of course, you could finish with a mentholated aftershave, if you wanted a further chilling effect. To me, it was just about perfect. Cool, but not “face in the snowbank” cold. This is a good soap. I think that any of the First Canadian soaps, if they use this same base, should perform very nicely for you. Worth a try.

Like My Daddy Done

Posted: May 17, 2017 in Shaving Articles

In the traditional wet shaving world, the orthodoxies often run counter to what the average guy on the street used to do. It’s often all about a very complex series of passes, three or even more. While these methodologies work great, sometimes I like to vary how I do things to see if there are other viable ways to do it.

It has turned out, just about every time, that there are many ways to get the shave done. Just as there are a whole litany of tools available, there are a lot of ways to employ those tools.

My maintenance shave has been well documented here, in that it’s a with the grain pass, then an across the grain pass in the more “friendly direction”. That is to say, for me, going ears-nose direction (toward the center of the face) for most of the shave. Low on the neck, it would be the outward direction, as the grain of the beard changes down there.

However, I put my mind back to the old way, the way my dad taught me when I first started shaving. With the grain, then against, with a second lather between the two. It served me well for many years, at least as well as the cartridge razors I had on hand would do. I knew that this sort of technique would work well enough with an adjustable razor, because I could turn it up on the first pass, then down for the second. I have taken to using the Merkur Futur in this way, with 3 for my first pass and 1 for my second.

I dusted off an old-style Gillette Superspeed of the 40’s style (no date code), and it occurred to me that I hadn’t tried a mild razor such as that in the basic two-pass format. I wondered if I’d have to contend with too much hair on the against the grain pass, but it ended up working just fine. In fact, there was precious little difference in the result between the two and three pass method. The main difference being that there was a little less wear and tear on the skin.

I should point out that my second pass tends to be a combination of both against and across the grain, so it’s more like a pass and a half. That said, it’s the same thing with the three-pass, so it’s more like a four, if you add in all the little extra trips.

Also, a rather mild razor like the Superspeed needs a bit of sharpness in the blade. I used the Polsilver Super Iridium blade in this case. Through four shaves, it never let me down. I typically use the Astra SP in a Superspeed, but they tend to lose their sharpness a bit, and by the third shave, while comfortable, they aren’t quite giving you the same closeness. The Polsilvers did not exhibit this tendency.

What did I learn? Again, I learned that there are many ways to do things, and that anyone who is so reductive as to say that there aren’t is not giving you the full story. Experiment. Try different angles, different orders of your passes (probably not against the grain first!), and you might find that there’s a more efficient or comfortable way to do things. Finally, I learned that the old dudes had some good ideas. For shaving every day, being able to get a close shave without a lot of excess facial damage is a great option.

Cheers, and happy shaving.


Lucky Tiger Cream Soap:

Posted: May 15, 2017 in Shaving Articles

Ease of Lathering: Super easy. This may be the easiest lathering cream I’ve used. It bursts into lather with only a few swirls of the brush. Upon first putting it into the lathering bowl, I wasn’t sure if this would be the case, as its consistency is fairly watery. My fears were quickly allayed, and it whipped into voluminous lather in no time flat.

Protection: I would say that the protection is quite good. Not, perhaps, quite on the level of a tallow soap, but certainly good enough for most purposes. One caveat to this is that you needn’t put a lot of additional water into the lather, as you might with some soaps you’re familiar with. You can overwhelm this stuff and end up with a sub-par result if you get carried away. Better to leave it just a little on the dry side.

Residual Slickness: The Lucky Tiger cream feels nice on the skin, and leaves plenty of slickness behind for my purposes. I would say that it will hold its own in the company of most other creams I’ve tried. I had no issue with any irritation due to the ingredients in the product. Again, it won’t put fear into the heart of a tallow and lanolin formula, but it does nicely, considering what it is. My general experience is that it’s better to use the lather from a cream in a thick layer. The cream bases just don’t have the same buttery nature as some soaps. It’s fine, you just have to remember what it is, and use a bit more product if things start looking a little thin or feeling dangerous.

Scent: Lucky Tiger does not lead with this information, but this is an orange-scented product, as the whole line of their products are. Very nice, honest orange, not a synthetic or candy smell. I would say that the scent is present but not terribly strong. It lasts a bit, but not to the detriment of most scents going on top of it. For me, I quite like an orange scent, and enjoy this. If you are not a citrus enthusiast, your experience may be quite different. There are other scents below the orange, but it predominates here.

Production/Value: I found that the Lucky Tiger cream produced plenty of lather from what I see to be a typical amount of product (just a small squeeze, no more than quarter sized). While not bargain priced, it has neat packaging with a retro vibe, as well as solid performance. I think it’s quite a reasonable product at the cost I found it. Used by itself or part of Lucky Tiger’s “system” of products, it works quite well. It doesn’t fare well in comparison to the value lines of cream, such as Derby or the like, but it won’t put you in the poor house, either.

Notes: There may be an element of kitch or retro-chic going on with the Lucky Tiger soap, but it isn’t an “all show and no go” line of products. This is a nice shave cream that works well and is kind to the skin. If you really need the uttermost of protection, perhaps a bit of preshave oil might push it over the edge. I found that it worked great, smelled nice, and had packaging I could aesthetically appreciate. The shaving world is awash in good products. I’m glad to say that the Lucky Tiger cream is one of those.

Ease of Lathering: Very easy. This is one of the easiest creams I’ve used. If anything, it bursts into lather even quicker than Taylor’s. I’ve tried it both bowl and face lathering, and both provided an excellent, trouble-free result. No concern whatsoever in terms of this playing along with you when you’re at the shaving mirror.

Protection: The quality of lather you can get with the Body Shop is really solid. This stuff wants to get into that classic yogurt consistency. Even the most slap-dash effort will suffice. to get a good lather.

Residual Slickness: There are a lot of good shaving creams out there (in the traditional, lather it with a brush sense), and many of them work well. The Maca Root cream, however, may be the slickest I’ve used thus far. It’s a rich and nutritive product that feels nice on your skin and gives really good razor glide. I was impressed, considering that it is not terribly expensive per ounce.

Scent: Here, we have a mildly floral scent. I equate it with a somewhat swanky body lotion. Not bad, not great. Very much a unisex scent, I would say. For scent-driven shavers, this will be sort of bland, and possibly a drawback of the product. If you aren’t highly concerned about the scent of your shaving soap, this will probably do just fine.

Production/Value: The amount of product required for a shave seems to track with other good quality creams. About an almond-sized amount should do the trick. At the price, and considering that the container is over six ounces, this stuff is a solid value. A jar should last you a good long time, and give a lot of fine shaves. No quibbles here.

Notes: The Maca Root cream is a solid product. It has plenty of performance in regard to all the various metrics we like to consider. For me, I am somewhat motivated by the scent profile of a soap, and I find the Maca Root to be a little bland in this regard. That, for some of the market, will be perfect. If you’re sensitive to fragrances, either on your skin or due to a nasal allergy, this will be a big plus. For me, not so much. Though it is a good performer, I don’t know that it’s better than other creams in a similar price bracket. Those creams, in most cases, just have more compelling scents. For me, right now. The Maca Root cream is a keeper, a very nice performer. I have no buyer’s remorse about it. In regard to the other products that are in the Body Shop shaving line, I have written an article outlining their strengths and weaknesses. Spoiler alert, though: the shave cream is the best thing they make. Recommended, with the caveats articulated above.