By May 29, 2012

Arko Shaving Soap and West Coast Shaving Twist-Up Shaving Stick Container Review

So I already wrote about how much I love double edge razor shaving, and described my shaving process. Part of it is due to the amazing lather I get from Arko shaving soap.

Unlike most soaps made today, Arko and a few other shaving soaps are made out of tallow, which is rendered animal fat. It seems kind of nasty to rub a melted down fat on my face, but holy shit does Arko do the job.

Don’t let that 50s era smug white guy fool you — Arko is made in Turkey. What you can believe is the amount of lather on that dude’s face. The soap that came in my Van Der Hagen starter kit smelled great, but I never got the same thick, cushiony lather I get from Arko.

Using Arko is simple, albeit a little weird.

  1. Wet your face with warm water.
  2. Lightly wet the end of Arko with water. I dip the end of my Arko stick briefly in my shaving mug.
  3. Gently rub the Arko stick directly onto your face. Yes, this is weird at first. Don’t expect a lather explosion just yet. I cover my chin, neck, and cheeks with Arko, but I don’t apply any to my face.
  4. Douse my shaving brush with hot water from the tap. I shake my brush twice, which still leaves the brush very wet.
  5. Make circles on my face and neck with the wet shaving brush. You may need to re-wet the brush as the Arko converts water into bad ass foam.

I typically apply a first round of Arko during the part of my shaving routine where I massage my face. I put a hot towel on my face for two minutes and then soap up again. Arko provides enough lather to last for three applications, but I find the first application so luxurious it’s worth repeating the process.


Mmmm, animal fat.

Despite how great Arko is at producing lather, there are two drawbacks. One can be a dealbreaker, and thankfully West Coast Shaving has a quick, inexpensive fix for the other.

The scent

Let’s not beat around the bush. The worst thing about Arko is how it smells. Some people think Arko smells a bit like lemon PEZ. Others, including myself, find Arko to smell like very strong industrial soap. Kind of like Ivory soap on steroids. A few people, such as Sedagive? finds the scent of Arko to be repugnant. “It has a musty, heavily perfumed scent that sticks in the back of my throat. It’s not good.”

The scent is something that you can’t completely fix. I’ve tried a few things, with minimal effect. The first thing you can do is unwrap the Arko completely and let it air out. Some of the folks on the excellent shaving forum Badger & Blade leave their Arko out for as long as two weeks before using it.

When I’m done shaving I rinse my face thoroughly with cold water. Then I wash my face with Desert Essence face wash and then rinse again. I apply witch hazel to close up my pores, and then Every Man Jack Signature Mint post-shave cream.

Even then Sedagive? can still smell it unless a significant amount of time has passed. Not good, but good enough.

It’s messy

Arko is wrapped in thin foil and paper. As Arko gets wet, the wrapper begins to disintegrate. Water trapped between the soap and the wrapper often keeps the soap wet after you’re done using it. I tried unwrapping my Arko stick completely, but then the stick would become slippery and difficult to hold. Did I mention it was messy?

Luckily, the solution is simple and inexpensive.

West Coast Shaving sells a 2-ounce plastic twist-up shaving stick container for $1.75. The design is simple and super effective. The soft tallow-based Arko is easy to smoosh into the twist up container, and from there on out it’s just like using a stick of deodorant. The cap screws on and keeps the Arko from making a mess.

Folks who travel a lot are fond of this container, but I appreciate how cleanly it makes Arko to use at home.


The dial at the bottom of the West Coast Shaving twist up container makes using Arko or other shaving sticks easy.

Some of you know I have a habit of asking e-tailers to draw something silly on my invoice. I asked West Coast Shaving to draw a giant squid fighting a pegasus, and they obliged:

LOL — how awesome is that!! The giant squid is hand drawn and absolutely adorable. Sure, the pegasus is a print-and-paste but it’s still fantastic. Even more fantastic was the customer service and turn-around time. The twist-ups were inexpensive so I bought several. They are light, so the shipping is roughly the same. Why not? They will make great gifts for folks who try out soap stick shaving, and I’m keeping a spare in case I travel or lose my current one. I highly recommend the twist-up container, and I also highly recommend West Coast Shaving.

Despite the polarizing scent and the mess, I strongly recommend you give Arko a try. The Turkish shaving soap is ridiculously inexpensive at about $19 for a dozen delivered via Amazon. The 2oz twist-up container from West Coast Shaving takes the mess out of the equation, and will leave you to just grapple with the overly industrial smell.

Strongly recommended.

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1 Comment on "Arko Shaving Soap and West Coast Shaving Twist-Up Shaving Stick Container Review"

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  1. Jonathan says:

    Great review. My favourite combination is the Arko stick with a smidgeon of Proraso cream on my brush: solves the smell problem and no longer dries out my face.

    A simpler solution is to wrap a rubber around the stick, this keeps everything dry under the wrapper. Every few weeks I slice around the wrapper and move the rubber band down a bit.

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