Sunday, June 22, 2014

A Big Success with a New Shaving-Soap Formula

I took an intuitive leap this morning. No, not from bed, but with a new shave-soap formulation.

I keep a soap-making journal, exactly as a chemist or other scientist would keep a lab notebook. In this, I not only record what has been done -- processes, notes, outcomes, evaluations, etc. -- but also what I plan to do. So I have notes on formulations that I would like to try as I go forward.
The small test puck of SS#4 shave soap along with left-over lather from this mornings initial test in a re-purposed yogurt container. This morning's razor, the Merkur 37C slant with a new Personna Blue blade, is shown as well.

I have basic formulations, designated by number, and then variations on those basics using post-cook additives, designated by capital letters. I had been most pleased with my SS#1E, which I recently wrote about. I did not like SS#2 or its variation as much, so I had SS#3 and SS#4 recipes waiting in my soap journal to be cooked into reality for testing.

On a hunch, I skipped SS#3 and made up SS#4 -- the basic formula, with no additives -- for preliminary testing.
An after-shave shot of today's lathering bowl and brush with the residual lather from the initial test of SS#4. For this trial I loaded the wet brush with soap from its yogurt cup, then made lather in the stainless bowl that you see here. The lather is dense, slick, and creamy. Its volume is not too much, not too little -- just right for lubricating a terrific shave.

My goal with all of this chemistry and related planning and work is to make a shave soap that has no harsh additives, that is, all natural like you might get in a soap of c.1900, with the following characteristics:
  • Slick and lubricating
  • Creamy smooth
  • No scent to irritate the skin, offend the olfactory, or compete with the scent of other pre- or post-shave products
  • A tight, dense lather that is substantial, durable, and lathers on the face just thick enough to give a great shave but not be excessively foamy
  • Not drying on the skin
When I started to load the wet brush with soap from the yogurt cup, I thought, uh-oh... no initial lather; it's a dud -- D.O.A. (That's dead on arrival -- a phrase no one wants to hear in any context.)

But wait! Then I took another 15 seconds or so and massaged the brush a bit more on the little 20-gram test puck. Things started to look up, producing a first hint of a promising lather.

Then I transferred my brush to the stainless bowl and tended the lather a bit. With a bit more swirling and drops of water, the soap began to yield a thick, creamy lather, which was very slick in my fingers.

Applying onto my face, the lather was rich and creamy, with just enough foamy quality to spread the perfect layer for shaving, with not a lot of painting to thin away any excess. Like all my shave soaps to date, it has essentially no scent save the faintest hint of the neutral smell of a natural, unscented soap -- probably not perceptible to any but the most sensitive of noses.

I did a two-pass shave with my 37C slant and a new Personna Blue blade, and got the closest two-pass shave I've ever had -- essentially baby-bottom smooth on my cheeks and lower neck, and very close elsewhere.

As for the five target qualities I listed above, SS#4 has them all. Now the next objective is to tweak this formulation with post-cook, natural additives to enhance its moisturizing qualities as well as coaxing out even more of the other properties.

I'll keep you informed as I progress.

Happy shaving!

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