Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Arko Shave Stick: First Shave, First Impressions

My first shave stick arrived yesterday. It is Arko brand, and today I've taken the maiden voyage with this product.

The stick looks just like it does in the photos on line, one of which is displayed at right. The packaging is exclusively a foil-paper wrapper, enclosing a short candle-like stub of shave soap, which I carefully unfolded at the ends and separated the mild adhesive along where the long edges of the wrapper were glued together. This will allow me to use the stick sans paper, and then when dry, wrap it back in its paper wrapper and secure with a thin rubber band -- ready for packing if I choose it when I'm traveling.

The first thing that I wanted to experience was the fragrance, which some like and some clearly don't. Some say it smells like soap, and others claim it imitates the aroma of a urinal cake.

As you may know, I make my own shave soap, which is currently formulated for sensitive, dry skin (as mine is) and a fairly challenging beard (as mine also is), so it has no added fragrance whatsoever to avoid possible irritation from those additives. As a result, I can assure you that plain, natural soap without added fragrance has hardly any scent at all. All commercial soap, unless unscented, has added fragrance, which is what gives the various brands their different characteristic bouquets.

Arko is scented to smell like a common, traditional bath soap. I found it not the least bit offensive, perhaps because I wasn't used to using a shave soap that smells like a spice rack or an expensive mens' cologne, and, from reading various reviews of the Arko brand, my expectations were therefore appropriate.

For this maiden shave, I used my Frankenrazor, with the Lord-brand blade that is not my favorite -- but which is adequate in this particular razor. On this day, I chose to use the Arko stick as it is intended, which is to rub the soft soap directly on one's wet beard, and then use a shaving brush to face lather. In a subsequent shave, I'll try the uber-minimalist traveler's option of making lather with my damp fingers rather than a brush.

Because I'm a frugal shaver, I tend to dislike the idea of daily use of a shave stick; I generally reject the idea of washing perfectly good lather down the drain, and tend to squeeze clean, unused lather out of my brush and back into my puck container, where I set it to drain and dry for the next day's use. But if traveling, the shave stick seems like a reasonable compromise of packing less gear at the price of having no puck container to hold previously-made lather as it dries overnight. If I were to use at home a shave soap packaged as a shave stick, I would be inclined to press it into a lathering bowl and use it as one uses a normal puck of shaving soap.

So I gave it a go -- a minimalist shave as has been my habit lately -- to really evaluate the capability of the Arko without any warm water or added pre- or post-shave-product assistance.

Making Lather

With dry fingers I rubbed the end of the dry shave stick, completely removed from its wrapper, all over my damp beard -- both face and neck. Then I put the stick in an empty yogurt cup to keep it clean and dry until post-shave clean up. The dry Arko layer on my beard was rather translucent, and I was concerned that I wasn't applying enough soap. No need to fear, however, because after I began to swirl the damp brush on my beard, the translucence quickly transformed to a dense, white layer. More water on the brush and more swirling created a rich creamy layer.

There was so much soap, in fact, that I had a hard time adding enough water; the lather layer remained just slightly on the pasty side. Next shave I will only soap my face, and not my neck, thereby using less soap to make it easier to get a slightly wetter lather.

The fragrance of the Arko is more pronounced when lathering than when just sniffing the dry stick. So I can understand why some might object, but I would have no problem using this every day.

The Shave

As I wrote above, I used Frankenrazor, a minimalist shave (meaning no hot/warm water, no pre-shave shower or face wash, and no additional lubes or balms), and one-and-a-half passes. My main pass was largely against grain, although I tend to use this solitary full pass to hit the whiskers from as many directions as necessary. My shaving strokes were short, mostly oblique, and almost like buffing strokes.

I used the ample remaining lather in the brush to touch up under my jaw line and on chin and upper lip. Being at home, I couldn't bear to rinse the left-over lather down the drain, so I squeezed it into another clean, empty Greek-yogurt container to dry and use for another shave.

First-Shave Evaluation

The Arko shave stick has really surprised me with this first shave. The Arko soap allowed a very close, comfortable shave, which remained comfortable in the all-revealing hour or so after the shave as well. The lingering fragrance after the shave is subtle and fresh, indicating to me a smell that says clean

There is no doubt that I will use this product again -- tomorrow paired with the formidable slant razor. So after one use, this modest, inexpensive, unassuming shave soap has impressed me and provided a great shave. More to follow; stay tuned.

Happy shaving!

No comments:

Post a Comment