Reviewed by Pascal

The oldest maker, the most innovative idea… and, yet, a big disappointment.

Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella is one of the oldest pharmacies in the world, established by the Dominican fathers in Florence shortly after 1221 (licensed only in 1612). For those of you who weren’t paying attention, in 1221, Guzman, the founder of the Dominicans was still alive, Genghis Khan was at his most ferocious, it was 50 years before Marco Polo reached China, two hundred and seventy one years before Columbus reached the West Indies and precisely seven hundred years before Babe Ruth hit 59 homers in a single season…

Besides historic legitimacy, the firm has amazing credentials: it invented cologne water (really!), many ointments, soaps and even tipples. Its clients are royals and stars. Like many Italian firms, it has a knack for marketing: the packaging is stunning with the original logo embossed on thick yellowish paper; it is evidently handmade with little, disparate stickers added everywhere as well as the hand calligraphed number of the pot (“#1537T”)! Production, on site, is limited and based on quality natural ingredients. As an aside, I need to mention that another aspect of Italian tradesmanship is their keen understanding of pricing: this 100ml pot costs no less than $52!!

My excitement reached a new high when I saw the name of the cream: “Pro-dopo Barba”. As it says on the box, this product is intended BOTH as the soap to help a better shaving and also as the soothing and moisturizing cream post the shave. This is a brilliant concept designed to appeal to males who want the best results whilst thinking of themselves as simple, practical, intelligent and unaffected. Kudos to the Farmacia’s marketing and development people.

From then on, however, the story grows steadily darker. On opening the pot, I saw that part of the cream had yellowed and dried out. Handmade may be fun and trendy, but this was a bit gross and I had to scoop out the damaged spoonful. Taking some cream on the tips of my fingers, I found the consistency rather unappealing: a bit oily (it is indeed paraffin, petrolatum and glycerin based) and strangely fibrous (as if some some blades of grass were left uncut in it). Greatest sin of all for a man who believes he is still a bit unreconstructed, the cream is strongly perfumed – and the whiff stays with you for the rest of the day.

It is difficult to gauge whether one has put enough cream on the face as it does not lather and becomes quickly transparent and absorbed (I have tried putting on a little bit and a whole lot, but without noticeable difference). Shaving does not feel close or smooth and many runs of the razor blade are called for. Then, comes a perplexing moment: as the cream is meant to be an after-shave as well, do you keep it on and walk or do you rinse your face and immediately put more of the same thing on? Although, it sounds weird, I decided to do the latter for the sake of cleaning up cut hair. So, a few seconds later, with a dry and clean face, one starts again putting the same cream on the same face, a quirky but appealing twist. Actually, at this second stage, the lack of lathering and the quick absorption of the cream starts making a lot of sense.

The real, fundamental issue, comes over the next few hours: the skin is tight and prickly; the next day, the skin reddens, the neck starts showing spots and razor burns; after two days, the skin is so dry that I started cutting myself twice on the chin. After a week, I looked again exactly as I did in my teens, when the worst single blade Bic razor and the pointless Gillette foam were not protecting me from lacerating my face (and my acne!) during my first hesitant shaves. Not good. Not good at all.

Although I am a cheap guy, I will not finish this pot and cannot wait for Marta to allow me to go back to the Dermalogica Soothing Shaving Cream (see my review).

My worst male enemy will soon receive from me as a gift a very trendy and expensive Italian pot of shaving cream produced by one of the oldest pharmacies in the world. He will mistakenly believe I forgive him for his past deeds until the moment when, a few days later, he will look at his own, blemished, face in the mirror…

Ingredients:

Water, cetyl alcohol, mineral oil, petrolatum, ceteth-20, dimethicone, glycerin, stearic acid, fragrance, borage oil, tocopheryl acetate, tetrasodium ETDA, magnesium sulfate, propylene glycol, d-limonene, citronellol, geraniol, linalool, sodium dehydroacetate, methylparaben, ethylparaben, proplyparaben, butylparaben, alpha isomethylionone, amyl cinnemal, hydroxycitronellal, benzyl benzoate, evernia furfuracea, BHT, coumarin, eugenol, benzyl cinnamate, sodium benzoate, sodium hydroxide.