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St. James Mandarin & Patchouli Shaving Cream

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To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, I can resist anything but new shave cream temptation. So last night, after seeing a post about this product in the shaving cream forum, off to Takashimaya I went. (Ah, the joy$ of living in NYC.) In short order, I found and purchased a Mandarin & Patchouli-scented jar of St. James shaving cream.

At $22 for the jar it wasn't quite as bad as I was expecting. Takashimaya is a pretty high-end store so this was a nice surprise. I suppose I thought it would be closer in price to Castle Forbes or Penhaligon's. Regardless, it's still not a cheap product.

Noting that it says "Brushless Cream" on the box, I asked the very nice saleswoman, "Can I lather this cream with a brush?" I felt it prudent to ask, even though shaving brushes were displayed prominently next to the creams.

"Oh yes," she said.

More on that later.

The cream comes very handsomely packaged in a heavy paper box. Silver-foil embossed lettering on top of the box proclaims "Founders Reserve - Est. 1953," just underneath the St. James logo. Inside, the cream is beautifully presented in a heavy glass jar with a screw-on silver top. It's nowhere near as nice as, for example, a jar of Penhaligon's cream, but none too shabby either.

Uncrewing the top of the jar liberates a heady whiff of patchouli-scented goodness. I suppose the Mandarin part of the scent is there somewhere but it's somewhat buried under the patchouli (at least to my nose). I happen to like patchouli which is a good thing, because it's a pretty strongly-scented cream.

Unfortunately, we've now covered the best parts of this cream.

I tried the cream this morning with my Plisson HMW #14 & a Georgetown scuttle. I applied a pretty generous amount of the cream to my moist brush (pretty much all of the cream that was stuck to the underside of the lid of the jar), added a bit of hot water to the scuttle, and got to work.

10 turns. Nothing. 20 turns. Nothing. More. Nothing.

Crap...do I need more cream?? Added a dollop more cream to the scuttle. More water? Added more water. Kept at it. Stir, stir, stir. Pump, pump, pump. Stir. Pump. Stir.

Nothing, nothing, and more nothing. I swear to god, it was like trying to lather cooking oil. Except that's not being fair to the oil.

Ok, I thought. It says "brushless cream" on the box, obviously that's how they intend it to be used. (So much for knowledgeable salespeople.) So I scooped a bit out of the jar, slathered it onto my face, and began to shave.

I was using an Aristocrat w/a Feather (on day 6). The shave proceeded well enough but I was so irritated about the whole lathering thing that I just wanted it to be over. I think I did around 2.5 passes: WTG, XTG & partial ATG. I did notice while shaving that I really didn't need to re-apply much cream between passes because the stuff is so thick & oily-feeling.

Normally I'll keep the sink partially filled with warm water to rinse my razor in while shaving. But this cream is so thick & gloppy that I couldn't rinse it that way -- I had to turn on the tap forcefully enough to blast the cream out of the razor. I also noticed that while shaving, bits of the cream would fall off of the razor in one mass and land, plop!, in the sink.

Not very appetizing.

Some of the key ingredients listed in this cream are Meadowfoam Seed Oil, Sweet Almond Oil, Olive Oil & Cranberry Oil. Lots of oils. They bill it as being all natural: no parabens, SLS or SLES is used. No alcohol, either. It also says on the box that, "Like a fine vintage wine, our St. James shave cream formulations are matured for longer in their barrels, promoting and enriching their moisturizing properties."

Marketing-speak at its finest. You can't make this stuff up. And no, I didn't try to drink it.

However, I did try to rinse it off my face after shaving. And it's not easy. This is a cream that definitely leaves a somewhat oily-feeling residue on top of your skin afterwards. And that's the key thing: on top. It left my skin feeling oily but somewhat dry, if that makes any sense. Like it didn't sink in. I wasn't going to use an aftershave because of this but decided to apply a bit of TGR's AS balm after all to deal with a bit of burn on my neck.

TGR's product normally sinks in immediately and vanishes, leaving your skin feeling supple and refreshed. But not this time. It just kind of laid there, like oil on varnish, before finally sinking in. At least, I thought it sunk it. I could be wrong.

And that nice, patchouli-laden scent? Well, it definitely stays with you. It might not be noticeable to others after awhile but it's now 7 hours post-shave for me and I can still detect the smell. Enough is enough. Obviously, this cream would clash in a major way with any scent you choose to apply afterwards.

The bottom line? If you're in a hurry & don't mind not using a brush, this cream does work. But unless you're a BIG patchouli fan AND have dry skin, I'd stay away. I'll be taking my jar back to the store this afternoon -- hopefully I can get my $$ back!

Whoops -- guess I forgot the tick the "Save Ratings" box. My apologies -- here they are.

Latest reviews

I bought the brush version of this cream from TK Maxx and have to say its outstanding. Only paid £5 for this when it usually retails at £15.

The smell is fantastic. Nice and herby, and the ingredient list contains a host of natural ingredients.

I get a great lather from this cream without too much product. I've never had a nick using this cream having been using it exclusively now for two weeks.

I love this brush version cream and will be going back to TK Maxx to see if I can buy up the remaining stock of this cream as it gives great shaving results. If you are lucky enough to come across the brush version of this cream then I urge you to buy it, especially if its on special offer. :thumbup:
Price
5.00 star(s)
Scent
5.00 star(s)
Quality
5.00 star(s)
Efficacy
5.00 star(s)
Packaging
5.00 star(s)
Latherability
5.00 star(s)
Moisturizing Properties
4.00 star(s)
Having only used Men-U cream with a brush, my experience of shave cream is limited.
I saw this stuff in TK Maxx for £3.99 and thought I'd give it a go.

So... tonight I did the usual routine of shower and shave. The cream goes on nicely and has a great smell to it. There is a highly moisturising feel to this cream so my expectations were high.

Well, all I can say is, I'm glad I got this cheap. The razor initially feels well lubricated, but the cream seems to sting my skin in the sensitive neck area.

In conclusion this will be staying in my drawer and I'll stick with face lathering brush application for the time being.
Price
4.00 star(s)
Scent
3.00 star(s)
Quality
2.00 star(s)
Efficacy
1.00 star(s)
Packaging
3.00 star(s)
Latherability
0.00 star(s)
Moisturizing Properties
3.00 star(s)
I bought this at a Duane Reade pharamacy just out of curiosity.

One thing to note is that this cream DEFINITELY WILL NOT LATHER. I tried it with a brush for a few times only to end up with a wet gunky mess. The previous reviewer must have been using their Cederwood shaving cream (that's the one with the brown outlines on the edges of the packaging). That one does not have the "brushless" designation on it and in fact lathers very well.

I find the smell of the cream quite pleasant, and I do find that it works well as a lubricant between the blade and your face. The cream itself is very think, and a thin layer applied directly on your face will definitely suffice. It is however very hard to clean off of a razor; in fact, if you're using a multi blade plastic cartridge you absolutely should NOT use this cream. You'll be spending minutes with your sink on full blast trying to get this stuff off before you're even halfway done shaving.

(On a geeky sidenote, if you take a look at the ingredients list of the cream you'll notice that while it contains all kinds of oil and fatty acid, there is no mention of KOH, NaOH or any kind of alkali base- i.e. no saponificaiton, which means that there's no soap, hence it will never work into a lather, no matter how hard you try)
Price
4.00 star(s)
Scent
3.00 star(s)
Quality
4.00 star(s)
Efficacy
3.00 star(s)
Packaging
5.00 star(s)
Latherability
0.00 star(s)
Moisturizing Properties
4.00 star(s)

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