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Artisan soaps and creams?

I was looking at the Shave Of The Day thread and noticeed a new soap to me, HAGS Grinched out of Greece. The scent profile I found online looked really good. I also see a lot of references to Saponificio Varesino out of Italy and others.

After reading several posts about the high initial cost of these soaps not being a problem because they last so much longer than their Arko and similar soaps, they are a good value as well if you look beyond the initial purchase price.

How do you find and rate various artisanal soaps and lesser-known names from Europe? Is there an online guide or forum for soaps and cremes that are not mass-market available? How do you find a version that is good for your skin and razor type? Each of us have different facial skin types, whiskers, etc. so, I realize this isn't an exact science. However, a website or guide that lets you down-select for basic things like main scent characteristics, slickness, and skin moisturizing properties seems like a good resource for people like myself. Individual threads are good for "randomly" finding awesome soaps but, for those of us not strolling the streets of Paris or Rome, finding that special scent or soap is nearly impossible. The few retail shops I have been in that had "wet shaving" products beyond the common mass market stuff like Van der Hagen have been a real turn-off for me due to mainly poor quality products and relatively high prices for very average products locally to me in the USA-Texas.

To be honest, I am put off by the retail markups at most specialty stores. Yes, they are providing a service and I don't expect them to "work" for free but in the shave soaps I have seen, a $20~$30 (MSRP) soap from Italy is $50~$60 in the big city shopping center, and that price (and markup) puts off most buyers. 100% on a tub of Proraso is bad but tolerable for a good shave shop IMHO but, really hurts the smaller artisanal makers from breaking into the marketplace. 100% markups on Artisanal products and the better ones out of Europe are simply too expensive for most people. That gets me back to the issue of, how does a normal wet shaver find better artisanal soaps at reasonable prices for online purchases? Yes, soap samplers are a place to start but, I also don't want to end up with $20~$30 soaps I need to try and move on the secondhand market because I don't like them for whatever reason and aren't available as a sample (or when the sample is 1/3 the cost of the puck!).

Hi Sid,

A couple of on-line retailers that may be worth looking at for options are Connaught Shaving in the U.K. and Italian Barber. Connaught has really excellent pricing (even better with the recent drop in U.S./U.K. exchange rate) with it's soaps and creams often priced far less then at U.S. based retailers. If you purchase 60 GBP worth of product the air shipping is free. Their range extends from large LEA professional tubes of shaving cream for roughly $4 U.S. to that $20-$30 (MSRP) soap from Italy landed for around $30 U.S. with lots in between like Tabac and MWF refill pucks you can land for under $8 U.S.. My fall orders from them were delivered complete in a reasonable amount of time with fresh product.

Italian Barber has a number of it's own Razorock products that are reasonably priced and worth trying. Since you are interested in soap pucks you should consider trying their "What the Puck" line. This is excellent soap for $3-$4 a puck when it's on sale with ingredients similar to many pricier shaving soaps. Lot's of reviews from myself and fellow B&Bers on these that you can check out.

Regarding your core question of evaluating artisan soaps have a look at all the posts from @RayClem, who has over 200 soaps. He has a fairly structured and consistent way of evaluating soaps that is worth looking at so long as you adjust for differences in personal preferences. For example his ratings favor softer soaps that can load in 10-15 seconds. With a preference for harder soap pucks you may want to discount that element of the rating approach. Like you he does find that skin moisturizing properties are important and evaluates accordingly. Of course he also covers all the core shaving performance elements and scent. You may find his evaluations helpful.
After burning through the major artisans I realized I did not like tallow soaps, don't enjoy the post shave greasy feel. I use SV, MdC and What the Puck triple milled soaps exclusively now and probably won't need another soap purchase for a decade.
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