The first time I used a shave soap was a disaster for me. I had bought a puck from a high-end department store and was looking forward to an amazing shave. I got exactly the opposite. It is when I opened the jar that I realized I had no idea how to use shave soap. Unlike the shave cream, this thing was solid and and I could barely make a dent in it with my finger.
Several failed attempts later, I think I've mastered the art of using a shave soap. In this guide I want to share with you how to use shave soap with three simple steps: bloom, lather, apply.
Shave Soap vs. Shave Cream
If you are like me, your first shaving experience was with a shave cream or some kind of a shave gel. In my case, this was what my dad used and I just stole his.
In general, shave creams are more popular than shave soaps for one simple reason: they are easier to use. You can squirt out some on your hand, rub it on your face, and you are ready to go with razor.
Chemists created the first shave cream for the soldiers fighting in World War I. The army needed something that required less effort in the war field. Using a shave soap in the trenches wasn't practical.
Since then, the shave cream has gained popularity and ruled supreme. Until now.
The Return of the Shave Soap
In the recent years a return to the old ways of shaving has brought back the use of shave soaps back to popularity. Nowadays, you can find a wide variety of shave soaps that kick some serious ass when it comes to shaving. Many artisan brands produce soaps with aromas and lathering properties rivaling some of the best shave creams on the market.
Recently, I came across a shave soap that smelled like burning leaves. Another one smelled like a freshly-cut grass. I can't say I was a fan of the burning leaves one but the grass version was amazing.
One of my favourite brands, First Canadian Shave Soap Co., comes from a guy in rural Ontario. He makes the soaps in a home-based operation but the quality and aroma surpass anything I've tried from the big companies.
The Biggest Difference
If you've already use a shave soap, you know their texture is different than that of a shave cream. Shave soaps are harder than a shave cream but softer than a regular soap. Unlike regular soap, shave soap has more potassium hydroxide. It helps it lather up more.
The biggest difference between shave creams and shave soaps is how you use them. You can use a shave cream by just rubbing it in your face (not the best way but it works), but you can't do that with a shave soap. The only way to work up a decent lather from a shave soap is to use a brush.
Don't let the brush business discourage you. Using a brush gives you the added benefit of prepping your face for the shave by massaging your skin and raising up your whiskers. Simply, whether you use a shave cream or a shave soap, using a shave brush is always the better way to go.
How to Use Shave Soap: 3 Simple Steps
Using a shave soap is more work but it is also more fun. By trying different techniques and watching the pros do it, I've discovered the following three steps give me the best results.
Step 1: Bloom the Soap
Blooming the soap means softening it by adding some hot water to it. I usually do this before I jump into the shower. I add just enough hot water to cover the surface of the soap.
I put the lid back on and jump into the shower. When I come out, the water has softened the soap, which makes it easier to lather up.
I get the bloom water and rub it on my wet face. Nothing goes to waste here. The soapy water gives me some extra moisture and it also smells great.
A good friend of mine who taught me this technique claims the soap water helps the lather bind better on the skin. I'm not sure how true this theory is but I do it anyway because it feels good.
Side note: Blooming your soap may be a particularly helpful if the soap is very hard or if you shave with hard water.
Step 2: Lather Up the Soap
Once I've drained the water from the soap tub, I squeeze out any excess water my shave brush. Before shaving, I usually soak my shave brush in warm water to soften the bristles.
The surface of the soap is already wet and soft, as is your brush. Any extra moisture would result in extra lather, which you may not use.
Start lathering up by rubbing the brush on the surface of the soap. Keep rubbing it by making circular motions.
The experts call this process loading the brush. If you use a high quality soap, it won't take you long to work up a thick rich lather. A good lather would hold the bristles of the brush together without forming soap bubbles.
If the bristles of your brush easily separate, it means you need more water. Add a couple of drops and continue to rub.
If the lather looks runny and bubbly, it means you've got too much water. Shake off the brush and continue to rub it on the soap. Eventually, you'll lather up more soap and you'll get a good texture.
Step 3: Apply the Lather
You have a thick, rich lather on your brush. It looks beautiful as it glistens in the light. A soft aroma wafts from it. After you've put your pre-shave cream, start massaging the lather into your face. Take your time. Enjoy it. Feel how the brush caresses your face with the luxurious lather.
I apply the lather on my face by making circular motions. I also try to lift up my whiskers by rubbing the brush against the grain. Once you have lathered up your face, you are ready to start shaving.
Before you begin shaving, though, it's a good idea to rinse off your soap. After you've loaded your brush, there is usually some lather residue left in the soap tub. I usually rinse it off by running the soap under running water. I make sure there is no excess water in the tub before I put close it and put it away.
I'm not sure if rinsing your soap is absolutely necessary. I do it so that next time I use the soap, I don't have any residue of dried up lather. I don't think such residue impacts the quality of the soap. It's just aesthetically pleasing.
Here it is: your three step guide to how to use shave soap. I don't claim this is the best method to use but it is the one that works best for me. You follow a different routine prepping your shave soap? Share it in the comments below. I'd love to hear from you and learn a new way how to use shave soap.