Some people, particularly those new to old-school shaving, sometimes have trouble making lather. Sometimes it’s your water. Sometimes it’s your product. And sometimes your brush…sucks. But here are four sneaky ways to get a better lather.
Problems with lather can be divided up into three general areas: the water (specifically high-mineral content “hard” water), the lather product, and the brush. The obvious solution to a lousy brush is to…buy a better brush. Dealing with poor quality water or product (or both) can present it’s own challenges though, and some of the solutions can be subtle. Let’s tackle water problems first.
“Hard” Water And Lather
Water with a high mineral content, often known as “hard” water, can make building lather more difficult. It can take longer to make, and the lather you get may be thinner and not as lubricating when compared to softer water. I know this first hand, as the local water supply where I live is pretty hard. One solution is to get a water softener but that can cost several hundred dollars and may require professional installation. Two other, simpler and less expensive ways of dealing with hard water is to add distilled water or citric acid to your shaving water.
Distilled water is widely available at most grocery stores and “mega-marts.” Simply pour a little into the water you’re going to use for your shave. How much depends on the mineral content of the water so you may have to experiment a little. But I suggest to not use just distilled water alone. Most people find that the lather made with just distilled water tends to be lighter and foamier, and does not provide the same level of cushioning and lubrication.
Another tactic to try for hard water is a small amount of citric acid. Citric acid* is used in do it yourself home food canning so it can often be found with the canning supplies at large groceries and mega-marts. Again, you may need to experiment a little with the amount to add but start out with just a tiny bit–just a pinch of citric acid to a whole sink full of water. Using too much citric acid will change the pH of the water and you may not get any lather at all!
Poor Quality Shave Soap Or Cream
Brush “priming” the with a shave soap, then adding shave cream (AKA the “Superlather” technique) can be an effective–though maybe a bit messy–way to get a good lather. Loading a wet shaving brush with shave soap, a gentle glycerin-based facial soap, or a Marseilles soap will “trap” water and hold it in the brush. Then adding just a bit of shaving cream will fully hydrate the lather and also create a really slick cushion to work with. This was actually the topic of one of the first shaving videos I made back in 2006. Making superlather works best with a large shave brush.
“Uberlather” lather is a similar technique but uses a few drops of pure glycerin added to the shaving brush before lathering. You can do this with either a shaving cream or a shaving soap. The extra glycerin will create a more stable, longer-lasting lather. Glycerin can be found at most mega-marts, drug stores, or large grocery stores, usually in either the skin care isle or first aid area.
Give these tips a try then let me know how it works for you in the comments section!