The Ultimate Guide to Shaving Soap

When combined with a shaving brush, a traditional shaving soap creates a wonderfully luxurious lather which softens the beard hair, protects the skin, lubricates and helps with razor glide, all of which leads to a better and more enjoyable shave. Although a shaving soap in a wooden bowl can cost more than a shaving cream at first, the shaving soaps usually last longer than a shaving cream and when they run out they can be replaced with cheaper refills.

Why use a shaving soap?

A traditional shaving soap offers many benefits over modern shaving gels and foams. By using traditional recipes and quality ingredients, shaving soaps help to soften the beard before shaving. This allows the razor to cut the beard more easily which results in a closer and more comfortable shave. A shaving soap also offers a very slick surface for the razor to glide across. Shaving soaps come in a wide variety of fragrances, many of which are also available in matching aftershave balms and colognes, which make the shaving ritual a much more pleasant experience. Finally, a hard traditional shaving soap will last many months of use which can make it more economical than gels and foams and even shaving creams.

How to use a shaving soap

To make a lather using a shaving soap you must first soak your shaving brush in hot water for a minute or two. Badger and boar hair differs to most animal hair in that it absorbs water rather than repels it. By soaking the brush you allow it to absorb a large amount of water to help produce your lather. During this time it sometimes helps to leave a small amount of warm water on the surface of the shaving soap to soften it up slightly.

After the brush has been left to soak, take it out of the water, and shake off any excess water. Apply the shaving brush to the shaving soap and work it in a circular motion over the surface of the soap. At first this will create large bubbles and a thin lather will start to form. After a minute or two of working the brush on the soap the brush should have picked up enough soap to proceed to the next step.

You now have a choice of where to build the soap into a lather. This can be done in the palm of your hand, a shaving bowl or directly onto your face. For new starters a shaving bowl is a good idea because it allows you to see the soap develop into a lather and you control the amount of water that you add in a consistent way. A shaving bowl does not need to be anything special – it can be any bowl or large mug from your kitchen or it can be a specially designed shaving bowl.

To build the lather simply swirl the brush around inside the shaving bowl until the consistency stops changing which can take up to a minute. At this point you might need to add some more water to the mix. If the lather is still very stiff and thick then it needs more water so add hot water to the bowl about a teaspoon at a time. Eventually you want to get a lather that is light and shiny and has a texture similar to whipped egg whites (or slightly looser). If you add too much water then the lather will become too runny and will dry out too quickly when applied to the face. You will know you have added too much water when you start to see large air bubbles in the lather than you can't get rid of. When you first start it is a good idea to make some test lather and to keep adding water to the lather until you take it too far. Keep feeling the slickness between your fingers as you add water and you will begin to get a feel of when you have the right amount of water.

Once you have your lather at the right consistency you need to apply it to your face. Begin by applying the brush with a circular scrubbing motion around the face and neck. This will exfoliate the skin, raise the beard hairs and surround each whisker with lather. The longer you do this process the better as it also helps to soften the beard. When the face is completely covered you can change to a painting motion to even-out the lather over the face and take off any excess.

Choosing the right shaving soap for you

Shaving soaps can come in a bowl or on their own as a refill. The bowls are usually wooden but some companies prefer smaller plastic tubs. Each brand has their own shape and size of shaving soap which means that refills for one brand don't usually fit in the shaving bowls of another brand (although many will fit given a push).

Shaving soaps in wooden bowls

When people think of shaving soaps they usually think of a soap in a wooden bowl. These are the most popular types of shaving soap and they look great in any bathroom. They are very popular as gifts, especially with a shaving brush to go with it.

Shaving soap refills

If you already have a shaving soap bowl then when the shaving soap runs out you can just buy a refill. Some brand refills will fit in other brands shaving soap bowls but this is not always the case. It is possible to grate up shaving soap refills and press them into a different shaving bowl shape.

Shaving soap sticks

A shaving soap stick is ideal for travelling with due to its smaller size and water tight lid. Shaving sticks are usually applied directly to the face to transfer the soap and then a shaving brush is used to work the soap into a lather.