Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Six-Month Journey to Good Shave Soap

It was in the spring of this year, 2014, that I decided to try my hand at making shave soap. This kicked off a series of processes and small challenges, with the end goal to make the best shave soap for those with sensitive skin. This meant that the soap had to be slick, protecting, not drying, and without additives that would be likely to offend skin or nose.
My inventory of less-than-ideal shave soaps -- all
created as part of the lengthy development process.

It was initially slow to do the research and analysis to first, understand soap making itself, and then, second, create the first recipe for my initial formulation.

Then I took literally weeks to acquire the necessary equipment and supplies to make up that first batch of soaps that would be blended to yield prototype soap number one. By the time I had completed this task, I realized that I was committed; I had spent too much time and money to abandon this project, though it was clearly a bigger job than I had initially envisioned -- and I hadn't even made any soap yet.

After the production and safety gear were procured, and the ingredients on hand, I then set about making four separate batches of vegetable-based one-fat or one-oil soaps. None of these alone would turn out to be suitable for use as a shave soap, but they could be blended together to test various proportions and combinations of individual-component soaps.

The most trying part of shave-soap making for me is the slow iteration time. That is, a new soap is blended or created whole cloth, then it must be tested, evaluated. Then, its characteristics must be analyzed and associated with its various components, and the next attempt for an improved soap must be planned. Then the process starts again. And again.... And again.... And so on (and on and on...).

I thought it would be easy to make great shave soap. After all, it was easy to make a slick soap. It was also really easy to make a soap that produced copious amounts of thick lather. (I chuckle at those in shaving forums who drool over generous lather. This alone doesn't make a great shave soap.) It was also pretty easy to make a soap that wasn't drying on the skin. It was extremely easy to make a soap that didn't offend or irritate one's sense of smell.

It just wasn't easy to make a soap that combined all those characteristics to an appropriate degree. In fact, in the following months, I made and tested 23 different recipe variations, which is an average of almost one new soap per week.

It has been both a marathon and a balancing act. Shave soap is like shaving itself: you can get a comfortable shave and you can get a close shave, but the trick is to get both in the same shave.
The latest and greatest so far.

This most recent shave soap, which I designate as #11P1, is world class,  right up there with the slickest, creamiest out there -- it may, in fact, be the creamiest. It also has all-natural moisturizers and skin protectants to counter the natural drying effect of soap.

Now the next challenge is to find the best method of forming the finished pucks.

And so the process continues....

Happy shaving!


  1. Will this soap be for sale at some point?

    1. Gavin, yes, that's the end game. However, I could provide you with a sample much sooner at a minimal cost to cover shipping and incidentals. I'd be very interested to garner comments/opinions on this pre-production recipe to see if it's hitting *your* sweet spot in a shave soap. You (and anyone else interested) can email me at, and we can work out the details.