I am about to compare a $16 Verdon Invigorating Shave can from L’Occitane given to me in a private airport lounge on our way to a wedding in Morocco with a $1 Edge Sensitive Skin that can bought at a 7/11 grocery corner store during an unplanned lay-over in central Pennsylvania.

Let me start by reminding you that I am French (conceited, pretentious and arrogant, yes to all) and that, as a kid, I spent a few weeks every year in Provence at my grand-parents' home (cycling through the lavender fields, amongst the mimosa trees between olive and vine plantations).  To the New York emigrant I have become, L’Occitane brand feels a little bit like my original home. Moreover, the company mission statement is close to TruthInAging’s: “natural and authentic products that deliver effective and delicious results”. Lastly, I can be a little patriotic about a French company that has remained independent, sells in 85 countries and will have 100 shops in China by the end of the year.

Now compare this to a holding company located in Missouri that has revenues of more than $4bn through the management of mass market products such as EverReady and Energizer batteries (yes, the bunny!), Hawaian Tropic sunscreens, Playtex tampons and gloves, Shick and Wilkinson razors and… Edge shaving gels, the cheapest, most distributed kind with a 36% market share in the US.

Knowing all of this, do you think I would be biased towards one product and against the other?... You are not sure, yet? Well. Try again with the following complementary knowledge:

First, in good TruthInAging discipline, what about the ingredients? They are likely to be very differentiated, aren’t they? Well, not at all... EDGE unsurprisingly starts with water, palmitic acid, triethanolamine, isopentane,  isobutane and  sorbitol. These are exactly the first ingredients listed in the can of L’Occitane Verdon, almost exactly in the same order!! The only difference is oleth20 in L’Occitane, a compound used to clean skin and hair by helping water to mix with oil and dirt so that they can be rinsed away, a surfactant and not an active ingredient… Going down the list of ingredients, you find many many other similarities. Where is the difference? It is in the skin conditioners being used: the cheap EDGE uses sunflower seed oil , aloe, glycerides and stearic acid without any pretension or false shame. The expensive Verdon uses flowers with Latin names such as Hyppophae Rhamnoides (sea buckthorn) or  Artemisia Umbelliformis ( plain Alps wormwood)… Neither probably matter very much, being lost deep into the ingredient list.

Second, the third ingredient in both EDGE and L’Occitane is triethanolamine, an amine resulting from two toxins reacting together, a buffering ingredient that should not be used too close to mouth and nose (for shaving a man’s face, that is a bit challenging) and requires thorough rinsing … Thanks but no thanks to both…

Third, what about the organic/natural credentials? EDGE does not make many claims; it does not explain what its fragrance is and acknowledges that its color comes from Blue-1 a synthetic dye made from petroleum... Edge further explains that it does not use CFCs (good to know as they are banned in aerosols since the seventies anyway).  L’Occitane makes a big deal of its organic approach. For instance, it wants the world to know that Aqua (water) is an ingredient coming from a natural origin (sic!). Really? That is amazing!! But there is broadly nothing in the product that is more or less organic that EDGE is.

The most vexing thing to me is the blurb on the L’Occitane tube about the can being built out of “100% recycled aluminum” which is, I quote,: “in line with our eco-friendly standard” whereby the EDGE can is merely in steel . The problem is that, if I remember some recent reading, most steel plants emit about a ton of CO2 for every ton of steel produced whereas a ton of aluminum requires between 5 and 15 tons of CO2 depending on the source of the electricity being used!!

In summary, both products are basically the same and for almost 13 times the price, I get nicer flowers from L’Occitane than I do from EGDE… The shaving experience must then be at least 13 times better? Is it the case? Of course, not.

EDGE is competent if not nice. The gel comes out evenly and is easy to apply. It foams relatively well, although like most gels and foams, the more you work it into the beard, the less lather you get (which leads you to want to add even more product). The shaving itself, if your face is already clean and the blade really sharp is almost satisfactory. However, the blade “glides” over the gel without being close to the skin. Obviously the upside is fewer cuts… but I realized that I would often shave at least twice to get a proper result. Last and worse, rinsing requires intense rubbing and the after shave feeling is one of taught, tense and dry skin that requires plenty of moisturizer before all is back to normal.

L’Occitane’s Verdon gel is neither competent nor nice, really. The gel spurts out of the can is an uncontrolled way and it immediately dilates into foam. Assuming you have been skilled enough not to spread it around the bathroom, you then have this inconsistent foam dropped on a few spots of your face. As it is impossible to work though the beard (as the foam just disappear), you then start again and again trying to add more foam. Ultimately, you guess that the invisible film of product must be everywhere needed. Here again, the gel works like any gel: it glides well but cuts much too high. My memory is that the result is a bit worse than Edge and that there has been no morning without two shaves to achieve anything clean. After a really long rinse, the skin looses any sense of having a fat, slimy film on it and it feels nice and comfortable, better than with EDGE... that is, if only, the fragrance of mint and lime was not so close to the one of many toilet cleaners!

In conclusion, no one –certainly not yourself - will look up to you if you use EDGE’s gels but no one will look down on you either. It is a fair and cheap way to be almost adequately shaven. If, however, you drop $16 on a can of L’Occitane Verdon, every one – including yourself - will know that you are nothing but a French fool… unless, that is, you can convince people that it was given to you in an airport lounge on your way to a wedding in Morocco!