Shaving with a brush and soap is not only for hipsters. In the last couple of years traditional wet shaving has gained mainstream popularity. The trend brought a slew of artisan shaving soap brands that can take your morning routine to another level.
Today, shaving products fall into three broad categories:
- Drug store gooes in a can,
- High end shaving creams and soaps from brands with heraldic crests, and
- Artisan shaving soaps made in someone's kitchen.
In the first category you have the usual suspects. Gillette and Schick with their numerous permutations of shaving creams and gels are staples. In your local drug store you can also find some good quality products like Proraso but this is as fancy as it gets.
The telltale sign of the second category is an elaborate crest suggestive of heritage and old age. These creams and soaps are usually of high quality and come at high prices. Geo F. Trumper, Truefitt & Hill and the Taylor of Old Bond Street are some of the oldest and most respected names in the genre.
The third category is the most interesting one. It includes products from individuals who have taken things in their own hands. The motivation to start your own line of shaving soaps can come from anywhere. Solving a shaving problem and curiosity pushed many artisan brand founders to experiment. A drive to help others share their passion made them go commercial with their creations.
Today we have some great artisan brands whose shaving soaps kick some serious ass. If you are looking for innovation and creativity, look no further. The people behind Catie's Bubbles, First Canadian Shaving Co., Elvado, and others are the fresh blood in a very old and tradition-driven industry. The revolution they've started doesn't stop only at the unique scents. Many artisan brands have swapped the chemicals found in the big-brand products with traditional natural ingredients like tallow, coconut oil, and avocado oil.
After spending several months testing and researching artisan shaving soap, I put a list of the brands that offer truly superior products. What's more fascinating than the soaps themselves are stories of the people behind them. I've shared some of them below.
First Canadian Shaving Soap Co.
If the name is not telling enough, this is a Canadian-based company. The man behind the brand is Brian Hoffman who makes these excellent artisan shaving soap in small batches. He has been selling them on Etsy since 2014 and recently the company got some distribution through some retailers (e.g. MenEssentials).
Despite gaining popularity, it appears First Canadian Shaving Soap Co. remains a one-man operation.
The company's shaving soaps feature tallow and lanolin and come in eight scents. My favourite scents from the line are Bay Rum & Lime, Lime & Rosemary, and Barbershop Taper Fade.
Henri et Victoria
Gatineau is a mid-size city in Quebec you are not likely to hear about in the news. Its proximity to Ottawa has made it a popular destination for many government agencies. Since 2014, Gatineau is he home of the indie shaving company Henri et Victoria.
Claude Pilon, the man behind Henri et Victoria, got excited about fine soaps in 2014 after he received one for his wedding anniversary.
After giving the traditional soap making a go, Claude decided to try his hand at artisan shaving soap. His desire to share his passion about shaving soaps pushed Claude to set up a company and sell his creations online and through specialized stores for fine shaving products.
Claude named his company after his kids - Henri and Victoria. He says "since they are my biggest pride, I named my company after them, and strive to honour their names".
The company's vision is to bring elegance to the world through traditional shaving. Henri et Victoria achieves this by offering eight saving soaps and several after shave balms and splashes.
If you are up for trying new things, try Chestnut L'Orange, Absinthe, and La Poire Francaise. Even though all shaving soaps by Henri et Victoria smell great, these are the ones I found especially unique.
Henri et Victoria's shaving soaps come without preservatives. They contain only six ingredients: potassium stearate, potassium cocoate, water, glycerine, potassium ricenoalete, and fragrance.
Chiseled Face is another artisan maker of shaving products but this time from Rancho Cucamonga in California. The founder started wet shaving in 2013 and in late 2014 he started making his own shaving soap. All soaps by Chiseled Face are hand-made in the kitchen of the founder.
Chiseled Face offers nine shaving soaps at the time of writing. They are tallow-based and make great lather.
What sets the Chiseled Face shaving soaps aside are the unique scents they come in. Some of the more interesting ones are Pine Tar, Cryogen, and Midnight Stag.
One of the most popular artisan shaving soaps come from Forked River, New Jersey.
According to West Coast Shaving the man behind Catie's Bubbles is Chris Cullen. He named the company after his daughter, Catie, when he decided to turn his passion into a business.
Catie's Bubbles soaps owe their moisturizing properties to coconut oil and glycerin. Unlike some other popular indie shaving soaps, Catie's Bubbles features only plant-based ingredients.
Catie's Bubbles come in various unique scents. Irish Coffee, La Piment de la Vie, and Saturday Morning (smelling of Fruit Loops cereal).
Mickey Lee Soapworks
The story behind Mickey Lee Soapworks is a touching one because of its normalcy. It's the story of Eric and Samantha who tried to solve a real-life problem.
Eric's new job with the US Navy required him to be clean-shaven everyday. Shaving for Eric was a struggle as he developed skin irritation and ingrown hairs. Trying to find a solution to Eric's problem, Samantha bought him an artisan shaving soap.
Eric and Samantha got hooked on artisan shaving soaps. Trying different scents and brands is always fun but it could become a costly hobby.
Looking to find a cheaper way to enjoy their new hobby, Eric and Samantha started exploring how to make shaving soaps on their own. After a few trials and errors, they produced a batch they were happy to share with the reddit wet shaving community that had taught them so much about soap making.
Fast-forward to the summer of 2014, Mickey Lee Soapwords was born. Today, Eric and Samantha's enterprise offers shaving soaps coming in several scents.
The Kraken is an interesting scent of a classic barbershop mixed with the scent of sea salt air, agave and kelp.
Ruby's Green is another unique scent reminiscent of a fresh spring garden. The smell of tomato leafs, green lettuce and dirt makes for a surprisingly refreshing scent.
The Drunken Goat is not your traditional soap. It features a scent of Guiness stout, chocolate, and oats. The colour is medium brown and it makes for a great and yet unorthodox shave.