Welcome to round 5 of the Great Shaving Cream Investigation! As exclusively revealed in last weeks post (here), this is quite likely the second to last of the exciting rounds. I realise many of my readers will have started to eagerly look forward to the next installment, but we will at some point have to publish the final results, select the cream for our future and move on. There is more to life than shaving cream. And I’m not thinking about shampoo, skin lotions, underarm anti-perspirants or anti-fungal foot creams. I tell a lie, I may actually do something on underarm anti-perspirants and deodorants.
To look back at the previous four 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
- Round 4: Taylor of Old Bond Street vs Somersets
So, what’s up for this week? Well, last weeks offerings were both very British, and this weeks are decidedly not so. We have the Italian Proraso and the Turkish Arko. Again quite different products, with really only the actual intent being the same. One is a thick cream, the other a stick of soap. How will the these exotic variants stack up against the 8 previous contenders?
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: Arko – Turkish shaving soap
Until I started researching shaving creams I had no idea at all of the sheer number of variants available. This one was recommended by one of my followers on Twitter and arrived by post all the way from Turkey. It is a stick of soap, wrapped in foil-coated paper, and was said to be both cheap and incredibly good.
The first thing that strikes me is that the packaging, in all it’s simplicity, is very cool. A sort of Mad Men vibe, with the hunky chap all soaped up and ready to shave. I can’t understand a word on the packaging apart from the Arko branding, but it doesn’t matter all that much. The kind chap that recommended it gave me a few tips on usage, and it wasn’t really that difficult.
The smell though… It totally matches the packaging. Difficult to put your finger on (can you put a finger on a smell?), but it smells manly. Sort of what you’d expect your father to smell like, if he was James Bond and didn’t smoke cigars. What real men might have smelt like before the world went crazy with after-shaves, lotions and all other odorous crap men slather on to bolster their olfactory signature (i.e. why a bloodhound can track you from miles away).
Second out: Proraso shaving cream
The second contestant is the Italian champion Proraso. I’ve seen Proraso mentioned quite frequently in the shaving press and gentleman’s catalogues. They do a wide range of flavours and tastes, so I was somewhat uncertain about which to spring for. I finally settled for the variant described as for “sensitive skin” (and my Italian is just about good enough to understand what “anti-irritazione” must mean as well), as this should by all expectations be of a type to keep razor burn to a minium.
The cream itself is of the thicker variety. In fact, I’m sure you can leave the plastic pot upside down and still not experience spillage. This is a hint that you’ll want to take steps to ensure sufficient moisture (aka water) is available.
The packaging is nice, with the cream contained in a plastic pot of fair quality, though I suspect not air-tight. The text on the package is all in Italian, which does make it a little tricky to understand if there are any special instructions.
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.
For the Arko is was out with the badger hair brush again for some traditional gentleman’s soap and brush action. My informant had instructed to put some warm water in an espresso-cup, mash the stick of soap into it to coat the bottom of the cup with soap, and then whip up a storm of soapy lather to be applied to facial features.
One downside of the simplistic wrapping of the Arko is that you do end up with a wet stick of soap and only some torn paper to wrap it in.
This was actually easier than expected, and with the wonderful aroma of Turkish soap wafting into my nostrils I applied lots of lather!
The actual experience of shaving made it clear that the lubricating properties of the soap were quite splendid. The lather was also thick enough to stay in place, while also being easy to rinse off the razor between rounds.
At the half-way point it’s over to the whipped-cream-like goodness of the Proraso. So perfectly it lays in it’s little pot that it’s almost a shame to dip a finger into it and disturb it. Looking at the pattern though you do get an impression of how substantial the cream is, as this is a pot that has been through the postal system and stored, with little regard for which way was up or down.
Once scooped out it reminds me a lot of the Body Shop cream, both in consistency and colouring. Not quite as pearlescent though. This is thick stuff, so you really need to mix in some warm water while applying, otherwise scraping it off your face will be a miserable experience indeed.
Once moistened a bit though it provides a lubricant experience up there with the better creams. I can’t actually recall noticing much of a smell from it, which may or may not be an advantage. To my mind a really nice smell can be very uplifting and add to the experience, but a really awful smell (like the Kiehl’s) is something you can do fine without.
Both soap and cream were easily rinced off the face though, which is as it should be.
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?
Arko shaving soap:
- Lubrication 8/10
- Consistency 8/10
- Smell 9/10
- Packaging 7/10
Good lubrication and consistency, indeed. The smell is quite likely the best so far, so excellent marks there. Soap is a little more fussy to use than the more easily applied cream in a tub or tube, so I can’t go to full marks on packaging. Also, while Arko is a very reasonably priced product, the paper wrapping does make it more difficult to store. I now have an espresso cup in my bathroom closet with the stick of Arko sitting in it!
With regards to the ingredients of the Arko I ran into a problem. The writing on the wrapping is in Turkish, and in a font that is too tiny to read. So I had to do a spot of searching. This may be the actual list of ingredients:
Ingredients: Potassium Tallowate, Stearic Acid, Potassium Cocoate, Aqua, Sodium Palm Kernelate, Glycerin, Parfum, Parafinium, Liquidum, Tetrasodium EDTA, Etidronic Acid, Disodium Distrylbiphenly, Disuffonate Amyl Cinnamel, Citronellol, Geraniol, Hexyl Cinnamal, Linalool
As far as I can tell there is nothing objectionable here, so no deductions for bad content!
This works out to a total of 32 of 40 points for Arko, putting it in the lead!
- Lubrication 7/10
- Consistency 7/10
- Smell 5/10
- Packaging 8/10
Lubrication and consistency almost up there with the best, just not quite so. The non-memorable smell only gets it an average score. For the packaging I’m thinking it deserves well for the attractive pot and graphic design, but a deduction for the lack of understandable instructions. The list of ingredients does however include some English translations.
The ingredients list doesn’t appear to include any bad ingredients. It’s nice to see a natural lubricant like coconut oil making an appearance. The sheer number of ingredients needed to make a shaving cream is surprising though.
The end result is 27 of 40 points for the Proraso.
The ranking list after round 5:
- Arko Shaving Soap 32
- Lucky Tiger “Liquid Cream Shave” 31
- Body Shop “Maca Root Shaving Cream” 30
- Taylor of Old Bond Street Shaving Cream 30
- Proraso Extra sensitive 27
- 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
For round 6 I will be putting Truefitt & Hill shaving soap up against Weleda shaving cream. This will most likely be the second to last round!