First things first, a confession. I am an avid shaving cream aficionado, my go to creams being Executive Shaving Natural Shaving Cream, Executive Shaving Bay Rum, the Fitjar range and the Castle Forbes range. I also have a soft spot for Taconic and Trumper creams too. The only shaving soaps that have ever really rocked my boat are the magnificent Santa Maria Novella Crema da Barba which costs a hefty £55.00 and Martin de Candre scented shaving soap which comes in at £36.15.
Allesandro who co-runs Saponificio Varesino with his brother in Italy kindly sent me a complimentary Stella Alpina Shaving Soap and After Shave Balm for me to try out. Saponificio Varesino is a top selling brand for us but I still needed convincing that the soap would be better than the trusty creams I’m used to using. It’s the simplicity of use I like about shaving creams, plop a ‘wee doad’ (if you’re not Scottish that means a small amount) into a lathering bowl, whip it up with your brush and paint it on, how easy can it be?
Most shaving soaps I have used in the past needed a heck of a lot of whipping up before my brush was sufficiently loaded for a decent shave and once painted onto my face I often noticed the lather was drying out on my skin.
So, with low expectations I tried the Stella Alpina soap. Not surprisingly, being an Italian brand the packaging and branding is first class, the soap is neatly wrapped in branded paper and comes in a stiff brown coloured box with blue text.
The first thing anyone does when they open a new soap is smell it and I'm no different. What I detected was a delightful, complex scent will appeal to men and women of all ages. Its got lots of lemon, bergamot, basil, eucalyptus and notes of cypress and amber and I think I can also detect some oak in the mix.
I followed the advice given by Allesandro and filled the plastic PET container with warm water while I had a shower and got dressed. The warm water softens the surface of the soap making it easier to lather up; this is good news as less soap lathering means less stress on your shaving brush. The brush loaded up very quickly indeed, after no more than 30 seconds lathering my brush was packed with a dense, creamy lather which I then painted into my tough stubble. The fresh scent of the lather was most pleasing, just as pleasing was the richness of the lather. I shaved with a new Personna blade and a Muhle Rocca safety razor. The razor blade was barely felt on my skin as I shaved such is the superb glide, cushioning and lubrication from Stella Alpina soap. After my first pass I splashed my face with water and noticed my skin felt like it had been moisturised with an after shave balm. I put that down to the addition of edelweiss extract and hazelnut oil in the ingredients. To be honest two passes and some minor touching up is all I need when I use The Rocca but I have been doing three passes with Stella Alpina soap as I wanted to test its effectiveness on skin that has already had two razor passes. Using Stella Alpina for a three pass shave makes complete sense, absolutely no irritation, no post shave tenderness and no post shave redness.
After shaving I washed my face and neck and I was struck by how moisturised my face felt, as if I has already used a post shave moisturising balm.
I wanted to test the 100ml Stella Alpina post shave balm even although I wasn’t convinced my skin needed it as the soap itself is so moisturising. The balm shares the same refreshing scent as the shaving soap. It comes in an matte, brushed aluminium container with a flip open lid. I experienced a very pleasant tingling sensation when applied; this is due to its formulation which includes vegetable origin alcohol and a fluid cream. This highly concentrated formulation was developed to enhance the moisturising and softening properties of the shaving soap (not that it needs it in my opinion). But it is a nice way to finish off a close shave. The balm dried in quickly and left no stickiness and no greasy residue on my skin. Being a balm the scent was gone within an hour or so.
The market is already awash with shaving soaps and post shave balms, some are awful some are good, a few are excellent. Stella Alpina Beta 4.2 Shaving Soap & After Shave Balm most definitely fall into the excellent category.
I have no hesitation in recommending Stella Alpina Beta 4.2 Shaving Soap & After Shave Balm to our customers.
Written by Brian Mulreany
Sales Director at The Executive Shaving Company
15th March 2017