As lifelong wet shaving connoisseurs and masters of variety, we’re always on the lookout for new products that might wow us. Variety is the spice of life, after all! That being said, we’ve recently taken a shine to product lines that follow through with that old school tradition that the practice of wet shaving dares to take us back to. That being said, DR Harris shaving soap caught our attention some time ago, since it comes from a company that attempts to do just that – a family business that has been around for TWO HUNDRED YEARS. Think about it: They were watching movies made by 18th Century Fox back then!
While we kid, this shaving soap is serious business: we’re really impressed by this soap’s fragrance, performance, lather and price. What more could you want? We decided to whip up a little review for you so you can see what we’re talking about.
Interesting Facts About Shave Soap:
We figured since we are going to review the shave soap from DR Harris, that it would be kind of cool to learn a some interesting facts about shave soap first. We are totally history nerds, so if there is a story behind something, we want to know about it. Hopefully you’re into that sort of thing too and will enjoy reading this.
Shave soap first hit the faces of men some time during the fourteenth century, but it didn’t really hit the big time until the middle of World War 1. It’s likely that shave soap gained in popularity due to the scarcity of shaving cream during the tough times that many were experiencing. Today, shave soaps are still hanging around and widely used, especially since the resurgence of old school shaving techniques hit the mainstream. It is now becoming the standard for wet shaving excellence and may knock shaving cream down a few pegs in the near future.
The high quality and coveted shave soaps of today are made with glycerin and a higher level of fat than previous shave soap incarnations. The combination of fat and glycerin aids in soften beards and leaves the skin perfectly moisturized.
The fat content of shave soap is pretty important because the protection offered and skin lubrication abilities is ideal to get an amazingly close shave. The lather that is created from it is super thick and creamy, which helps the blade of your razor mow down your whiskers without cutting your face…that is as long as you know how to properly use the razor. So, rule number one when picking out a shave soap is to check the fat content and aim for one that is nice and high. You’re face will thank you for it, trust us.
Be weary of shave soaps that contain low quality ingredients as they are often just bath soap with a fancy label and a high price tag. They will do nothing for skin except dry it out and you can get the same results by rubbing a bar of Lever 2000 on your face.
One of the earliest shave soaps was produced in Germany about 100 years ago and it was an awesome soap (from what we hear) that produced one heck of a lather. Many traditional barbers learned a lot by using the German made soap and created their own formulas in an attempt to replicate that awesome quality.
Many wonder what the difference is between shave soap and shaving cream – the answer is mainly in the amount of effort that you have to put in to get a good lather. Shaving creams are easier to work with because they are already in a semi-liquid state and require much less whisking with a shave brush. Whereas, shave soap comes in a slid form that most often resembles a hockey puck. If our fourth grade science class taught us anything, it’s that a solid is a bit more difficult to handle than a liquid, so more work will go into whipping up the lather. The shave is often better with soap, in our opinion though, so we will gladly work up a sweat for a good lather.
Pros and Cons:
First of all, the folks at D.R. Harris know what they’re doing when making a first impression; their DR Harris shaving soap is packaged in a nice wooden bowl that is hand-turned to open. Just opening this thing feels like a privilege; you have to cut the ribbon surrounding it, staring down at the old-school fonts and design of the logo, then twist the lid and open it. I half expected the orange glow from Marcellus Wallace’s briefcase to shine on me. (I’m just happy it wasn’t the Ark of the Covenant.)
Now, let’s get down to the soap itself. We got the Marlborough soap, which is a triple-milled hard soap that is dense because of the tallow base. If you’re averse to strong smells being introduced to you quickly, you might want to turn your head when you first open the case – it can be a very powerful scent to experience up close. Still, after the surprise wears off, you quickly get used to it; while it’s usually nicer to have a subtle fragrance with your shaving soap, the Harris Marlborough’s deep woody fragrance keeps you taking nice, deep breaths. There are hints of sandlewood and cedar in this soap, which is also nice; I found myself still loving the smell hours later.
Despite the dense texture, this is a great soap, especially for lathering. One of the great things about the aforementioned manly, wooden scent is that it just keeps being stimulated as you swirl your brush along the puck. Once you start to lather it up in a bowl, it gets a lot of bubbles in its texture at first, but then turns into a nice thick cream within a minute. It lathers up really nicely, and it’s quick too (a nice note for all you impatient shavers out there).
Once you put it on your face, you’ll find that you get a nice, thick coating on your skin that all but guarantees that you won’t get a nick – it’s a great lubricant for whatever safety razor you might use. I never experienced dryness, redness or irritation when using it for a shave – this particular soap holds its density and moisture for quite a long time. What’s more, the soap will rinse off quickly and in a flash, leaving you clean and clean-shaven in no time at all. I really appreciated how moisturized my face felt after using it, too; this stuff is the real deal.
If I had to pick any cons, it would be the price – something this good is naturally expensive, and $50 a puck can be difficult to swallow. To be fair, much of the price is for the sweet mahogany bowl you get with it – refills tend to be about half the price, if not lower. With that in mind, it’s actually a pretty good deal for long-term users; you can keep refilling the cool bowl with your puck, and you suddenly have a really awesome addition to your shave kit.
Who Would Want This?
In the event I had to pick a target audience for the DR Harris shaving soap, I’d have to say high-end, dedicated wet shavers with a dedication to high-quality shaving and a willingness to spend money on it. Like I said, the DR Harris soap is not cheap at all; if you are just concerned with having something to wet your face, there are plenty of other, more affordable options. However, if you want to spend a little more money to get a truly superior product with a simply intoxicating smell and wonderful presentation, you really can’t go wrong with the DR Harris soaps.
You also have to be willing to experiment with stronger-smelling soaps in order to really get the Harris soaps. These pucks don’t mess around, and the smell will fill your house (and your face) for hours. Now, given that these scenes are just so musky and aromatic, I really don’t mind it, but if you want to forget that you even have to shave, I’d avoid these in favor of a milder or unscented shaving soap. Your nose might thank you.
Some Final Thoughts:
In conclusion, DR Harris is probably one of the best luxury brands of shaving soaps out there. It shaves like a dream, it looks and smells gorgeous, and it really makes you feel like a professional wet shaver. There are other scents of DR Harris shaving soaps out there, like Lavender, Arlington and Almond, but I’m a Marlborough man through and through. I just can’t get enough of that awesome woody scent, and you won’t be able to shake it either. Just be sure to invest in the refill packs if you plan on dedicating yourself to the DR Harris soaps.