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Why use Lather and why shouldnt I just use my standard foam in a can


This page is part of the Interactive Guide to Lathering. It intends to document the benefits of using a different lathering implement than shaving cream in a can. This article is not here to convince you to switch to something else. This article was written to give you some information on how beneficial a shaving soap or shaving cream could be over what you are probably used to, canned foam. Just keep in mind that if it works for you, use it![1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11]

Why use lather?

So, what's the point of using lather?[12] Well, that's up to you. Some use water, some use oil (or shaving oil), some use brushless, some use canned foam, some use shaving soaps and some use shaving creams. The point of the lather or, something, is to put a protection between your skin and that sharp razor blade to avoid irritation. The purpose of any of those products is to provide a thin layer of lubricant allowing the razor to glide over your skin. If your razor skips or doesn't glide smoothly you can look at 2 things:
  1. Your lather is not slick enough
  2. Your blade is not sharp enough
Those are the common factors of a bad shave. However, lather is an essential item to any wetshaver ritual.

The basics

First, shaving cream, foam or gel in a canned have been around for a few years and it doesn't look like they will disappear any time soon. Let's first understand where they are from. The first can of pressurized shaving cream was Rise shaving cream, which was introduced by Carter-Wallace in 1949[13]. Around the same time (1940s) the brushless shave cream was also introduced where a shaving brush wasn't required anymore.[14] Those products where probably marketed as being more convenient and quicker than building lather on a puck of soap or with shaving cream.[15] The old Barbasol jingle is a proof: “Barbasol, Barbasol ... No brush, no lather, no rub-in ... Wet your razor, then begin."[16]

Is lather in a can "real" lather? Yes it is even if most think it's almost 50/50 saying it's not[17]. In the end, the result that a can produce is lather, it's simply a different format. Most of them are brushless but you can use them with a shave brush if you want to. If it's not brushless, the instructions are usually printed on the container. Regardless if the lather in a can is brushless or not, some still get good results, which is all right.[18] [19]

Can you use the canned lather with a shave brush?

Well, sure you can![20] [21] You can try adding a bit of water (soak your brush first) and build the lather. Even if the product is brushless, it should work.

Why should you use something else than canned lather?

That's an interesting question since canned lather is so easily accessible compared to traditional wetshaving stuff! No exactly, traditional wetshaving stuff is also available, you just need to know where to look. But really, why should you use something else?[22] [23] [24][25] The answer, you don't have to. Well, just consider this. By using shaving soaps or shaving creams you are producing less waste or trash. Think how many can of lather you are using a year, now, multiply by everyone who shaves. That's a lot of cans! When it's shaving cream, it can usually be recycled. When it comes to shaving soaps, that too. Those little cardboard boxes can be recycled, the plastic tube can be cleaned and recycled. From an ecological point of view, it's quite good. But what else? The nostalgia effect or thinking that you are shaving like your grand-pa. Sure, it takes more time but that's your time! The exfoliating effect of the brush is also very good for your skin. Finally, take a minute next time that you will be at the store buying you canned lather. Have a look at the ingredient list. Knowing that your skin absorbs pretty much anything, are you happy knowing that you are spreading all those products on your skin? Would you rather have a shaving soap or shaving cream that contains 5-10-15-20 ingredients top?

If you compare these two products, which one sounds, looks and most importantly, are you most comfortable using?[26] [27] [28] [29]

  • Gillette Fusion Hydra Gel, Ultra Sensitive: Water, Palmitic Acid, Triethanolamine, Isopentane, Glyceryl Oleate, Steric Acid, Fragrance (Parfum), Isobutane, Sorbitol, Glycerin, Hydroxyethylcellulose, PTFE, Peg-90M, Tocopheryl Acetate, Peg-23M, Propylene Glycol, Glyceryl Acrylate/Acrylic Acid Copolymer, PVM/MA Copolymer, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Methlyparaben, Propylparaben, Green 3, Blue 1.
  • Geo. F. Trumper West Indian Limes Shaving Cream: Aqua, Stearic Acid, Myristic Acid, Potassium Hydroxide, Coconut Acid, Glycerin, Perfum, Triethanolamine, Sodium Hydroxide, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, CI 19140, CI 42090, CI 14700, Alpha-Isomethyl Ionone, Benzyl Benzoate, Citral, Coumarin, Hexyl Cinnamal, Limonene, Linalool.
The two products are not easy one as they both contain many ingredients. The key to select a good product is to get more information on those ingredients. You could even compare the ingredients on canned lather if you like.[30] One of the most common argument is that canned lather will dry your skin.[31]

Can canned lather be good?

Well, yes, like any product.[32] You can find something that uses a bunch of ingredients and it still works well. Again, if using a can of lather is easier for you, there's no shame in it. Even if you are using a straight razor or a safety razor...


Out of anything, you cannot wet shave without lather. Otherwise it would be a dry shave. The lather is there to protect your skin. Regardless of what you are using to build your lather, you need it. What you use as lather is totally up to you. There are products out there that are filled with a lot of ingredients and others that are more simple. There are some that work better than others regardless of how many ingredients they have. The thing is, if you are looking at this, you are probably considering a straight razor or a safety razor. Even if you are not, consider trying lather from a shaving soap or shaving cream. Just try the difference, what do you have to lose? You could look for one of the inexpensive products that are available around you and a basic starter shaving brush. It won't cost you must to get started.