The realm of wet shaving has a strong attraction. More and more men are ditching the cartridge and canned foam for the sublime luxury of shaving with a soap and safety/straight razor. And isn’t it wonderful when the thing you love is also good for you. (How often does that happen. . . I’m looking at you dessert. Sigh). Wet shaving is different. This meditative practice of lathering and shaving with quality products is something to love that loves you back.
So, you might be sold on the idea of the wet shave, but how do you produce it? One of the central aspects of a great classic shave is a well-lathered soap or cream. Let’s look at the “why” of a great lather, before we tackle the “how”.
Why create a lather with a shaving soap?
When you shave, it is necessary to scrape a sharpened piece of steel across your sensitive skin. This idea just screams tortured skin. . . unless you create a lubricating, protective, moisturizing layer that can rest between your skin and the blade. A great lather does just that. But don’t be fooled by the canned foams and “creams” that masquerade as a shaving aid. They are mostly air. They give the appearance of cushion but provide little to no actual benefit. Instead, you want to create a nourishing, defensive barrier with a quality shaving soap.
How do you create a lather with a shaving soap?
But how? Let’s get on with it.
Gather your items:
- Shaving brush
- Shaving bowl/mug (optional, if face/palm lathering)
- Shaving soap
- Razor (Straight or DE with your favorite blade)
Guide to Using Shaving Soap
Soaking your shaving brush
Soaking your brush is a particularly important step with natural hair shaving brushes. It will allow the strands to soften and absorb water.
Blooming your shaving soap
If the shaving soap is really hard (meaning you can press down with your finger and the soap doesn’t give) it would be helpful to apply some warm water to the top of the soap for a few minutes. This does two things:
- This helps to loosen up the top layer of soap so you can load from it better.
- It helps to bring out the scent from the soap. People even say it can fill the bathroom with the scent.
This process is called blooming - it’s really more helpful for the former than the latter, but let’s not limit the possibilities. Many wet shavers will soak and bloom while they take a hot shower (which is also helpful to prep your skin for a shave.)
Loading your shaving brush
The purpose of loading is to get the soap from the top of the soap onto your shaving brush so you can build it up to a lather (whether you bowl or face lather). Take your shaving brush (which has been soaking) and shake it a time or two to remove as much water as possible. You want it damp but not drenched. Begin to swirl your brush in circular motions around the shaving soap. You should do this for about 30 seconds to a minute. (Pro-tip: The goal is to load your brush until the tips are pasty)
Lathering & Hydrating your shaving soap
Method 1 - Bowl/mug
Once you’ve loaded your shaving soap onto your brush, take it to your shaving bowl or mug and begin to swirl. As you are doing this, dip the tip of your shaving brush into some water to add hydration to the lather. You want to add enough water to get your shaving soap so it doesn’t look or feel dry. Your body works better when it is hydrated and so does your soap. But go slowly, just a few drops at a time is enough.
Method 2 - Face/palm
Some men prefer to skip the shaving bowl or mug extra utensil and create their lather right on their face (or in their palm). You use the same steps as above, swirling the brush on your face and slowly adding water a drop or two at a time.
If you notice your lather is beginning to dry up during your first pass, then you probably need to add more water for the next pass. You might find you need to add water 2-3 times while you get the lather “dialed in”.
(Pro-tip: Dialing in your lather: when you notice a faint glisten on the lather surface, you're in range. Just observe the sheen for another 10 seconds. If it starts to dull, add a drop or two more water and mix one last time. Now the lather should be optimally hydrated.)
Storing your shaving soap
After your shave, you can rinse off any lather that was left on top of your soap from loading. After this, you leave your soap to dry by flipping it over and placing it at the edge of your sink. This allows any water to drip down and it allows air to circulate around the shaving soap to dry it off. After a few hours you can put the lid back on and put it away.
Once you’ve used a probably hydrated, expertly whipped mound of frothy, scented lather, you will never go back to the canned stuff. Don’t you agree? Got any other pro-tips for the perfect lather?