One of the most difficult elements of making the transition from cartridge shaving to classic shaving is using a brush and soap to build your lather instead of getting it from a can. The aerosol can of shaving cream is convenient and simple enough – press the button and boom there is your lather – what’s the fun in that? Besides being more enjoyable, using quality shaving soap is also better for your skin and in many cases your health. Much of the issues behind a sub-par lather and a quality lather is the amount of water being used.
Not Enough Water
Not using enough water is probably the easiest problem to identify and fix. To fix the problem of soap that is too dry simply add some water. You can identify lather that is too dry on the bowl or brush by observing how thick it is. If it is too dry the lather will be somewhat clumpy and sticky and not at all the ideal creamy texture you are looking for. When you attempt to apply it to your face it will not go on smoothly. Your shave will be uncomfortable because the lather isn’t providing the lubrication needed for a close comfortable shave; you may also notice the lather start to dry on your face and flake off.
Too Much Water
It is a bit more difficult to tell whether or not your lather is too wet. For one thing it produces a lot of foam, it appears to be creamy, and loads up on your brush sufficiently well. Lather that is too wet is often hard to identify on the first pass of your razor because it is usually wet enough to provide lubrication to the longer hairs; it is on subsequent passes, when the razor is closer to the face that you will start to experience discomfort and irritation from that lack of lubrication. You can identify whether you lather is too wet by looking at the bubbles in your lather – larger bubbles tend to suggest that you lather is too wet. If your lather is at all runny whether in your bowl, or on your face, it is probably too wet.
The perfect lather is obviously somewhere between the two. You want your lather to be creamy and rich. If there are any bubbles they are tiny. Might / should look like cream that comes out of a Barbasol can. The lather will load on your brush with ease and apply to your face evenly and smoothly. While shaving the lather will stay in place and not slide down your face or dry and flake off. The lather on your brush will also maintain its density while you shave. But most importantly it will provide you with a quality – irritant and razor burn free shave.
Something to keep in mind is that all shave soaps react differently – so the amount of water used with one soap may not be enough for the next. A bit of experimentation is needed from soap to soap. The brush you are using will also have an effect on the building of lather. As will the type of water you are using (click for further information on hard and soft water).