Friday, November 7, 2014

Lathering the Best Shave Soaps

I tend to use shave soaps rather than creams. In my limited experiments with creams available from Crabtree & Evelyn and The Body Shop, I have found those in particular to be reasonably adequate but not excellent -- particularly for the prices charged. They also tend to have rather strong scents, which some may like, but I find unnecessary because they are largely washed away after the shave, and if I use some kind of after-shave balm, that provides its own, more-lasting bouquet.

My experience with a few superior shave soaps leads me to some generalizations about the best way to build lather. These generalizations are also, as I recall, consistent with the instruction provided by Mantic59, a.k.a. The Sharpologist, in at least one of his instructional videos.

I have found that the richest, slickest, least-drying, creamiest shave soaps (such as my most recent formulation, SS#10C) require just a bit of extra care to build the most effective lather. I've had (and made) shave soaps that lather more quickly than the best, but, again in my experience, these easier-lathering soaps tend to be a bit drying or not as creamy slick.

The general guidelines that I follow with the really best-protecting shave soaps are as follows:
A creamy, high-quality soap usually likes water and a little
care to make luxurious, protective lather. The blue bowl has a
5-inch diameter and was purchased two for 99 cents at Target.

  • I prefer to lather using a rather large, five-inch diameter bowl. Brush type is immaterial; boar, badger, or synthetic all work fine. The large bowl allows not only swirling motions with the brush, but also reciprocating motions, which can be effective for whipping up a good lather.
  • I prefer cool tap water for my beard prep, lather, and subsequent shave because I believe it's less drying on my skin, but have found that water temperature doesn't significantly impact the lathering ability of a soap.
  • I load the damp brush well with soap from the puck. If I have let clean, left-over lather dry in the bowl, the brush will load more quickly on subsequent days. If I'm loading from a hard, dry puck with no residual lather, it will take more time to swirl the damp brush and pick up sufficient soap.
  • Because the initial bowl lathering of rich and creamy soaps is usually a bit dry and pasty, I will typically dip the tips of the brush in standing water, or lightly insert the brush tips in gently running water to add water to the process, and then lather some more in the bowl.
  • On average, I would say that I add additional water via the brush tips about thrice-- sometimes four times -- as I make lather in the bowl.
  • Over all, this process takes only a minute or two, but it's a few seconds longer than my experiences with soaps that are not as protecting. The extra few seconds are well worth the investment.
Once the lather is thick and creamy, similar to that pictured above, it's ready to contribute to a high-quality, high satisfaction shave.

Happy shaving!

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