I really wanted to love Naturopathica’s Soothing Shave Cream ($14 2oz). I went far beyond the call of duty and spent months trying to like it. But I have two problems: unconvincing ingredients and skin rashes. Ultimately, I had to admit that this cream is certainly not for me.

First, the ingredients. The approach Naturopathica has been taking over the last 15 years is apparently in line with Truth In Aging’s objectives. The founder Barbara Close wants to be seen as “the expert source for natural solutions”, but later she becomes seriously confusing by stating that she integrates “centuries-old traditions from around the globe with the latest breakthroughs in science”.  A look at the ingredients confirms the spirit of the approach: water and plant extracts are probably the “centuries-old traditions”, and common emulsifiers are meant to be the “latest breakthroughs in science”. In practice, this is not convincing and rather underwhelming.

The ingredients (see the complete list at the bottom of this review) are indeed mostly reassuring. I noted 29, of which all but six are direct plant extracts. This is a most extraordinary list and would enrapt any botanist! One wonders though whether this does not end up being too complicated for its own good as the concentration of most of these elements must be so small that many may make no difference at all to my skin.

Moreover, Naturopathica names the four key actives as being cypress oil, shea butter, aloe vera & algae and acai fruit oil. However, it is underwhelming: most of them are far down the list (and thus in small quantities), cypress seems to be only a “masculine” fragrance and aloe vera can be found in the cheapest Rite Aid product.

When one looks at the “latest breakthroughs in science” part of the list, the same problem arises. For instance, I am not clear why zinc oxide should be the third largest component; it is in-organic by definition, cannot be absorbed by the skin and is mostly used for sun lotions (blocking UVA and UVB rays). Why here?

Worse, the cetearyl glucoside, arachidyl alcohol, behenyl alcohol and arachidyl glucoside are all very common emulsifiers to be found in any cheap moisturizer. For instance, one can buy a mix of the last three directly from industrial supplier. Mind you, there is nothing wrong with them, it just underwhelming again.

Second, the efficacy of the shaving cream. The texture of Naturopathica’s Soothing Shave Cream is perfect for me. It is relatively dense, not greasy and hardly scented (probably not much of the promoted “masculine” cypress). It really adheres to the skin which makes it easy to apply and means that very little goes a long way (in three month of dutiful daily trials I have not exhausted the tube’s content yet). The cream also delivers an excellent and close shave. Perhaps the wild oat has something to do with raising the hair in preparation for the blade, but the result is truly excellent and this is really what matters, no? Not quite.

So… what went wrong? In short, within minutes of shaving, I started developing areas of rednesss on both the lower sides of my mouth and on the chin. The skin felt very tight and I would regularly sneak back to my bathroom to add any kind of soothing ointment I could put my hands on. I have tried everything I could :Rose hip oil argon oil, Your Best Face Prep, all types of moisturizers (even Nivea Body!). At the end, I would apply a daily dose of hydrocortisone in the hope of controlling the problem. Quickly, this uncomfortable dryness turned into constant flaring of white spots and the like. Tell me about the return of acne at age 50! My wife would not miss commenting on it. As this developed, it would then become impossible to shave the following day without enduring small cuts and bleeding.

This is even more infuriating as Naturopathica’s Shave Cream  is described as “soothing” and that the company’s literature on the product is full of the words antithetical to my experience, e.g. moisturizing, calming, suppleness, softening…

At the end, Marta asked me to stop this experiment and to stop hurting myself. As an unreconstructed male, I am not one to believe in allergic reactions in general but it is the only way to describe the impact of Naturopathica’s Soothing Shave Cream: buyer beware!


Aqua/Water/Eau, Prunus Ameniaca (Apricot) Kernel Oil, Zinc Oxide, Cetearyl Glucoside, Algae Extract, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Flower Water, Copaifera Officinalis (Balsam Copaiba) Resin, Carapa Guaianensis Seed Oil, Euterpe Oeracea (Acai) Pulp Oil, Leuconostoc/ Radish Root Ferment Filtrate, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter, Faex/Yeast Extract/Extrait de Levure, Avena Sativa (Oat) Kernel Protein, Glycerin, Aloe Barbadensis (Aloe Vera) Leaf Juice, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Seed Extract, Arachidyl Alcohol, Behenyl Alcohol, Arachidyl Glucoside, Cupressus Sempervirens (Cypress) Leaf Oil, Laurus Nobilis (Bay) Leaf Oil, Citrus Aurantifolia (Lime) Peel Oil, Cananga Odorata (Ylang Ylang) Flower Oil, Mentha Piperita (Peppermint) Leaf Oil, Melaleuca Quinquenervia (Niaouli) Leaf Oil, Pelargonium Graveolens (Geranium) Leaf/Flower Oil,  Mentha Virida (Spearmint) Leaf Oil, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract, Xanthan Gum