How To Use A Shaving Soap And Get A Barbershop Quality Lather

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Ah shaving soap, its like the little brother in the wet shaving world when compared to the ever more popular shaving creams that reign supreme.

Unfortunately this product is often overlooked for all the wrong reasons. First and foremost men often associate this as a product that is often too laborious or just simply inferior to shaving creams in general.

However, its just simply not true.

A quality shaving soap can oftentimes out perform even the best shaving creams on the market today.

In fact, shaving soaps are often preferred by men who use a straight razor as they can provide a richer and slicker lather that will yield a much more comfortable shave.

In this post we are going to outline how to use any shaving soap in order to achieve the perfect lather.

But before we dive in to the exact steps, we just want to take a minute to cover a few of the basics to ensure a higher success rate:

Shaving Soaps A Perfect For Men Who Use A Double Edge Safety Razor

razor blades for de razor

If you are still using a cartridge razor, we don’t want to deter you from reading on.  However, the amount of comfort that you may realize by using a shaving soap will be marginal at best, especially when compared to a quality shaving cream.

For men that are using a cartridge razor, we recommend that you check out our post on picking up a quality shaving cream.

Now when it comes to using a double edge safety razor, there are a lot of mechanics at play.  First and foremost, the sharpness of the edge on the blade along with it just being a single blade requires a lather that has a sufficient cushion and is slick/well lubricated.

Therefore we recommend picking up a top notch shaving soap.

Of course the double edge razor that you are using is key, therefore if you haven’t already, we recommend picking up a terrific safety razor like the Merkur 38C given its well balanced weight and overall size.

Related: Merkur 38C Review

If its your first foray into wet shaving in general and you are still looking for all the goods, then a shaving kit will provide a much greater value.

But enough on the basics, here’s what you need to know about soaps in particular:

Shaving Soaps vs Creams

While we talking about this extensively in our head-to-head comparison, here are a few highlights:

Shaving soaps are considered more traditional when compared to creams – although creams have been around for over a hundred years.

With anyone passionate about a hobby, there are many men who feel that shaving soaps are a bit more ‘pure’ when compared to creams.  In that during the wet shaving process, you should have total control in every step – therefore a shaving soap plays nicely into this idea.

Lastly, shaving soaps tend to have a lower price point compared to creams.  However, there are some triple-milled soaps that can cost a small fortune.

How to Achieve The Perfect Lather With a Shaving Soap

Now that we have the basics covered on the tools and how soaps and creams differ – here is how you can create the perfect lather time and time again:

1. Prep Your Shaving Soap

proraso shaving soap

Shaving soaps come in all different form factors.  Some soaps come packaged in a flimsy plastic shell, whereas some are molded to a beautiful cherry wood case.

In this tutorial we are using the Proraso shaving soap which can be bought with a few clicks.

One particular shaving soap worth mentioning is glycerin based soaps.

A shaving soap like a Col. Conks is a highly popular glycerin soap that we recommend storing within a shaving scuttle or mug.

What many wet shavers will do is remove the soap from the container, place it into a coffee mug and then microwave for several seconds to allow the soap to effectively mold and take shape to the bottom of the mug.

This will allow for easier use of the soap without it moving all over the place as you try to load the brush.

However in this tutorial Proraso’s soap is affixed to the bottom of the container, therefore we will use this as our blooming tub.

2. Bloom Your Shaving Soap

proraso shaving soap

A key to softening your soap is to allow it to fully bloom.  Blooming means to let the soap rest in hot water for an extended period of time before you load the shaving brush (more on this in a minute).

Just as if you were to leave a hand soap in a dish with some water, blooming allows you to easily draw out the parts of the soap and not just the top surface.

What we typically recommend is to let your shave soap bloom in hot water for several minutes (i.e. while you take a shower).

Now if you have the shaving soap molded to the bottom of a coffee mug as suggested in step one then we recommend resting your shave brush in the water as well.

3. Soak Your Shave Brush

how to create a lather with shaving soap

As mentioned at the end of step 2, whether or not you have a shaving soap in the bottom of the coffee mug, you should also let your shave brush soak in hot water.

Soaking the shave brush in hot water will allow the fibers to soften and ensure that a more adequate lather will be produced.

4. Draining Your Brush and Bloomed Soap Water (but don’t waste it!)

how to create a lather with shaving soap

For the shaving brush, we recommend simply giving a light squeeze to get the majority of the water out.  Having too much water in your shave brush will give you a poor quality lather.

Note: Never shake your shaving brush, doing so will allow the fibers to loosen from the knot which can drastically reduce the lifespan of the shave brush.

When it comes to the soap, many wet shavers will simply pour the bloomed water down the drain – this is not a good idea.

Instead as you get out of the shower and dry off we highly recommend that you use the soapy water from the bloom and lightly coat your face.

This acts in the very same nature as a pre shave oil and will allow for a slick lubricated base before the shaving soap is eventually applied.

5. Load The Shaving Brush

how to create a lather with shaving soap

For many first timers, they may try to apply the shaving soap brick directly to their face in order to build up a lather.  Or some many try to rub it in their hands to achieve the same results – however shaving soap is not the same as a regular soap.

Therefore to build a lather you will need to load the brush.  To load a brush you simply want to get the tips of the bristles coated with the shaving soap.

When it comes to shaving soaps in general, a little will go a long way and you can always add more if necessary.

how to create a lather with shaving soap

Here is what the top of your shave brush will look like when it is fully loaded.

how to create a lather with shaving soap

Typically you will want to load the brush for about 20 seconds.  Doing any longer will be a waste of shaving cream.

6. Generate The Lather

how to create a lather with shaving soap

To generate a lather, you can either use a bowl or apply it directly to your face.

We find that a separate bowl will be much more effective as you can get the perfect lather by closely examining your mixture.

If its your first ever time creating a lather from shave soap, we highly recommend just forming a test lather without actually using the shaving cream for regular application.  Doing so will be a training of sorts so you know how you can get a quality lather time and time again.

how to create a lather with shaving soap

The perfect lather should feel oily/slick when you rub it between your fingers.

When mixing your lather in a separate shaving bowl or mug, you should rotate in a circular motion for about 90 seconds.

Now there are a couple of signs you need to look out for when actually generating the lather.

Larger bubbles

how to create a lather with shaving soap

Inspect the sides of your mug as you rotate it clockwise.  If you find that it has a lot of large bubbles (i.e. they are clearly visible), then you have too much water in your mixture.

how to create a lather with shaving soap

As an added test, if you remove your shave brush from the mug and inspect it – you will see large imprints of bubbles on the brush as pictured above.

In this instance we recommend loading the brush for a few more seconds in order to draw out more shaving soap.

Dry or tacky lather

how to create a lather with shaving soap

This means that your lather needs more water.  You don’t ever want to put the shaving bowl under the sink and fill it up with a little bit of water – that would be overkill.  Instead you should simply just run your hands under the water and then let a few drops of water go into the mug.  After you added a few drops, continue mixing for several seconds and examine the consistence – add more drops of water if necessary.

The perfect lather

how to create a lather with shaving soap

As pictured above, the perfect lather shouldn’t have large bubbles visible.  A few bubbles here or there is fine.  Overall the shaving soap lather should feel extremely slick to the touch.

A perfect lather should strike a fine balance between moisture and richness.  At the end of the day, your lather should retain the moisture on your skin when it is applied along with providing a lofty cushion that will help the blade glide effortlessly across your skin.

Shave and Reapply If Necessary

That is how you can get the perfect lather with just about any shaving soap that is on the market.  Its not too terribly involved of a process when following the outline given above.

Other Items That Will Help to Enhance Your Shave

Now when it comes to shaving in general, a shave soap is just one of the many products that are heavily marketed by the larger manufacturers.

While shaving soaps can be bloomed to provide a gentle lubrication prior to shaving cream application, products like pre shave oil can make a marginal difference for some men.

Pre shave oils in general are a mixture of carrier and essential oils that not only provide vital nutrients for your skin, but also an incredibly slick lubricated layer that will further ease the guidance of the blade across your skin.

In fact we go through and fully review some of the best pre shave oils in our complete guide.

Beyond pre shave oils, one of the most important tools of any wet shavers repertoire is going to be the shave brush.  Typically coming in several different fibers – shave brushes can make a night and day difference when it comes to the type of cushion that you can get with any shaving cream.

badger brush for shave soap

The most popular fiber used in shave brushes is going to be sourced from badgers.  Other less popular fibers found in brushes also include horse, boar, and synthetic.

Badger hair itself comes in several different grades – which include the following (average to best):

  • Pure
  • Best
  • Super
  • Silvertip

Regarding performance, when using a shave brush to apply shaving cream, they will bring your hair to stand on edge that allows for a much cleaner of a cut with the razors edge.

For a full review on several different badger hair brushes, be sure to check out our review of the top shave brushes.

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About Shawn Burns

Shawn Burns is the founder and senior editor of Tools of Men. He started this site with the goal of teaching men proper grooming habits and sensible style. Shawn's expertise includes in-depth product reviews and how-to articles. Shawn was recently featured in the Wall Street Journal for his expertise.