I Did It! I Did It! – A Love/Hate Story About Shaving Soap

I hate shaving soaps!

A few years ago, I got into traditional wet shaving. I had never EVER been able to generate a decent lather from a shaving soap. Foamy. Airy. Dissolving on my face after less than a minute. So frustrating.

Resigned,  I used only creams, which isn’t so bad since there are so many really good ones out there. For a while, I gave up the idea that I’d ever be able to have a collection of wooden and plastic bowls filled with with the pucks of my favorite scents I’d been longing to buy.

Now, I can’t say I have the best technique in the world, but I can generate a damn good lather from nearly any shaving cream. Why such a problem with shaving soaps then?

Maybe it’s the heat…

Usually, I use a scuttle with the outer bowl filled with as hot of tap water that our building allows (pretty darn hot). It had been suggested to me that the heat might be drying out the lather. Okay, I’ll try it without a heated scuttle…

Nope. Same crappy lather.

Maybe the brush is too wet…

Okay, let’s squeeze and shake most of the water out of my Semogue boar brush to see if that helps.

Nope. Same crappy lather.

Maybe the brush isn’t wet enough…

Okay, let’s leave more water in the brush this time.

Nope. Crappy lather. Actually, it was worse than usual.

Maybe our water is too hard…

Maybe I’m using too much/not enough pressure on the brush…

Maybe I need a new flux capacitor…

Really, I tried anything and everything that came to mind or was suggested to me. This past weekend, I wanted to try again. SUCCESS!

What the hell did I do differently?

* Loading Time *

Now, I had tried a longer loading time before, going from a measly thirty seconds to about a minute. All the videos I watched showed the brushes’ bristles clumping together a lot more than mine and really being loaded with soap.

I figured, “What the heck have I got to lose?” So, I used my phone as a timer and set it for two minutes. My brush was on the drier side, and the puck of sample soap had been wetted (in its own bowl) with about a teaspoon of hot water while I showered. The pressure I used was such to just barely spread the bristles on the tip of the brush. I didn’t want to create lather; I wanted the soap to stick to the brush.

After two full minutes, and a bit of forearm cramp, I looked at the brush. Hmmm, that seemed to be a LOT better. Let’s test it out!

Brush to Scuttle… Brush to Scuttle… we are ready to initiate docking procedure Delta-Lather-9. Repeat: Delta-Lather-9. Over.

One part of my technique I had changed more recently is to really work the lather before I even think of hydrating it. All too often, I had made the mistake of trying to hydrate a cream before its structure had been fully developed, resulting in flaccid lather. (Even with that newer technique, I wasn’t getting anywhere with soaps.)

Scuttle to Brush… Scuttle to Brush… lather appears stable. Again… the lather appears to be stable. Proceed. Over.

Finally, I had what I thought was a really good base lather to start hydrating. Half-teaspoon by half-teaspoon, I added hot water and worked it into the lather. When I felt like it was sufficiently hydrated, I began the shave.

Brush to Scuttle… Brush to Scuttle… procedure Gamma-Hydrate-2 complete. Commencing Operation: Face Scraper. Over.

Roger, Brush. Sending coordinates to human for proper razor angle. Zeroing out pressure. Good work. See you later for final rinse.

Well I’ll be a monkey’s uncle! Lather. GOOD lather. Creamy, stable and hydrated.

The shave? Brilliant! It was really close, much closer than I’ve gotten in a long while with my creams.

It turns out that our water is so hard here in Los Angeles that I have to use way more product than what is shown in most tutorials, even with creams. I just didn’t realize it would take that long for me to get a soap onto the brush.

Coincidentally, I used the Kell’s Original Hemp Soap – Arabian Spice that was just reviewed by Palpz. Man, if they don’t make that into a cologne, I will be truly sad. That stuff smells AMAZING and the shave was five-star.

I love shaving soap!

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  1. Rodolfo De la Vega says

    Congratulations! I’ve been using shaving soap for around 2 years now and I personally love it. I prefer to form the lather directly on my face and I enjoy the brush massage. It does take more time to form lather than the creams, even back in Colombia (South America) and now here in Boston. Once you get used to the timing, it’s as smooth as it’s going to get.

    • Kenny Haberman says

      As The Dean suggested above, lathering on the face with soaps seems the way to go for me with our hard water.

  2. says

    If you have problems of hard water, I would suggest trying some Italian soft shaving soaps; 75% of Italian live with hard water and these croaps are designed to be used in hard water environments; probably the reason for Michael’s Cella comments above. Cheers!

  3. says

    I have a “Badger Hair” brush I bought on Amazon a couple of years ago. The brush is great but the coating on the wood handle has chipped off. Do you know how I can cover it?

  4. Michael Darnton says

    I just returned from three weeks in LA. For convenience, I’d brought a stick of Arko, which works fine at home in Chicago. A couple of lines on my face, and I’m in. In LA, rubbing on as much as possible? Just about nothing.

    My wife came out and spent a couple of days with me, and I had her bring my tub of the old reliable, Cella (easy for her to find, too: the red one), and everything was fine.

    I’m blaming the LA water, too.

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