Last updated on November 28th, 2018 by Garrick Dee
So you’ve decided to go the wet shaving route.
Congratulations on your choice, you won’t regret it. Expect world class shaves at the comfort of your home once you master the skill. Next step would be choosing from one of many options as lubrication on the face.
Of the three products, most men use cheap, canned shaving creams or gels. These are the worst type of lubrication that you can put on the face because it’s mostly water and propellants that can irritate the skin.
To get the most out of your shave, you’ll have to use a product that uses none of the chemicals but only natural ingredients that will provide superior lubrication and nourishment to your skin.
And I firmly believe that shaving soap is one of the best products for this purpose. Compared to an aerosol get, it’s not even close.
A tub of this product will easily last for months and it doesn’t cost a lot.
In this article we’ll focus on how to properly use a shaving soap, from product selection, lathering and best practices on application. So sit back and enjoy.
Why use a shaving soap and what are the advantages?
A shaving soap is one of the best products available right now that will protect the face from razor burn and irritation from a multi-pass shave.
One reason why enthusiasts like this product is the lubrication it provides that allows them to use a sharper blade and shave closer.
Unlike the majority of canned shaving creams or gels that use skin drying chemicals and propellants, shaving soaps use natural ingredients and scents that not only provide lubrication but also provide nourishment.
If you have sensitive skin, it is imperative to avoid canned products as these can irritate your skin more.
A side note on scents
Most canned shaving products use artificial scents that originate from artificial sources. In other words, manufacturers use man-made fragrances that mimic the real thing.
Here’s the kicker – fragrances mixes have been associated with allergies, dermatitis, respiratory distress and potential effects on the reproductive system.
In the case of shaving soaps there are two things to consider. First would be going with an unscented product if you already use cologne or don’t like strong scents.
Second, if don’t wear cologne and you could go with a soap that has a stronger scent. Remember to read the ingredients list to make sure that the fragrance used comes from plant based sources.
A little bit of history
The pioneer of this amazing shaving product is Jason Baker Williams who developed first shaving soap for use in shaving mugs in 1840 for use in shaving mugs.
He was a founding member of the Williams & Brother shaving company. As this company grew in popularity he moved the company to William Street in Glastonbury, Connecticut. In 1885, the company changed its name to J.B. Williams Company and their product line included shaving creams, talcum powder and other toilet preparations.
Until today, the Williams shaving soap remains a popular product among purists that lathers up quickly and lasts.
How do you use a shaving soap?
If you haven’t learned the basics of wet shaving, please take the time to do so. And this starts with how to lather with a shaving soap.
For those unfamiliar with wet shaving, it’s simply shaving with a form of lubrication on the skin. In this case shave soap.
The beauty of using a shave soap it that there isn’t really one set of rules to follow. There are different methods that you can use to achieve the same optimal result.
Choosing a method however will depend on the type of shaving brush you have, how much time you’re willing to spend and the shaving soap you are using.
So there will be a trial and error period as you refine technique.
Tools you’ll need
- A good quality shaving brush
- Shaving bowl or mug – this is not a requirement but it comes in handy if you want to build lather quickly. If you don’t want to spend on such then any coffee mug will do
- Shaving soap
Equally as important to the shaving itself is the preparation prior to. This includes taking a hot shower or washing your face with the right pH balanced facial soap then applying hot towel afterwards.
The goal is to remove contaminants and excess oil that may hinder the blade. Hot water also hydrates hair follicles so the razor will cut through it like a hot knife through butter.
Step 1: Soaking the shave soap
This really an optional step. Some men prefer soaking while others do not. I added it here just to give you a complete overview on the different options.
How long you’ll need to soak will depend on the product. In most cases, you’ll need to let it soak between 10 to 15 minutes so most men do this step prior to taking a hot shower.
If you’re using a puck or bar then submerge it on a bowl of warm water. For shaving soaps that come with their own jars, just pour water over it to the brim.
Don’t forget to soak your shaving brush in hot water to hydrate and soften the bristles in preparation for the lather process.
How long you need to soak will depend on the type of shaving brush you’ll use.
Lower quality horse hair or boar hair brushes may require as much as 10 minutes of soak time. Higher quality badger hair brushes will need only a couple of minutes. Synthetic brushes don’t need much time – just soak it in hot water for a few seconds.
Remember only to soak the bristles and not the handle to prevent moisture from seeping in. And never soak a shaving brush in a sink because of the potential infection it may cause on the skin.
You don’t know what time of bacteria is lurking on the sink and you don’t want that on your face with pores wide open.
Step 2: Lather up
After taking a hot shower or prepping your face, shaving soap and brush it’s time to lather up.
There are a couple of techniques that you can utilize here. One would be using lots of water and another using just a few drops.
Soaking it in water is really about personal preference and the type of soap you’re using.
Nick Shaves shows how it’s done…
Whether you’re using lots of water or just a few drops, you’ll have to decide whether to lather on a bowl, the palm of your hand or directly on the face.
Some have mentioned that using a bowl will result in a thicker lather but the thing about shaving soaps is lather will always be there. Once you feel it drying up, just add a little water and lather up.
Once you’re ready to lather remove excess water from brush by wringing it or shaking it. Again whether to wring out or shake will depend on your preference. There really isn’t a wrong or right.
Dump out excess water off the shaving bowl or container.
Step 3: Loading the brush
Loading the brush is a pretty straightforward process.
First step is to rub the brush against the shaving soap in a circular motion. Press hard enough to get enough soap on the bristles.
Don’t worry about excess water dripping out of the brush. Once you see bubbles forming between the brush and soap stop the swirling motion. You’l also notice that the bristles are clumping together.
The goal of this process is to coat the brush with enough soap for the next step.
Step 4: Building lather
Not we get to the do fun part – building up lather.
Whether you’ll load it on your palm, shaving bowl or face process is similar but there are some nuances.
If you’re loading it on a bowl or mug, add a few drops of water on the bowl then swirl the brush round and round for around until you build a rich enough lather. At first you’ll notice large bubbles but then it becomes smaller and smaller until you’ll barely see them.
If the lather lacks water, slightly dip the tip of the brush on the sink then continue lathering up.
Depending on the shaving soap you use it can take as little as 25 seconds to a few minutes to create a thick, rich lather.
Step 5: Applying lather
Once you’ve created a thick enough lather it’s time to apply it on your face.
Do the same circular motion you did on the bowl to your face. But before applying any shaving cream, wet your whiskers with warm water. This will hydrate facial hair and create a thick lather on skin.
Do the circular motion until all facial hair hidden under a sheet of lather then finish up with a painting motion.
If you have a hard time doing the circular motion on the chin area, just paint across.
Remember to take the time when lathering your face. It helps spread shaving soap evenly on your whiskers and lifts it up. The thicker the lather, the more protection it’ll provide, the more comfortable the shave.
The great thing about a shaving soap is you don’t need a lot of product to achieve a thick lather. So even if the upfront costs might be more, it makes up for it on longevity.
A puck or tub will easily last half a year if you use it the right way.
Wrapping it up
It may seem like a long process but really it isn’t. Once you’ve lathered up a few times, finding the right process that works for your preferences will follow after.
That’s the great thing about wet shaving. It’s an art that takes a little time to learn but the results will be worth it.
Lastly, since you’ve decided to wet shave why not check out our guide to safety razors here. These tools not only will give you a close shave, it’ll help you shave some serious $$$ because DE blades are cheap. Cartridge refills are not.
Garrick spends his days researching and writing about grooming. When he’s not in front of his computer, you can find him hanging around with his wife and son.