Now that you have selected the bowl you want to use (for tips on selecting a bowl, see the “Selecting the Proper Lather Bowl article here), it’s time to build that lather for an enjoyable shave. There are really two ways to go about creating the lather in a bowl. Both ways work perfectly fine and the way you do it is entirely up to your personal preference. In this post, we shall examine both techniques.
Technique one, scooping from the container: This technique works really well on creams, soft soaps/croaps and even some harder soaps. One of the benefits of scooping out soap from the container is that it is easy to get approximately the same amount of soap for each shave. One thing to keep in mind while scooping out the soap is 1) what type of brush are you using and 2) how much surface are you going to be shaving? The first part is important as natural hair brushes test to hold onto, or eat, lather. If you are using a boar brush, is it completely broken in? For a badger brush, is it a super high-density knot? For synthetic brushes, is it really stiff, or floppy? The knot type will help determine how much soap should be scooped into the bowl. The amount of a particular soap could also vary based on artisan, or even base. Some experimentation will be required here. My personal preference is to scoop out more soap that I think I may need as I’d rather have to much lather than not enough.
When I scoop out soap, I generally use an old plastic baby food spoon. Why that type of spoon? Mostly because we had a few extra around the house and that ‘s what my wife said I could use. My wife will use the end of her razor to scoop out some soap and place it in her bowl. Once I have scooped out the amount of soap I plan on using, I then press it into the bottom of the bowl and spread it around so there is a thin layer of soap around the bottom. This helps create an even layer of soap to create the lather as well as makes it so the soap is being picked up and mixed with the water evenly.
From there, I start with a damp brush and start working the soap in clockwise motions and then alternate to counter clockwise motions. I slowly add water to the bowl either by dripping some water in with my hands, or by using a squirt bottle. The squirt bottle is my preferred method as I feel it allows me to better control the amount of water being added to the soap. After working the soap and building a nice lather, one way to test to see if the lather is hydrated enough is to press the knot of the brush up to the side of the bowl and slowly pull away. If there is a lot of resistance, the lather may need a little more water. Once the lather is dialed in, I then paint it on my face with the brush and enjoy the shave.
Technique two, loading from the container: The second technique is exactly what one would do if creating a face lather. One of the benefits of loading the brush from the puck is if you normally face lather and are transitioning to bowl lathering, you generally know how long to load the brush (how long you swirl the brush back and forth on the soap to add soap to the knot) for the soaps in your collection. If you start with a wet brush, loading upside down with the soap container over the lather bowl is a great way to catch the airy pseudo-lather that will form (assuming you start with a really wet knot). That pseudo-lather can then be used to create the lather in the bowl. After you have loaded the brush enough and have some pseudo-lather in the bowl, proceed to build the lather in the bowl as described above, slowly adding water and working the brush in the bowl.
One thing to keep in mind if you do load from the container and bowl lather is that you not only have the brush and bowl to clean after the shave, you now have the soap tub to clean as well. I know not everyone cares if there are left over suds on the soap that they dry; again, this is a matter of personal preference.
No matter what method you choose to employ in creating a bowl lather, it can be a rewarding, relaxing experience that adds some enjoyment to your shave.
Do you currently bowl lather? Which method do you prefer to use? What is your favorite bowl to use? Let us know in the comments below.