5th Addition to Optimum Lather Table: L&L Grooming Comes in at #2! Stirling Still at #1!
(Picture shows unused jar with 4 oz. of soap)
Purchase Date: August 11, 2017
Ingredients: Stearic Acid, Water, Potassium Hydroxide, Avocado Oil, Vegetable Glycerin, Bison Tallow, Mango Seed Butter, Castor Oil, Fragrance, Sodium Hydroxide, Lanolin, Bentonite Clay, Hippophae Rhamnoides (Sea Buckthorn) Fruit Extract, Salix Alba L. (White Willow) Bark Extract, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Seed Extract, Phenoxyethanol, Caprylyl Glycol, Sorbic Acid [Note: "Fragrance" does not belong here because this soap is the unscented version]
Container: The jar and cap are made of translucent, nearly clear plastic and have smooth sides. The top of the cap is smooth with no lip and has a slick, water-resistant circular label on it. The cap does not have a foam liner. There is no label on the jar, so the soap can be easily seen. The height of the jar with the cap screwed on is about 1.59 in. and the height of the jar without the cap is about 1.50 in. The outer diameter of the jar is about 3.80 in. and the outer diameter of the cap is about 4.09 in. The inner diameter of the jar is about 3.66 in.
Scent: The scent is very faint and inoffensive since the soap is unscented
Hardness: This soap is soft and actually feels like a thick cream when scooped out of its jar and pressed into the bottom of a lather bowl
Loading and Building: Given the softness of this soap, it is easy to load more soap than desired or needed. When building lather with measured amounts of soap and water in a lathering bowl, the soap seems to largely disappear at first. This correlates with timer results which indicate that it takes more time than average to build lather with this soap.
Optimization Results with Exact Lathers: Thirty-five (35) daily shaves were conducted from September 16, 2017, to October 20, 2017, with total mass ranging from 8.5 g to 11.0 g and water-to-soap ratio ranging from 6 to 14. Testing this soap took much longer than expected. It didn't take long to figure out that the best mass was roughly around 9.0 g to 9.5 g, but the optimum water-to-soap ratio threw me off. Originally, I was zeroing in on a water-to-soap ratio of around 9.5 to 10, but the lather and shaves did not seem as good as with lower water-to-soap ratios, so I revisted the issue and found that even though the friction was more, I was able to get better shaves with lower water-to-soap ratios that provided more cushion and protection, less nicks and cuts, and better post-shave results. With more daily shaves, I eventually settled on an optimum water-to-soap ratio of 8.5 with a total mass of 9.5 g. The resulting lather has a pretty good or good sheen with some yogurt-like behavior and only a few small bubbles. Adhesion and application smoothness are pretty good or good, cushion is pretty good, and the post-shave is good. The key to finding the optimum was reconciling the tradeoff between slickness and protection. Slickness for the optimum lather is okay to good, mostly good, with friction near the end of passes, and slickness was found to be similar or slightly better with higher water-to-soap ratios. However, the higher the water-to-soap ratio, the more cuts I got. The lather noticeably loses its really nice character as more water is added, becoming a little slicker but less protective with less cushion and a post-shave that is not as good. I wish that the optimum lather had more slickness, but I couldn't justify it at the expense of better shaves.
Ranking Results: Next-day testing against Stirling's optimum lather confirmed that Stirling definitely performed better with respect to slickness, resulting in a better shave, even though the cushion and post-shave were not quite as good as with L&L Grooming. Next-day testing against Sudsy Soapery's optimum lather confirmed that L&L Grooming performed significantly better with respect to cushion, protection, and post-shave, but slickness was similar, except that slickness with Sudsy Soapery seemed to start a little better and decrease with blade buffing due to less residual slickness compared to L&L Grooming. Overall, previous and new optimization results indicated that L&L Grooming is better than Sudsy Soapery, but worse than Stirling, and the recent comparison shaves yielded the expected result. The shaves with Stirling and Sudsy Soapery matched well to previous results, but total masses were found to be too high and both soaps produced slickness that was not as much as expected by the language that I used. My standards have shifted. I will update the optimum lather table for those soaps in the near future.
Final Thoughts: I like L&L Grooming. In fact, when I first started using a scented version of L&L Grooming, before I started doing any of this lather optimization stuff, I really liked L&L Grooming, despite its cost, and originally thought that L&L Grooming might have become my favorite soap. After I started optimizing lather, though, I went through what I had left of that scented version of L&L Grooming and concluded that Stirling was better. This time around with the unscented version of L&L Grooming, I went through the optimization process and came to the same conclusion. Stirling performs a little better overall.
Optimum Lather Table
|Performance Ranking||Soap/Cream||Soap/Cream Mass (g)||Water Mass (g)||Total Mass (g)||Water-to-Soap/Cream Ratio||Soap/Cream Price (USD)|
|1||Stirling Soap Co. Naked & Smooth Shave Soap||1.2||10.8||12.0||9.00||0.09|
|2||L&L Grooming Unscented Shaving Soap||1.0||8.5||9.5||8.50||0.16|
|3||The Sudsy Soapery Sandalwood & Myrrh Shave Soap||0.9||8.6||9.5||9.56||0.10|
|4||Barrister & Mann Latha Unscented Shaving Soap||1.0||8.0||9.0||8.00||0.09|
|5||Lisa's Natural Herbal Creations Sandalwood Wet Shave Soap||0.8||7.2||8.0||9.00||0.06|
- As documented on August 27, 2017, soap/cream and moderately hard water masses were directly measured in a smooth lathering bowl, using a 0.1 g resolution scale, and lather was built using a dry synthetic brush, so as to make exact lather
- Based on slower three-pass shaves with blade buffing using a smooth chrome-plated DE safety razor and agreeable blades and blade exposures, water-to-soap/cream ratio was optimized to the nearest 0.5 value while total mass was simultaneously optimized as precisely as could be accomplished by varying soap/cream and water masses from day to day. Lather from inside the brush was used as much as possible in order to effectively eliminate the influence of the brush on total mass.
- Rankings were aided by revisiting previously determined optimums and comparing optimum lathers in sequential shaves
- Prices are current for the specific soaps and creams that were evaluated. Prices for similar offerings are used for scents that are no longer available.
- The table is sortable such that clicking on a column heading sorts the rows according to that column's data, and clicking on the column heading again reverses the sorting order. Product names are links to optimization result threads.
- Stirling Soap Co. Naked & Smooth Shave Soap: Lather takes time to build up, developing into a lighter lather with a smooth consistency and a nice sheen. Slickness is mostly very good, but there is typically some friction near the end of passes. Cushion is okay, but lather lightness prevents cushion from being good. Post-shave is pretty good, but on the dry side.
- L&L Grooming Unscented Shaving Soap: Lather takes time to build up, but it has some yogurt-like behavior and only a few small bubbles. Adhesion and application smoothness are pretty good or good. Slickness is okay to good, mostly good, with friction near the end of passes. Cushion is pretty good. Post-shave is good.
- The Sudsy Soapery Sandalwood & Myrrh Shave Soap: Lather is neither like yogurt nor creamy, but there are few large bubbles. Slickness is good to very good. Cushion is fine. Post-shave is relatively dry.
- Barrister & Mann Latha Unscented Shaving Soap: Lather is neither like yogurt nor creamy, but lather is uniform with respect to very small air cells. Lather does not have much adhesion to skin during application. Sheen is nice, but not brilliant. Slickness is mostly good with some very good moments, but there is some friction near the end of passes. Cushion is not much, although it is fine. Post-shave is kind of dry with some overall irritation.
- Lisa's Natural Herbal Creations Sandalwood Wet Shave Soap: Lather is airy with uniformly tiny air cells and few visible small air bubbles. Sheen is okay, but not good or brilliant. Adhesion to skin is pretty good. Application is smooth enough, but not very smooth. Slickness is okay overall, with some good moments and virtually no stick-slip, but there is friction at times and near the end of passes. Cushion is okay, but it is not much. Post-shave is fairly dry with some irritation that probably corresponds with the irritation felt during and after application for the third pass.