Saturday, July 12, 2014

Impediments to Making Great Lather

The things that lubricate a wet shave are water, of course, and the slick, lubricating, micro-cushioning properties of the shave soap. (And when I say shave soap I mean soap or cream because shave cream is pretty much shave soap that is just creamier.) Tons of lather whipped tall is not the object because it is not air that lubricates your shave. You want to make a wet, rich, creamy lather that spreads with some density but not depth. A lather that stands tall on your face like grandad's white beard is just a waste. It is that half millimeter just on top of your skin that will make or break your shave; anything above that is just window dressing, and the thicker the foam is piled on your face, the more soap/cream you will simply scrape off and rinse down the drain -- accomplishing nothing else.

Most readers will probably think that making lather is easy; I am in that camp myself. Yet I read Internet reviews in which some will complain about the quality of lather from a given product such as Williams. With a complaint such as that, I'm sure the problem is pilot error, not supplies failure.

I have bought a local botique shaving soap (allegedly) that was made with ingredients better suited to bath soap, and which would never provide a good shaving lather. Ignoring exceptions such as these, I still maintain that mainstream complaints about poor lathering are cockpit error.

What gets in the way of great lather is, I suspect, the following:

  • Too much or too little water
  • Not enough soap/cream
  • Not enough time (we're talking seconds here, not minutes)
Those of us who use a cream and are too thrifty may be tempted to skimp on the cream. If you skimp, you can still make lots of lather, but it will be more airy, not rich and creamy. If you use a soap puck, you can skimp on the soap by not swirling the brush on the puck long enough to get sufficient soap.

If you have used too much water in making lather, pour off any (as applicable) and add more soap/cream to your brush.

If you have used too little water, dip just the very tip of your brush in water for a second and then get back to making lather.

Good lather will be rich, not foamy, moist without being drippy, and certainly not dry. It should be able to be spread thinly on the face and yet still be largely opaque.

Happy shaving!

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