Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Shaving soaps

with 9 comments

Shaving creams are probably more popular, but shaving soaps have a great appeal: taking an inert block and making from it a thick, creamy lather seems like the stuff of miracles. At first I used a lathering bowl—scroll down at the link—but now I enjoy building the lather directly only my beard. Of particular appeal are the handmade soaps crafted by small-business artisans.

I used one of those for this morning’s shave: QED‘s Patchouli/Tea Tree/Peppermint, which has a “wake-up-and-smell-the-patchouli-tea tree-and-pepperment” aroma, a great awakener. The soap is a pellucid light amber, poured directly into a screw-top plastic case. (As noted in the main shaving post, the lather is not developed in the soap container, which is used only to charge the brush. See link in first paragraph.)

It was simply terrific, and I have ordered many more soaps from QED. Some of my favorites: Special 218 (this one really is special), Tangerine and Spearmint, Grapefruit and Peppermint, Bay Rum, Sandalwood. If you look at their menu on the left, at the bottom you’ll see “Other fabulous toiletry products offered by QED”, and that will take you to the appropriate page. Or just click here. (You’ll note that they also sell the Merkur Vision, as well as the Merkur Slant Bar in gold.)

Charles, the owner, also makes and sells shaving sticks: sticks of his soaps, which you use by rubbing one all over the wet beard against the grain, then taking a wet shaving brush and building the lather directly on your face.

Shaving sticks are nice for travel and also useful in the final touch-up phase of your shave: holding the stick in your left hand, feel your wet face for rough spots, hit them a lick with the stick, and then shave—no need to lather for the touch-up. I highly recommend the Mocha-Java shaving stick—chocolate and coffee essential oils give a fragrance so delectable that he labels it “Not for consumption.” It seems to me that using a shaving stick to rub the wet beard directly with the soap softens the beard more, with the result that I get a better shave—YMMV.

Charles is quite helpful, answers emails promptly, is pleasant to talk to on the phone, and is, I at first thought, the very spitting image of William Powell (a photo on the explanatory enclosures he includes with your order)—only then I found it was William Powell.

Another source of good handmade glycerine-based shaving soaps is Mama Bear. Her soaps, made with shea butter, aloe butter, extra glycerin, and natural vitamin E, receive high praise in the discussion groups and are available in a wide variety of fragrances. The first three I bought: Clove & Tangerine, Cedarwood & Lemon, and Eucalyptus. Check out the choices at the link. Tahitian Vanilla is very nice. And I especially like Vanilla Cream. Several of her fragrances are available as shaving sticks. (I really do like to use a shaving stick.)

Mama Bear also sells a good alum bar and also a very nice little wooden drying rack. See the bottom of this page.

Honeybee Spa Soaps sells a wide variety of shea butter shaving soaps (see her menu on the left at the link), originally sold only as pucks but now also available in jars. She makes quite nice custom fragrances, including things like Homemade Cheesecake – “Delicious graham crackers and sweet cream butter, notes of creamy vanilla, sweetened condensed milk and cream cheese, with a hint of almond.” She also has several fragrances that mimic well-known aromas from specific brands of men’s toiletries. And I very much like her Lilac—a fragrance hard to find—and her new Fresh Lemon. Her Coffee Mocha is nothing short of sensational. And you can order any of her fragrances in a shaving stick.

A couple of notes: she does do international shipments—just email her for details. And the eBay site overstates the postage you have to pay. After you’ve selected what you’re ordering, email her and determine the actual postage. You can then enter a credit at the eBay checkout to bring the postage down to the correct amount. If you’re ordering the soap pucks themselves (i.e., not in the jar), three of the pucks are just under a pound, and six are just under two pounds, so you can readily determine the postage for US orders (since she ships via Priority Mail): $4.05 for 1-3 pucks, $6.05 for 4-6 pucks.

Emily of Em’s Place makes a very nice glycerine shaving soap in a variety of fragrances (and unscented), and also makes quite a nice lathering shaving cream. It’s not a thick cream like the English creams, but thinner so that you can squirt it directly onto the wet brush. This format seems ideal for those who shave in the shower. I’ve used both her soaps and creams with great satisfaction. Like QED, Em’s Place sells a full line of shaving brushes and razors.

Saint Charles Shave is another supplier of a range of shaving products, including excellent handmade shaving soaps and wonderful fragrances. These can be ordered in a wood container or as pucks to refill a container you already have. I have tried several of SCS soaps now, and they are extremely good. Great stuff. The SCS Bay Rum Aftershave Balm is also very nice.

Finally, from Germany, there’s Olivia’s Shaving Soaps. Motivated by the praise they have received in the discussion forums, I have a couple on order from her, along with a some of the Italian Cella shaving cream: a smell of bitter almonds and well liked by some. It comes as a blob in a plastic wrapper, and it’s about the consistency of warm candlewax. You press it into the container of your choice. Some have said that it takes a bit of trying to coax a good lather from Olivia’s soaps.There. That should keep you busy.

Written by Leisureguy

15 July 2006 at 9:17 am

Posted in Shaving, Toys

9 Responses

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  1. I recently tried some Pirates Cove shaving soap and am very pleased with it. My favorite so far is Bay Rum-Ginger. Their web site is http://piratescovesoapworks.com/.

    Like

    Norm

    6 December 2006 at 6:29 pm

  2. Their prices are quite reasonable, too. Thanks for the pointer.

    Like

    LeisureGuy

    6 December 2006 at 7:14 pm

  3. I have been wet-shaving for about one year now.

    I am curious if there is a consensus on whether there exists a shave cream superior to Geo. Trumper. My experience is that with shave creams and soaps, you get what you pay for. For example, I was shocked how inferior Caswell Massey products are.

    Like

    Ted

    12 December 2006 at 9:48 am

  4. You’ll find the phrase/acronym “YMMV” used a LOT in the shaving forums. I do like Geo F. Trumper shaving creams, but also Taylor of Old Bond Street, D.R. Harris, Truefitt & Hill, Castle Forbes, and Nancy Boy. All of these are somewhat pricey, but the Canadian J.M. Fraser’s is not terribly expensive and quite nice indeed. Your comment, however, appears in a post on shaving soaps, so perhaps I should mention that the soaps above are excellent and offer a good bargain. Try one of QED’s shaving sticks, for example.

    Like

    LeisureGuy

    12 December 2006 at 9:52 am

  5. Thanks LG.

    Like

    Ted

    12 December 2006 at 6:15 pm

  6. I should add that Em makes a very nice lathering shaving cream in case you want to give it a go. It’s thinner than the English creams. You squirt a bit onto your shaving brush, then lather up on your face (or in a bowl). Really good stuff, I think. Scroll down here.

    Like

    LeisureGuy

    14 December 2006 at 2:25 am

  7. hi Leisur’ee

    thanks for the article, really opens up my source of where to get superior shaving soaps!

    anyway, i’m really interested to hear from you about the “technical” part of shaving soaps …

    i’m always curious whether shaving soaps made from 100% glycerin are better or those made primarily from shea butter, or other kinds of primary ingredients??

    anything ideas on this?

    best,
    ike.

    Like

    ikemen

    18 August 2007 at 8:21 am

  8. There’s a lot of individual variation in responses to shaving products: blades, brushes, soaps, and creams, among others. Thus “better” depends on the individual shaver and his own experience and preferences. Some like tallow-based soaps, some like vegetable-oil based (coconut, palm, olive), some like glycerin, with or without shea butter. I fear you’ll have to do your own experiences to determine your own preferences.

    Like

    LeisureGuy

    18 August 2007 at 7:48 pm

  9. […] Leisure Guy’s Review of QED Shaving Soaps […]

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