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Advice: Shaving Mug Lathering

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Matt writes:

I have a question about mug lathering. I recently got my first shaving mug. I am able to get a good lather, but when I put the lather on my face I don’t get as good coverage as I do when I face lather. When lathering, I use the brush to bring down the lather that has risen to the top of the mug walls. I try to get the lather in the middle of the brush, but I’m just not getting enough of the lather on my face. Usually when I face lather, the lather stays towards the tips of the brush and I am able to get all the lather on my face. When I bowl lather, the lather gets on the sides of the brush too and I am unable to get the lather on the sides of the brush on my face. I want to figure this out. Your help is greatly appreciated.

It’s hard to tell from the description what the problem with mug lathering might be. There are a lot of variables (type of brush, hard/soft water, how long you’re lathering, etc.) but my best guess is you might need to load the brush a bit more than you’re doing now. You also might try “the upside down lathering trick” —

Matt replies:

I’ve never heard of loading the brush upside down before. I just watched the video. It makes sense that I would get more doing it upside down. I just tried it, and I was able to get more lather from it! Also, I’ve seen on your videos plus other people that after you massage the lather into your face, you do a kind of paintbrush motion to get more from it. I had never tried that before, so I did just now, and that worked really well too! Those two things together made it go a lot better.


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

2 thoughts on “Advice: Shaving Mug Lathering”

  1. Aha!! That explains it! Recently I changed my lathering technique with soaps for no particular reason. I had been thinking of Zach's video on lathering with a boar bristle brush. I recalled how he held the bowl on its side because he used a very wet brush and whipped it vigorously, and with the bowl on the side, the slag (is that the right term?) could easily drain.

    So I held the bowl on its side (this was a triple-milled soap in a wood bowl, the kind where the soap goes right up to the edge). I started loading the brush, and then (remembering Zach's video) I really worked it vigorously over the soap—undoubtedly driving the soap deeper into the brush as you describe.

    And then earlier this week I noticed the very different quality of the lather: a very fine texture, denser than normal with much tinier bubbles—almost, I wrote I at the time, as if I had spread Nancy Boy shaving cream on my face.

    Because that was the first time I was so vividly aware of the phenomenon, I couldn't figure out the cause. Was it the Floris 89? Was it the brush? Etc. Lots of variables to eliminate.

    I started trying different soaps and brushes, and I kept getting the very fine lather. I couldn't figure out what had changed. But this clears it up: I stumbled across the same phenomenon, noticed the result, and hadn't figured out the cause.

    And, of course, I kept getting the fine lathers because I kept using the new technique, which I liked for its messiness at the sink.

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