5 Best Shaving Soaps for an Old-School, Effective Shave

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best shaving soap

There’s nothing wrong with old-school. From cars to friends to music to – well, the list goes on – the feeling and attachments we have for the past are endearing.

Shave soap is an old-school grooming tool. While many people think of shave cream when it comes to the stuff they put on their face to cushion and enhance their daily shave, shaving soap has been around hundreds of years (and shaving cream only since the 1940s).

And make no mistake: shave soap is just as effective as it ever was. If you’re feeling a bit nostalgic and want a close shave, give shave soap a try.

In this post, we’ll provide what we think are the best shaving soaps on the market – led by Proraso Shaving Soap For Sensitive Skin .

We’ll also discuss things to consider before you buy, how to get a superior lather from your shave soap, and examine the differences between shave soap and shave cream.

Let’s get rolling.

Quick summary

bb2-table__imageProraso Shaving Soap For Sensitive Skin
  • Perfect for sensitive skin types
  • Made with natural ingredients
  • Mild, uplifting aroma
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bb2-table__imageTaylor Of Old Bond Street Sandalwood Shaving Soap
  • Masculine aroma
  • Lathers up super enriched like a lotion
  • Excellent lubricating properties
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bb2-table__imageHenry Cavendish Himalaya Shaving Soap With Shea Butter
  • Brilliant moisturizing abilities
  • Creamy lather up
  • Appealing, unique scent
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bb2-table__imageVan Der Hagen Men’s Luxury Scented Soap
  • Good as a budget option
  • Fast lather effect
  • Pleasant aroma
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bb2-table__imageMaison Lambert Shaving Soap
  • Packed full of natural botanicals, chemical-free
  • Lathers up to the perfect thickness level
  • Protects and hydrates the skin
Check on Amazon →

Before you buy: 6 Things to consider when purchasing shave soap

While this post will provide you with a solid foundation of shave soaps from which to choose, it’s also important to be the savviest shopper possible.

That’s of particular importance if you don’t have much experience with shaving soap; there are plenty of products out there, and making the best choice for you comes down to a variety of factors.

So, before you head to your favorite store (or shop online), here are some things to keep in mind before making your final decision.

1. Types

“Type” usually refers to the process used to make a shaving soap:

  • Triple-Milled

Triple-milling is a process of making soap that involves grating the finished soap, melting it down, and then pressing it into a new puck or bar. If you want to do it yourself, you can use a cheese grater, but soap manufacturers use specialized machines for triple-milling.

Why is it significant to triple-mill soap?

The answer lies in moisture: the less water left in a bar of soap, the milder and better the soap. While you can cure soap for weeks (even months) to allow the water in soap to evaporate, triple-milling speeds up the process.

It also makes for a harder soap that, in theory, will last longer than softer soaps.

  • Semi-Hard

Semi-hard shave soap is just as its name suggests – softer than triple-milled soaps but harder than croaps – which is a type we’ll touch on shortly. Semi-hard soaps have less density than harder soaps and probably won’t last as long.

  • Croap

A croap is a soft or creamy soap (hence, “croap”) that is softer than other shave soaps because of the amount of moisture added to it in the manufacturing process.

2. Ingredients

It’s wise to look at the ingredients before you buy any shaving product, and shave soap is no exception. In most cases, shave soaps are tallow-, oil-, or glycerin-based.

Tallow-based soaps are more traditional and favored by old-school shaving enthusiasts. Tallow refers to soap that’s animal fat-based. The prevailing thought for many years was that tallow soaps were superior to all others, but the game is changing.

Oil-based soaps refer to soaps made with oils such as olive, coconut, palm, argan, etc. They’re vegan-friendly and a solid alternative to tallow-based soaps.

Glycerin-based soaps are increasingly popular and are considered to be gentler on the skin than tallow or oil-based soaps. For shavers with sensitive skin, a glycerin-based shave soap usually is the best bet.

Another ingredient found in some shaving soaps is fragrance, which is either natural or synthetic. Blending essential oils is one way to produce a natural scent.

3. Ease of Use

There are a few things to consider when it comes to ease of use: how easy it is to load the soap on your shaving brush and how quickly you’re able to create a rich lather while maintaining the slickness and moisture that’s necessary for a good shave.

While you can build a lather in your hand, it’s far better to use a shaving brush to apply the shave soap to your face. You’ll also have an easier time building your lather in another highly-recommended tool: a shaving bowl.

Other advantages of using a shave brush include that it lifts the hair off of your face to helps facilitate a closer shave, and it also softens your facial hair and lubricates your skin. The majority of shave brushes consist of badger hair, boar hair, horse hair, or synthetic fibers.

4. Scent

To scent or not to scent – that is the question.

Pardon the Shakespearian reference, but the fragrance is a personal choice in any grooming product. Many shave soaps are of the unscented variety, and many of those that are scented have a mild smell that won’t last all day, like a cologne.

In most cases, the scent of quality shaving soaps comes from all-natural essential oils. There also are synthetic soaps that include alcohol – which you’ll want to avoid if you have sensitive or easily-irritated skin.

5. Cushioning and Slickness

Two terms you’ll see a lot of in shave soap reviews are “cushioning” and “slickness”. “Cushioning” refers to the soap’s ability to allow the blade or razor head “float” on your skin to avoid razor burns, as well as nicks and cuts.

“Slickness” also is important when choosing a shave soap. It refers to the thin layer of soap/lather that’s left on the skin that prevents friction. The slicker a shave soap, the more comfortable your shave. You’ll also get a closer shave.

6. Price

Of course, the price always is an important factor when buying anything. The price of shave soap is perhaps not quite as important – relatively speaking – as other shaving products, because it tends to last longer than other lathering products.

Generally speaking, however, shave soaps range from $5 to $25. You can expect them to last at least a couple of months, no matter how much they cost.

OK, now it’s time to dive into our shaving soap reviews.

The 5 best shaving soaps in 2020

Proraso Shaving Soap For Sensitive Skin

Proraso Shaving Soap in a Bowl

Shaving doesn’t have to be a boring, same-old ritual. In fact, with the right tools – including the best razors, shave creams, and soaps – it can be downright luxurious. Enjoy your morning shave, gents!

If you have sensitive skin, however, shaving can be an arduous process that leaves your skin irritated and razor-burned, and not just any old razor or shave soap/cream will do.

We’ve talked before about the best razors for sensitive skin, but what about shave creams and soaps?

Not to worry: Proraso’s Shaving Soap for Sensitive Skin is just the product you need if your skin is easily irritated. In fact, it’s the best shaving soap for sensitive skin that you’ll find anywhere.

For one, Proraso’s signature soap for sensitive skin includes oatmeal and green tea in its list of ingredients, both of which soothe and protect inflamed, easily-irritated skin. It also produces a creamy, rich lather that softens the skin while providing superb lubrication.

Based in Italy, Proraso has produced superior shaving products since 1948 and is one of its country’s iconic brands.

Its products have evolved over the years to feature all-natural products that including botanical extracts and natural oils that protect the skin both before and after the shave.

Their products are also paraben-free, which is always a plus, and include no mineral oils or SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate) that strips away the natural oils of your skin.

Another thing to like about Proraso’s Shaving Soap for Sensitive skin is its scent, which has a light hint of lime and apple. It’s neither too citrusy or overpowering, but just the right mix that doesn’t enter a room before you do because it’s too strong.

Pros

  • Great for sensitive skin
  • Mild, pleasing scent
  • Natural ingredients

Cons

  • Again, not many, although some reviewers suggest that the lather could be thicker

Bottom Line

If you have sensitive skin, you know how touchy your morning shave can be without the right tools. But this soap, combined with the right razors and blades, will make your shaving experience much easier.

Taylor of Old Bond Street Sandalwood Shaving Soap

Taylor of Old Bond Street Sandalwood Shaving Soap in a Wooden Bowl

Taylor of Old Bond Street was established in London in 1854 and has consistently built a reputation for grooming excellence ever since. Their signature sandalwood shaving soap sets a standard that most other shaving soaps and creams can’t match.

There’s so much to like about this shaving soap – from its lotion-like consistency to its pleasant sandalwood scent and the wooden shaving bowl that comes with it. Let’s take a closer look:

  • Texture

As mentioned, the Sandalwood Shaving Soap has a consistency and feel that reminds you of lotion. While other shaving soaps are a bit thin, this soap is thick and provides an excellent foundation for your razor to slide over your face smoothly.

Another thing you’ll like about this soap is that it comes out of the mug softer than almost any other shaving soap. It’s packed with essential oils that soften your skin and beard, as well as provide superb lubrication.

  • Scent

Sandalwood has a reputation for being a “manly” scent with earthy tones that have a touch of cedar.

Our friends at Taylor of Old Bond Street also mixed in a touch of rosemary, jasmine, rose, and lavender to give it a unique, refreshing smell. It’s not a shaving soap you can share with your wife or girlfriend, but you’ll appreciate its masculine qualities.

  • Ingredients

One of the key ingredients in the Sandalwood Shaving Soap is glycerin, a naturally-derived sugar alcohol used in many moisturizing lotions.

Combined with palm oil, it helps make Taylor of Old Bond Street’s classic shave soap a superior source of skin and beard lubrication.

Moreover, Taylor of Old Bond Street’s products are paraben-free.

  • Shaving Bowl

Your Sandalwood Shaving Soap comes packaged in a reusable wooden shaving bowl that helps you save water. The shaving soap bowl is another example of the classy, British elegance of Taylor of Old Bond Street’s products.

  • A Little Goes a Long Way

While the Sandalwood Shaving Soap is more expensive than some soaps, you’re not only paying for a quality product, but you’re also making a sound long-term investment.

You don’t need to use a large amount of this soap to work up the lather necessary for a close shave.

Note: Experts advise that you use a shaving brush with this product, both to mix it into an appropriate lather and also to apply it to your face while preparing your facial hair for your shave.

Pros

  • Superior lubricating qualities
  • Masculine scent
  • Rich, lotion-like lather

Cons

  • Not many, slightly more expensive than some shave soaps

Bottom Line

The majority of the best-of shaving soap reviews include Taylor of Old Bond Street’s Sandalwood Shaving Soap, and with good reason. This is a high-quality product from a company known for its excellence. If you’re serious about wet shaving, give this soap a try.

Still not convinced? Check out this video:

Henry Cavendish Himalaya Shaving Soap With Shea Butter

Henry Cavendish Himalaya Shaving Soap With Shea Butter

Even the name – Henry Cavendish – somehow conjures up images of old-time shaving: a mug, a shave brush, and a razor waiting nearby.

In fact, the manufacturers of the Himalaya Shaving Soap With Shea Butter advise using a brush and bowl to get the best results with their soap.

More importantly, Henry Cavendish’s classic shave soap fits the bill if you believe that high quality is an old-fashioned standard. Make no mistake: this is a quality shave soap, and it all starts with the ingredients.

The Himalaya Shaving Soap includes glycerin – which we’ve already discussed as being an ingredient found in many moisturizing creams – and shea butter, which replenishes, moisturizes, and revitalizes dry skin.

This soap will leave your skin feeling smooth and moisturized (yet not oily).

Not only will you get a soothing shave, you’ll also get a lather that’s creamy and rich. It helps soften your beard to ensure a smooth shave.

But there’s more.

If you prefer a shaving soap with a fragrance, then you’ll love Henry Cavendish’s Himalaya perfume oil scent (which the company says women will love, too). Even better: it’s a natural fragrance that’s light and refreshing but not overpowering.

Henry Cavendish also is highly-concentrated and will last longer than most other shave soaps. Its natural ingredients make it a good choice for men with sensitive skin. There are no harmful chemicals or additives.

Pros

  • Excellent moisturizing qualities
  • Rich, creamy lather
  • Pleasing, distinct scent

Cons

  • A bit on the expensive side for its size (3.8 oz)

Bottom Line

Henry Cavendish’s Himalaya Shaving Soap with Shea Butter belongs on any review of the best shaving soap. It’s great for your skin, it smells good, and it will last a long time.

Van Der Hagen Men’s Luxury Scented Soap

Van Der Hagen Men’s Luxury Scented Soap

The scent isn’t the most important quality of shaving soap. Lather, lubrication, how your skin feels after your shave – yes, those are important.

A shaving soap that can do all of those things and also have a great scent is worth a further look. Van Der Hagen’s Men’s Luxury Scented Soap falls into the “worth a further look” category.

Van Der Hagen – thanks to its combination of cocoa butter, mango butter, and shea butter – has found the right mix of appealing scent and quality shave in its scented soap.

The soap also contains glycerin, which has nothing to do with its scent but everything to do with a lubricating and moisturizing shave.

In turn, it helps make the Men’s Luxury Scented Soap great for men with dry or sensitive skin (and it’s also hypo-allergenic, which is another skin-friendly attribute).

There’s more to like about this soap, however.

One of the first things you’ll notice about the Luxury Scented Soap is how quickly and easily it lathers. Your brush will be fully locked and loaded in less than a minute after swirling the mixture of soap and water around in your shaving bowl.

The lather also tends to last longer on your face – especially when compared to other budget shave soaps.

Thus that’s the other thing: you can purchase Van Der Hagen’s Men’s Luxury Scented Soap on Amazon for under $10, which is a true bargain for a soap of its quality.

It’s worth noting that the lather isn’t as thick as it is with other shave creams, but it still will provide a clean, close shave.

Moreover, Van Der Hagen’s Men’s Luxury Scented Soap is vegan-friendly and never tested on animals.

But back to the scent.

While this soap’s fragrance isn’t as powerful as, say, the Bay Rum-infused soaps, it’s subtle yet noticeable.

The scent may not linger throughout the day, but you’ll smell good and feel refreshed after your shave and on into your morning. It’s a scent that qualifies as mildly masculine – but not in an in-your-face kind of way.

Pros

  • Budget friendly
  • Excellent scent
  • Lathers quickly

Cons

  • The overall slickness of the cream leaves a bit to be desired

Bottom Line

If you’re looking to buy a quality shaving soap that won’t bust your budget, then the Van Der Hagen Men’s Luxury Scented Soap is worth considering. It compares favorably to other shave soaps that cost twice as much.

Maison Lambert Shaving Soap

Maison Lambert Shaving Soap

There’s plenty to love about Maison Lambert’s Shaving Soap, starting with the unassuming jar which makes it super easy to load up your shaving brush and have at it. But that really is just the beginning.

The first thing to note is this is a vegan product: it’s handmade using the French art of soap making, and is completely free of nasty chemicals like parabens, sulfates, artificial fragrances and all that rubbish. In fact, the scent comes from a beautiful concentration of essential oils like tea tree oil, rosemary and lavender, which give the soap a soft, subtle scent which is a little bit minty and extremely fresh indeed.

The lather it creates is rich and luxurious, but not too thick of fluffy and very sturdy – you won’t catch it running down your face or disappearing as soon as it comes into contact with water. And it’s completely protective, allowing you to achieve a seamless shave that will leave even sensitive skin safely unscathed and moisturized.

It achieves this by including plenty of lovely shea and cocoa butter and argan oil, which helps moisturize your skin and encourage the retainment of natural moisture. You’ll end up with smooth, tight skin which is super clean and refreshed without a build-up of grease – perfect!

This is a particularly great soap for beardsmen, as all those natural oils and butters and aloe vera will nicely soften your mane up, ready for a good beard oil.

Pros

  • Loads of super natural, positive ingredients – from shea butter and aloe vera to jojoba oil and tea tree!
  • Lathers really nicely without excessive thickness or oiliness
  • Moisturizes your skin and protects it for the whole day

Cons

  • The jar could be more aesthetic, but that really is a minor concern!

Bottom Line

A wonderful shaving soap, particularly for the bearded, the sensitive skinned and the vegans!

Building an epic lather: Here’s how

Now that you’ve chosen your shaving soap it’s time to get down to the business of shaving. There’s more to shaving with soap than you might think. First, you need to build a good lather that ensures your shave will be clean, close, and comfortable.

Let’s take a look at two methods for how to use shaving soap: a) with a shaving bowl and b) on your face. In both cases, we’re talking about using shaving soap and a brush.

a) Using a shaving soap bowl

fill the bowl with hot water1. Your first step in using a shaving bowl is to fill the bowl with hot water. The water needs to be hot, but not boiling. Place your shaving brush in the water and let it soak for a minute or two. You also can soak your brush under running (hot) water.

soak your brush for a couple of minutes2. After you’ve soaked your brush for a couple of minutes, empty the bowl until just a tiny bit of water is left. By “tiny,” we mean just a teaspoon full. You’ll also need to shake the brush free of any excess water.

add a small bit of hot water on shaving soap3. While you’re soaking your brush, soften your shaving soap by adding a small bit of hot water on top of it. A few drops will suffice.

take the brush and swirl it on the soap4. After the soap has softened, take the brush and swirl it on the soap for 10 to 15 seconds. This is perhaps your most important step in creating a luxurious lather.

take your brush and swirl it in the shaving bowl5. Next, take your brush and swirl it in the shaving bowl for approximately a minute. You’ll see the lather start to build from bubbly to thick. Keep swirling until the lather is no longer bubbly. If it’s too thick, add a few drops of water in the bowl and swirl again.

b) Building a lather on your face

soak the brush in hot water until its bristles are moist and soft1. Start by soaking the brush in hot water until its bristles are moist and soft.

soften the soap with a few drops of water2. Soften the soap with a few drops of water.

swirl the brush on the soap3. Swirl the brush on the soap – as you did above – for 10 to 15 seconds. All you need to do is make sure that the tips of the brush have some soap on them.

swirl the brush on your cheeks4. Finally, swirl the brush on your cheeks – using a circular motion – to build up your lather. It should take about 30 seconds to develop a thick lather.

If the lather is watery, swirl the brush on the shaving soap again. If it’s too thick, put a few drops of water on the tips of your brush and re-swirl on your face.

Shaving soap vs. shaving cream – What’s the difference?

There are a few basic things to remember when discussing the differences between shaving soap and shaving cream:

  • Shaving soap has been around longer – a lot longer. While shaving cream was introduced in the 20th century, shaving soap has been around hundreds of years. We’re talking old, old school when it comes to shaving soap. Your grandfather and great grandfather used it, just like their grandfathers and great-grandfathers used it before them (and so on down the line).
  • Shaving soap almost always comes in a hard puck, unlike shaving cream. Building a lather with shaving soap takes a bit more effort, although the results usually are excellent.

But let’s dig a little deeper:

Shaving Soap

As mentioned earlier, there’s a wide variety of shaving soaps: triple-milled, semi-hard, croaps, etc. Triple-milled is the most expensive, but many wet shavers say that it produces a dense lather that you can’t get with other types of shaving soaps.

Triple-milled soaps also are harder than others, which means they can last longer.

Creating a lather with shaving soap usually means adding water to it first, at least in most cases. Moreover, you’ll need a shaving brush to build up the lather and apply it to your face.

While there’s more of a learning curve to creating a lather with shaving soap, the quality of the lather – as well as the lubrication it provides – is second to none.

If you want to go old-school, then use a shaving soap with a straight razor. That’s how it was done a hundred years ago (and more), my friends.

Price-wise, shaving soaps often are more expensive than shaving creams, but your initial investment buys a soap puck that can last up to four months. You always can find cheaper shaving soaps out there, although you’re gambling with quality.

Regarding fragrance, shaving soaps usually don’t have the lingering scent that’s common to shaving creams.

Many shaving soaps have a subtle scent – such as those that include sandalwood – but you always can use an after-shave balm or oil that provides fragrance throughout the day. The myth that shaving soaps have no fragrance simply isn’t true.

Shaving Cream

When most people think of shaving cream, they think of the kind that comes in aerosol cans. You know: the kind with which you press on the top and out comes the shave cream.

Shaving cream has been around since the 1940s and is found in almost every supermarket, pharmacy, or convenience store you can name. They’re formulated to provide you a no-fuss lather that’s often applied directly to your face.

For that reason alone, shave cream typically is better for anyone new to the wet shaving game.

The lather you’ll build from shave soap is, as mentioned, second to none – especially after you get the hang of mixing it in a bowl or on your face – but top-quality shave creams also generate the kind of lather that deliver excellent lubrication and a superb cushion.

Shaving cream comes in many different fragrances, although you’ll want to consider cream that has no fragrance if you have sensitive skin.

How we chose the best shaving soaps of 2020

It’s not easy to find the “best of” anything when there are so many good choices. Make no mistake: there are a lot of quality shave soaps out there, and narrowing our list down to a few wasn’t easy.

But, like with all of our product reviews, we use research as our foundation and build from there.

While it’s true that we don’t have the resources to try all of the quality soaps available personally, we sample as many as we can while rolling up our sleeves and digging into the research.

That research includes the reviews of others – including those of customers found on online retailers such as Amazon.

In the end, it comes down to a handful of factors: quality, price, ease of use, and even ingredients. We also take into account a shave soap’s scent, although the fragrance is a small piece of the puzzle when determining shave soaps we think you’ll like.

We’re confident you’ll like the soaps we’ve chosen.

Conclusion

We hope you found this review helpful and informative.

As always, we encourage your feedback – whether through comments or questions – and we’d love to hear from you if you’ve tried any of the products listed above, or if you have a personal favorite not listed here. Stay in touch!

Until next time.


You might also like:

Best Shaving Creams That Will Guarantee a Great Shave

Best Shaving Brushes That Will Up Your Shave Quality

Best Razors For Men That Provide a Nice, Smooth Shave

Best Bar Soaps for Men Your Skin Will Thank You For

How To Shave Your Armpits in 10 Simple Illustrated Steps

Best Shaving Kits for Men That Will Up Your Shaving Game

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About The Author

Domen Hrovatin
Domen Hrovatin

Domen—a self-confessed facial hair addict—is a grooming professional, style enthusiast, and someone with deep personal experience and knowledge about male pattern baldness. His work was mentioned in countless notable men's grooming and style publications, including Beardbrand and AskMen.

  • You obviously did zero research into this article. One of these is Complete TRASH, a few are ok, and none are in the top 20 for real wetshavers except for maybe Taylor.

  • Shave soap/cream is a complete waste of money. Simply use your favorite hair conditioner for your pre-shave and shave. It already has the necessary ingredients to nourish your skin while providing excellent glide and cushion properties.

    • It’s not all about getting the thing done, it’s the process and experience. Plus, I don’t believe a conditioner will perform well on thick beards.

  • Do you really think that the average man, with family responsibilities and bills, is going to spend $35 for shaving soap? Unrealistic.

  • While I’ve been straight shaving for a couple of years, it’s always been with a shavette and only a couple times a week. I’m now ready to make the investment in a quality razor, soap and a better brush. This article is well written and dry helpful. Thank you for all the time you put into being so helpful.

  • Good post! There are more shaving soap brands out there that I knew. I was only familiar with DR Harris, Old Bond Street, Santa Maria, and a local Dutch one called “De Vergulde Hand”.

    I rather enjoyed the extensive lathering explanation… I do like a thick lather but think I use a bit too much water. This is because I add the water to the brush, rather than onto the soap – something I should probably reconsider!

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