To Beard or Not to Beard - Adventures with Sweeney Todd

Updated: Sep 11, 2020

Back in the summer of 2017 I was casually looking through my e-mail inbox when I clicked on an enquiry from someone looking to create a shaving soap for their business. Little did I know then that I was about to embark on a journey of over a year with the very dapper Ray, owner of Sweeney Todd in Douglas. Ray was looking to create a unique shaving cream that was locally produced and contacted me after seeing a leaflet he'd found about the (sadly now defunct) Food Assembly whilst eating his lunch at Noa Bakehouse. I'm always up for a challenge so I quickly ordered books to start my research into what makes a great shaving soap.

For those of you who don't know - traditional soap is made with sodium hydroxide dissolving into a liquid to form a lye solution. This is then blended with oils to form a basic solid bar of soap. Liquid soap doesn't use sodium hydroxide - it needs potassium hydroxide. Ray wanted a more pliable, softer product than that of a traditional shaving puck which meant I had to use both hydroxides and work out the correct combination to get it just the right consistency, somewhere between completely liquid and completely solid soap.

Once that was completed we had to decide on the recipe that gave the best performance. We needed a good, stable, long-lasting lather which foams but doesn't bubble, gives your razor a good glide over the skin, and leaves skin feeling soft and moisturised. Quite a list. To aid glide I added tussah silk to the recipe - this is harvested from the empty cocoons of silk moths after they've left the cocoon. Then the basic recipe needed tweaking until we were happy with the result. Once we were happy with that the product was sent away to a company for microbial testing which it passed with flying colours. Finally Ray sat at my kitchen table whilst I wafted bottles of fragrance and essential oils under his nose! He settled on a clean, fresh fragrance, one that appeals to gents and ladies. The final hurdle was to submit the final recipe for a cosmetic safety assessment ( something that all skin products have to have whether it's a small business like mine or a multimillion pound company). Once we had that it was all systems go for production.

Ray has supplied the product in a classy black tin with a black and gold label. Classy, dapper and understated....just like him! You can buy them at Sweeney Todd in the Villa Marina arcade.

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