You see the terms such as ‘best soap’ and ‘soap of the gods’ amongst others to describe what people feel is the BEST soap you can get. What makes a soap the BEST though??
To be honest my criteria changes for what I believe to be the best soap from week to week it seems. It changes depending on my mood. It changes depending on the weather and season. It also changes depending on my bank account. However, there are a couple of things I look for in a soap that remain constant.
#1) Latherability! Sure that may not be an actual word, but we wet shavers sure know what I am talking about. I want a soap that is easy to load onto the brush. Whether I’m using a Badger, boar, or synthetic brush. If it takes over a minute to load I can only imagine how long it will take to lather. I have some soaps that take as little as 10 seconds to load the brush and others that take up to 30 seconds or so. Chances are the difference comes in the hardness of the soap, but it could also affect how much product you are using per shave.
Once the brush is loaded I face lather 98% of the time……well maybe even 99.9% of the time. I find it super easy to get a great lather simply by adding a couple drops of water at a time to the brush while face lathering. To me it eliminates any chance of over saturating the lather and causing it to break down. I also load my brush just slightly damp. I shake out any excess water prior to loading. I find a good soap will start lathering almost immediately. A thick rich, slick, protective lather is always the goal. To dry and the lather begins to flake off. too moist and the lather is runny and loses some protection. However sometimes a runny lather is nice and slick and barely affects the shave. While too dry really affects slickness and helps lead to irritation.
My top soap for latherability is Haslinger Schafmilch HANDS DOWN. Seriously this soap is pretty much perfect for latherability. I bloom the puck while I shower with just a couple of tablespoons of warm/hot water sitting on the puck. I literally load the brush for 10 seconds. This is not an exaggeration. This morning I used my Semogue Italian Barber 2012 LE and could not believe how fast it loaded. I was also able to lather this soap fast and effectively on my face by just adding a few drops of water as I went. seriously awesome stuff. I had enough lather for probably 5 passes. I mean crazy amounts of lather.
Worst Lathering soap I have EVER tried is Geo F. Trumpers Sandalwood hard soap. Brutal. Dry brush, wet brush and everything in between, this soap would not load on the brush. All it produced was a weak bubbly lather regardless of amount of soap or water. Trust me I tried everything because I actually love the scent of this stuff. Heck I even emailed Trumpers to which the told me I probably wasnt lathering it correctly….or I could mail them back the soap on my dime and they could test it for me. I am not the first person to dislike Trumpers soaps. While their creams are apparently much better I would avoid the soaps. Plus their customer service was awful and downright condescending to me. Needless to say they will never get another dime from me.
#2) Performance. Very similar to latherability but this focuses more on how the final results of my shave turn out. For instance there are some soaps that lather like crazy and look awesome but lack protection or slickness etc. Performance takes latherability, slickness, protection, and even post shave into consideration. I don’t consider scent part of performance at this point as scent is far to too much of an individual thing.
A couple of classic soaps that I find perform fantastic are Proraso and Tabac. One is a hard soap while the other is soft. Yet both yield just great performing lathers. To be honest I measure most soaps against these two performance wise. They are kind of like a shave soap measuring stick. Both are so easy to lather and provide great protection and slickness. I find Proraso has good post shave but far from the best, while Tabac for me has great post shave….others sometimes say Tabacs post shave isn’t that great. Again post shave seems to be very variable on the individual and I think may have to do with how moist an individual like their lather. As for a couple of great artisan you cannot go wrong with Strop Shoppe, Barrister and Mann, and Queen Charlotte Soaps. Note these are soaps that I have used a few different scents multiple times. I have new soaps I have only used a couple of times and it wouldn’t be fair yet to rave about them as being up with this group. These three soaps perform for me very similarly. The Strop Shoppe with Tallow and Lanolin for me just slightly out performs the rest with a slightly better post shave feel thanks to the added lanolin. All are nice and protective and slick. Top notch performers. Again I’d add Haslinger as an awesome performer as well. ***I have only used Catie’s Bubbles and Soapy Bathman 2 times and 1 time respectively….and I do see them possibly joining this list in the future. While possibly not quite as good as these three Stirling and Razorock have to be mentioned. Both are extremely slick and in my opinion easy to lather.
Lastly #3) Value. I am not a rich guy. I value my money and don’t want to waste any of it. I do my research on soaps and wet shaving gear and thus far have lucked out with 95% great products. Value to me is a great soap that wont break the bank. I don’t care too much about ‘cost per shave’ and that kind of stuff. Sure Martin de Candre is an awesome soap. Sure a puck will last over a hundred shaves. However its initial cost is lets say $60. personally I like using different soaps and don’t want a soap in my den for 4 years or however long it would take me to finish it using it once a week or less. I do really like MdC though. Just not a great value to me. When I think of great value I immediately think of Razorock and Stirling. If I lived in the USA I am sure I would have at least a dozen Stirling soaps. Great scent, great performance, and super low prices. Razorock fits the same bill as Stirling….and its easier for us Canucks to get our hands on. My top value soap is Razorock’s Zi’Peppino. I truly love this soap. awesome performance, awesome scent, and only $7 a puck…….seriously this stuff is a must add to any Italian Barber order if it’s in stock(which it isn’t). Another thing I suggest to my fellow frugal/thrifty shaver is shave sticks. While they don’t normally have as much soap as a puck they are very inexpensive. I love the LaToja stick. It is pretty highly regarded by many wet shavers and is my personal travel soap. I think it’s around $5-$6 usually. Lea, Palmolive and Arko are also very low price options that get rave reviews. For me I couldn’t get past Arko’s ‘aroma’ but it did perform well…..many say its the best value in shaving if you like the scent, and I would agree as you can get a stick for less than $2. A must try for sure.
So those are my criterion for a great soap with scent being the cherry on top. I will use a top performing soap even if its scent isn’t great….as long as it’s not awful that is.
If I had to choose my top 3 overall soaps at this very moment it would be tough….but taking into consideration my 3 criterion I would say
#1) Haslinger Schafmilch – Just amazing stuff, Top in Latherability and Performance
#2) The Strop Shoppe 1887 with Tallow and Lanolin – Just awesome in every category. You get 6oz per tub so the value is very good as well. Plus I enjoy the scent
#3) Razorock Zi’Peppino – My pick for best Value soap on the market…and I just love the scent as well.
I would almost say Haslinger is perfect. the only thing missing is an amazing scent. The scent is nice and clean and soapy/floral. It’s not going to blow you away or offend anyone. If this soap had Zi’Peppino’s scent or London Mornings scent it would be perfect for me. Plus I feel it can easily be used year round.
Oh yeah, I shaved this morning too!!!
Brush : 2012 Semogue Italian Barber LE
Soap : Haslinger Schafmilch
Toner : Thayer’s Rose
Aftershave : Nivea Soft balm + Huggy Bear’s Maple Bay Rum
Not much else I can say about Hasinger that I didn’t say earlier in the post. I will say the LE brush is fantastic. I wasn’t keen on the painted handle when I first saw these Semogue’s but as long as you are careful with them and they don’t chip they look awesome. The knot is great as well and breaking in nicely. It was nice to use the straight again and I got a really nice shave. BBS on the face but not on my neck. I struggle because of all the nooks and crannies from being thin. I feel this my be a common thing for us skinny guys and shaving our necks. An overall nice shave with an amazing soap!!!!!
Sorry if this was long winded….I just got on a roll.
What is your top/Perfect soap? Are you still on the search for it like myself?? I’d love to hear your thoughts and criteria!!!!!