P.160, The Strange Story of the Soap That Wouldn't Die

Discussion in 'Shave Soaps' started by PLANofMAN, Jun 17, 2015.

  1. PLANofMAN

    PLANofMAN Paperboy

    Article Team
    I'd forgotten how long it takes to get an article posted, and since this isn't one of my better efforts, and I'm wanting to start on another one soon, I'll just post this here for people's enjoyment.

    The story of P.160's rise to prominence among wet-shavers and the soap's near extinction makes for an interesting story.

    Prior to 2008, P.160 was an Italian marzipan scented soft soap, made for the Italian barber market, and rarely sold outside of it's native Italy. Like the other soaps made for the Italian barbershops, including Cella, 3P, Vitos and Valobra, it was sold in 1 kg (2.2 lb) packages. Unlike those other soaps, it was sold in two forms, Tipo Duro and Tipo Morbido. The ingredients were identical, but the proportions were different. P160 Tipo Duro was the harder soap, like a block of butter in the fridge. P.160 Tipo Morbido was the softer version, and would sag under its own weight, like cream cheese at room temperature.

    According to Marco, "The original P.160 was a legendary soap and always #1 choice for the Italian Master Barbers. When asking them a question on the shaving soap they actually used in their barbershops the proper question was not which soap, but which type. This because there was no doubt about it being P.160, you only had to ask if [you wanted] Morbido or Duro."

    In 2008, P.160 started to be mentioned on the various English speaking shaving forums, usually in comparison to Cella, the more globally recognized brand. It was gaining popularity at a good pace, but hadn't yet gained the mythos it would aquire when...

    In the fall of 2009 or 2010, Nuova Elberel Italia S.r.l shut down production of P.160 as was their custom, to allow the employees to go on holiday. They would never resume production of P.160.

    As the supplies of P.160 dwindled, the rumors began to spread.

    "The master soap maker was retiring, and couldn't find a buyer for the formula, or hadn't trained an apprentice."

    "My P160 supplier has recently informed me that the fall production shutdown (a regular event to allow employees to go on holiday) may very well be the last one for the P160 soap. This has not been definitively confirmed and indeed my supplier has told me that the parent company is renewing contracts with suppliers that sell the P160 which is a curious thing to do if you no longer intend to manufacture the soap. Stay tuned for further updates."

    "I wish that I had more conclusive news to pass on to you in this post but I have found out just a bit more. It appears the Tipo Morbido is a thing of the past. The Tipo Duro is still a bit "iffy" at the moment as I can't, and neither can anyone else I've managed to contact, get confirmation on what exactly the soap's fate is."

    The truth was a bit less romantic, if not completely understandable. To understand, we need to delve into the company's history. Prior to 1997, P.160 wasn't P.160. It was manufactured by Elberel Italiana and called FIGARO. P.160 was just a footnote on the back of the package. The package below dates from 1997. Interestingly, it is marked "nuovo" or "new;" this would seem to imply that P.160 does not have the long history that other brands such as Valobra and Cella enjoy. Both soaps have been in production for over 100 years.

    Elberel Italiana was acquired in 2004 by Biochimica S.p.A. and renamed Nuova Elberel. They also reformulated their shaving soaps, replacing the tallow with vegetable substitutes for all the retail sizes and slightly reformulated P.160 with additional additives and removed the name "Figaro" from the professional 1 kg package, which was produced until 2009 (some sources say 2010). No one seems to know when the Figaro and P.160 name parted ways, but it was sometime after 1997.

    The Figaro brand was bought by MilMil76 in 1997 from Elberel, and it could have been then that the retail pack for Figaro (red tub - originally white with red lid) may have changed formulation, as there are suggestions that the soft soap was still produced by Elberel for MilMil76 whilst all other products with the Figaro brand (deodorants, shaving foams, etc) are produced directly by MilMil76.

    (Edit: As of 2015, Tcheon Fung Sing is producing Figaro. The consensus is that the scent has been greatly improved, but the actual soap is inferior to the previous manufacturer's version.)

    Here's where things get complicated. Biochimica S.p.A. came out with a new product line at the same time they discontinued P.160, called "Fitness." Fitness has shampoos, bath soap, face wash, etc. It also has a shaving soap that was initially thought to be identical to P.160. However, further research indicated that it was in fact, identical to current production Figaro, albeit with different packaging.

    Figaro and Fitness are very similar in consistency to Porazo and were designed to compete with Porazo head to head in the marketplace.

    So what we have is a manufacturer who discontinued a shaving soap for a (presumably) shrinking professional barber market, and is instead manufacturing shaving soap for the general populace, with higher profit margins that is part of a complete body care line of products. Rather than build a new production line for Fitness shaving soap, it was easier and cheaper to discontinue P.160 and repurpose the old production line.

    The above paragraph is speculation on my part, but I strongly believe that this is what happened.

    It seemed that P.160 would never return, but that was not to be the case. Joseph, one of the owners of ItalianBarber, supposedly got the formula for P.160 from a former employee who used to make P.160 in Italy. As another twist, the Razorock veggie based soaps use the same formula as Figaro/Fitness. So there is definitely a connection between ItalianBarber and Nuova Elberel.

    "Some of you knowledgeable wet shaving enthusiasts may ask... Is this the same formula used in Figaro and Fitness? IT CERTAINLY IS! We have no reason to hide that fact, but we still want to give you the reason why we chose to market this great “soft soap” under the RazoRock brand. One word... PRICE!"

    Regardless of the actual circumstances behind it's return, P.160 returned to the market as "RazoRock P.160 Special Shaving Soap" in June, 2014 for a limited 1st run. It was reformulated afterwards - "the reason being, some people have sensitive skin that couldn't handle the old formula [of P.160]. So, we decided to kick things up a few notches. We sourced the best grade of tallow we could find, we eliminated the Potassium Carbonate (making the soap a lot more time consuming to make) and we used an allergen and benzaldehyde free bitter almond scent." It was re-released in October with a redesigned label and remains in production to this day.

    P.160 Special Shaving Soap by RazoRock original label
    Below is a list of the ingredients used in P.160's various formulations.

    The original FIGARO P.160 ingredients: Aqua, Stearic Acid, Tallow, Cocos nucifera, Potassium Hydroxide,Sodium Hydroxide, Parfum, Potassium Carbonate, Tetrasodium EDTA

    P.160 ingredients: Aqua, Stearic Acid, Palmitic Acid, Tallow, Cocos Nucifera, Potassium Hydroxide, Parfum, Potassium Carbonate, Benzyl Alcohol, Tetrasodium EDTA

    RazoRock P.160 ingredients: Aqua (Water/Eau), Stearic Acid, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil, Tallow Acid, Potassium Hydroxide, Sodium Hydroxide, Parfum (Fragrance)

    This article would not have been possible without the postings of Marco (from B&B) and Joe (ItalianBarber.com), whom I cribbed from shamelessly.
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2016
  2. jeraldgordon

    jeraldgordon TSD's Mascot

    A fine read - thank you!
    PLANofMAN likes this.
  3. Omelmad

    Omelmad My printer email address is..........

    Interesting, but isn't that theft? to get the recipe from an old employe? is there not some kind of law against that?
  4. PLANofMAN

    PLANofMAN Paperboy

    Article Team
    A. That's a rumour.
    B. I'm pretty sure the company that used to make P.160 is supplying him with the new P.160.
    C. The formula is not the same.
    D. I'm not familiar with Canadian/Italian trade laws.
    E. Joe may have purchased the rights to P.160 and the P.160 logos as well.
    F. Is it theft to make a discontinued item?

    I'm sure the truth is out there, probably on the Italian shaving forums, but I don't read Italian, so I'm going off the gleanings I've found in the English speaking forums.
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2015
  5. RaZorBurn123

    RaZorBurn123 waiting hardily...............

    Great write up! I have a tub of the first run of RR P.160, and boy this stuff caused me to breakout. Interesting enough though, I didn't use it very often and it's no longer a croap but more like a soap, and guess what happened? I don't breakout as bad. Thanks for taking the time to put this together. :happy088:
    PatrickA51 likes this.
  6. Jayaruh

    Jayaruh The Cackalacky House Pet

    Supporting Vendor
  7. FatherofSquirrel

    FatherofSquirrel A right jolly old elf

    nice write up
  8. TheFiveO

    TheFiveO Well-Known Member

    Jayaruh I have to say this is probably my favorite meem on the entire forum!

    @PLANofMAN for this not being one of your "better" articles, it reads pretty damn good to me! Thank you for taking the time to assemble the information, gleaning from the input of others, and assembling it in such a cogent, readable, manner. Keep up the great work. I had been holding off buying the RR P.160...guess that time is quickly ending.
  9. PLANofMAN

    PLANofMAN Paperboy

    Article Team
    I've been interested in it for a while, and actually just ordered it when IB had the Feathers and P.160 on sale.

    I should get to try it in the next week. :)
    Hopefully I'm one of those who doesn't have a reaction to almond.

    Sandalwood's a no-go for me.
    macaronus likes this.
  10. HolyRollah

    HolyRollah BaconLord Staff Member

    Nice write-up, Ryan! I enjoy reading up on the history and the attempts to bring a revamped product back to market. Curious on how the Tipo Duro performed vs the soft stuff.....
    PatrickA51 likes this.
  11. PLANofMAN

    PLANofMAN Paperboy

    Article Team
    From all accounts, exactly the same. It required a little more water and a little more time, but the results were identical.

    Oddly enough, the original "original" formula, the Figaro P.160, was considered to be better than the later P.160. From reviews I've read, RazoRock's P.160 is an improvement over the standard P.160, so perhaps RR P.160 represents a return to the performance of the older formula without actually...using...the old formula.
    macaronus likes this.
  12. PatrickA51

    PatrickA51 Well-Known Member

    Excellent write up and review, keep up the good work! I really enjoyed this review it was a good read. @PLANofMAN
    PLANofMAN likes this.
  13. Salty Belle

    Salty Belle Well-Known Member

    Supporting Vendor
    Really interested read and fascinating story!
    PatrickA51 and PLANofMAN like this.
  14. hrfdez

    hrfdez Active Member

    Cool read! Thanks for taking the time for such a nice review.
    PatrickA51 and PLANofMAN like this.

    SHAVEWIZARD420 Well-Known Member

    very nice article on p.160. it is good to learn about the companies that are talked about so often around here.
    PatrickA51 and PLANofMAN like this.
  16. 1passjoe

    1passjoe New Member

    Great story! I got a tub of Razorock P160 last week, I plan on using it tomorrow
    PatrickA51 likes this.
  17. PLANofMAN

    PLANofMAN Paperboy

    Article Team
    I got home tonight and had a package waiting for me from IB. RazoRock P.160 and Feathers. :)

    I haven't used Feathers in a year or two, not because I don't like them, but because I have so many other blades to use up. I couldn't pass up the sale price though.

    I could go into loving detail about which brush, razor, etc. I used for tonight's shave, but I won't.

    Here's my review for RR P.160 after using it for the first time-

    "Why did I only buy one tub!?" :angry032:
    PatrickA51 and macaronus like this.
  18. tuxxdk

    tuxxdk International Penguin of Mystery

    Great... now there's another soap I need to try.. Thanks a lot for complicating things!!

    LOL :) just kidding. But really would want to try P.160 by RazoRock now. Seems interesting.
    PatrickA51, PLANofMAN and Omelmad like this.
  19. macaronus

    macaronus Sir Nice-a-Lot Staff Member

    Greta write-up, Ryan! Thanks.

    I love the Cella, so P.160 is definately on the 'wanted' list!
    (serves me right for not checking for soaps in Rome... ;) )
    PatrickA51, PLANofMAN and Omelmad like this.
  20. PLANofMAN

    PLANofMAN Paperboy

    Article Team
    This soap really does deserve a full review, since it's earned the top slot in my soap rotation.

    Scent. I didn't expect the scent to be amazing, and I wasn't disappointed. It's a pleasant cherry with a hint of almond. The scent carries over well into the lather, without managing to be overpowering.

    Latherability. It lathers easily, especially for a tallow soap. Meringue-like spikes are easy to achieve.

    Slickness. This is the slickest soap or cream I have ever used.

    Longevity. Lasts for 3+ passes without breaking down. I can still get Hollywood-esque thick lather for that third pass.

    This soap performs equally well with thick Santa Claus lather or thin, soapy lather. Either way, you'll get a slick shave out of it.

    Come Black Friday, I'll be trying to stock up on this soap. :)
    Ratty and macaronus like this.

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