For Christmas my wife bought me a puck of Col. Conk’s Bayrum shaving soap. Unlike shaving cream, shaving soap looks much like a regular, round bar of soap. Specially made to create a good, protecting lather, I prefer it to shaving cream and have enjoyed using it for the last five months.
Unfortunately all that use takes a toll. When using a brush to create a shaving lather you first “load” the brush, which means getting condensed soap into the bristles to then put onto your face. Due to a combination of brush shape and my natural tendency to load from the middle of the bar, what started as a bar about one inch thick was eventually worn down to a soap donut.
This created a problem for lathering. When loading a brush soap naturally congregates in the middle of the bristles, so having soap without a middle means that it is very difficult to load the brush properly. The result is a thinner lather that does not last long either on the brush or face.
After a bit of internet research I came across a solution: melting. While it does not work for all soaps (such as triple-milled and I think also soaps that are tallow based), for others you can heat the soap to a melting point, then reform it into a new shape.
To do this I put mine in a small, microwave safe glass bowl (my wife was very supportive of microwaving soap in her dishes). I’d heard some say to start with 5 seconds, others said 30. I went with 10 seconds to start, then checked it to see if more was needed. To my delight, the soap had completely melted (and was smelling great!).
After letting it cool the result was a solid block of soap, evenly thick and perfectly smooth. While I could have tried to get it out of the dish, I decided just to leave it in until I use it up (or we need the dish). If I needed to get it out I might try floating the dish in warm water to soften the portion touching glass, but we’ll cross that bridge later.
I tried it out this morning, which also meant that I was trying out lathering soap in a bowl for the first time. I’ve always just lathered on my hand or directly on my face, so I was interested to see what the result would be.
It worked great.
Melting the soap gave it a nice smooth surface. Before loading I soaked the brush in warm water, and spread a few drops of warm water on the top of the soap to soften things up. With about 10-15 seconds of swirling I had a brush loaded thick and ready for application.
The bowl really helped to get the soap into the brush. Both the first and second application were far thicker than usual, creating a smooth, protecting lather. I expected the soap to be running low by this point, but going into the third pass the brush was still loaded heavily with soap.
The result was probably the best lather I’ve ever had, from the beginning to the end of shaving. It was so successful that once I find a permanent shaving bowl I might just try melting soap directly into it from the start rather than waiting for it to be worn down through use.
And to think I was contemplating just chucking the left over soap and getting a new bar. What a waste that would have been!