After taking so much time to grow this masterpiece of a beard and researching the best ways to care for it and keep it healthy and soft, the process of shaving may seem like a trivial topic. But trust me, it’s not.
You might wonder why it would be important to invest so much time into the practice and application of achieving a good lather with your shaving soap. Why does it really matter? Shaving is a pretty general activity, right?
Sadly, it’s far too common to see men shaving with cheap, store-bought, canned shaving cream, soap, or even nothing but water (yikes). While you can certainly shave your beard with these methods, there are far better ways to accomplish this process that will not only give you a better shave but also reduce the risk of a razor burn.
Using a nice, quality shaving soap and learning to lather it in the best way will make this already painful experience (emotionally, that is) far easier to bear.
What you will need
If you have a beard, you have a razor. Or at least you should. If by some random chance you don’t have a razor, that’s okay.
There is not one perfect razor, but if you’re a beginner, you might consider using an Edwin Jagger DE89 .
If you are more experienced in the area of wet shaving, you might consider using Muhle R41 Open Comb.
Also, the Seki Edge Feather AS-D2 is a good choice of razor for both beginners and pros.
- Shaving brush
When it comes time to choose the kind of brush to use, don’t think you can get away with being cheap.
A good shaving brush is a pretty key element to a good shave. If you don’t already have one, consider getting this shaving brush.
The price is reasonable, and the quality is high. However, don’t take my word for it. Everyone has their own preferences.
Find a brush that works for you and your beard.
- Shaving bowl
Buying a shaving bowl isn’t a necessary purchase. Some people prefer to just use a cup or bowl from their house to avoid the extra cost, but if you do prefer to buy a shaving bowl specifically meant for you can buy a relatively inexpensive one on Amazon.
It isn’t uncommon to find shaving brush and bowl combo deals as well.
- Shaving soap
There are a variety of shaving soaps out there, but the key is finding the one that you prefer.
Check out this article to read about some of the best soaps currently on the market. There are a wide variety of choices and most of them are high quality, but every soap as pros and cons.
You might even try mixing more than one soap together to get all of the benefits you desire.
- Aftershave balm
Purchasing balm for after your shave isn’t mandatory, but it is recommended for a better shaving experience.
If you are still skeptical, take a look at this article’s argument in favor of the product.
- Preparation of tools
a. Before you even think about doing anything with your soap, the first thing you should do is fill a bowl or a sink with warm water and let your brush bristles soak in it for 5-15 minutes.
While this is happening, you should also start the “bloom” process for your soap.
Essentially what this means is that you need to place a layer of warm water over your soap and let it sit there for 5-15 minutes as well.
This softens the soap and makes it much easier to load onto your brush when the time comes. Some recommend starting this process right before getting in the shower so that it’s ready as soon as get out.
b. Once your brush bristles have sat in the water for an adequate amount of time you should give your brush one squeeze to remove some of the water.
Don’t squeeze the brush more than once; you still want some water to remain in the brush for the lathering process.
c. Place the water you placed on the beard soap in a separate container for now. You have the opportunity to use it later if you choose to do so.
Before creating your lather, you must load your brush with soap by placing it into the bowl containing your soap.
Gently place your brush into the soap, just enough to cause the bristles to splay out a bit.
You don’t want to apply too much pressure, but if you don’t apply enough, you won’t be able to get the right amount of soap on the brush.
When you have enough pressure, begin swirling your brush in a circular motion for 30 seconds.
When the 30 seconds has passed, you should notice that a lather has just begun to start. If you don’t see it, you might try loading your brush for another 10-15 seconds.
There are several different ways to create a lather, but there isn’t necessarily one right way.
If you have never done this, I would recommend trying to create a lather in a bowl, your face, and your hand in order to determine which way you prefer. Every method is effective, but not necessarily effective for every person.
Find what works best for you. I will give detailed instructions for each method.
a. Creating the lather in the bowl
i. If you’re using a bowl, place the bowl in your non-dominate hand and the brush in your dominate hand. You will want to place the brush in the bowl and apply minimal pressure to cause the bristles of your brush to spread out a little bit.
Don’t apply too much pressure as you don’t want to damage your brush. When you have the right pressure, create a circular motion with your brush vigorously for 30 seconds.
The specific motion you use will vary depending on what type of bowl you are using. It may take a few tries to determine what works best for you.
ii. Once you have done this, you need to add a little water. People often add too much water, so what you want to do is turn your water faucet on the lowest setting possible, while maintaining a stream of water and allow the ends of your brush to pass through it one time, quickly.
You will need no more water than that at this time.
iii. Spend another 30 seconds lathering the soap in the bowl with your circular motions.
If you lather starts to work up and spill out of the bowl that is completely normal.
I would recommend just working it back into the rest of your lather. Once you have done this for another 30 seconds, it will probably look pretty good, but it doesn’t hurt to wet your brush again and do 30 more seconds of lathering before you use the soap.
iv. There is no magic number of cycles for creating a lather. It really depends on the bowl, the brush, and the person.
However, there are a few clues to help you determine when you have reached the peak in lathering. If the lather feels as though it is exploding from the bowl, you have reached a good point.
Also, the good lather will have a light sheen, and it will be slick to the touch.
Tip: If you plan to lather in a bowl, many recommend using a badger brush with longer handles.
b. Creating the lather on your face
i. Creating a lather on your face will look similar to doing it in the bowl. The biggest difference, of course, is that you will be without a bowl, thus all of the steps apply, other than the fact that you will be creating your circular motions with the brush on your face.
You will begin by getting just a bit of water, as the above instructions explained. Then place the brush down and wet your face before you begin to lather, starting by your sideburns.
Try to keep the motions in tight circles and slowly work from your sideburns down to your chin.
ii. Once you have done this for a bit, you will have better control of how much water your brush has based on how much you “chase” the water that will be sliding down your face.
You will want to keep in mind that gravity pulls that water down, meaning there will be more water by your chin and neck.
iii. Continue to lather until you have used all of the water that is on your face.
Then get water on your brush one more time and repeat the process. After this you may need more water, but just like the instructions for lathering in a bowl, it will depend, so simply check the consistency of your lather.
Be sure that you have plenty of lather on your brush as you will need to use one or possibly two other passes with your razor, so you will want to have more lather available on your brush to apply to your face.
Tip: If you will be lathering on your face, many recommend using a stiffer brush like a boar bristle one. These brushes tend to help your beard by exfoliating it, thus helping with ingrown hairs, acne, and razor bumps.
c. Creating the lather in your palm
Don’t laugh and think that this technique is silly or invalid. Lathering directly into your hand is an entirely valid way to do it, but fewer people tend to do it.
Essentially, your palm is replacing the bowl, so the process is exactly the same, just be sure to cup your hand into the shape of a “C.” You might wonder why anyone would opt to use their hand if it’s the same process as using the bowl, but there are some distinct advantages to using your hand.
Though it may be a tad bit messier, you don’t have to worry about cleaning a bowl when you finish, and your hand is much easier to clean.
You also get a much better idea of the consistency of the lather when it is directly in your hand.
This technique is usually recommended for people who are trying out a new type of soap or brush. It’s also good to for simply practicing the process of lathering.
- Application of lather
a. It may seem like the process of creating the lather was already a lot of work, but properly applying the lather to your beard is just as important.
By applying the lather with your brush you are able to free the follicles in your hair which allows the lather to surround them.
This act means that the follicles are suspended off your face, thus making the job for your razor much simpler.
So, all that’s left to do is apply the lather.
b. The first thing you should do is wet your face. Once your face is wet, you can apply the lather.
Remember, only apply enough pressure onto the brush to make the ends splay out.
Once you have the right pressure, apply the lather in a motion of small and tight circles. Really, though, there are a plethora of ways to add the lather.
Some use painting strokes, dabbing, swirling, etc. Do whatever works for you as long as you’re sure that the lather is adequately worked into your skin (if you created the lather on your face, this is the point when you should make one to two more light passes just to make sure you have enough lather to shave).
c. Make your first pass with the razor. Once you have completed your first pass be sure to rinse your razor.
Splash your face with some water in order to check which areas still need to be shaved.
Once you have felt your face and evaluated what is left, splash your face again then apply more lather and shave once more. This process is to be repeated until you are satisfied.
A method fewer people discuss is using a shaving stick. The concept sounds pretty different from lathering with soap, but in actuality, the process is largely the same.
If you decide to use a shaving stick, it’s essentially the same kind of soap it just simply comes in a tube that can be pushed up. There are two different methods to applying a shaving stick.
1. Apply water to your face then apply the exposed section of the shaving stick to the bearded part of your face. This action leaves a residue of the soap.
Now you can take your brush and make small circular motions to build up a soapy lather. You can add water to your brush if you find it necessary. Continue this process until the lather is how you like it.
2. If this process doesn’t work for you, there is a method that is similar to hand lathering.
If you hold the stick nearly level with your hand and use the brush in your other hand, you can make small circular motions to create the lather on your fist.
1. If you buy a new soap, many recommended spending some time performing test runs in order to insure that you can lather it correctly.
Even if you know what it’s supposed to look and feel like when it’s ready, it might help to see and feel it when it’s not ready, to help distinguish the differences. Always strive to make your lather even better the next time.
There’s always room for improvement.
2. Now, in case you thought I forgot about the “bloom” water from the preparation stage, I assure I did not.
A lot of people recommend using that water if you need to add a little bit of water to your lather as it is a bit more concentrated than just water from your faucet.
3. If you like certain soaps for certain qualities, but dislike certain soaps for certain qualities, you might consider mixing the soaps to create the perfect soap for you.
Now that you know the best way to lather with shaving soap, it’s time to put your knowledge into practice.
If you read all of this and think it’s a load of crap, you can think whatever you like, but it’s simply not true.
You can shave the way you see best, but if you’re really looking for the best and most comfortable shave, I will always recommend a process of lathering a quality shaving soap. And remember, the process will vary slightly for everyone, so find what works for you and stick with it.
Let me know what you think in the comments below; I’d love to hear from you. And, of course, feel free to share this article with anyone and everyone!