Welcome to round 4 of the Great Shaving Cream Investigation! At this point you may well be wondering how many rounds there will be, and if the excitement can continue to escalate at such a fearsome rate. Well, dear shaving cream aficionados, I can exclusively reveal that there will be at least another 2 rounds after this one and I have some excellent stubble-lubricating contenders up my sleeve (not literally, I don’t wander the streets carrying sleeves full of shaving products, though you get the picture I’m trying to paint, right?)
To look back at the previous three rounds, take a peek here:
- Read here for the great introductory post
- Round 1: Billy Jealousy vs Gentleman’s Tonic
- Round 2: Kiehl’s vs Body Shop
- Round 3: Mitchell’s vs Lucky Tiger
So, what’s up for this week? Only Taylor’s of Old Bond Street vs Somersets. You may be thinking this is just another case of cream against cream, but this is so much more. This is more about the fundamental struggle of a really solid cream against a truly runny shaving oil. To products at completely different ends of the scale. How will it work out? Read on and it will be revealed.
As previously mentioned, business took me to London last week. Some spare time meant I was able to stop by Taylor of Old Bond Street for a browse of their gentleman’s products. Given their focus on quality and traditional shaving, I thought it pertinent to purchase a package of their finest shaving cream, amongst other items. I had also ordered a small bottle of Sommersets shaving oil a while back and it finally arrived in time for the much awaited round 4.
To repeat, The Rules are as follows:
- A fresh blade is to be inserted into the safety razor to ensure optimum cutting ability (Japanese Feather brand is used).
- A hot shower to provide equal skin softening to both sides of face and ensure relaxed and stress free setting for tester.
- One side of face is available for each product, with equal amounts of stubble to be removed due to symmetrical nature of testing-ground.
- Focus is on how well the cream lubricates, i.e. how easily the razor glides over skin and how my skin feels afterwards, i.e. is it silky smooth and pleasant, or as if someone has run a wire brush over my facial features.
Points will be given based on how I feel the products work for me, how they look and feel, and may be biased by less scientific aspects such as “smells really good” or “my, this is really runny and poorly composed”.
Up first: Taylor of Old Bond Street – Lemon and lime shaving cream
Taylor of Old Bond Street (quirkily to be found in Jermyn Street) have been in the business of removing gentlemen’s stubble since stubble first appeared, or close enough. Their selection of shaving creams is extensive, so given that most of them have the same lubricating properties, I let my nose to find the one for me. And the lemon and lime flavour cream smells absolutely fantastic.
Packaging wise it’s nothing special. A plastic tub of satisfactory quality, with the printed parts looking a little like a showcase of available fonts. Still, it’s not offensive and it’s not overselling the product. It’s just not all it could have been.
Second out: Somersets Shaving Oil
Until someone mentioned I ought to try shaving oil, I’d never even heard of it. And to be honest, even now that I have a container of it in my hand I still find it hard to believe it exists. It just seems such an unlikely solution to the problem of shaving lubrication. Admittedly, oil is the preferred lubricant in an engine, where it will easily flow around and make sure all the moving parts are lubricated, frictionless and happy, but will the same be the case for a face?
Looking at the packaging Somerset could hardly be said to undersell their product. “Better than foam or gel”, “Up to 260 shaves” (from the really quite small bottle) and “I use the finest natural ingredients to create the most effective and concentrated skincare products”. Big claims to live up to, indeed!
The shaving process
So, another good warm shower to moisten my face up and prepare for another shaving showdown. Products placed at the ready, a fresh blade in the razor.
The first think I notice about the Taylor cream, apart from the fantastically uplifting smell, is how firm it is. It’s almost not creamy at all, the consistency is more like … lard? Only for seconds though, then it sort of melts into a nice creamy substance. And still smells gorgeous.
Application is easy, and it stays in place. I had to take care to add a touch more water though as if you’re messing about taking silly selfies of yourself whilst shaving (I’m sure you don’t) shaving creams tend to dry out. Once silliness was exchanged for serious shaving action there was no problem.
Lubrication was up there with the best, no doubt about it. The fresh blade flowed over the stubble with little resistance, felling the offending follicular foes with unfettered vengeance. Must be the fine smell that makes me all lyrical.
At the halfway point it’s time to try something new, so out comes the shaving oil. The instructions say to add 3-4 drops in palms and massage into beard, wait a moment and shave. Now, 3-4 drops is not a lot of oil, and while I don’t believe my facial area is that different to anyone else, it was quickly obvious that 4 drops was not going to cover even half my face. So I doubled it (quadrupled really, as I doubled the dosage to half the area) and applied again. And waited a few moments.
And shaved. Ok, there was not a total lack of lubrication, but on the other hand there wasn’t anywhere near the lubrication I was expecting. More along the lines of what you’d expect from wet skin alone.
When rinsing off my face afterwards the Taylor was easily rinsed off, the oil pretty much stayed where it was. There is nothing in the Somerset instructions to indicate that a soapy wash is needed, so I dried off and left it. And this is when it really started to burn. For a product labelled as being “extra sensitive” there sure must be some aggressively strong ingredients in there. It did slowly dissipate, but this did not endear me to the shaving oil at all.
Apart from the oil burn, there was no noticeable shaving burn to be felt.
So, what is the low-down?
To me there mainly two aspects that define a decent shave: the success hair removal, and how my skin feels in the hours after. As mentioned further up, points are given based on several other factors as well. This is important to do, according the the Charter for Really Good Reviews, OK?
Taylor Lemon & lime shaving cream:
- Lubrication 8/10
- Consistency 8/10
- Smell 9/10
- Packaging 5/10
Taylor comes in with the top creams with regards to lubrication, and I did like the consistency of the cream. I think I mentioned that it smells good enough to eat? The packaging let’s it down a bit. Granted, the cream isn’t in the premium class price wise, but given how Taylor is a dinosaur in the business, has a prime and upmarket location in olde London, perhaps a more luxurious packaging might be in it’s place?
And then we have the ingredients. I’m pleased to say that I find nothing objectionable here. A lot of very chemical sounding stuff, but no parabens or dimethicone, so no deductions for Taylor!
This works out to a total of 30 of 40 points.
Somersets Maximum glide, extra sensitive, English shaving oil:
- Lubrication 1/10
- Consistency 1/10
- Smell 4/10
- Packaging 7/10
I’m not sure how much to add here. This product just doesn’t work. At least not for me. I imagine that since it actually exists, it must have worked for at least one person at some time, but I’m struggling to see how. Anyhow, points given according to my experience.
Smell. Yes, it does smell. Quite vibrantly so, of the sort of ingredients I normally expect to find in throat lozenges. Quite forceful, although the smell does put me in mind of products that soothe a sore and slimy throat. Plus the smell even now makes my face burn. Still, I’ll award point generously here, as there is a lot of smell.
They have got the packaging right now. Modern and vibrant. Again generous marks, though I’ll not go top marks as the outrageous claims must detract.
Well, there are certainly a lot of ingredients. No baddies, so no deduction there. I do wonder, more than I usually do, what all these 14 or so oils actually contribute to the final product.
In fact, almost all the content is the “hybrid vegetable oil”, which I take to be a stable, long-lasting and odourless oil, similar in properties to typical kitchen or frying oils. Oddly, the composition of the shaving oil is likely very close to a massage oil. Exactly where the lubricative properties are expected to come form is uncertain.
I will give a little credit, if not actual points, for having only natural ingredients. Even if they are ultimately useless.
The end result is a generous 13 of 40 points, which actually puts the awful Gentleman’s Tonic out of the last place.
I would be sincerely and genuinely interested to hear from anyone that has had a positive experience using Somerset Shaving Oil. Please do get in touch.
The ranking list after round 4:
- Lucky Tiger “Liquid Cream Shave” 31
- Body Shop “Maca Root Shaving Cream” 30
- Taylor of Old Bond Street Shaving Cream 30
- Mitchell’s Wool Fat Shaving Soap 26
- Billy Jealousy “Hydroplane” 25
- Kiehl’s “Ultimate Brushless Shave Cream Formula #31X” 15
- Gentleman’s Tonic “Classic Shave Cream” 16
- Somerset Shaving Oil 13
A few possibles, to be selected according to how I feel on the day… How’s that for building that big tingle of anticipation and excitement?