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no luck with shaving cream/brush vs standard foam

A little background: I started wetshaving over a decade ago, bought a razor, blades, brush, all kinds of creams, etc. I still wetshave...but with regular Gillette shaving foam that I buy at the supermarket. Why? Because no matter what cream I try, what method I use, what videos I watch, etc....I have never been able to get a lather that works anywhere near as well as the Gillette foam in a can. The foam comes out thick, sticky, and fluffy, with large peaks; I can almost feel/see the hairs on my beard being suspended upright in it. But when I use a shaving cream, it's usually too wet and thin, no matter what I do.

I just need to know--is it even possible to get a shaving cream to generate a lather that's similar to a foam out of a can? Or is it just not a possible thing, due to the fact that foam in the can has aerosols etc that give it almost an unfair advantage?
 

ajkel64

The Aussie Bulldog
Moderator
It may have something to do with the water in your area. You might have hard water that might make it difficult to lather up soaps and creams. You could try using some distilled water from the supermarket and see if this helps. There is nothing wrong with using canned foams and gels. I am using a canned gel from Aldi that I used to use years ago. It is good stuff and I don’t mind using canned products from time to time. For some of us, canned products just work.
 
Take double your regular portion of cream and add the water only bit by bit - take your time - and see if it changes the result. I would do this outside of your regular shaving routine to just concentrate on building your lather. What products are you using? How wet is your brush when you start?
 
Can you get a better lather as from a can? Nothing wrong when you are happy with a can to start with. But most of the shaving community seems to prefer the diy route and that is usually because of a reason.

I get less skin irritation and a better experience with the diy route.

I prefer croap and hard soap over cream but cream works too. And hopefully someone in hard water country tells you which ones.

The hardness of your water makes a difference use bottled if needed

Try building lather in a bowl and slowly increase the amount of water until you get a good feeling for it.
Build thickness and add a couple of drops to add the shine.

A textured bowl builds lather faster.
 
I live in a hard water area. The water is so hard my wife uses CLR in her cleaning routine when cleaning the faucets.

I use soap and cream. I don’t get the foam like comes out of a can of foamy, but i get better foam than comes out of a can of Edge Gel. You dont need the foamy peaks like foamy produces. What you are looking for is a foam that is hydrated enough to supply a layer of slickness and a layer of foam to hydrate the hair.

Im using Mitchell’s Wool Fat soap, Stirling Soap and TOBS cream and i don’t have any issue producing a nice slick layer that hydrates the whiskers. I bowl lather, loading the soaps for 60 seconds and then adding water a few drops at a time so that I don’t end up with a wet soupy foam. With cream, i put about a 1/4 teaspoon in the bottom of the bowl and mash it out as flat as i can. I then lather with my brush adding water a few drops at a time.

If you’ve ever watched a geofatboy video, that is what my lather looks like.

You might also check the lathering Wiki.

 
Take double your regular portion of cream and add the water only bit by bit - take your time - and see if it changes the result. I would do this outside of your regular shaving routine to just concentrate on building your lather. What products are you using? How wet is your brush when you start?
I've tried all kinds of products...the latest one I'm using is Taylor of Old Bond Street sandalwood cream (my wife got it for me for the holidays). I soak my badger brush in hot water, then squeeze the bristles tightly to get all the water off, then just barely dip the tip of the brush bristles in some more water. I use a goodly portion of cream (almond-size).

I can get a lather going, no problem, after a minute or so of vigorous swirling around in the bowl. If I squeeze the brush bristles at that point, a bunch of lather emerges. However, although it looks fine, it's not as "strong" as foam can lather, and instead of "sticking" to my face in a thick foamy firm lather, it just sort of paints on in a very thin and wet layer.
 

ackvil

Moderator
The purpose of lather is to give you a protective shave. For me, thick lathers that come from a can look good - but don't give me sufficient protection. These canned lather contain air and other ingredients that make the lather appear thick. However, they don't have sufficient water to provide slickness. It is not how it looks but rather how it performs.
 
I've tried all kinds of products...the latest one I'm using is Taylor of Old Bond Street sandalwood cream (my wife got it for me for the holidays). I soak my badger brush in hot water, then squeeze the bristles tightly to get all the water off, then just barely dip the tip of the brush bristles in some more water. I use a goodly portion of cream (almond-size).

I can get a lather going, no problem, after a minute or so of vigorous swirling around in the bowl. If I squeeze the brush bristles at that point, a bunch of lather emerges. However, although it looks fine, it's not as "strong" as foam can lather, and instead of "sticking" to my face in a thick foamy firm lather, it just sort of paints on in a very thin and wet layer.
Slick is good, even if you get those super peaks once it’s on your face the slickness counts not that you can impersonate Santa Claus. Search here for Uber lather recipes if want to see these whipped cream like peaks but if you get consistently slick lather then you should get a better performance on your shave than with canned foam.
 
TOBS Sandalwood should be really easy to lather, but as suggested above you might try bottled water if your domestic water supply is hard. It is certainly possible to make thick lather as you describe with TOBS simply by spending a lot of time and controlling the water; many such images can be seem in the 'lather shots' in this forum. In my experience very thick lather that peaks and has the consistency of yogurt may look good in images, and even that is debatable, but it performs poorly. I prefer a thinner lather with more water and more slickness especially for an ATG pass or if using an AC razor, and I have zero interest in 'cushion', whatever that is. I think that trying to produce a lather that replicates that from a can is missing the point. That said, you have been at this for long enough to know what works for you and what does not so again I suggest trying bottled water. Good luck.
 

never-stop-learning

Contributor
Ambassador
The purpose of lather is to give you a protective shave. For me, thick lathers that come from a can look good - but don't give me sufficient protection. These canned lather contain air and other ingredients that make the lather appear thick. However, they don't have sufficient water to provide slickness. It is not how it looks but rather how it performs.
Big +1 to this. :)

To the OP: Do you face lather or bowl lather?
 

emwolf

Contributor
I had a Cella shave this morning and the lather produced was much like the lather photos in another thread. It was luxurious. So, yes, the lather I get beats a can every time. Plus I have the benefit of better slickness (I tried Barbasol recently and was shocked at how tacky it was), and I have the variety of scents. However there is definitely a market for the foam cans, or else it wouldn't be produced. That's what makes the world an interesting place to live is we are not all the same.
 
It's possible that you may not be able to get lather from a cream or soap to look and feel the same as the foam from a can tbh due to the fact that it comes from a pressurised container and contains a lot of air.

Most people on here would probably not want their lather to be that way but if it's what works best for you then that's the most important thing and stick with it I say
 
Whatever works best for you is most certainly what you should use. But, experiments are going to be needed to figure all that out.

You indicated that you're using a badger brush. I think it's worth mentioning that using a synthetic brush to lather in a bowl is quite different than using a badger brush to face lather. And soaps can lather differently than creams.

I have fairly hard water and I get my best lather, by far, using a synthetic brush to bowl lather. It looks just like it came from a can, and I used to struggle with lathering using a badger brush and my hard water. If you haven't tried a synthetic brush and lathering in a bowl, you might find that combination worthwhile. And, really, it's not too expensive an experiment.
 
I have fairly hard water and I get my best lather, by far, using a synthetic brush to bowl lather. It looks just like it came from a can, and I used to struggle with lathering using a badger brush and my hard water. If you haven't tried a synthetic brush and lathering in a bowl, you might find that combination worthwhile. And, really, it's not too expensive an experiment.
Thanks--which brush do you use?
 
Actually, I use quite a few different brushes. Right now, I've been using a Simpsons Trafalgar T3 and I'm very happy with the lather I can produce with it. I also use a Timeless plastic lather bowl pretty frequently, and I believe that it helps. The Yaqi synthetic brushes are very good for the money, as well. Although I do like the lather I can get from my Trafalgar better.
 
It sounds like you aren't using quite enough soap and you're adding too much water too quickly. I had similar problems when I started out. I have a few suggestions for you.
  1. Use more soap/cream. If it's cream, use at least 2x the typical almond size that most people recommend. If it's soap, load 2-3x longer than you have been.
  2. Use less water. I'm less experienced with badger, but I would soak it for 3 -5 minutes, then shake all of the excess water out before starting to build your lather. Don't squeeze (you get rid of too much water) and don't wet the tips right away (you add too much water back in too soon). Slowly add water only as what you're building starts to get a bit thicker.
  3. Try an inexpensive synthetic. I still struggle to make a good lather with my badger, and I always had problems with my boars. When I switched to synthetics it was like magic. Everything just started working.
  4. If you're lathering up in a bowl, try something with some texture. Stirling and a few others sell some inexpensive silicone or plastic bowls with texure in the bottom. It helps A LOT.
All that being said, if you want to keep using the foams, then that's what you should do. If you want to figure out the soaps/creams, I think you can with a few adjustments and I think you'll be glad you did.
 
I can almost feel/see the hairs on my beard being suspended upright in it.
You can imagine that alright, but you can't really see it.

No foam, cream or soap made lather will do that, unless your facial hair is say 3 months growth long.

For a daily shaver with whiskers being 0.3-0.5mm long, there's nothing to "suspended upright".

Hair lifting foam/lather is yet another myth. There is no such thing.
 
I've tried all kinds of products...the latest one I'm using is Taylor of Old Bond Street sandalwood cream (my wife got it for me for the holidays). I soak my badger brush in hot water, then squeeze the bristles tightly to get all the water off, then just barely dip the tip of the brush bristles in some more water. I use a goodly portion of cream (almond-size).

I can get a lather going, no problem, after a minute or so of vigorous swirling around in the bowl. If I squeeze the brush bristles at that point, a bunch of lather emerges. However, although it looks fine, it's not as "strong" as foam can lather, and instead of "sticking" to my face in a thick foamy firm lather, it just sort of paints on in a very thin and wet layer.
You can get an excellent shave with the thinner and wetter layer of cream. Or you could try swirling the loaded brush on your face directly. I tried the brush in the bowl routine some time ago with a soap sample, and while the lather was fine and so was the shave, I get a much better lather doing the work on my face. Actually on my throat; I work the brush against that larger beard-free area there, spread it arrund, then up on my cheeks.
 
If you get good results and it works for you, don’t give creams and soaps another thought. Advantages:
- available locally
- cost less
- avoid the try everything, rate everything rabbit hole


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