Tag Archives: lanolin

Review: Stirling Soap Company – Bay Rum Shaving Soap

Stirling Soap Company - Bay Rum Shaving Soap

Stirling Soap Company – Bay Rum Shaving Soap

I’ve been doing this for a while now, just about two and a half years.  And I really consider it a failure on my part that I have not reviewed this soap yet.  The thing is, I get to try out so many soaps that I hardly have the space anymore to order more!  Well thanks to my lady’s organizational skills, I now have room to load up on more, and one of the first ones I bought was a sampler of 5 scents from this giant in the artisan shaving soap community:  Stirling Soap Company’s Bay Rum Shaving Soap.

Now you knew I had to review their bay rum right?  I mean, c’mon.  It’s almost like my job at this point.  I do have other scents, including grapefruit and Bergamot Lavender, which I’m very excited to try.  But since they do have my namesake, review it I must.  Lest I be tossed off this fake pirate ship along with all my not-really-pirate-like belongings.

Bay Rum.  You get to define yourself when you define a bay rum.  Are you sweet or spicy?  Are you citrusy or woody?  And just what do you think of clove anyway?  All these questions must be answered before you can slap a “bay rum” label on yourself.  And it would help if you were a soap, otherwise you’d be quite a strange person.  So, how does Stirling define bay rum?

Bay West Indies (Pimenta Racemosa) essential oil is blended with Orange, Nutmeg, Cinnamon, and a hint of Clove to provide a very complex and masculine aroma.

This is a fantastic straight-forward bay rum.  It’s classic and doesn’t complicate it very much.  The heart of the scent is the orange.  And the nutmeg and cinnamon warm it up so nicely that you’ll just sit there sniffing the puck over and over.  And for those of you who see “clove” and get worried, worry you not.  The clove is only strong enough to draw the bay scent out for a longer period of time.  Bay is a very short-lived scent, and clove is similar enough that if used in the right amount, will not smell clovey at all.  Honestly, when I finally read the scent list above, I was surprised to see clove in there, because it really is just a hint.  An almost imperceptible hint.  All in all it’s a great bay rum that is super pleasant, all the way though your shave until you clean out your brush.

Performance?  Damn.  This stuff performs exceptionally well.  This is a tallow soap, so vegans need not apply.  But if you’re cool with that, then sir, you are in for a treat.  Along with a castor oil base, lanolin, shea butter, and several other skin-loving ingredients, this soap lathers up super thick and rich.

Now I say this with a touch of hesitation, as this soap can sometimes lather up not so great.  But there are plenty of videos out there that discuss the best ways to lather it up.  Myself, I like to go in with a wetter-than-normal-but-not-soaked brush (I’ve been loving my new Da Vinci Uomo 293 silvertip badger brush) and run it over the soap for a while longer than normal, with very light pressure.  You’ll pick up tons of soap molecules.  And I also prefer these days to face lather.  So doing that I get an incredible amount of lather.

This lather is, like I said, really really good.  It’s super slick and it’s thickness really protects the skin.  Your razor will glide right over, taking all the whiskers and leaving your skin in great shape.  And the lather lasts too!  I easily get three passes, each thicker than the last, and have plenty left over in the brush for at least another two passes.  The lather usually shows no signs of thinning out, either.

I really should also mention the price.  For $7.50, you get a 125 gram puck.  You have to put it in your own container because all you get is the puck, but if you’re like me, you have a soap-dedicated cheese grater and containers at the ready, so this is hardly a problem, and the soap, like I said, is fantastic.  So this is some serious value for a little bit of work.

They sell samples of all their scents as well, and man they have a lot of them.  So go check out Stirling Soap Company and check out their selection.  You’ll love it.

  • Scent – 4
  • Lather Performance – 5
  • Lather Life – 5
  • Overall – 4.5

Review: Mike’s Natural Soaps – Rose & Cedarwood Shaving Soap

Mike's Natural Soaps - Rose & Cedarwood Shaving Soap

Mike’s Natural Soaps – Rose & Cedarwood Shaving Soap

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there who are probably not reading this.  I was going to just shave with whatever I felt was next in my rotation of creams and soaps and then I realized, “Hey, I’m pretty sure I got a rose sample somewhere, maybe I should review it”… And here we are.

Today, in honor of my mother Eleanor, who’s recipe for Pink Potato Salad is listed in the vaults at Food Network, I shaved with a rose-scented soap, a sample that I have had lying around for a while now.  Today I bring you a review of Mike’s Natural Soaps – Rose & Cedarwood Shaving Soap.

You hear a lot of guys going nuts about tallow.  I get it now.  Yes I am not new to tallow soaps and I have had the privilege of trying out a wide swath of soaps and creams.  It really does seem like every time i try a tallow soap I go nuts over the lather.  And conversely, every time I try a non-tallow soap I am left feeling ‘ok’ about it.

Today I went nuts.  Mike’s Rose is just an amazing soap.  The scent is unique thanks to the cedarwood.  Now from what I understand, rose essential oil is extremely expensive, due to needing so many rose petals per drop of oil.  So many soapmakers use fragrance oil for rose.  This is one of them.  I honestly wouldn’t have known if Mike didn’t say it on his website, but regardless.  The rose scent is wonderful.  It is the driving force of this shaving soap.  But then there is the cedarwood, which adds a sharp, fresh note to the fragrance.  It’s truly something you have to just smell to understand.  Overall the scent is wonderful and bright, while retaining it’s floral presentation.  Really nice scent that is present but not overbearing.

The lather is simply perfect.  I like a nice thick lather, with cushion and slickness, that lasts.  The lather that I got from this soap could easily be the bar that I measure all other soaps up to.  As I mentioned before it’s a tallow soap, that also is loaded with other amazing ingredients like avocado oil, kokum and shea butters, and lanolin, the magical wax from sheep that makes Mitchell’s Wool Fat so extraordinarily slick.

The lather was ultra-thick and creamy, with enough to last 5 passes.  Each pass got better and better, too.  And it stayed thick on my face while I was going through each pass – I never needed a touchup.  And it was amazingly slick, allowing the blade to glide right across my skin and through each whisker.  I could still feel that slickness as I rinsed between passes.  If I had any complaints it might be that the lather got a little bit dry by the third pass, maybe too thick.  But then a few drops of water and a re-whip will bring it right back to where it was.  Still a fantastic lather… Mike’s mom should be proud.

My hardware was pretty usual for me, but the software was tailor-made for mother’s day:

And here are my ratings for the shave:

  • Scent – 4.5
  • Lather Performance – 5
  • Lather Life – 4.5
  • Overall – 4.5

Review: Mitchell’s Wool Fat – Shaving Soap

Mitchells Wool Fat - Shaving Soap

Mitchells Wool Fat – Shaving Soap

Epic.  That is what this stuff is.  This is one of the classic tallow-based shaving soaps that piqued my interest when I first started wetshaving.  I mean, yeah I had heard of Barbasol, Schick, and Edge shaving creams and gels, but Wool Fat?!?  This stuff had earned my curiosity and I quickly ordered some.

I ordered a refill puck, shredded it with a cheese grater, and packed about half of the shreds into a 3″ plastic tub. I have used this tub to shave maybe 20-30 times, and I still have more than half of that tub left (with the other half of the original puck still waiting in a plastic ziplock!), so you know this stuff will last a long time.

Ok, first things first, if you know the back story of Mitchell’s Wool Fat, you can skip down a little.  Mitchell’s Wool Fat was first discovered in the 1930’s by a British chemist named Fred Mitchell, who noticed that sheep shearers always had super soft hands after shearing their sheep.  It was lanolin, a protective wax exuded by the sheep’s skin, that kept the sheep’s wool, and the shearers’ hands, very soft and supple.  Using that noggin of his, he put two and two together and formulated a soap with lanolin in it.  Soon after, he used that noggin again and thought “this would make a fantastic shave soap too!”.  And thanks to that wonderful noggin of his, we have the gift of one of the best shave soaps in existence.  One with a very understandable cult following.

The lather.  Mitchell’s Wool Fat has this little bit of baggage attached to it that it is hard to lather.  I will admit that I found this true the first couple of times I tried lathering with it.  The lather seemed a bit thin and didn’t last for three full passes.  But I think I have mastered the art of lathering Mitchell’s Wool Fat.

Note #1: I will soon post a video or two showing how I lather up the fat.

Note #2: There is a lot of talk about what type of water works for lathering the fat.  I personally think that the water in my area (NewYorkCity area) is not very hard, for what it’s worth.

Here is how I get an amazing lather:

  1. While I shower I soak the brush and mug in hot water, which ends up being warm by the time I am out of the shower.  Sometimes I wet the soap too, but I get a great lather whether or not I wet the puck, so I don’t really do that anymore.
  2. Shake most of the water out of the brush.  You want the bristles to be soaked through, but you do not want too much extraneous water in the brush as a whole.  Don’t shake the brush too hard.  It’s hard to describe in words, but you want to shake maybe 80%-90% of the water out of the brush, without being too aggressive.
  3. Load the brush on the puck.  I hold the puck sideways while loading the brush.  Some soap may bubble out the sides of your container, and I just let that fall into the sink.  You don’t want it in the mix because the key at this stage is very little water.  Load the brush for about a minute or so until you feel that your brush is thickening up with soap pretty good.  You will hit a point where you will feel like its enough.  You’ll get it with practice.
  4. Empty all water from your mug and start swirling the brush in the mug.  After about 15 seconds it will feel a bit dry.  Use your fingertips to add a few drops (5-8) of water into the mug.  Continue to swirl for another 20 or so seconds.  There are three ways to lather that you should alternate between: Swirl, back and forth, and pressing.  Pressing means to push the brush into the lather to get it deep into the bristles.  But please, for the sake of your brush, do not push down too hard.  Just a little dipping motion.
  5. Keep repeating adding a few drops of water and lathering until you get a meringue-type foam that sticks to your brush even when you shake the brush lightly in the air.   It should be between 1-2 minutes of lathering, probably closer to 2 minutes.
  6. Rinse your face with hot water, dry your hands, load your brush with lather, and start face lathering.  Start by swirling the brush until your entire shaving surface is covered.  The swirling motion will lift all the hairs and insert lather underneath them and also exfoliate and excite the skin underneath.  This will increase blood flow to the skin, expanding it, and causing the hairs to stand up slightly more.
  7. Once your face is lathered up, start a fast-paced back-and-forth motion with the brush.  Like you’re lightly slapping yourself with the brush fairly quickly.  Then start slowing down.  The slower you go with the slap motion, the thicker the lather will be on your face.  Within seconds you will have the most amazing thick cushioning layer of Mitchell’s Wool Fat on your face.

One thing you will notice when you are rinsing the fat off your face is how amazingly slick your face feels.  This stuff provides an amazingly slick cushion for your razor, and really softens your whiskers.  Your razor will glide over your skin like an ice skater but remove your whiskers like a hot knife through butter.

The smell is absolutely wonderful.  It’s a clean scent, with very little fragrance, so it’s an excellent soap for sensitive skin like mine.  Any time one of these products starts irritating my skin, the next few days I reach for the Mitchell’s Wool Fat tin to shave with.

Also, one amazing thing about this stuff is that the lather gets thicker and better with each pass.  So you lather up and shave the first pass.  Then you rinse your face.  Then you grab the mug and whip up the lather again for a few seconds and re-apply the lather.  It’s going to feel even better, thicker, and more protective than the first pass, which is exactly what you want.  The third pass (if you go that far) will be even better.

This stuff is of legend, and I am a Mitchell’s Wool Fat cultist.  Your shave den is incomplete without it.

Mitchell’s Wool Fat is available at Amazon.com!

Review: Mike’s Natural Soaps – Bay Rum Shaving Soap

Mike's Natural Soaps - Bay Rum Shaving Soap

Mike’s Natural Soaps – Bay Rum Shaving Soap

In my journey through the many shaving products I never knew existed, I have tried a few of the bigger brands of classic shaves.  Truefitt & Hill, Col. Conk, and Taylor of Old Bond Street.  They make great soaps, and have been around for a long time, which is a testament to how great they are.  I also tried Mitchell’s Wool Fat, which contains natural lanolin, which is a wax that comes from sheep skin.  They exude this wax as a protectant, and over a hundred years ago, Mr. Mitchell noticed the softness of wool shearers’ hands, and decided that lanolin might be a perfect ingredient for shaving soap.  Boy was he right.

As I have been reading the shaving forums, I started noticing many mentions of homemade brands of soap, made by avid shavers who fell in love with traditional wetshaving, and the myriad of products available, and decided to make their own.  One of those brands was Mike’s Natural Soaps, which is handmade by, you guessed it, Mike.  Mike lives in Brooklyn, a neighborhood I frequent often.  So I started reading more about Mike’s Natural Soaps.

Mike puts an incredible amount of care into his products.  The ingredients are 100% all-natural, and his formulations have come from much tinkering with the recipe.  One look at the ingredient list and you’ll see that this stuff is meant to LOVE your face, and vise versa.  Included in the list are tallow, glycerin, kokum butter, avocado oil, shea butter, lanolin, coconut oil, kaolin clay, and vitamin E.  The only ingredients I left out?  Distilled water and essential oil.  That, my friends, is love.

I finally realized I had to place an order, and ordered a few samples.  The first one I tried is the bay rum scent, of course!

Some may say that lathering up a lanolin soap is an art form.  Some say that the lather depends on your water.  I typically have no problems lathering up lanolin soap, having previously shaved many times with Mitchell’s Wool Fat.

I took the sample I got from Mike, which is a little sliver about the size of 5 Wrigley gum sticks stuck together, and pressed it into the bottom of my Old Spice mug.  While I showered, I soaked my brush (a Simpson pure badger) and also splashed some hot water onto the top of the soap.

After the shower, gave the brush a few shakes, shaking out most of the water, and started swirling it around in the mug.  I did this for about a minute until it started to get a little thick and tacky.  At this point, I started smelling the fantastic bay rum blend.

Once I was satisfied, I splashed more hot water on my face, dipped the tips of my brush in hot water, and started applying it to my face.  The lather exploded on my face with an excellent creamy yogurt-like texture.  I dipped the tips of the brush in water again, and came back to foam up the lather even more.  I ended up with an incredibly soft and lubricating lather not only on my face, but also loaded to the gills into my brush.

The smell of this soap is just awesome.  Mike’s take on bay rum is unique, and its a dark spicy blend, consisting of bay rum, bergamot, and vanilla.  So the bergamot lends that citrusy-spicy note, and the vanilla balances that with a sweet note.  The resulting blend is a warm, spicy aroma, that goes amazingly well with the entire hot-water wetshaving experience.  I can only sit back and applaud Mike for this excellent take on the bay rum scent.

I did a three-pass shave, using my 1960 Gillette Fatboy with Personna Medical Prep blades, and the lather that originally loaded into the brush was enough for all three passes, with plenty of soap left over at the end to wash my hands and face.  I’m serious, this stuff is a serious latherer.  And you’ll feel the effects of the moisturizers every time water hits your face.  As you’re rinsing, you’ll feel nothing but a super-slick surface, perfect for protecting your skin as you drag a razor across it.  I had my Fatboy adjustable set to 5, which is pretty agressive for me, and while I was a little bit careless on my neck on the last pass, the rest of my face went completely unscathed.

(For the record, the above picture is from a more recent Shave Of The Day, and shows my Weber DLC and Simpsons Duke II best badger brush, and of course, a full tin of the soap)

Overall I had one of the best shaves I’ve had in a long time, and I owe a large part of that to Mike’s Natural Soap.  Awesome.