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Multiple Shave Product Comparison (GFT VS CF VS RR VS TOBS VS TH VS Proraso VS.etc

Hello everyone,

I actually had wanted to do this post for some time and I slowly put it together...insanely long so bring a sandwich, some water and prepare your shave gear you'll need to shave when you're done lol. Before continuing I should explain my shaving history as well as a defining a few basic concepts that are important for me as a wet shaver. Please keep in mind that in many cases the differences small but still not "perfect" in my eyes.

My first ever shave was around the age of 12-13 with an electric shaver (don’t ask me which one I cannot remember). I remember from that very first time that this method of shaving was not for me; face felt raw and uncomfortable. Later on my brother and I both received a Phillips electric shaver. Although it was somewhat better it had the same problems, this lasted no more then 2-3 years before I began using Gillete Sensor Excel. I preferred this method of shaving however like many here it was uncomfortable. As the new models came out I upgraded this also included the shave gels/foam including: Nivea sensitive, Nivea extreme comfort, Avene and Aveno. While in university I decided perhaps some pre-shave concoctions would help and I must admit that they did. I first started with King of Shaves and finally solely used American Crew shave oil. It was about at this same time that my girlfriend (now wife) suggested that I first take care of my skin (cleanser, moisturizer, better shave gels/foams etc). I decided to follow her advice and began to first take better care of my skin; the difference was substantial. I noticed a gradual decrease in discomfort/irritation, bumps, redness etc. Soon after I decided that perhaps if I used a better shaving medium I could improve my shave even further and thus began my journey of better shaves. I would see what was available and try it out, looking for reviews etc. The most common things that popped up were products such as Zirh or Jack Black. One day while in Dallas I came across “AoS” which I found interesting and had a difficult time believing that a shave brush could make any difference; little did I know how wrong I was and the seed of traditional wet shaving had been planted. Approximately a year later I received my first AoS basic shave kit; for those that care it was lemon and sandalwood (received the sandalwood as a gift due to an error from AoS). The shaves improved dramatically again but there was still that irritation especially near my peribucal area and two specific spots on my neck. After a couple months of use I perused the internet looking for other shave creams that I could use. I began trying various products, constantly searching for my perfect shave. In the meantime I was studying various videos, lurking here on B&B (well before I ever became a member) and slowly initiated my brother, father and brother in law into traditional wet shaving. I kept searching for what could give me the best shave. It should also be noted that when I first got my TOBS I also purchased a Merkur HD.

Before moving to the shave cream review I would like to describe my typical shave and what I look for in a “perfect” shave. I typically shave 3 times a week due to the fact that the first 24 hours leave me with some heavy 5 o’clock shadow. Trying to shave the next morning is pointless due to almost no real stubble and results in mild razor burn, irritation, angry looking skin and sometimes razor bumps (for those that care it is properly called pseudofolliculitis barbae). My typical shave requires 4 passes and some cases touch-ups: WTG, XTG lateral-medial, XTG medial-lateral, ATG. I use my mergress position 5 (absolutely love it) with Astra SP or Gillette 7 O'Clock Permasharp Stainless (India). If I want a more aggressive shave I’ll go for the Feathers or Personna Lab Meds and a Kent BLK4 is my brush that I use to only face lather; I find I get much better results. The lather I look for is slightly on the wet side but still relatively thick and cushiony/pillowy.
On to the Shave Cream Uber Review:
I will go from what I consider the worst to the best. Please keep in mind that I will not be using scent as a real judgment of quality of shave. Though there is no doubt that scent plays a part in whether or not it will be well received and purchased. That being said apart from sensitivity issues to the fragrance/essential oils it has no role in terms of how good of a shave one will get. Example I could care less if it smells amazing but my neck looks as if it was attacked by rabid badgers afflicted with Parkinson’s and late stage Huntington’s disease using an old rusty lawnmower. Of course this is only true if the scent does not make one want to slit their own throat so as to escape the stench; have yet to find something that makes me do that. So this begs the question what do I consider the perfect shave. Simply put it must be irritation free, as close to BBS as possible, easy reproducibility of lather and at least in my mind a good value.

The following is the order in which I began using the different products over the years (approximately 10):

Avene or Nivea Extreme Comfort - Zirh – Jack Black – Art of Shaving (AoS) – Proraso – Geo F. Trumber (GFT)/Taylor of Old Bond Street (TOBS) – Edwin Jagger/Speick – Nancy Boy (NB)/Al’s The Bomb – Mystique Water – Truefitt and Hill – Musgo Real (MR) – Simpsons/Tabac Soap - Castle Forbes (CF)– Razorock XXX/RR Artisan Napoleons Violet/RR La Famiglia Don Marco/Cella - Acqua di Parma (AdP) – XPEC – Proraso (Reformulated) – Santa Maria Novella (SMN) – Mitchell’s Wool Fat (MWF)/D.R. Harris Arlington Soap (DRH)

Taylor of Old Bond Street ($14 - 5.4oz/150g):
I waited anxiously for my samples and quickly tore through the packaging like a wild bear looking for honey. The scents were delicious except for barbershop scent and the very next morning I chose my weapon…Eton College and prepared for my shave. Oh the horror! First and foremost I required so much product, I was so disappointed (7mL minimum). It is ironic because at first it seemed as if I had a wonderful amount of lather on my brush but it was in fact just fluff. I had to get my bowl out and add more product to get the lather I wanted. I found it to be lacking in lubricity which surprised me considering the wonderful reviews it normally gets…that reminds me let me put on my clear riot shield in front of my monitor before the bricks start flying my way. Worst still was the uber irritation post-shave, it felt horrid and extremely raw almost as bad as my canned gels. I thought perhaps I had a reaction to something and thus tried Jeremyn Street on my next shave. This was far superior and belongs in the Edwin Jagger, Proraso and Speick category. I will also add that the post-shave quality of the Avocado was extraordinary and the shave quality was equal to Jeremyn Street. After finishing my samples I still purchased a tub each of Jeremyn Street and Avocado. My thoughts were that perhaps the samples were not a good representation of the product; my brother ended up getting them lol.

Although my experience was horror I still beseech those that have not tried them to give it a shot. My brother did not have such a nightmarish experience but he agrees with me that it was a rather poor shave. That being said I am the minority and most love these creams and it seems that ignoring to at least try them would be sacrosanct.

Jack Black Shave Lube and Zirh Shave Gel:

Although both are exceptionally easy to use (just squirt a little into your hand and spread with the fingers) and requires little product. The pre-shave ability to help soften beard seems to be nil which is troublesome, this was especially true for the Zirh shave gel. Furthermore during the shave there is little to no protection against nicks and overall irritation was high due to lack of protection for the skin. However, lubricity is high allowing for easy gliding of the razor across the skin but as previously mentioned there is little room for error in terms of nicking and overall skin protection. Post shave there is little to no moisturization. Obviously there’s no lather which is not an issue for me nor is there difficulty in finding where I had previously shaven due to a somewhat sheen like film on the face where product is left. I would like to point out that the Zirh Shave oil and ASB are quite good. The oil is not thick (looking at you AoS) and the ASB absorbs quickly with some light moisturizing and soothing leaving the skin soft.
I do not recommend either of these products.

Jack Black Triple Cushion:

Again easy to use but I myself could not get it to lather with either my hand or a brush. It is quite thick and due to the fact it does not lather all that well requires a decent amount of product per pass. The product goes on almost like a thick paste which makes it difficult to get a close shave without digging in which can potentially lead to nicks/cuts and severe irritation. It did provide sufficient lubricity during the shave as well as hair softening pre-shave. Overall the shave was rather comfortable but left some light “stubble”. Keep in mind that the “stubble” cannot be seen but is easily felt even with the grain. The post-shave feel was a very moisturized face bordering on almost slightly greasy.
I have used this for shaving my armpits which is exceptional in that respect however it is not exactly the cheapest stuff on the planet in that aspect.

Edwin Jagger ($16 – 75mL)/Proraso Cream ($10 – 150mL)/Speick Cream ($6.50 – 2.5oz):
All 3 of these gave much better shaves then the above and for me are close to being on equal footing to one another. They are all easy to lather but do require a decent amount of product (5-7mL in general) to create sufficient lather for my style of shaving. The hair softening is adequate as is lubricity. I found the lather to be on the creamy side giving good protection however I could not get a very close shave and the irritation/burning post-shave was detectable as was some slight stubble. The moisturizing properties were all good especially EJ and Speick. This means that “glide” was still not high enough for me. In addition the price of EJ is extremely high. I would like to add that my skin does not agree too well during shaving to menthol. In addition I found the new Proraso reformulation to be much better especially the shea butter Sandalwood.
I really believe that everyone should give these a try due to price and overall performance. The lather is easy to make and quite stable throughout the shave. I did find that Speick was a little more finicky in terms of water ratio but easily conquered if starting with just a damp brush.

Nancy Boy ($18 – 6oz/170g)/Musgo Real ($15 – 100mL)
I found both to be about equal in terms of overall shave quality. Both are wonderful scents and provide stable, creamy, slightly unctuous/wet lather. Although NB can be used brushless I found it to be better with the use of a brush (my brother concurred). Ability to soften hair was high which lead to not feeling the blade cut the hair. In addition lubricity is very good with high glide of the razor across the skin. Furthermore the skin feels very moisturized especially with Musgo Real. My issues are a few though as follows. Amount of product required is relatively high for NB and more then I’d like but it is most definitely an easy to use cream (does not require large amounts of water), the same was true for MR. I could never get a super close BBS shave without having to rework the areas repeatedly which resulted in some tenderness and even then it was never BBS on jawline and two spots on the neck.

Highly recommend the travel tub of NB and at least one tube of MR. Attention to the bucal area while using MR due to presence of lanolin which can be an irritant for some. Price of MR is relatively cheap and while NB is slightly more expensive it is still well worth a try.

RR Artisan Napoleons Violet ($9.99 – 125mL)/RR La Famiglia Don Marco ($6.99 – 125mL)/Cella($7.99 – 125g cut from kilo brick)
Although worse shave overall compared to GFT/AoS (not by a large margin) the price point is absolutely incredible. Containers explode into lather as soon as they get eyed by the brush. In the case of RR there is a little more product being used but still exceedingly reasonable. Cella took the prize though for post-shave feeling and in my opinion is the winner from this group. In other words I HIGHLY recommend at least trying the RR artisan line as well as Cella.

GFT ($30 – 200g)/AoS ($25 – 5oz/150mL)/Tabac ($14.95 – 4.4oz/125g)/DRH (15$ - 100g):
All 4 perform relatively the same with an advantage given to Tabac/DRH. Although it was difficult to obtain samples I finally had some come in from GFT themselves. The scents were heavenly especially to my nose the coconut and violet. The sample containers however were terrible for getting the cream (mine was almost hard) and thus I ended up getting a tub coconut (if I did not like it I could give it to my brother, father or brother in law). In all 4 cases creating lather was easy from the tubs, amount of product required was average and the shave itself was good. Tabac is a mess and the scent is polarizing but it is the go to shaving product for my brother along with CF. In my opinion the AoS requires slightly less product but it was trivial. The lather itself is fluffy yet still decently dense providing very nice protection. The lubricity was excellent with easy gliding of the blade. The hair was softened and this helped the blade cut through with little effort. Furthermore the protection allowed for very low irritation post-shave and the face felt quite soft. That being said there were still two areas that refused to be BBS and those were in the neck and jawline. In addition I still experienced some irritation but it was most certainly much lower than with any of the above creams. Post-shave feel was excellent especially with Tabac. My issue with GFT/AoS is I yearn for a better shave and the scent of Tabac is certainly not to my liking. I had determined that AoS/GFT/Tabac would be at that point my standard for what a shave must be but wished for a better overall shave. I also do not like shave soaps due to the fact that it does take extra time to create lather and there is somewhat more variability due to amount of loading one does. In addition I find that I tend to nick myself.

Al’s The Bomb ($20 – 4.4oz)/Mystique Water ($9.91 – 4oz)/MWF ($13 – 4.4oz/125g):

Both Al’s and MW are artisan products in which there are a wide variety of scents. Some of Al’s offerings are off the beaten path but nonetheless interesting if not downright good. MWF (the fat) is simply a staple for all traditional wet shavers. In all cases, the lather once you get it how you want is deliciously cushiony with very high lubricity resulting in near effortless passes. I noticed that Al’s lather was somewhat denser/thicker, same with MWF but MW still held up very well in overall protection against nicks. The post-shave feel was outstanding in every sense. I had some minor irritation, in fact considerably less so then with AoS/GFT. Both MW and MWF allowed me to get BBS shaves. The issue here (not alone) is getting the lather. It is damn unnerving and makes you wonder if you just suck at making lather; especially true with MW. It took so much effort to get the lather and OCD like care with how much water actually goes in. This of course is relative due to the fact that many others had little to no problems while others simply slaved away until they finally had consistent lather. I personally just want to get to the mirror and shave with little to no worries of how consistent my lather will be. Thus some people have great difficulty while others simply find that it takes no time at all to lather. Overall most agree that they can be a little difficult to lather especially MW and MWF.

I highly recommend trying all 3 of these shaving products simply on the grounds that they are spectacular if you can get the lather right and are willing to take the time in not only creating the lather but also learning how to make it.

Truefitt and Hill ($30 - 190g)/Simpson ($24.95 - 4.2oz/125mL):

I first ordered the sampler from TH USA, arriving relatively quickly. Creating the lather in both products is as polar opposite of the above; simply effortless. Using approximately 2.5mL one gets stable, thick/wet lather that is pillowy yet protective. Lubricity is extremely high and softens hair incredibly well thus giving a great easy shave. Post-shave feeling is nice and moisturized with little to no irritation (similar to the 3 above). Sadly though I cannot achieve a perfectly BBS shave as I had with Al’s, MW or MWF. In terms of number of shaves the cost is reasonable. Others will want some kind of added scent for Simpsons but it most certainly has a light scent of the ingredients used. I would also like to add that TH and Simpson are relatively rare to see in many US/Canadian wet shaving retailers.

I highly recommend getting at least the samples if not a tub/tube.

AdP ($62 – 5oz)/SMN Reformulated ($68 – 7.8oz)/XPEC ($66.99 – 250mL):
As others have done in their reviews…YES PRICEY. SMN takes the point though in being more economical very closely followed by XPEC. Quite literally just a dab and one gets mounds of lather. Regardless it is pricey, but comparatively XPEC requires next to no product to produce mountains of lather while TOBS requires a mountain of product. All 3 easily produce gobs of lather with little effort and to my nose AdP has one of the most incredible scents followed and almost tied XPEC; the scent will be polarizing. I did not care for the scent of SMN barely edging out Proraso for scent. One point I wish to add is that XPEC has the widest sweet spot when it comes to water and can recover rather easily if one adds a little too much water by simply working it a little longer. Again the scent of AdP is to die for, I literally want to drown in the stuff. The lather of especially XPEC and AdP is incredibly emollient, thick yet quite light/fluffy. I found that SMN was more like soap in that it never became like a pillowy cloud but still provided excellent protection. Glide was outstanding in both cases and beard preparation was perfect especially XPEC. Post shave was incredible with no irritation while still BBS. The bad news is price and ease of availability especially for Canadians. I would like to add that AdP and XPEC are in my rotation with XPEC being used at minimum once a week and AdP is used at least once a month. The issue is availability especially Canadians and needless to say price. That I have been able to see only straightrazordesigns sells XPEC. SMN can be found at their US site or Lee’s razors. AdP is relatively easy in comparison to find (Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, Grooming Lounge).

I absolutely recommend acquiring samples of all 3 (make them large samples or better yet purchase a tub of each). I do not use SMN due to the fact that I do not like the scent and AdP/XPEC are perfect replacements for a luxurious shave.

Castle Forbes ($38 – 200mL):
This is my mainstay of shaving for creating the perfect shave. Creating lather is as easy as swirling 20 times max in the tub. The cream is incredibly dense yet still soft. If one simply skims a slightly damp finger on the cream you can make a little lather that is incredibly slippery. The amount of lather made is incredible and it is quite literally effortless. Furthermore like XPEC the water/cream ratio is high which even the gorillas amongst us could make amazing lather. Like XPEC if you add a little too much water it can be corrected by working the lather; not as forgiving though as XPEC. The lime scent is intoxication….if you love skittles! Yes I love the scent but I also wish I could swim in skittles and other candies. I hate lavender but it is growing on me. The razor simply glides over the skin and cleans with no effort. Post-shave my face feels absolutely fantastic with no irritation and always BBS. Thus although AdP/XPEC provide a slightly better shave with a better scent (if in the mood for a cologne like scent) CF is clearly the winner due to its lower price. XPEC still provides me a slightly better shave and post-shave feeling but the marginal increase in shave quality cannot account for the price.

Some TIPS:

  1. Take care of your skin, this alone can help immensely in achieving a wonderful irritation free BBS shave. Keep in mind that good skin can take weeks before it is really noticeable. After all the changes begin in the dermal layer (where all the action really is).
  2. Mild use of salicylic acid (cleansers) can be your friend especially those with oily complexions, glycolic acid will also help.
  3. Alcohol should be avoided (Denatured), it is a skin irritant and tends to lead to more problems than it solves. Clearly this is not the case for everyone but if still having problems with shaving, try removing alcohol from the equation.
  4. PREP PREP PREP! Beard prep is critical to getting a great shave. For some this may mean 5 minutes while others will/can get away with 1 minute.
  5. Keep trying different products until you find the right one; go back to others that were terrible to see if perhaps you gave up a little too early.
  6. SLOW DOWN! There’s no reason to race, you are putting a sharp blade to your face. Would you want your surgeon to rush?
  7. I love giving myself a very cold water rinse a few times over 15-20 minutes. I find it helps immensely.
  8. Alum may be your enemy. I discovered that in my case it was too astringent causing my skin to tighten and become irritated.
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Some TIPS:

  1. Take care of your skin, this alone can help immensely in achieving a wonderful irritation free BBS shave. Keep in mind that good skin can take weeks before it is really noticeable. After all the changes begin in the dermal layer (where all the action really is).
  2. Mild use of salicylic acid (cleansers) can be your friend especially those with oily complexions, glycolic acid will also help.
  3. Alcohol should be avoided (Denatured), it is a skin irritant and tends to lead to more problems than it solves. Clearly this is not the case for everyone but if still having problems with shaving, try removing alcohol from the equation.
  4. PREP PREP PREP! Beard prep is critical to getting a great shave. For some this may mean 5 minutes while others will/can get away with 1 minute.
  5. Keep trying different products until you find the right one; go back to others that were terrible to see if perhaps you gave up a little too early.
  6. SLOW DOWN! There’s no reason to race, you are putting a sharp blade to your face. Would you want your surgeon to rush?
  7. I love giving myself a very cold water rinse a few times over 15-20 minutes. I find it helps immensely.
  8. Alum may be your enemy. I discovered that in my case it was too astringent causing my skin to tighten and become irritated.


I think you've nailed it, but a couple comments:

3. Don't worry TOO much about alcohol in your aftershave. It does more good than harm 90% of the time.
5. And remember the corollary: When you find stuff that works, STOP buying more and more examples of similar-but-different products, especially hardware. You're done.
8. Just keep the Alum on for less than a minute and splash some Witch Hazel over it; you'll be better then new.
So true Ron on if you find something that works stop. I am something of a minimalist, I do not see the point in having so many different products. Search until you find the product that works and every so often look around you may find something nice but do it as an adventure not a quest of acquisition.

Concerning the Alum I tried the less then a minute but it still was too astringent for my face and thus I've given it up. I now have wonderful irritation free shaves and only use a good aftershave; I enjoy CF ASB.
thanks DBdl for that great reveiw! i never now what creams to use or what to expect from them and you just gave some great advice!
I feel it is true that for me acquisitions are for purpose rather than novelty. It is great to have this resource as a new wet-shaver! It seems I have graduated (according to my own self assesment) from my first beginners set up. I hope that the Muhle silvertip fiber brush and Weber bulldog handled razor in the mail will be in line with my goals.
Thanks for the very thorough review. It was both informative as well as entertaining. Honestly, I have not tried 90% of what you reviewed as my den is very small and I tend to (re)purchase items that work for me. However, I am very happy that you enjoyed CF as that is the latest product that I anxiously awaiting its arrival at my doorstop.
I'm glad that it seems it has helped some, it really was aimed more towards those that are fairly new but also to others that have some good experience with different products.

hrossoth you will find many who in fact purchase large numbers of products here. Nothing wrong with that it is after all their decision but I purchase with the purpose of finding what is best and in my opinion I found it CF with some XPEC/AdP on the side. I will still get samples here and there when I can and still look forward to trying other products as samples and if I feel they work well I might consider a full size. I was lucky to have tried Tabac due to it being a gift for my brother...I snuck about a weeks worth of shaves while staying at his house over the holidays. I'm still trying to get to try my father's La Toja stick but he hoards that thing as if it were pure gold lol Some of the Razorock I tried thanks to my brother in law who uses it himself and thus was able to also get about a weeks worth of shaves. At the end of the day though stick to what is best for your face and try a few things here and there over the years.

Concerning repurchasing items that work for you makes perfect sense, especially if you're perfectly satisfied with the product. What I found is that some products did not meet my demands and thus I never repurchased while others that were benchmarks were still not perfect. My new benchmark is CF. TH comes close especially the Ultimate Comfort line. I absolutely LOVE the scent from Grafton and I had a terrible reaction to the rose scented cream.

Atalk I really hope you get as good an experience as I with the CF and that it perhaps becomes your new benchmark of a perfect shave. If you got the sample (50mL) keep in mind that it can be somewhat difficult to load due to the small opening. If this is the case remove the product from its container and place into a large opening Tupperware. My first CF experience was hmmm not so easy as they say to create lather but the issue was I could not properly swirl the brush in the small container. This required me to analyze what the issue was and voila I transferred to a Tupperware container and eureka an amazing shave. Also glad you found it entertaining.

PS for those unaware of Huntington's disease and why it would be terrible to have that and try to shave look it up. Sad disease very sad.
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