What Is a Shave Stick? (With 5 Ways To Use Them & Recommendations)

Have you ever heard of a shaving stick? If not, you’re not the only one. The Shave stick is an old school wet shaving soap that was mentioned for the first time in print in 1849. These come in a cylindrical container versus the puck shape you may be used to. It is pretty versatile due to its shape and has five lather/application methods.

A shave stick is a shaving soap that comes in a cylindrical, stick-like shape, similar to a deodorant. Other than the shape, most shaving sticks are formulated very similarly to regular shaving soap. Its shape allows it to be applied in a variety of ways and it saves space in luggage if you happen to be traveling. In some cases, ordinary shaving soap can be melted or formed into a shaving stick holder.

In this article we’ll be discussing more about these and why you’d want to use these over a puck soap. We’ll cover the various application techniques and give you some good recommendations for what’s available on the market these days.

What is a shave stick?

Shaving sticks are mainly used because they allow a variety of application methods and take up a lot less space on your bathroom counter or in a travel bag.

A shave stick is simply shaving soap that is in a cylindrical, ‘stick-like’ shape. These often have a lot of the same ingredients your typical ‘puck’ shaving soap will have and far less packaging.

Shaving sticks were first mentioned in print in 1849. They became very popular in the early 20th century because of Colgate and William’s advertising campaigns. These often came in a metal tube of some type and were typically reusable. These products were popular with soldiers as they took less space than your traditional shaving gear. Here’s one of the Colgate ads that got circulated.

While it isn’t very hard to find a shaving stick with online shopping, they aren’t necessarily on the shelf of every store. There are different types of artisan and mainstream sticks that are good to use; some soaps have even been around for decades.

A common ingredient you may see is tallow. Tallow is a form of animal fat that is used as a gliding and moisturizing agent. It has been used in soaps to help keep their shape and because it works while nourishing your skin.

What is a shave stick used for?

As its name suggests, a shaving stick is used for shaving. To be specific, traditional wet shaving.

Because of its shape it can be applied in several different ways.

Why would you want to use a shave stick?

Shaving sticks are a great option if you have to travel a lot or don’t have a lot of storage space for a whole shaving set. These can be applied directly to the face or lathered on with your hand which saves the space a brush, bowl, and stand would take up.

Can you get a good shave with a shaving stick?

Absolutely! These will provide just as good of a shave as you would get with any other shave soap. That is assuming that your razor blade and technique are up to snuff. These often have a lot of the same ingredients as the typical puck or cream.

How to use a shaving stick

Here we are going to dive into the 5 basic ways to use a shaving stick and their pros and cons. These include:

  • Direct Application
  • Hand-Lathered onto the face
  • Brush-Lathered onto the face
  • Brush-Lathered in a bowl
  • Touch-Up work

 Here is a video that may be helpful in visually demonstrating these lathering methods.

No Lather – Direct Application

For this one you are going to really soak your face with water and then directly apply the stick to your face. You can make circular massaging motions with it to ensure you have a nice coating.

If you have a soap with a lot of glycerin or tallow this application method comes in handy. This gives the skin a nice protective coating to allow a higher blade count or aggressive shaving with less chance of getting a nick.

Since you will need to make sure the area to be shaved is completely and evenly covered, you may use a lot more product in the long run.

Hand-Lathered on Face

You will need to completely wet your face and rub your shaving stick over the area to be shaved. Keep in mind, you won’t need to apply the soap as thickly as the direct application.

After you have coated your face, use wet hands to make circular motions over the soaped area. This will start to build up a nice lather on your face.

Brush-Lathered on Face

For this one make sure both your face and brush are sufficiently wet. Apply the shave stick over your face in the same manner as the Hand-Lathered method.

Instead of using your hands, use your wet shaving brush to make circular motions over the soaped area until you have a creamy lather.

Brush-Lathered in a bowl

If you prefer to lather in a bowl, rub some of the shaving stick inside your bowl and use a pre-wet brush to scuttle or make circular motions to build up your lather.

Once you have a creamy consistency, wet your face down and use your brush to apply the soap lather to your skin.


If you happen to have a few hairs left over after your shave, you can use the stick to apply the soap directly to your skin. Keep in mind that shaving exfoliates so you want to have a nice cushion of product in order to not cause irritation.

If in doubt, it’s okay to wait until the next day to catch any stray hairs.

The best shaving sticks for a smooth and irritation-free shave

We have a few brands of shaving sticks to recommend to you. The options for sticks are a bit more limited; however, they are not impossible to find. The sticks below are usually in good stock so you don’t have to worry about running out, or the product being discontinued.

  • Arko
  • La Toja
  • Pacific Shaving Company

Arko’s Shaving Stick

Arko has been in the shaving business since the 1950’s with it’s shaving stick as an early product. It is a tallow-based soap so it is going to give your skin a healthy cushion. This soap has been referred to as a ‘lather monster’ in the reviews so there is no need to worry about that, especially if you have hard water.

One downside of this soap is the flimsy packaging. It is a wholesale product originally intended for barbers so it is only packaged in a paper foil. For the price of this product and it’s good quality, it’s definitely still worth getting. You can also purchase shaving stick holders if the original packaging is too messy.

Be sure to cover price/availability, ingredients, any important notes, and maybe a user review or two (don’t be afraid to mention negatives)

Tabac’s Shaving Stick

Tabac originally launched in 1959 and their shaving stick was one of the original products. It’s a bit bigger than an Arko stick but with some searching you may be able to find a holder for this size of soap. Tabac is glycerin based so a very good option if you intend to use direct application or if you end up having to do a lot of touch-up work.

Some people find this soap a bit drying so consider using an after shave balm instead of a splash. Another issue mentioned is the stick refills being advertised with pictures including the holder. We have included the link to a stick with a push up type feature to avoid this issue but be wary of this when searching for it on your own.

Pacific Shaving Company’s Ultra Slick Stick 

This is a new product for the company, they are fairly new to the business but have built a good reputation for themselves. Their shaving stick is glycerin based as well making it another great option for direct application or touch-up work.

One downside is that it dries out quicker than most soaps; because of this there tend to be a lot of reviews mentioning a lack of glide; however, many others mention it just needs to be remoistened often and rinsed thoroughly.

One reviewer mentioned that it was difficult to hold after lathering with his hands, again, another quick fix that wouldn’t deter me from buying it.

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