Mega review of Stirling Soap products

Name a popular movie or show that you have never seen.  For me its Caddyshack and Game of Thrones.  We all have a few.  There are a ton of great shows and movies that we want to see but there is a limited amount of time to see them all.

Trying new shaving soaps can be even harder.  There’s no “binge-shaving” and my budget is not endless.

Stirling Soap has been on my “want to try” list for quite some time.  I finally tried it and liked it enough to order nearly their entire line of products.  Here is my review of six products, eight scents and one company I’m really growing to enjoy.

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Note: I have no connection to Stirling Soaps.  I paid full price for all of these products and received nothing in return for this review.  

Scents

The scent of Executive Man is what hooked me so I’ll mention scents up front.  I really liked the scent of the shaving soap which led me to buy the bath soap, aftershave, Eau de Toilette before branching out into other fragrances.

Executive Man is inspired by Creed Aventus.  I haven’t smelled Aventus myself, but I have smelled Fine Platinum and Executive Man, both of which are based on Aventus.  To me both have a fruit top note (pineapple?) and a deep, smoky oakmoss base.  But the Executive Man seems to accentuate the top notes more, which makes it a great year-round scent.

Scent Levels:  Every product smells great, but not every product smells strong, which is probably intentional.  It would be overpowering if every layer had enough fragrance to stand on its own.  Here is my rough assessment of the fragrance level of the different products.

  • Shaving Soap – strong enough to enjoy while shaving, but doesn’t linger after the shave.  Shouldn’t conflict with non-matching aftershave.
  • Post-Shave Balm – also not especially strong by itself.  It complements the shaving soap well but you use it sparingly.  You (and people very close to you) will probably notice periodically throughout the day.
  • Aftershave Splash – smells stronger than the balm but I use a generous splash.  The alcohol really brings out the fruit notes.  People getting close to you will notice for a couple hours.  I like the splash a lot.
  • Bath Soap – again, not very strong on its own, but enough to smell great coming out of the shower.  It makes the bathroom smell really good.  The soap/shave/aftershave trifecta creates a noticeable level of scent.
  • Eau de toilette – very appropriate scent level.  One spray is the right amount for me but 2 is also good.  It has the right amount of fragrance to last a few hours.  Performs well on its own or to refresh the scent mid-day after the aftershave has worn off.
  • Lotion – I wouldn’t say the lotion is stronger than the other products but it definitely seems to last longer.  My guess is that the oils in the lotion keep the fragrance oils from dissipating so quickly.  The longevity of the scent is one of the main reasons I like the lotion.
  • Everything combined – it would be overkill to use everything at the same time.  I usually save the EDT for days when I don’t use a scented aftershave.  If I use the lotion I’ll go easy on the aftershave.  These are great scents but nobody wants to be the guy who clears the room.

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Scents we’ve tried:  Stirling includes samples with their orders and they have almost everything in sample sizes for purchase.  They have over 60 scents, so I am nowhere near trying them all.  Here is my run-down of the scents we have tried so far:

  • Executive Man – See above.  Awesome.
  • Island Man – Tropical, sweet and citrusy but not in an over-the-top way.  Well-balanced.  The alcohol in the aftershave makes it smell like a great summertime mixed drink.
  • Baker Street – Juniper, bergamot, jasmine, and patchouli.  The juniper definitely leads the way and there is a solid base of oriental scents.
  • Sharp Dressed Man – I’m having a hard time describing this one.  Maybe grassy?  Very clean.  Very nice.
  • Sandpiper – A reviewer said “It’s sweet but not sweet, its musky but not musky. It is my perfect scent.”  I can’t say it any better than that.  This is top of the list in my book.
  • Tea Tree – Meh.  Tea tree smells like tea tree.  Great for fighting foot fungus, but smells medicinal.
  • Pig Trail – Very evergreen.
  • Witchy Woman – When you spend $75 to get free shipping I suggest adding a bar of this to give your wife.  She will love it and overlook the fact that you just bought a bunch of gifts for yourself.

Shaving Soap

Stirling offers a lot of different products, but their shaving soap is what put them on my radar.  As far as I can tell they don’t do much marketing (if any?) so everything I had heard about their shaving soap was word-of-mouth.  The most common comment was “how do they charge so little for a soap this good?”  I’ll talk about their prices later, but first I’ll focus on the soap itself.

Ingredients:  Stirling Shaving Soap has remarkably short list of ingredients – basically great fats, stearic acid, potassium/sodium hydroxide, extra glycerin, and fragrance.

I appreciate the tallow base because l prefer tallow to plant fats.  The soap also contains lanolin (wax from wool), and it is “superfatted” with shea butter (the shea is added after the other fats have saponified so it stays behind as skin food).  Both the lanolin and the shea contribute to the “conditioning” quality of the soap.

Lather:  Stirling is a thirsty soap that lathers well and holds onto a lot of water.  It is a thick, wet lather (rather than light and airy) and it has a rich and creamy feel to it.  It took me a few tries to find the right amount of water, and apparently I am not alone.  Rod from Stirling created a short YouTube video showing how to lather with a boar brush.

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Performance:  I value slickness more than any other performance criteria.  I have a thick beard with sensitive skin and I find slicker soaps to perform better for me.  The soap is very slick and performs well.  It has a little residual slickness so you can get away with a touch-up here and there, but I recommend adding more soap for touchups.

The soap is also has a nice post-shave face feel.  My face doesn’t feel dry out or stripped of all of its oils immediately after a shave.  I have been using it almost daily for a month and I don’t notice any dryness.   The lanolin and the shea superfat seem to contribute to a very nice post-shave feel.

Post-Shave Balm

Post shave balms are so different from manufacturer to manufacturer that personal preference plays a major role.  Some balms emphasize soothing and toning, others focus on being ultra lightweight, and some enter into “moisturizer” territory.  Stirling is one of the more unique balms I have used and one that leans in the direction of a moisturizer.

Ingredients:  The first three ingredients are water, witch hazel and aloe so it definitely has soothing and toning properties.  But then the ingredients turn toward skin-friendly oils and moisturizers such as meadowfoam seed oil, shea butter, and glycerin.

In fact, many of the ingredients are similar to the Stirling Body Lotion but in different proportions that are lighter-weight and more face-friendly.

Appearance:  The balm is a moderately thin white cream – not thin enough to flow like a liquid but not as thick as a lotion.  It has some small white dots, which I believe is the emulsifying wax – the stuff that makes the oils and waters play nicely.  The dots melt away instantly on your skin.

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Those little dots in the aftershave balm melt away instantly.  BTW Groove silicone rings are great.

Performance:  The Stirling balm is soothing and moisturizing after a shave.  In fact, I use it as both an aftershave and post-shave moisturizer on my entire face.  A little goes a long way.  A half inch squeeze is enough for the full face.  It absorbs very quickly and it doesn’t have a sheen or greasy feel.

There are two conditions where someone might reach for a splash instead of the Stirling balm.  The first is if it’s very hot outside.  The balm is a heavier in oils than some other balms – especially very lightweight glycerin-based balms.  If I know I will be sweating I generally use something lighter or use a very small amount of the balm.

Also, the balm might be too heavy for people who have very oily skin.  My skin is generally normal (not dry, not oily), but if my skin had much more oil the balm might be too heavy.

Aftershave Splash

This is the product that ultimately interested me the most.

Now that summer is here I purchased the aftershave splash to use in place of the balm.  I don’t typically use alcohol splashes – I don’t want them drying out my skin.  Mostly I wanted a light everyday scent for when I don’t wear any cologne.

The Stirling aftershave has alcohol, witch hazel and glycerin like many other aftershaves, but there is an extra ingredient I wasn’t familiar with – hydrovance.  It turns out hydrovance is similar to glycerin in the way it pulls the air’s moisture toward the skin.  But it is actually more effective than glycerin and doesn’t leave the tight sheen that glycerin can in high concentrations.

Hydrovance is an interesting topic for another time, but for now lets be happy with the fact that an alcohol splash can have reasonably good moisturizing properties when there is moisture in the air.

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Looks like a pocket flask – smells like success

The splash is actually one of my favorite products from the Stirling lineup.  It smells fantastic, brings out different notes in the fragrance and it has decent conditioning properties.  I’m new to using it so I will need to use it for a while to fully form an opinion.  My initial take is that it is a good splash with some unique moisturizers.

Bath Soap

I can tell you one thing with absolute certainty.  When you sweat and stink, nothing cleans better than tallow-based bar soap.  Not super manly smelling body wash.  Not a cleansing bar.  Plain old tallow bar soap.

The problem is that most true bar soaps from the drugstore are awful.  They “cleanse” too much, “condition” too little, and a lot of the soap goodness (like glycerin) has been removed.  Your skin gets clean but also dry and tight.  Artisan soap is different.

Ingredients:  Stirling’s bar soap is a “true soap” (fats and lye) but it is a very good quality and a solid performer.  It has all of its glycerin intact and I imagine it is superfatted for some skin conditioning qualities.  It cleans very well without leaving my skin dry.

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The Facial Soap is tallow free and scented with essential oils that have astringent properties

Performance:  I had reservations about using a true soap because I know they can be drying.  I have been using Stirling regularly for a month and I have not noticed skin dryness.  I can’t report on wintertime performance for another 6 months, but it is working well with early summer’s humidity levels.

This is a great summertime soap for a man.  It can remove the stink of a long weekend of hiking with ease and leave you smelling like a C-Suite executive.  I like this soap quite a bit and I recommend it.  I have a bar in the shower, facial soap by the sink for hand washing, and a few more bars in reserve.

Body Lotion

Ingredients:  I had more reservations about the body lotion than any other product.  Other “natural” lotions have left my skin like an oil slick without ever absorbing in.  When I looked at the ingredients of the body lotion I was worried it would do the same:

Distilled Water, Emulsifying Wax, Grapeseed Oil, Meadowfoam Seed Oil, Refined Shea Butter, Stearic Acid, Glycerin, Coconut Oil, Myristyl Myristate (Co-Emulsifier), Caprylic Capric Triglycerides, Fragrance Oil, Vitamin E, Optiphen Plus.

Performance:  Here’s the good news – even though it doesn’t soak in as quickly as a light moisturizer, the Stirling lotion does absorb after a couple minutes and it doesn’t leave my skin oily.  The lotion is very rich and protective and helps a lot on chronic dry areas like hands and elbows.

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This lotion is very good for sensitive skin.  My dad is pretty limited on what he can use on his hands without having a reaction.  The natural ingredients in the lotion didn’t bother his skin at all.  Neither did the fragrance, although there is an unscented version for people who avoid fragrances.

Here’s my single reservation about the Stirling lotion.  On hot days with high humidity this stuff is pretty heavy.  It is super moisturizing but those same properties make it feel like wearing an extra later in the summer, almost as if sweat never has a chance to evaporate.

The simple solution for me has been to use this lotion at night in hot weather.  It soaks in and moisturizes while I sleep and the “heaviness” is gone by morning.  If there was a lightweight moisturizer from Stirling I would buy it, but until then this workaround works for me.

Update: With warm weather here I tried thinning the lotion with water so I could apply it a little more thinly.  It worked surprisingly well!  I added about 2 ounces of hot water to a half-empty bottle of lotion, which is about a 2:1 lotion/water ratio.  After a minute of shaking everything was mixed well and it hasn’t separated since.  The thinner consistency just helps to apply it a little thinner in hot and humid weather.

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I added water to the lotion to thin it out for the hot and humid weather.  On the right is a 2:1 ratio of lotion to water.  The lighter weight just helps to apply it more lightly.

Eau de Toilette

I don’t have much to add beyond what I covered in the scent section above.  This EDT serves the exact purpose I wanted – some scent on days I don’t use aftershave and a way to revive some scent after it has worn off.  At $25 its a steal.  I expect it to last a very long time.

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The EDT is good for reviving the scent once the aftershave has worn off

Prices

Stirling’s approach is clearly to offer good quality at outstanding prices.  In a niche market that values quality first, Stirling has kept prices low without cutting corners.

Stirling’s shaving soaps sell for $13.20 for a 5.8 oz tub ($2.28/oz).  Considering that small-batch artisan shaving soaps often sell for $3/oz – $4/oz, it is tough to beat the Stirling Soap on value.

Here are the prices I paid for the Stirling products I have purchased:

  • Shaving Soap (5.8oz) – $13.20
  • Post-Shave Balm (4oz) – $8.95
  • Aftershave Splash (100ml) – $13.20
  • Eau de Toilette (50ml) – $24.95
  • Bath Soap (5.5oz) – $4.50
  • Body Lotion (9.6oz) – $12.95
  • Samples (small sizes of soaps, shaving soap, aftershave, EDT for a few bucks each)
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Stirling employees are excellent Tetris players

People

One of the best aspects of the wet shaving industry is that many of the companies are small businesses with passion, purpose and a lot of skin in the game.  They are the kind of companies where you can talk to the owner who genuinely appreciates your business.

Rod and Mandy, the husband and wife team behind Stirling, have a great story of starting from scratch and building a successful business.  They both met in the military, started making soap as a hobby, and went full time when some unexpected job changes hit.  They have grown from a small outbuilding on their property to a beautiful new storefront and warehouse in Arkansas.  Their products are now sold on five continents around the world.

Call me sentimental, but that sounds a lot like the American dream.

Conclusion

Stirling makes a fantastic shaving soap at a very reasonable price.  They also have a full line of bar soaps, aftershaves, lotions, eau de toilette, etc. –  all using natural quality ingredients.

Stirling has grown steadily through word-of-mouth and repeat business.  These are products I like from a company I respect.  I highly recommend giving Stirling a try if you haven’t already.

Stirling Soaps can be purchased at www.stirlingsoap.com

The purpose of this blog is to share how traditional wet shaving can help men get better shaves and clearer skin through traditional wet shaving.  If you haven’t already discovered traditional wet shaving with safety razors or straight razors I encourage you to give it a try.

Shameless Plug

I manufacture modern reproductions of the “Gillette Khaki Set” safety razor cases.  My Spearhead Cases are made from modern 1000D nylon and sewn by a military contractor in the USA.  If you are interested in a compact and durable safety razor case for travel please check out SpearheadShaving.com

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