What's new

Can Great Lather be Generated from Any Reasonable Quality Shaving Soap or Cream?

I saw that part (and I'll be honest, it almost made me delete my whole post and replace it with a "Yes."), but it sounded almost rhetorical and I wasn't really sure what kind of an answer you were expecting to get, to that specific point. If you assume the technique is on point, and all the ingredients are "the right quality"... then why wouldn't it work well? :confused1
Statement is about having quality ingredients that are also the right ones for a shaving soap. A manufacturer can make a high quality soap but if they only saponify with sodium hydroxide one likely has a great bath soap that may be marginally acceptable as a shaving soap with rapidly dissipating lather. The right formulation would have included some potassium hydroxide to provide more stable lather.
 
Any soap that contains sufficient stearic acid and potassium hydroxide can provide a nice stable shaving lather.

There's a soap in India which has 5 ingredients and produces a very rich, creamy lather because it's predominantly made up of stearic acid, palmitic acid (plus some coconut acid) and 100% potassium hydroxide (no sodium hydroxide at all!).
 

musicman1951

three-tu-tu, three-tu-tu
My experience is similar but the way I would phrase it is I can get good enough lather to have a good shave from any reasonable quality soap or cream — and that's including soaps not marketed for shaving per se. But there's definitely some soaps and creams I enjoy more than others, and I'm not sure I could work any soap or cream into an equally great lather, at least for me.
If you would agree, I would agree. I can make pretty good lather from any soap, but some definitely work better for me - just because I can make lather doesn't make it all great lather.
 
Scalpmaster is another example of a shaving soap that does not have the right ingredients for a stable lather. It's missing saponification with potassium hydroxide that enables more stable lather. Ingredients include : Sodium Palmate, Sodium Cocoate, Aqua, Parfum, Glycerin, Sodium Chloride, Titanium Dioxide, Tetrasadium EDTA, Etidronic Acid. There is an old B&B thread that talks about this linked below.

Basically this is appears to be a bath soap labeled as a shaving soap.

Similar for Lightfoot's Shaving soap. Its ingredients include: Sodium cocoate, water, glycerin, dwarf pine oil, penta sodium pentatate, tetrasodium editronate, natural color and fragrance. Note that Lightfoot's appears to be well regarded as a bath and body bar.


Scalpmaster Thread from 2017:
Ah, yes, I remember participating in that thread as a novice. Thanks for reminding me.
Right after that is when I started reading the ingredients labels closely.
 

Ron R

I survived a lathey foreman
Any soaps that give me issues that I have found(rarity) I just mix a little shaving cream in to help out the soap is all I do and it always works for myself. Some call it cheating but why not before throwing it out or not ever using it. The scent will change but the lather is very good mostly and I'm happy.
 
Well, in the original posts text you said you can get any reasonable quality post to "work well", when in the title you used the word "great"...meaning exceptional.

Those are two very different things that will produce different answers.
 
Last edited:

JCinPA

The Lather Maestro
Fun to come back after a hiatus and find this thread! :D When I first joined the forum I had been using Williams for about 10 years getting great shaves with it, and like an earlier poster, was told that wasn’t possible, I must not know what a good lather is. A few years later some younger members discovered what good shaves you could get with Williams and they actually started a Williams lover subforum! LMAO!

Two things:

1. Yes you can get a good lather from practically all shaving soaps if you understand them.
2. However, some are better than others, the range of lather quality is quite wide. While I used Williams for years, today I would not trade Cella for it, Cella much, much better.

Well, three things, I guess.

3. Some are tough, and while I can get a good lather with anything — eventually — some are a LOT of work, and life is just too short when there are so many that later easily.

I published a thread trying to help people understand their soap and get them over lathering difficulty which was very well received. But I noted that some were much harder to lather and some were much easier. If you liked a scent and were having trouble with it, I presented an experimental method to help folks get over the hump. Like you, I think I can lather just about anything.

But some just are not worth the effort. Case in point, a much-loved classic, Mitchell’s Wool Fat. I got it to lather well, and understood it is easier to do when you use it, if not exclusively, at least several times a week to keep it hydrated. To me, as someone who likes to rotate through Lather products, that amount of finickiness just wasn’t worth it for me, so The Fat went by the wayside. Great soap, but I just don’t want to use it every day and work that hard to keep it supple. GREAT soap for the huge fan that uses it almost all the time, but for me? NEXT!

That said, I think I could lather just about anything into a usable shaving lather, but some are much easier than others to do so, and some create lathers that angels sing about, others work, maybe work well, but are just “meh”.
 
Well, in the original posts text you said you can get any reasonable quality post to "work well", when in the title you used the word "great"...meaning exceptional.

Those are two very different things that will produce different answers.
The use of these two phrases is correct and consistent as "great lather" refers to our desired result and "work well" to the process of achieving that result. Used together it would be perfectly correct to state that the shaving soap worked well to produce great lather. Also "great work" is often uses as a synonym for "well done". You are incorrectly splitting hairs over semantics. To recap:

The first use of the phrase "work well", in the opening paragraph, is part of a discussion of ingredients "These products use ingredients that work well for shaving including fatty acids such as tallow or stearic acid....."

In the third paragraph I stated "I've found that the right technique can generate great lather from any of these soaps and creams." followed by details on how to achieve this.

After the details I concluded "The bottom line is that I've yet to acquire a quality commercial shaving soap or cream that I could not get to work well with the right technique."

Nothing inconsistent about these phrases. What is your view on the overall premise in the OP?
 
Fun to come back after a hiatus and find this thread! :D When I first joined the forum I had been using Williams for about 10 years getting great shaves with it, and like an earlier poster, was told that wasn’t possible, I must not know what a good lather is. A few years later some younger members discovered what good shaves you could get with Williams and they actually started a Williams lover subforum! LMAO!

Two things:

1. Yes you can get a good lather from practically all shaving soaps if you understand them.
2. However, some are better than others, the range of lather quality is quite wide. While I used Williams for years, today I would not trade Cella for it, Cella much, much better.

Well, three things, I guess.

3. Some are tough, and while I can get a good lather with anything — eventually — some are a LOT of work, and life is just too short when there are so many that later easily.

I published a thread trying to help people understand their soap and get them over lathering difficulty which was very well received. But I noted that some were much harder to lather and some were much easier. If you liked a scent and were having trouble with it, I presented an experimental method to help folks get over the hump. Like you, I think I can lather just about anything.

But some just are not worth the effort. Case in point, a much-loved classic, Mitchell’s Wool Fat. I got it to lather well, and understood it is easier to do when you use it, if not exclusively, at least several times a week to keep it hydrated. To me, as someone who likes to rotate through Lather products, that amount of finickiness just wasn’t worth it for me, so The Fat went by the wayside. Great soap, but I just don’t want to use it every day and work that hard to keep it supple. GREAT soap for the huge fan that uses it almost all the time, but for me? NEXT!

That said, I think I could lather just about anything into a usable shaving lather, but some are much easier than others to do so, and some create lathers that angels sing about, others work, maybe work well, but are just “meh”.
Great post based on lots of experience. You are right that the amount of work will vary across shaving soaps. Curious as to all the variables you have played with to produce great lather out of your soaps? My sense is that these come down to soap hardness, brush stiffness, brush size, puck size/surface area and water hardness. Any others?

I do spend more time loading my hardest pucks and for Williams found that a stiffer boar works best. Surprisingly, after all the reviews, such as yours, I assumed that my Williams technique, extended loading with a boar, would be required for Williams. Instead I found that this pulled too much soap of the puck so I've now use my synthetic plissofts. The fact that both of those have larger 26mm knots likely helps pull plenty of soap off the puck. In all cases I start with a dry puck, never found the need to hydrate them. YMMV I guess.

I've seen posts from many indicating that grating their soaps made them easier to lather. Once I 3017 one of my current apothecary mug soaps I want to try this with a straight Williams puck. Suspect that one reason this helps a soap like Williams is that grating provides more surface area to load from with my larger brushes. Will be curious to see if I still need the boar for Williams when it is spread out across the bottom of my mug.
 
You can shave with any soap. Some depend on how long you want to mess with them. Williams is one that is worth experimenting with as it produces a killer lather. Some soaps just arnt worth the effort when there are so many good soap available. Heck, VDH is a good soap especially for pennies a shave.
 
Scalpmaster is another example of a shaving soap that does not have the right ingredients for a stable lather. It's missing saponification with potassium hydroxide that enables more stable lather. Ingredients include : Sodium Palmate, Sodium Cocoate, Aqua, Parfum, Glycerin, Sodium Chloride, Titanium Dioxide, Tetrasadium EDTA, Etidronic Acid. There is an old B&B thread that talks about this linked below.

Basically this is appears to be a bath soap labeled as a shaving soap.

Similar for Lightfoot's Shaving soap. Its ingredients include: Sodium cocoate, water, glycerin, dwarf pine oil, penta sodium pentatate, tetrasodium editronate, natural color and fragrance. Note that Lightfoot's appears to be well regarded as a bath and body bar.


Scalpmaster Thread from 2017:
Indeed these soaps are missing potassium hydroxide, but that is not what makes them bad. The lack of potassium hydroxide and only using sodium hydroxide lye makes for a VERY VERY hard soap. This soap will be so hard that it makes it difficult to load your brush. I have made single lye (sodium hydroxide) shave soap and it works great IF you can get enough product on your face/bowl. I literally had to use it as a shave stick to get enough to lather well. Now in my single lye sap I also had proper amounts of the two most important fatty acids for shave soap, stearic acid and/or palmitic acid.

You might then wonder which fats/oils contain these acids. stearic acid (duh), tallow, palm oil, soybean wax, shea butter, cocoa butter and other butters. If you do not see these oils/fat as the first ingredients of the shave soap, DO NOT BUY IT! These are what generate the nice stable lather that we are after.

To address your soaps in your post.
Scalpmaster: Sodium Palmate is saponified palm oil good next ingredient sodium cocoate is saponified coconut oil ok. Coconut oil will give you large bubble lather that is not very stable, but it is good to have some to make it easier to make lather. The big problem with this soap is that it is a single lye soap and TOO HARD. It will be tough to get enough product to make a good lather. You can lather with it fine, but just like in my case it takes some work.

Lightfoot's shave soap: Only made with coconut oil. It will yield a very nice bubbly lather that will dissipate rather quickly. It makes for a great bath soap, but not a good shave soap. On top of that it is a single lye soap. I would only use this as a bath soap.

I looked up Geo F Trumper as well:
This is their Sandalwood Hard Shaving Soap
Ingredients:
Sodium Palmate, Sodium Palm Kernelate, Aqua (Water), Glycerin, Sodium Cocoate, Parfum (Fragrance), Sodium Chloride, Tetrasodium Glutamate Diacetate, Isopropyl Myristrate, Coumarin, Tetrasodium EDTA, Linalool, Citronellol, Alpha-Isomethyl Ionone, Eugenol, Coconut Fatty Acid, Geraniol, BHT, Benzyl Salicylate, Limonene, Calcium Carbonate, CI 77891 (Titanium Dioxide), CI 77492 (Iron Oxides), CI 77491 Iron Oxides).

Based on what I said above this may be a fine shave soap IF you can get enough product off the puck. It is a single lye soap and it will be VERY hard and potentially difficult to load your brush from. Not too bad ingredients otherwise. Just too many unneeded chemicals for my personal taste.

Note: Pretty much all true bath soaps are made with just sodium hydroxide and they will yield a just fine bath soap. The ratio of potassium and sodium hydroxide determine how hard the soap will be. More potassium hydroxide -> softer soap. More sodium hydroxide -> harder soap. Croaps are in some cases only made using potassium hydroxide to make them soft.
 
Agree. I have a single lye soap from Denali Soap Company and the bubbles were too airy, but the fragrance was nice and the ingredients were good. I mixed it with some Arko and now it smells and performs well, basically fixing both soaps.

Another example is Cremo cream. It isn't designed to lather, I couldn't get it to lather, someone else said they did, but I don't think there is any point in trying to get it to lather. If you want it's slipperiness with some lather, use it as a pre cream and put something else on top.
 
Last edited:
At their core most shaving soaps and creams consist of saponified fatty acids. Can any reasonable quality shaving soap or cream generate great lather with the right technique?

Over the past two years I've added a number of good commercial shaving soaps and creams to my rotation...

So...many...words...aah... 😩

A good shaving soap benefits from a high percentage of stearic acid. Too high a proportion of coconut oil can made lather less stable. Mixed potassium and sodium hydroxide is OK but the soap needs to be soft enough to load the brush fairly quickly.

The basic concepts are well known. It's not rocket science. 👨‍🔬
 
For me, lathering was the hardest part of wetshaving. I was never able to master generating a good bowl lather with a cream/soap and brush after I joined in my mid-60s. Living in a house with hard well water at the time did not help. It wasn't until I switched to blooming and face-lathering soaps with a decent badger brush and a drier lather, did I find what worked for me. Just experiment and enjoy the journey in finding what works for you.
 
I make great lather from bath soap. It’s more about technique than the soap. It also helps to define the goal: a slick shaving lather or billowing clouds of whipped cream that look great on the Web.
 
I used Williams for years, today I would not trade Cella for it, Cella much, much better
I have a Cella jar that is almost 5 years old...always works great :thumbup1:
I know a very frugal Italian gentleman, who uses Cella red in winter and Proraso Green in summer... just 2 soaps are enough
 
Top Bottom