Lather: fact and fiction

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Lather: fact and fiction

Post by gil3591 » Wed Jun 15, 2011 8:43 am

ok, i always wondered why we would need to lather our faces with a lot of lather. i've seen pics of guys in various formats with lather that was a 1/2" thick on there faces and looked like coolwhip. now don't get me wrong. i make a lot of lather also but i wondered why put so much lather on our faces? wouldn't any lather thicker than the length of a whisker be over doing it? i've noticed in old pictures and even old movies, say from the 30's, that when guys lathered back then it looked like a soapy film over their beard. maybe the products weren't as good, or back then guys just didn't care. lately on my final touch-up pass i squeeze the brush with my fingers and apply a little lather. i move it around and it gets a thin slimy coating over my beard. it produces and excellent medium for a final easy pass. great slide and good results. just wondering if anyone has some input as to why lather needs to be put on as heavy as we tend to apply it.

pics of two very different lathers
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Post by m3m0ryleak » Wed Jun 15, 2011 9:47 am

Good question Gil, it's crossed my mind (what's left of it) as well. Someone step in if I'm wrong but it is my understanding that lather is there primarily to carry water to the whiskers. And the actual interface of blade meeting whisker is down there at the molecular level, so why the need for the "Santa Claus" beard ?. At the price of Castle Forbes (for example) that's too much ho ho money to waste.

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Post by SRD » Wed Jun 15, 2011 10:07 am

Gil I don't think it takes as much as most of us put on our faces. But lets face it. Most of us indulge ourselves to the point where if a little works more can't hurt so why not? I know when I am in the woods I use a bar of bath soap and my hands to lather up. I always get a decent shave just not a decadent one. I am into that decadence part. :lol:

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Post by Squire » Wed Jun 15, 2011 10:47 am

Hey Gil, the old barber that taught me to shave used a thin lather made from a commercial Williams type soap. They used enough lather for the job but no more, mostly to save money, what with shaves being .50 each. Of course the beard was already prepped with hot towels and the shave was quick so there was no chance of the lather drying out. these guys knew what they were about and possessed skills acquired through decades of practice.

I use a thick lather because I can. I am taking my time and the voluminous (voluptuous?) lather doesn't dry out keeping the moisture underneath against the whiskers where it counts.

Thick or thin work and the difference in cost is less than 10 cents a week.

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Post by giammi » Wed Jun 15, 2011 11:14 am

I give more importance to the quality of the leather (creamy) than to my resemblance to Santa Claus.

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Post by jww » Wed Jun 15, 2011 11:26 am

giammi wrote:I give more importance to the quality of the leather (creamy) than to my resemblance to Santa Claus.

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Post by AxelH » Wed Jun 15, 2011 1:20 pm

I'm sure when it comes to advertisements the amount of lather is excessive, to promote excessive use of the product, which increases sales.

I'm thinking the practicality of more lather is to function as a barrier to prevent rapid drying of the bubble structures underneath, the ones in contact with the whiskers and skin.

Personally, when I've been shaving for over ten minutes (most open razor shaves for me are minimum 15 minutes) my skin has absorbed a few lathers and has enough slickness that I can just splash on some water to do touch up. I like to keep the lather on my face, even parts of my face that have already been "cleared" in a given pass in order to keep it hydrated. Even a thinner layer of lather, if the soap or cream has structural stability, seems to do the trick. I think it's more marketing and the suggestibility of the common cattle that passes for "men" these days.

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Post by gil3591 » Wed Jun 15, 2011 1:30 pm

after a rinse if i rub the remaining lather that's on my face all over my beard it is wetter and slicker than a full blown lather. maybe less cushion?
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Post by JayTrek » Wed Jun 15, 2011 1:39 pm

I always feel comfortable with a thin layer of lather. The only thing that matters is that it does not start drying out before you finish your pass.

Upon Further Review...

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Post by hexdump » Wed Jun 15, 2011 2:22 pm

Interesting question Gil. By accident, I face lathered with a completely soaked brush and had not squeezed or shaken it out.

I had smeared some T&H 1805 on my face and took the sopping wet brush directly to my face. There was lather everywhere of course, including running down on my chest, but I continued to work it. Eventually it started to thicken, but it would never win any awards as to quality. Looking at it, I said too thin, too many large bubbles, need more product.

Nonetheless, I shaved with it and had a terrific shave. I think there is something to it and plan to try it again.

I also recall a jingle from a very old shaving commercial, something along the lines of "The Wetter The Shave, The Better The Shave".

Prior to this I would always strive for a firmer lather, almost like yogurt.

Try it and see what you think.
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Post by OldSaw » Wed Jun 15, 2011 5:17 pm

My reasons for thicker (not denser/dryer) lather:

1. Feels good.

2. Insulates and holds in body heat against the natural cooling effect of evaporation.

3. Stays wetter longer than a thin layer.

I do frequently use a fairly runny lather for any touch-up work, which is usually pretty quick work, so I'm not worried about sacrificing any of the above.
Relax...Take it easy...Enjoy the lather


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Post by i_shaved_something » Wed Jun 15, 2011 7:43 pm

JayTrek wrote:I always feel comfortable with a thin layer of lather. The only thing that matters is that it does not start drying out before you finish your pass.
This is my take too, doesn't really matter the thickness of the lather as long as is doesn't dry out while actually shaving.

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Post by JarmoP » Tue Jun 28, 2011 2:05 pm

I have only recently, just maybe 2 months or so started to use mostly only paint brush style lathering on my face. It is not as thick lather and as "santa claus" looking as as when I used to smash the brush in my face lathering.

But, I feel this way lathering gives me more good supporting lather. I don't get it very wet either, just one or 2 dips on brush badger brush hairs to sink.
This paint brush style works also on my boar brush very well.

As others have told, I think it is more to how your lather works than how thick it looks.

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Post by Straight Arrow » Tue Jun 28, 2011 2:20 pm

I like a fairly thin layer of lather but not too thin, If it starts to dry out I simply dip the tip of my brush in water and re-hydrate.

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Post by marsos52 » Tue Jun 28, 2011 2:31 pm

its all about looks..

for the ad or movie

on tv a mcdonalds big mac looks wonderful,, then when you actually order one...

see my point

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Post by gsgo » Tue Jun 28, 2011 2:34 pm


Make lather with your brush from either soap or cream, then simply apply it to your face in brush like strokes, once a decent amount has been applied rub it in with your hands. The hand lathering seems to help thicken and cream out (take the air out of) the lather making for a nice dense layer which I find shaves quite nicely.

It's a bit messy but after watching countless clips of barbers shaving customers on youtube and perusing old barbering manuals I do feel the method works.
Good shaving,


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Post by brothers » Wed Jul 06, 2011 8:15 pm

Brushless shave creams are by nature going to be thinner than the lather made with a big badger brush. Even the most expensive "big name" shaving creams that most people believe somehow require being applied with a brush can readily be used without a brush: i.e.: without a lather, unless the thin but rich lather produced by rubbing the hands together then applying it to the face before shaving. That's what I mean when I say brushless. From Castle Forbes to Proraso to Domenico Caraceni, they're all good with or without a brush. I just happen to use a brush about 99.5 percent of the time, because I can! The thick lather is just a beautiful side benefit.

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Post by Flash G » Mon Aug 08, 2011 2:45 am

I was reminded of this thread when I watched a clip from the old Cosby Show. Theo is ready for his first shave an appears with a whole can of foam on his face and Cosby, on handing him the DE razor for the shave, says: "Don't lose it in there". :lol:

Sorry, but I can't seem to find the clip on YouTube.

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Post by Quarterstick » Mon Aug 08, 2011 8:11 am


An elephant for a dime is only a good deal if you need an elephant and you have a dime.

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Post by brothers » Mon Aug 08, 2011 8:36 am

Was it an Aristocrat?

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