Kirk's Original Coco Castile Pure Botanical Coconut Oil Soap (Kirk's Natural LLC)

A few years ago, I reviewed a scent by Penhaligon's called Castile, which was based on vegetable oil soap scents of the last few centuries. Released in 1998, Castile was an ode to a few of its themes: citrus, white floral, chemical, detergent, clean, fresh, etc. I disliked it, and felt that a soap scent is best relegated to soap itself. However, a faithful reader suggested that Castile is in fact a very good representation of Castile soap, and that it can be generalized from the mountains of Aleppo to any truck stop on Route 95.

The other day I found a few bars of Kirk's Castile soap at Walmart, and figured I'd try it in the shower. The company recently reformulated their standard Castile. It used to be simply coconut soap, water, vegetable glycerin, coconut oil, and "natural fragrance," presumably a little neroli and laundry musk. My packaging reads: sodium cocoate, water, glycerin, sodium chloride, sodium gluconate, fragrance. Translated, that reads as coconut soap (fatty acids of coconut), water, salt, and a natural byproduct bonding agent. The "fragrance" part still represents a hint of neroli and synthetic musk. Why Kirk's changed the formula is beyond me, but I see no reason to fret about it.

Why am I writing about Kirk's Castile? Simple. This soap works surprisingly well for shaving. I should warn you that I have very oily skin, with large pores, and a very delicate, damage-prone epidermis. Many have tried Kirk's for shaving and found it overly drying, to the point of burning their skin, but my experience is far better. Kirk's lathers exceptionally well, with a rich, creamy foam that penetrates hairs and softens them, while also offering a slickness that makes DE shaving easier than usual. The shave itself is astonishingly close and very efficient, requiring only one pass for large portions of my face, which is rare for me.

Do I think you should trash your other shave soaps and just use Kirk's? No, but I recommend trying it this summer, when skin is clogged with sweat and grime, and all you want is a quick, cleansing shave. Generally, for showers and baths, Kirk's is an excellent soap, and it does smell like synthetic neroli (truck stop style), but guys, you can get dual usage out of it for only a few dollars at any online merchant or at your local Walmart, and it will leave your skin like mine, smooth and clean.


  1. Kirk’s Castile Soap brings back warm memories. I also remember my mother always having Cashmere Bouquet in the bathroom, but I never really liked it very much. I have used Kirk’s and Pears for an emergency shave with a brush and found it acceptable.
    From Kirk’s site:
    “The fragrance (for the soap) is less than 1% of the total ingredients in Kirk’s products. The fragrance is a combination of essential oils from the pine and citrus family and is Phthalate-Free.” Pine? I personally don’t get any pine. I notice your razor has a very short handle. Is there a specific reason you use a travel type handle? My favorite razor is a Parker 94R with a traditional 3” handle which is shorter than most. Anything smaller would not be comfortable for me.

    1. It's a 1966 L1 Travel tech Gillette with a snub handle, which is the only size I'm ok with, although I've tried 3" handles and just found the extra metal cumbersome. I like that I can hold the end of the handle and let it "swivel" under my palm as I shave, it gives me more control and since it's the only size I learned with, it's all I've been using. My Feather was significantly larger (and still pretty small) but the craftsmanship was surprisingly poor, and the thing broke while in use.

      Kirk's also makes those Grandpa's Pine Tar soaps, and I get that maybe they share some oils. I don't get pine per say from the Castile, but maybe they paired a very tiny dose of it with neroli and musk. The scent is very simple, a basic citrus floral with some "soapy detergent" elements, very clean and unpretentious.

      What do you think of Pears' new formula? I've read a bunch of complaints in recent years that the "new" Pears soap sucks. I remember using it in the nineties and thinking it smelled nice, outdoorsy, sweet, very mellow. It used to be clear as glass, if I recall correctly.

  2. Unfortunately Pears has been ruined. I usually don’t bash reformulations, but this one is hard to deny. Original Pears was one of my favorites.

  3. Family Dollar sells a line of really awesome bars of soap. I forget the name (Medusa maybe?) but it comes in a lemon verbena and cucumber melon scent. Ingredients look solid, so I tried washing my face with it. While I wouldn't use it for shaving, it works wonderfully as a facial cleanser. Doesn't dry me out at all, and it's very gentle. For only a buck per large bar, it's definitely worth trying

    1. Good to know, I know the generic version of common aftershaves sell there too and are of pretty good quality.


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