Shaving foam from a can is so easy—squirt, lather, and shave.  If you want to make the switch to shaving soap, you need to know how to get the lather you need.   

You can use one of three techniques to get a good lather from your soap.  In the bowl, or wet, method, you create the lather in a bowl.  With the dry process, you create the lather your face. 

Some men use their hand as a bowl to make the lather.  Whichever method you use, your goal is creating a slick and protective coating for your skin.   

Still not sure how to use shaving soap?  This guide will take you through the process step-by-step. 

You will also learn why you shouldn’t use regular soap for shaving and what to look for in shaving soaps.  Let’s get started.

How to Use Shaving Soap with a Brush

First things first—your goal when creating a lather is to create a slick and protective coating for your skin, not to create lots of bubbles.  A thick lather layer that is not slick is not going to give you a smooth shaving experience.

Dry Brush Method

With the dry brush technique, you create the lather on your face, not in a bowl.  Don’t be misled—you will be using some water with this method.  However, you won’t need a separate bowl, which is why some men prefer this method.

Before getting started, your brush should be soaked.

  1. Remove the brush and squeeze out most of the water.  Your goal is a damp but not wet brush.
  2. Dribble a bit of water on soap.  Your water’s hardness and the type of brush you plan to use affect how much water you will need.  Hard water makes lathering more difficult.  
  3. Begin swirling to load the brush.  Do so for 15-30 seconds until you have a paste of soap on your brush.  Your brush should be thick and pasty.
  4. Wet your face and begin to paint the lather onto your face.  
  5. If the soap is sticky, then dribble some additional water on the brush and brush it in again.  

You are ready to shave when you have a sleek and shiny lather on your lower face.

The Wet Brush Method

To use this method, take your brush out of the water, squeeze out enough water to leave the brush wet, but not dripping.

  1. Add a few drops of water to the soap
  2. Load your brush again in a circular motion until it covers the bristles.
  3. Grab your bowl or cup and pump and swirl the mixture until creamy and well-hydrated.  Add water as needed.  Your lather should resemble Kool Whip and have a bright sheen.  
  4. If you feel brave, turn the container upside down to let the lather seep into the brush.
  5. When you have a good, bubbly lather and have loaded your brush, wet your face, and begin to lather.  
  6. Add a few drops of water onto the brush and continue lathering until you have a well-lubricated lather.

A critical difference between the wet and dry methods:  if you stop too soon with this method, the lather will dissipate while if you don’t lather long enough on the dry brush method, you wind up with a paste. 

The Hand Method

This is another wet brush method—the key difference is that you use your hand like a bowl.  Otherwise, follow the wet brush steps as outlined.  Tip:  start with a moist hand.

Which Method Is Best?

That depends on you.  Some men prefer using the dry method because it is less messy.  You might prefer the messier wet method so that you do not have to spend as much time lathering your face. 

If you want to cut down on the clutter at your sink, you might want to use the hand method.

How to Use Shaving Soap without a Brush

The brush plays an important role in creating the lather, and most shaving gurus will recommend you use one.  However, if you don’t have one, lost it, or just want to try something different, here are some options:

Stubble.  Think of your stubble as a short brush.  Wet your face, and then wet the soap and rub it into your face.  Use the same swirling motions to create a lather.  It won’t be brush-worthy, but you should be able to get a passable, but not comfortable shave.

Washcloth.  A washcloth can also serve as a brush substitute.  Swirl, pump, and load the washcloth best as you can.  Wet your face and work the lather onto your face.  Again, don’t expect a great lather with this method.

Loofah.  Laugh if you want, but a loofah gets a decent lather while also clearing off dead skin from your face.  Use the wet brush technique, being careful that your loofah is not too wet.  And if it wasn’t yours to begin with, rinse and put it back.

Paintbrush.  A purist might frown at a paintbrush, but you will be able to get a decent lather with a brush. Again, use the wet brush technique.   With a little practice, you can get a decent lather.  Don’t use a paintbrush you plan to use again for painting.    

To get the best results, stick with a shaving brush.

How Is a Shaving Soap Different from Regular Soap?

Some guys wonder why they cannot simply use regular soap.  It’s a good question, and the answer lies in the purpose of regular soap, which is to remove dirt.  On a simplified, molecular level, it does so by suspending dirt in the oils of your skin and then lifting the dirty oils from your skin.

Shaving soap is not interested in lifting dirt from your skin.  Instead, it needs to create a stable lather that won’t quickly disappear and is slick enough for the blade to glide smoothly over your skin.  Finally, shaving soap needs ingredients to hydrate the skin and provide antiseptic properties.


Basic Lathering Vocabulary

Knowing these terms will help as you learn how to create a lather and apply it to your face.

  • Bloom the soap—adding a few drops of warm water to the soap to soften it.
  • Swirling—moving the brush in a circular motion.  It is the primary technique you will use to create a lather and get it on your face.
  • Pumping—pumping the brush up and down after the water and soap begin to mix will help incorporate air into the lather.
  • Load the brush—a loaded brush has been filled with enough soap for you to begin painting.
  • Painting—the up and down motion used to apply and mix lather on your face.

Bottom Line

Using a facial soap can seem complicated at first.  Remember that the goal is to create a smooth lather the consistency of Cool Whip.  Creating the lather is part science and part art. 

The science is understanding the steps and why they are needed.  The art is knowing how much water you need and how long to swirl and pump for the brush to be loaded requires trial and error.  Once you perfect the art, you can look forward to a luxurious lather and shave.