While doing some research on why different types of shaving soaps impact shave quality, I found a great forum post from a user named Herbert7890 on Badger & Blade.
He shares a very useful theory on the differences between tallow and vegan soaps. I found it quite helpful and wanted to share it here. I’ve pasted the contents of the article here, but I encourage you to visit the full thread at Badger & Blade to see additional comments.
Hello Gentlemen. I bring you Today a new perspective on the old dilema of Tallow vs Vegan, but from another perspective, that is less subjective and more based on factual information.
Background: There have always been the age old battle of why some people prefer non-tallow soaps vs other people prefering tallow soaps and it has long been attributed merely to users’ preference. I will now provide another angle to this debate, which throws out the “user’s preference” theory and in the other hand, focuses in the effect that Skin-type (Dry, Regular or Oily) has on the possible soaps you can use without causing irritation from dryness.
Skin Types: There are 3 main skin types (and many other hybrid types, but I will focus my attention on the 3 main types for simplicity purposes). There 3 main skin types are:
1. Regular Skin: This is the standard skin type for most individuals, which do no overly tends to neither end (Dry nor Oily). This is probably the best skin type for shaving purposes when it relates to soaps selections, as your skin would stand most soap formulations without a hassle.
2. Oily Skin: People with this skin type are usually easy to identify, due to the oily (or greasy) completion of their skin. In my opinion, you have more soap options when having this skin type, compared to people that have dry or very dry skin (can use vegan soaps, tallow, etc). Nonetheless, user must be careful when using balms (adding more oils to the skin)
3. Dry or Very Dry Skin: This skin type is easily irritated by any substances introduced to the skin that cause the skin to get even drier. The most common skin irritant to dry skin, is in fact, soaps (of all types). People with dry skin are in a disadvantage in terms of possible soap selections to buy, since their skin only allows certain moisturizing soaps or else the skin will get easily irritated from the drying aspects of such soaps.
My Skin-Type Theory (Tallow, Vegan):
My theory revolves in the different types of soaps a person can use, merely based on their skin type. When I use the term “types of soaps”, I refer to all categories of shaving soaps. Nonetheless I understand this term is overly general and for that reason I will dissagregate the types of soaps in these categories:
1. Simple Vegan (a Vegan Soap with no additional moisturizers); examples: MdC, Catie’s Bubbles, Los Angeles Shaving Soap, etc)
2. Fatted Vegan (a Vegan Soap with added mousturizers like Butters, Avocado Oil, etc) examples: Soap Commander, CRSW Oliva, Dr. Jon’s Soaps, etc)
3. Simple Tallow (A Tallow soap with no additional Moisturizers); examples: Razorock XXX, DR Harris, Valobra Tallow, etc)
4. Fatted Tallow (A tallow soap with added mousturizers like Butters, Avocado, Lanolin, etc; examples: Barrister & Mann, CRSW Select, Mike’s Natural Soaps, Reef Point Soaps, etc)
In overall, the ones at the bottom (3-4)in the list tend to be more mousturizing (better for people with drier skin) while the ones at the top 1-2) are less mousturizing (better for people with normal or oily skin). Of course, there are some exceptions to this general rule, as there is some interlap, specially in categories 2 and 3 (sometimes a fatted vegan soap can achieve more mousturizing properties than a simply tallow soap, In my case Soap Commander would be one such exception)
Now considering the 3 skin categories and the 4 Shaving Soap categories we can begin to try to determine which soaps are admissible for each skin type:
1. Soaps for people with Regular Skin – People with this skin can probably use all 4 soap types without a problem (at worst, they might need a bit of balm for Simple Vegan Soaps, if any). You have almost the full market to purchase, making your purchase options limitless. The envy of all other skin types.
2. Soaps for people with Oily Skin – People with oily skin can safely use Simple Vegan Soaps and Fatted Vegan Soaps, as they are usually a little bit drying on the skin, thus counteracting the oily skin perfectly. You may also use Simple Tallow soaps without too much problem, but have to be real careful with Fatted Tallow Soaps, as your skin might get overly greasy with these soaps. In my estimate, you will be able to use around 75-80% of the soaps without much problem, so you still have a big market for your purchase decisions.
3. Soaps for people with Dry or Very Dry Skin – This is where I believe it gets more tricky. People with dry skin get easily irritated from drying agents in soaps. This really limits the type of soaps a user can safely use (continually), thus leaving a lot of frustration in the purchase making process. Simple vegan soaps are basically off-the-map for dry skin users, since the drying aspect of the soap is so great, no amount of balm will be able to counteract this effect. In addition many Fatted Vegans are still banned with people with really dry skin, due to the same factors. Some Simple tallow can be used (if user has dry skin, but not very dry skin). But the real pleasers for people with real dry skin is the Fatted Tallow Soaps. These soaps can easily counteract the drying qualities of soaps with the added mousturizers and tallow. Even though balm is still needed for people with dry skin, the soaps makes the skin feel fresh and moisturized after the shave. In overall, this means people with dry skin only have access to about 45-55% of the current market, since all other soaps will simply irritate the skin from their dryness.
My conclusion: The Old Theory that dictates some people are tallow snobs or vegan snobs might not be correct after all, its just your skin is talking to each one of us, letting us know which kind of soap it can withstand on a long term basis. People with regular skin will have a hard time internalizing this, since they can use almost any soap and just feel a small difference in dryness. The biggest impact if for people with Oily and Dry skin, since they have to taylor their purchases to accomodate their respective skin types.
I hope this provides another perspective into the tallow vs vegan, and demonstrate is not really a battle between tallow and vegan soaps, but a battle within our skin, that in many case can limit us to use only vegan soaps or only tallow soaps (or mostly vegan soaps, or mostly tallow soaps).
Note: I attempted to reach out to Herbert7890 for permission to share this information, but was unable to make contact. Hopefully he’s okay with me sharing this theory here. Badger & Blade, please contact me if necessary.