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4 Ways To Use A Shave Stick – With Video

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Shave sticks are a specialized shave soap designed to be applied directly on the skin.  Here are four different ways to use a shave stick.

What Is A Shave Stick?

(Note: Amazon, and PAA links are affiliate.)

A shave stick is a shaving soap that is shaped and packaged in a way that can be easily applied with a hand directly onto the skin, like a magic wand for shaving.  Here are some commonly available shave sticks:

A search at your favorite online wet shaving store will undoubtedly find more!

(Yes, you could probably use any shave soap as a shave stick if you were able to hold it correctly.)

When using a shave stick be sure to apply it to very wet skin for best performance.

Technique #1 – Direct Application

(Note: Amazon and PAA links are affiliate.)

The first way to use a shave stick is to simply apply it completely and evenly over the area to be shaved, which should be properly prepared and very wet.  This method is particularly useful with shave soaps that have a relatively high concentration of glycerin, like Pacific Shaving’s Ultra Slick Shave Stick.

One advantage of a full coverage direct application is that because the application is fairly thick you may have more protection and can use a razor that is more “aggressive” (by blade count, blade angle, blade exposure, etc.) with a lower chance of nicks or irritation.

The disadvantage is you will need to use more product than other alternatives so it may end up costing more per use.

Technique #2 – Hand Lathered

The second way to use a shave stick is to build up a lather with your hands.  While you need to apply generously on the area to be shaved, you don’t have to make sure it’s completely and evenly covered like direct application.  Use wet hands with vigorous circular motions on wet skin to build the lather.  In the video I used an Arko shave stick for this pass.

Technique #3 – Brush Lathered

The third way to use a shave stick is basically like any other shave soap, using a shave brush.  Most users apply the shave stick casually over the (wet) skin and use a brush to cover and build lather.  Some rub the shave stick inside a bowl or scuttle and build the lather there, then use the brush to cover the skin.  I think doing everything on the skin is a more thorough application but of course it’s personal preference.  In the video I used a PAA Future Fiction shave stick for this pass.

Technique #4 – The After-The-Shave “Touch & Cut”

The final way to use a shave stick is to use it at the end of the shave.  The strategy is similar to the first technique of applying the shave stick in an “undiluted” layer, but just over those rough patches that may still have a bit of stubble staying behind after the bulk of the shave.  Again, the idea is that you can be a bit more aggressive with blade technique if you have a thick layer of something to cushion against irritation.

But this technique must be used judiciously: over-done this can cause more trouble than it cures.


Shave sticks can be a convenient, flexible addition to your “shave den” and can be in used a number of different ways depending on individual circumstances.

Do you use shave sticks?  How do you like them?  How do you use them?  Leave a comment below.



Shave tutor and co-founder of sharpologist. I have been advocating old-school shaving for over 20 years and have been featured in major media outlets including The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and Lifehacker. Also check out my content on Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest!View Author posts

20 thoughts on “4 Ways To Use A Shave Stick – With Video”

  1. The “older comments” link does not work. When I click it, I still see the 3 most recent links.

    I use the direct method, but a man who is just starting to grow a beard cannot use that method because the whiskers are still too downy and soft to scrape off enough soap. And men with very thick, tough, wiry beards — particularly if they shave using soft water — will find that rubbing the shave stick against the grain over their entire beard will scrape off too much soap. They should use the stick only on part of their beard — the Van Dyke area for example — and after working the lather up there, apply it to the rest of their beard.

  2. Arko, Derby, Wilkinson’s, Mama Bear’s, Palmolive, and a brand called Body Prescriptions are the ones I’ve used. They are all great for travel and most certainly get the job done. I’d eventually like to try Speick and Tabac

  3. Mark, thanks for this article/video. I have never used a stick. Now, my shaving education is expanded. Your video was helpful, as it clarifies the differences in applications.

  4. My first “shave stick” was simply taking a puck out of the tin and applying directly to the face. That’s the clue I got about real shave sticks, before purchasing Arko. Going against the grain and lathering with your hand has you ready in no time. YMMV

  5. Earl L Forman II Esq

    I use the direct application method.
    I use empty twist up shave stick containers & create my own shave sticks.
    By the way,I wish you would include in your blade/razor reviews a comment on smoothness of the shave i.e. how does it feel ,not necessarily how it performs.

    1. Hi Earl– The “feel” of a shave is kind of variable to the person but over-all it’s a great suggestion and I’ll start including some kind of comment about it.

  6. I always use technique #3 with shave sticks, scrubbing in a good amount before brushing up the lather. Palmolive is my favorite by far; it smells great, produces a slick cushiony lather and leaves my face with an outstanding post-shave softness. Really good stuff. Somebody on eBay is selling four sticks for $6.98, shipping from UK included. I just bought 3 years worth!

    1. I JUST got a Palmolive shave stick today and will use it tomorrow. Now I’m REALLY looking forward to it.

        1. 🙂 Lots. But I gave away my Palmolive a long while ago, and when I was working through all my shave sticks, I missed it, so I ordered a couple (one for an Xmas present). I hoped it would arrive in time for the shave-stick series, but it didn’t. Today it came, tomorrow it’s the star of SOTD.

  7. When I use a shave stick I use the first method. The only issue with that method is that if you don’t use enough water on your brush your lather may be so thick it clogs your razor so I always use a brush that is wetter than when I use a soap puck.

  8. Very interesting. I’ve always used technique #3 and in fact hadn’t known (or thought) of the others. My feeliing about the first and fourth is that I want lather, not soap, on my stubble when I shave. Regarding technique #2, that would work for the first pass, but then for the second it might be hard to get enough soap scraped off to make a good lather, and the third pass would be difficult indeed. The advantage of technique #3 is that the brush holds plenty of lather for the second and third passes so you don’t need to return to the stick.

    In the (wonderful) movie “The Dam Busters” there’s a scene showing the aircrews relaxing the afternoon before the nighttime bombing run, and one relaxes by shaving. He uses a shave stick, but instead of applying it to his face, he loads the brush directly on the stick in a casual and practiced manner. It seemed to work well, the shave stick in that usage being a very tall puck of small diameter.

    One other difference: I rub the stick strictly against the grain rather than a back and forth motion. That is, after pushing the stick against the grain (upward, overall), I lift the stick from my skin to go back down to a starting point rather than rubbing the stick down (with the grain) on the return. My feeling is that I am scrapng soap from the stick, and that works best when rubbing the stick against the grain.

  9. Sticks are the best thing for travel but the foil wrapper on Arko leaves a lot to be desired and a big mess in a shaving kit. I bought some clear twist up tubes (like deodorant comes in) from West Coast Shaving (I believe it was…been a while) for a few bucks that work great for the Arko size sticks. LaToja has the plastic cover that works fine as it is and it’s smaller if size is a concern.

    For home use, warm the sticks up a bit and flatten them into a bowl or tin….instant shaving puck.

  10. I rub a very thick layer on may face, and build the lather from there. Always gives enough for at least three passes.

  11. Hello. Am I correct that in method #1 with the Pacific Shave Stick you are applying to a dry face and not using any water?

  12. D. Phillip Chandler

    I travel with a shave stick for my soap; works great. I rub the stick over the stubble and then use a brush to work up a lather. ARKO is my current soap although I have used artisan and La Toja sticks successfully as well.

  13. Darren Charlesworth

    This is all about ‘ Glide & Ride ‘ really isn’t it?
    By far the best way is to use the shave soap stick is like a giant crayon. Rubbing it over the beard growth and then creating a lather, which easily happens with this type of product. I find it better than any creams out there and it’s by far cheaper; especially the £0.50p Palmolive stick we have in the U.K (or did, but I have plenty of stock). The Palmolive, Arko, Derby, Nivea Body shave, Wilkinson Sword, Erasmic La Toja, Lea, Speick men and Tabac are all in my Den and are all far superior to anything else (imo).
    Yes, I’m a big fan of the soap stick, all of them, ok with the exception of the Boots own branded one.
    I apply the stick on every pass, (although lightly on the 2nd & 3rd) even after the Pre-Shave cream/oil and why not? as I say for me, it’s just ‘Glide & Ride’………

  14. Shave sticks are great for travel, especially if you travel carryon. (At home I prefer a soap puck.). No need to put a container of shave cream in a separate zip lock bag. No worries about running out of soap mid-trip. I travel a few times per year and have not yet used up my DR Harris stick after four years of trips.

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