Worked into a Lather

Part three of three:

    If the romance of a cutthroat or the precise engineering of a safety razor is the bait that lures the curious shaver away from disposables, then the joy of a traditional lather is the hook.  It was, at least, for me.  After years of hacking off teenage stubble with a disposable razor buffered by cheap aerosol foam, I stumbled into a tube of cream and an inexpensive shaving brush.  Despite amateur technique the effect was immediate; the razor tracked smoothly through whiskers and glided over those trickier spots around the jawline and neck.  The next shave was better, and the one after that better still. 

    This cycle of improvement is the true benefit of quality products and equipment.  The reason is two pronged: the obvious source is the product itself, which makes a far richer lather, with soap bubbles many times smaller and more densely packed than what squirts from a can.  The latter more resembles defatted commercial whipped cream—insubstantial and incapable of properly coating anything, let alone a face preparing to be razored.  The other source is the user, who, in possession of a high quality wet shave product, slows the process down, paying greater attention to technique and comfort.  The beard thanks its owner by cooperating; inside of a month of wet shaves using the right stuff, razor burn and ingrown whiskers will vanish, stubble will grow more evenly, and the skin seem softer and more conditioned.  

    Results will likely vary, but my preferred routine is straightforward.  Following a hot shower, I soak a badger brush (Simpsons, Chubby No. 2) in warm water.  I wet the face and neck with the brush, and using rapid little lateral passes over a cake of tallow-based soap set in a wooden bowl (D.R. Harris, Windsor) build a rich lather until the brush itself is loaded with lather.  Using moderate pressure and beginning with the neck, I apply the lather, making certain of uniform and complete cover.  I shave.  Touchups are occasionally necessary, which is why I don’t rinse the brush of its lather until satisfied with the shave.  I follow with several dashes of aftershave (D.R. Harris, Windsor) which I allow to evaporate completely while I dress.  If necessary, as it often is, I follow with a pea-sized puddle of a light moisturizing balm (D.R. Harris, Aftershave Milk).  Each of these products have the same clean, powdery, unobtrusive fragrance that clings to the shaven face for several hours, making further perfumes unnecessary.

    I’m fortunate in that my beard is cooperative.  Others have much more difficult beards that require all manner of additional steps, from soaks with pre-shave oil to second or even third passes with a razor.  In fact, I have the above routine down to an efficient five or six minutes—just long enough to ensure a clean and comfortable shave without too much fuss.  Pity, really; I could easily spend a quarter hour each morning with my kit.