12/31/18

I'm Still On a Break, But I Had To Talk About The Awesomeness of Barbasol "Canned Goo"



I would be remiss to not mention this, especially at the end of the Year of Barbershop. It came to my attention that Barbasol issued a 100th anniversary can, which is essentially the original graphic design from 1919, a lovely striped barber pole look. It's simple, eye catching, and the retro approach even carries over to the copy on the back, which touts Barbasol's "thick, rich lather."

I love this kind of stuff. Pepsi recently reissued their 1980s graphic design, and that looked awesome, and now Barbasol has successfully appealed to appreciators of retro Americana with their celebratory can. I hope they keep it on shelves at least until June, because I want to stash two or three of these around the house.

I also happened across a can of the mythical "Yellow Barbasol" - the skin conditioner version that was very recently replaced by "Purple Barbasol." If you frequent Badger & Blade, you're familiar with the countless threads about Yellow Barbasol. For some reason Barbasol distributes its color-coded variants unevenly across North America. Everywhere you go, you can find the original "Red" version, and it seems that "Green Barbasol" is also everywhere (that's the aloe infusion, which is my favorite). But nobody can find "Yellow Barbasol," for reasons that have never been clear. Stores don't stock it, and Amazon charges a small fortune for it.

There used to be "Blue Barbasol" with menthol, which if I'm not mistaken was called "Arctic Chill." That was discontinued a few years ago, and I'm sure I used a can or two, but can't remember what it was like. "Blue" has been replaced with "Teal Barbasol," now with both menthol (cool) and caffeine (not cool). I'm not a fan of the new caffeine trend in hair and barber products. Yes, caffeine constricts blood vessels and prevents swelling and irritation, but those of us with caffeine sensitivity are forced to buy Gillette's menthol aftershave, which I believe is decaf. Bummer.

Perhaps the second-rarest Barbasol is "Orange," which is the "Sensitive Skin" formula, full of precious herbs and woods to soothe inflamed cheeks. But I've seen the orange stuff on shelves. I've never seen the yellow label. Until the other day, when I spotted it in an IGA grocery store in a backwoods town in central Connecticut. This stuff was impossible to find when it was still in production, and now it's discontinued, and I find it. Life is weird. Probably shoulda bought three cans.

So what is "Yellow Barbasol" like? It's excellent. This is the formula with Lanolin oil, which is a natural skin conditioner. Yellow smells like a lighter version of the original Barbasol, sort of an Old Spicy scent, but it's not the smell that makes it great. It's the slickness. Let me address the slickness of Barbasol for a moment.

Many forums are inhabited by men who deride Barbasol as being "canned goo," a product they will never allow into their shave den. They turn their noses up at shaving foam, favoring expensive shave soaps instead. I understand their point of view, but I'm not especially interested in spending thirty bucks on a decent puck of shave soap, and then spending forty-five minutes preparing and cleaning my shave mug and badger brush at six in the morning.

Enter Barbasol. Canned foam is fast. Canned foam is easy to use. Canned foam requires zero cleaning. Canned foam works. But there's a trick: you have to mix it with water. Countless posts abound of men complaining that Barbasol lacks slickness, Barbasol is drying, Barbasol clogs razors. Barbasol lacks slickness in its virgin state. You're supposed to use one part Barbasol to two parts water. The result is a stable sheen of fairly slick foam that actually handles a DE razor quite well.

Barbasol has never clogged any of my razors. It rinses quickly and almost too easily. You know what does clog my razor? Cremo clogs it to death, and Cremo is three times the price. Not only did Cremo clog my razor, it also clogged by drain. I had to spend two hours disassembling my bathroom sink and cleaning Cremo gunk out of its pipes. Cremo is crap.

Four years of using Barbasol in that same sink yielded zero clogs, and when I watch it dissolve in water, I'm not surprised. And as for its drying qualities, yes, the original formula does dehydrate skin a bit. I need a moisturizer after shaving with it, especially in the winter. But so what? It's like $1.50 a can. For that kind of money, I don't expect perfection. I expect functionality and convenience. When something works correctly and doesn't cause any serious problems, it's successfully functional and convenient, and therefore worthy of use.

The Yellow Barbasol formula doesn't dry my skin, and I noticed its moisturizing qualities carried on for a few hours after my shave. It's also very easy to use, allowing the razor to glide freely across my face, perhaps a touch better than any of the other colors in the Barbasol line. Is the yellow label worthy of high praise? Should it be sought after as the stuff of legend by wetshavers everywhere? In my opinion, yes. This is good stuff. If you enjoy shaving, you should have a can of this.

I've used other foams. Noxema has a decent canned foam that I have no complaints about. Gillette has good foams, and I think they still make their lemon-lime foam, which is pretty good. But Barbasol has always had the extra old-school cool factor. I'm not a huge fan of their latest logo redesign, but lately most drugstore brands have been sucking in that department, so why should Barbsol be left out? They should make the 1919 anniversary can their regular design, and just change the color of the stripes for each version. I think if they did that, they'd destroy the competition.

Okay, now I'm taking a break. Happy New Year, everyone. See you guys in 2020.



6 comments:

  1. Hey Bryan, totally agree - I've used Barbasol for a couple of years now with both a DE Razor and cheapo disposables and it's brilliant stuff. Smells great too. I bought mine via eBay as it's not readily available in the UK but it lasts ages so no problem. Have a good break and best wishes.

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  2. But, wait... I've never mixed foam with water, at least in that ratio. I guess I'll try that (assuming in a mug)? Maybe you'll have to come back to discuss why Azzaro pour homme prices seem to be going up...

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    1. Noticed that last summer but I assume it's because it's discontinued - usually when prices skyrocket like they have for Azzaro it's because production is over and supply has tightened dramatically

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  3. I never knew you're supposed to mix it with water. I have a can of it at home, though I never use it because it doesn't feel slick. Now I want to try that out.

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    1. I think of Barbasol as an indirect soap. It has a fatty acid, it has sodium lauryl sulfate, and when dry it works badly. With water added it suddenly becomes slick and surprisingly effective. I'm finding the yellow can is incredibly kind to my oily, break-out prone skin, perhaps better than even the aloe formula.

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