- A lousy soap makes for a lousy shave, so choosing the right one is just as important as selecting a quality razor.
- Mitchell’s Wool Fat is considered by many to be the gold standard of shaving soaps, and it’s the best shaving soap that money can buy.
- If you’re looking for a foamier alternative for use with multi-blade razors, check out our guide to the best shaving cream for men.
Most men today probably treat their daily shaving routine as something of a chore. It’s very likely that you also use or have used a multi-blade cartridge razor and canned shaving foam to get the job done when what you should be using is a good shaving soap, bristle brush, and safety razor.
Quality soap is a vital part of your shave because it lubricates your face and whiskers so that your razor blade can move cleanly across your face for a close shave with minimal irritation. A good soap will also lock in your skin’s moisture instead of drying it out and leaving your face with that unpleasant “tight” feeling.
What makes a shaving soap different from normal bar soap is its composition, which consists of added fat – either from animals or plant sources such as coconut oil – and/or glycerin. These ingredients are used to give the soap a smooth, slick consistency so it works better as a lubricant while keeping your skin hydrated. A number of all-natural shaving soaps are also made today for people who want to avoid certain synthetic additives like parabens.
Since everyone’s skin and facial hair is a bit different, it can take some time to dial in your wet shaving kit, but it’s worth the effort if you want to achieve that perfect shave every time. Your personal soap selection largely comes down to preference, so your best bet is to stick to established soapmakers and try a few to find the one that’s right for you.
To help you choose, we’ve smoked out the five best shaving soaps, including our favorite pick along with a hard puck soap, a soft cream, a soap for shavers with sensitive skin, and a handy soap stick for when you’re on the road.
Here are the best shaving soaps:
- Best overall shaving soap: Mitchell’s Wool Fat shaving soap
- Best hard puck shaving soap: D.R. Harris shaving soap
- Best soft cream shaving soap: Taylor of Old Bond Street shaving soap
- Best shaving soap for sensitive skin: Proraso shaving soap
- Best travel shaving soap: Arko shaving soap
Updated on 1/6/2020 by Jen Gushue: Updated links, prices, and formatting.
The best shaving soap overall
Mitchell’s Wool Fat lathers, lubricates, and shaves exceptionally well while being gentle on the skin, making it the gold standard for wet shavers new and old.
A select few shaving soaps can be considered “gold standard” options that every man should try, and one such example is Mitchell’s Wool Fat, which has remained a wet shaving staple for nearly a century. It has set the bar for what a good shave soap should be.
True to its name, Mitchell’s Wool Fat shaving soap is made from the fatty substance secreted by woolly animals. In this case, it’s domestic sheep, but rest assured that no animals are actually killed to collect this fat. Instead, it’s harvested from the already-shorn wool of the animal. Wool fat contains large amounts of lanolin, a waxy material that works especially well as a skin lubricant and moisturizer, so it’s easy to see why it is ideal for use in shaving soap.
Mitchell’s started making its wool fat soap in England in the 1930s and has been exporting it all over the world since then. Although its regular wool fat soaps have remained in high demand, its shaving soap, in particular, has achieved near-legendary status among wet shavers owing to its great lubricating and lathering properties.
Its all-natural ingredients are gentle on the face, and the wool fat is also very good for soothing and preventing irritation on sensitive skin.
If there’s one drawback to Mitchell’s Wool Fat Soap, it’s that it can be stubborn to lather until you develop a good routine. A stiffer brush with boar or horse bristles will help, and some guys choose to soak the soap in a little bit of hot water for a few minutes – a process known as “blooming” – to soften it up a bit and make it easier to load your brush.
Once you’ve got the hang of this, Mitchell’s Wool Fat will likely prove itself to be the last shaving soap you’ll ever need. It’s sold with a nice lidded ceramic bowl, and you can also buy standalone pucks to refill the bowl or to use with a favorite bowl or mug you already have. It’s slightly expensive, but since it’s a fairly hard puck, it’ll last you quite a while.
Pros: Lubricates and shaves extremely well due to its lanolin content, all-natural ingredients with no parabens, made in England, and is available with a nice lidded ceramic bowl
Cons: Can be tricky to lather, and the scent is very mild
The best hard puck shaving soap
- D.R. Harris
Made in England and triple-milled for extra hardness, D.R. Harris is a historic shaving soap that is the easy choice for any wet shaver who favors the dense lather and long life that solid pucks provide.
All of the brands featured among our favorite shaving soaps have been around for decades (or longer), but D.R. Harris might boast the most impressive pedigree of all. This family-owned company was founded in England in 1790, has held various royal warrants since 1938, and continues to produce high-quality soaps that are a favorite of wet shavers all over the globe, especially among those who favor hard pucks.
As is appropriate for such a historic brand, D.R. Harris soap is made using old-school triple-milling. This process is the gold standard for solid soaps and results in a dense, hard bar that lasts a long time and creates a rich lather when worked properly. This extra processing makes triple-milled pucks a bit more expensive than other shave and body soaps, but they also last considerably longer – possibly for years depending on how often you shave and what lathering method you use.
Due to its hardness, a soft floppy badger bristle brush may prove insufficient to easily produce a lather (higher-quality badger bristle should get the job done, however). A brush with stiffer bristles, such as boar or horsehair, might deliver better results with this soap. It comes in an attractive wooden shave bowl, and, like Mitchell’s soap, you can also order it by the puck when it runs out or if you already have a bowl or mug you like to use.
D.R. Harris shaving soap is tallow-based, made from animal fats for great lubrication and moisturizing properties. The thick, slick consistency of this tallow-based soap allows it to protect your face as you draw a razor across it, and it requires minimal water to work it up into a luxurious creamy lather in your bowl or mug. Even guys with hard water, something that can cause lathering problems with some soaps, have an easy time with this one.
Pros: Triple-milled for extra hardness and longevity, whips up a highly dense lather with little water, tallow-based for good lubrication, lasts a long time, made in England, and is available with an attractive wooden shave bowl
The best soft cream shaving soap
- Taylor of Old Bond Street
Another of the oldest and most iconic brands in existence, Taylor of Old Bond Street shaving soap shaves beautifully, smells great, and has a soft, creamy consistency that quickly works into a luxurious lather.
Taylor of Old Bond Street is one of those household names you will see a lot on your wet shaving journey. Its old-school formula, which was first created in the mid-19th century, has been the favorite of men for generations.
This pedigree is well-deserved and Taylor of Old Bond Street shaving soap remains an English classic for a reason: It’s soft creamy consistency easily whips up a rich (not airy or bubbly) lather, it lubricates incredibly well, and hydrates your face for a smooth post-shave feel that doesn’t leave your skin tight and dried out.
The soft cream is incredibly easy to work with but won’t last quite as long as a hard soap. Still, the generous 5.3-ounce container should still carry you for around five to six months. The plastic bowl has a nice classic aesthetic and the airtight lid actually screws down to ensure that the cream won’t dry out between uses. Note that you only need a little bit of this stuff, so don’t lather in the bowl. Scoop a dollop out with your brush and work it up inside another bowl or mug.
You’ve got several fragrances to choose from, from peppermint to sandalwood, as well as an all-natural formula that’s free of parabens and preservatives and is purpose-made for sensitive skin. Sandalwood is by far the most popular among wet shavers as it’s a classic, masculine aroma that simply smells fantastic, and it’s one that your great-grandfather likely used.
Pros: Made in England, the soft cream is incredibly easy to lather, lubricates and hydrates your skin beautifully, smells great, several formulas to choose from, and comes with a nice-looking lidded bowl
Cons: The soft cream won’t last as long as a hard soap
The best shaving soap for sensitive skin
The Italian-made Proraso shaving soaps can offer some much-needed relief from bumps, razor burn, and general post-shave irritation.
Wet shaving isn’t without its drawbacks. Chief among these is that the act of dragging a sharp razor across your skin can result in redness, bumps, inflammation, or a generally unpleasant sensation generally referred to as “razor burn.” This is often due to a shoddy razor, but it can also be caused by a bad soap. If you have suffered from this, then you know the relief that a good soothing soap can provide. Our recommended solution to this is Proraso’s excellent menthol and eucalyptus shaving soap.
The Proraso menthol and eucalyptus formula was actually our top pick for the best shaving soap for your shaving kit. It made the cut there due to its low cost, ease of use, great feel on your face due to the added menthol, and the fact that it’s great for guys with sensitive skin.
I mentioned in that review that this is the soap I’ve used for years because I love the cooling effect of the menthol and my fair skin is on the sensitive side. I also shared a handy tip for maximizing the soap’s potential: Grab a tube of the matching Proraso cream and pop a dollop of it on top of the soap before you start lathering. You’ll get a super-slick bubble-free lather that lubricates your face extremely well.
I personally find the menthol and eucalyptus soap to be perfect for my skin. It doesn’t hurt that it smells great, too, and I love anything minty. Proraso also offers another formula made for shavers who have particularly fussy faces. This one is made with green tea and oatmeal to reduce inflammation. I’ve never felt the need to use it myself, but if your skin is especially prone to post-shave irritation, it works a treat.
I recommend you try the menthol first, however, as the cooling effect on your skin is really something else. You’ll feel it immediately after your razor makes a pass and the air hits the freshly-shaved skin. Afterward, instead of an alcohol-based aftershave, finish up with some Proraso aftershave balm. It’s the perfect complement to your Proraso soap, and it’ll cool and soothe your face without drying it out and giving you the burning sensation that alcohol-based aftershaves do.
Pros: The menthol immediately cools and soothes skin during and after shaving, the green tea and oatmeal formula provides extra relief for especially sensitive shavers, comes with a lathering bowl, it’s made in Italy, and it smells great
Cons: The semi-soft soap won’t last as long as a hard puck, and it lathers best when used with the matching Proraso cream
The best travel shaving soap
Great lathering capabilities, a compact shape, and unbeatable value make the Arko stick the perfect shaving soap to toss in your bag when you’re on the road.
Whether you’re traveling by plane, train, or automobile, your grooming routine shouldn’t have to suffer. You’ll probably want to leave behind your usual shaving tools, however, as a bowl or mug, full-sized shaving soap, and other tools can quickly eat up space in your Dopp kit or weekender bag. It’s important to travel light when you’re on the move, and Arko’s famous soap stick is just the ticket for taking your wet shaving ritual with you on the road.
The first thing you’ll probably notice about the Arko soap stick – aside from its unusual shape – is its distinctive retro-style packaging that harks back to mid-century America. In fact, this labeling has remained unchanged since the soap hit the market in 1957. It may not look as nice on your shelf as a nice wooden or ceramic shave bowl, but Arko’s old-school packaging is one of the things that has made this soap an iconic standby in the wet shaving community.
But what’s really great about this Turkish tallow-based classic is how well it performs relative to its low cost. It’s arguably the best value to be had in a traditional shaving soap and punches well above its weight when it comes to lubrication and lathering capabilities. How you lather it is up to you, although Arko’s unique shape obviously makes this process a bit different than your standard bowl or mug soap.
Many shavers simply apply it directly to their wet faces, rubbing it onto the skin in circular motions and then following up with a shave brush to generate the lather. Others do this in the palm of their hand. You can also cut off a piece and lather it inside a separate container. Some shavers even take it completely out of the foil and pack it into their favorite bowl or mug for use at home.
The Arko soap stick is a perfect size for tossing into your Dopp kit when you hit the road and don’t have room to pack your regular shaving kit. Many opt to use it at home as their go-to soap, too, owing to its low cost and great quality. Not only is the Arko stick a great travel soap, but it’s also one of the best shaving soaps in its own right.
Pros: An excellent value, can be lathered in a variety of ways, soaps up well, and its handy stick shape is perfect for travel (and it’s just as great when used at home)
Check out our other shaving guides
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A good brush is an essential part of your shaving ritual. When used with a good soap or cream (one that, unlike canned foam, is made for wet shaving) a nice bristle brush is the key to getting a rich, creamy lather that lubricates your face well for a smoother shave. These are the best shaving brushes.
Whether the grooming at hand involves a full shave or a minor shaping of the beard, with a sharp razor and a great shaving cream, you’re always ready to look your best. These are the best shaving creams for men.