Knothead Brush Works custom brush auction for DFS. Read more here!!

In the last year I have been testing shaving soaps/creams. I am sure many people have done this in the past and many will do so in the future. I was not trying to reinvent the wheel, only to find what was best for me. My goal was simple – find the top five or so soaps or creams I would be willing to use forever. In doing so, I have learned far more than I realized I would or could. To give back to the community at large, which has always answered questions I’ve had, here is what I have learned.

I am disinclined to list rankings of specific products because what is important to me might have no value to anyone else. This is truly a case of YMMV. Reviews I’ve read or watched lauding products, reading about “perfect scores”, and even websites “awarding” virtual trophies, I have found those same products wanting. Therefore, I have no doubt that if I called something “excellent” someone else would find wanting. We are all individuals. To each their own.

Nevertheless, I will go over what I have learned in this thread. Obviously, everything here will be IMO and I do so in good faith, perhaps to help someone else out. For the sake of ease, I will use the word soap to mean both “shaving soap” or “shaving cream”.

I am sure that a lot of this will be BORING and DULL for all the experienced folks. My apologies, just skip it.

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(This post was last modified: 05-22-2016, 03:49 PM by grim.)

In order to begin, you need to know where to find samples. You can also: buy full products, have samples gifted to, or be part of some pass around. Sometimes, a seller will throw in free samples in a larger order. Samples from soap makers can come and go. One day they sell them, the next day they are gone. It happens. As of the current date, I know of the following soap makers that sell samples.  I am only discussing US shops I know. There are probably more.

Al’s Shaving Products
Bronson Soap Company
Captain’s Choice
Chiseled Face
Cold River Soap Works
Ginger’s Garden
Honey Bee Soaps
Kell’s Original
Mama Bears Soaps
Mike’s Natural Soaps
Mountain Country Soap
Mystic Waters Shaving Soap
New York Shaving Company
Outlaw Soaps
Phoenix Artisan Accoutrements (Crown King Kokum Butter Shave Soap)
Queen Charlotte Soaps
Reef Point Soaps
Route 66
Sampsons Shaving Soap
St James of London
Soap Commander
Stirling Soaps http://www.stirlingsoap.comstone
Stone Cottage Soapworks
Truefitt & Hill
Through the Fire Fine Craft
Wet Shaving Products

Resellers also sell samples, that is, repacked soaps into sample containers or factory packed samples. Not all scents are sold by all resellers.

Maggards Razors

St James of London
Caties Bubbles
Wholly Kaw
Soap Smooth
Chiseled Face
Barrister & Mann
Mickey Lee
Through the Fire
Castle Forbes
Dapper Dragon
Strop Shoppe
DR Harris
LA Shaving
Edwin Jagger
Geo F. Trumper
Taylor of Old Bond Street
Antica Barbaria Colla

The Superior Shave

Alles Seife Globetrotter 3-in-1 Shaving Soap
La Cigale 'Savon Barbe' Shaving Soap
Golddachs Shaving Cream
VP Leonhardy RasierSeife Shaving Soap
Mühle Organic Shaving Cream
Omega Shaving Cream
RazoRock “XXX” Soap
Sampson’s Soap
Savion Shaving Soaps
Simpsons Shaving Cream
Vulfix Shaving Cream
Zartgefühl 'Ziegen Bart' Shaving Soap

The Old Town Shaving Shop

Chiseled Face
LA Shaving
Phoenix Artisan Accoutrements
Martin de Candre
Taylor of Old Bond Street
Barrister & Mann
Castle Forbes
DR Harris
Geo F Trumper
Antica Barbieria Colla

Gary’s Sample Shop See website for details.

ShoeBox ShaveShop

Taylor of Old Bondstreet


The Blades Grim Luxury Shaving Soap

Straight Razor Designs

SRD (House?)
Meissner Tremonia

The Shave Den

Castle Forbes
DR Harris
FA Dynamic
Musgo Real
Nancy Boy
Taylor of Old Bond Street
The Body Shop
Truefitt & Hill
Geo. F. Trumper

Bullgoose Shaving Supplies

La Savonniere du Moulin

Men’s Essentials

This store advertises a wide selection of hard to get samples, when in stock, including: Floris 89, Acca Kappa, Folsom, Bufflehead, Penahaligon, and

Cincinnatus, NeoXerxes, gwsmallwood and 7 others like this post
Nice list, and thank you for posting. Connaught Shaving also sells samples. They don't have a lot of choices but they do have some luxury brands such as XPEC and Meissner Tremonia, and their prices are hard to beat on both products and shipping.

Matsilainen likes this post

Thanks for the sticky-worthy list, grim!

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Super Moderator
San Diego, Cal., USA
Grim, thanks for this amazing and comprehensive list. It is much appreciated. Happy2
Thanks all ..., yeah it took a while to figure that all out.


Where am I coming from?

For any of this to make sense I should say I’m a baby boomer. I come from a time when canned shaving cream sales exploded virtually wiping out traditional brush and soap.  I lived through this and know how the vast majority of people viewed shaving back in the day. It was a mundane, daily task done solely because of necessity. It was not something celebrated, admired, romanticized, or even discussed as far as I remember. No one sat around and talked about different blades and after shaves. Shaving was just something you did, no different than brushing your teeth.  

Anything that decreased the time performing the task was welcome and by the time canned shaving cream or gel dominated the market, traditional brush and soap techniques, from my observation, had disappeared from public view. Modern technology was wonderful. Push a button and magic happens! In the early 1950s, the push was on to do away with brush and bowl.

And what could be better than some Old Spice from pushing a button?

And hot lather rocked! I might have owned one of those machines!

BTW, I don’t have a shaving “den”. Until I started this journey, I had never heard that term.  I’m lucky to have part of a bathroom to use Wink I don’t collect shaving brushes, razors, or accessory hardware. I use whatever hardware I have every day as tools. They are not collectibles. They are necessities required to perform a task, although they seem to be accumulating at a rate where they are crossing the line from necessity to excessive.  Blush

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(This post was last modified: 05-22-2016, 09:19 PM by grim.)
Preconceived Biases

I came into this with zero industry biases. I had zero knowledge of the shaving cream/soap industry, no knowledge of any brands, and no concept of what “artisan” meant, other than the traditional definition of a skilled worker making a product by hand (i.e., without automation). In fact, I had no idea why the word "artisan" kept appearing in this industry.  Why did anyone need to discuss “how” a consumable product was made? Who cared?

I admit that at first I had a difficult time and struggle with the concept of “artisan” within the wet shaving industry.  Of course I’ve heard it within the food industry but there it was over worked and had become a cliché. I had heard it for carpenters and the like. But after talking through it in this thread,, I’m good with the result in my mind. It can mean something else to anyone else. That's fine.

An artist creates something new. It can be derived from another source, just as a Roman Artist painted a bowl of fruit and so did a modern Artist, they are still artists despite using the same props or inspiration.

An artisan is a skilled craftsman in a trade, using their hands, but does not create something new.

Arts can be many things from culinary arts to fine arts. …

The word [artisan] does NOT, necessarily, mean quality. Something can be made by hand and be garbage. If I made some furniture and tried to be a carpenter, rest assured, it would be garbage furniture although a simple artisan.”

Moving on, I had NEVER heard of the big players in this industry, never mind the small businesses. My idea of aftershave was Old Spice or Brut. This was good enough for me

And if Mr. October and Broadway Joe said something was good, obviously it had to be good

Since I knew NOTHING of what products were good or bad, other than the obvious conclusions that something bought at a supermarket was mass marketed at the cheapest price possible as a lowest common denominator, I asked those who knew more than me.  And, I observed two groups of people:

1. Those that repeated the same names of what they considered to be top tier soaps and those same names were mention in archives across a decade.  IMO, this information was likely reliable.

2. Those that were loyal to a brand. IMO, this information was less reliable than the first group (which might or might not be a flawed opinion).

a) Some of these were brands have been around for decades and usually commercially produced.

b) The rest of the brands were made by a new generation of  “artisans” and for a reason unknown to me seemed to equate “artisan” with quality.  I did not then and do not today understand this equation as, for example, I have had equally bad “artisan” pizza and “commercial” pizza, and vice versa. I also perceived a distinct disdain, within this group, from “some”, for commercially produced products. However, that can be explained with equating “artisan” with quality, something I thought inherently flawed.

One thing I found disturbing among “some” loyalists was the fervor in which some fans of a product held in regard their chosen object of fanaticism in certain spheres of the virtual space. There is nothing inherently wrong with being a fan of anything. It’s no different than cheering for the local team.   But for some reason, a few fanatics seem to take it to an extreme. Question the objects of admiration in any way and their wrath becomes elevated. I view that as weakness. A superior product needs no defense. An elite product stands on its own merits. In other words, the very fact that some products were staunchly defended showed me they needed to be defended, something the best of the best do not.

Besides asking, I did the common thing and did some due diligence, searching the Internet for results like “Best Shaving Cream” and “Best Shaving Soaps”. Try it some time and you might be amazed at what some web sites claim as “the best” regardless of whether it’s a forum or just somebody making claims (or selling something).

If ONLY I knew THEN what I know NOW  Smile

So starting this endeavor, any preconceived biases were based upon:

1. #1, the repeated names of perceived top tier products

2. A general philosophy of life that you get what you pay for.

3. The mistaken belief that when a website grants an “award” for a product or claims something “the best”, that in fact it is “the best” (OK, that was naïve). My bad.  Confused

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Super Moderator
San Diego, Cal., USA
Grim, your point about what makes an artisan is well taken.  Quite frankly (and rightly or wrongly) I use the term when I think of individuals or "mom and pop" operations making their own products, or having them made to their specifications.  I have been high on many of the artisan products I have tried only because I am blown away by their quality and how they can hold their own against commercial products.  There are good and bad artisan and commercial products.  I think one reason the appellation is used so much now is the sudden (within the last few years) blossoming of these individual endeavors.  Just my 2¢.
(This post was last modified: 05-23-2016, 03:21 PM by grim.)
Process Lessons Learned Part I

After going through this process, here are some process issues I’ve learned, and some things I would have done MUCH different.

1. Know your goal. If you don’t know why you are testing products, then what are you doing?  My goal was simple – find the top five so soaps or creams I would be willing to use forever. My general philosophy is I would rather have five products I consider the best, regardless of cost, rather than  a dozen lesser products.  

I can’t possibly try EVERY brand that exists or every scent of each brand, but I can try the mainstream easily available in the US. I do not differentiate between large or small companies or how long someone has been in business. It’s all the same to me. If you started yesterday and rock, then you go to the head of the class. On the other hand, if you have been around 100 years and still selling, then there is probably a reason for that.

2. Have a standardized process.  Use the same: pre-shave products, routine, blade, brush, lathering technique, post-shave routine, and time you shave each day.  If you introduce variables, then you have no idea what caused an issue, good or bad.

3. Popularity of consumables does not mean the consumable is “good”.  It can mean it’s cheap. Cheap stuff sells. Take a look at Amazon's most popular products, any product. Inevitably the cheapest products sell the most.

The perception of something being cheap, even if it isn’t, also sells. Take a look at the sales of ice cream today. A few years ago, ice cream was commonly sold in ½ gallon containers. Today, it is sold in containers containing 3 quarts, and for the same price, or more, as the ½ gallon containers of yore. Marketing? Sure. The price had gone up so they provide a smaller container. The same holds true in this industry. I sometimes see products sold in small containers that gives the impression its “cheap”, and it really is just as expensive, if not more so, than larger containers. I believe what is lost in the discussion on cost is the fact that the cost of the product is not what matters. Rather, it’s the cost per shave.

True value is NOT the cost of the container or the product within. Rather it is the cost/shave.

4. Just because something is “inexpensive” doesn’t mean its “bad.” Some things that are inexpensive you might decide are excellent and some things that are expensive you might decide are poor. The only opinion that truly matters … is your own. “In general”, not always but “in general”, you get what you pay for. Don’t kid yourself into thinking you will get a free ride. There are few true free rides. But anomalies do exist. The opposite of this is also true. There can be anomalies where expensive products you might find poor. However, if profit is the motivation of the seller, they won't last long on the market.

5. Ignore the Fanatics. Make your own mind up.  If I listened to the fans of any one particular brand, I’d have bought one brand and be done only to find out later there were much better performing products.

6. If you buy a boatload of samples, you will end up with a boatload of empty sample containers.  One side of my brain is telling me to trash the clutter. The frugal side of my brain is telling me to hoard them because I might want to use them some day to hand out samples ….  Confused2

7. Each sample container will have enough product for several shaves. Many will sit and rot until you can get through them.  Think about that. Depending upon how much product you try, you will have a LOT of product. And you might also find out you HATE a lot of it. Think hard about how much you buy. Take your time. Unless you think an asteroid is going to hit the Earth tomorrow, you really do not need to buy hundreds of dollars of consumables at one time. Remember that you are comparing products against each other.

This is a mistake I would not make again. Really think about how much stuff you're buying. Sometimes sellers give a discount for buying, for example, all 15 scents vice buying just a handful. Somewhere in this process I learned to ignore that and just buy the scents I was interested in.


Here is an example of a stack of Stirling samples. It was going to take a LONG time to go through these!  Think about that.

[Image: i-CJJZPPC-M.jpg]

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Thanks for the exhaustive study grim! I too would like to get down to my favorite 5-10 soaps to use exclusively, but as you know, its taking forever! I can't wait to see what your final findings are.

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- Jeff

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