How To Use A Shaving Brush
After reading so much about brushes, maybe you’re wondering just how you use one? As mentioned above, brushes are used for creating a lather with hard soaps or cream. You then use the brush to apply this lather to your face in circular motions.
There are several techniques for lathering, which depend all on personal preference. Below is an overview but the next section features a detailed bowl lathering guide.
By far the most common technique, you create a lather using a bowl or mug, which is then applied to the face. This is often the most convenient method for creating lather and much easier to master.
After loading the brush, the user builds his lather directly on the face when spreading it. This negates the need for a shaving scuttle or bowl but is much harder to master. You will need a good quality brush and decent hand-eye coordination when watching the lather build in the mirror.
Hand lathering is far less common but not unheard of. Although this is often undertaken when travelling and no bowl is available, there are men who swear by this technique. However, it’s not a very practical method if shaving with a straight razor as you often need both hands.
How To Lather Shaving Soap
In this next tutorial, you will learn how to properly lather shaving soap or cream with a shaving brush. You can also use the handy infographic below as a visual aid to help you on the way.
You Will Need
Although it’s possible to lather soap without a bowl, the result is often superior and easier to achieve when using a bowl. Note that this is a separate bowl to the one which contains the soap. Worst case scenario, you can use the sink but this may be inconvenient and not very hygienic. Alternatively, you can always use a normal coffee mug instead!
There are also many shaving brushes available on the market and we offer an excellent guide on the best brushes to buy.
Step 1. Soak The Brush
While you prepare for your shave either with a hot towel or shower as we outline in our main shaving guide, soak your brush. If you’re using a straight razor, you may even use this time to strop it.
Simply leave the brush in your bowl or mug filled with water only covering the bristles. Use hot water but don’t overfill as you don’t want the wooden handle to absorb too much water. If you don’t have a bowl, you can either use the sink or a regular coffee mug.
Soaking the brush is only necessary if it has natural bristles such as boar. If yours is synthetic, you can more or less skip this step entirely.
Step 2. Bloom The Soap
Blooming the soap means adding some warm water to it and letting it soak. All you need to do is run the tap and let a few drops form a puddle over the soap’s surface.
Take care of this at the same time as step 1 and just let it soak in while you prep for your shave.
If you’re using shaving cream, you won’t need to do this. However, shaving soap is very hard when set. This makes the loading process in step 3 very difficult to achieve when the soap is dry.
Furthermore, the results are always better if the soap has been left to bloom for at least 15 minutes. This is ample time for the water to penetrate deep into the soap and give you a rich, softened surface.
Step 3. Load The Brush
Loading the brush is the process of adding enough soap to the bristles for lathering. Do this after a little time has passed since steps 1 and 2. If you’re using shaving cream, you can jump straight to step 4.
Take your brush out of the mug and give it a squeeze to remove any excess water. Don’t flick it as you will need the water contained in the bristles. If you have a synthetic brush, just pass it under the tap and squeeze in some water.
Pour away the bloom liquid from the soap’s surface. Some enthusiasts like to keep this in a separate mug to use for additional water instead of running it under the tap again. However, it’s a matter of personal preference.
Applying only light pressure so that the bristles bend but don’t splay, begin swirling the brush on the soap in circular motions. Do this for around 30 seconds alternating between clockwise and anti-clockwise movements. Hard water may need an additional 15 seconds to properly lather.
Now that you have a thick cream, scoop up a snurdle of soap and massage it into the bristles or transfer it directly to the mug. If you’re wondering, a “snurdle” is a nut-sized dollop of soap that’s often referred to as the ideal amount for lathering.
Step 4. Create The Lather
Here comes the fun part. You’ve either added a snurdle to your bowl or mug. However, if you’re using shaving cream, just add an almond-sized amount to your bowl now.
Start by pressing the brush in the bowl or mug until the bristles splay. However, take care so not to damage the bristles as natural hair can be fragile. Swirl it again for around 30 seconds while alternating between clockwise and anti-clockwise movements.
A creamy lather may begin to take shape but you’re not quite finished. Pass the brush through running water or dip it in the bloom solution if you kept it. Now repeat the above twice while remembering to wet the brush in between.
If you end up with a bubbly lather, you may need to add more soap. However, if the cream is far too thick, you’ll want to add more water to your brush.
Step 5. Lather Your Face
Now that your lather is ready, it’s time to apply it to your face. Begin first by rinsing your face thoroughly with warm water. You want to make sure that there’s a barrier between your skin and the soap for extra lubrication.
Next, pass the brush through the water again and load it with some lather. As the water will begin running down your face, start applying from the sideburns and go down. Work your way towards the chin and neck while swirling the brush in tight, circular motions.
Step 6. Shave & Post-Shave
Your face is properly lathered and you’re ready to go. Head to our main shaving guide to learn the basics of wet shaving. Alternatively, you can use our guides on either shaving with a safety razor or even a straight razor for specific tips and advice. We even have a post-shaving guide, which covers balms and ointments to ensure your skin is properly nourished afterwards.
Shaving Soap & Brush Cleaning After Shaving
Whether you bought it for $10 or $100, all shaving brushes are precious. Therefore, it’s important to properly look after it to increase its lifespan. Particularly high-quality brushes can last for decades and even an entire lifetime if cared for. Furthermore, once you’ve finished with your soap, you may be wondering what to do with that overflowing puck of lather.
Preserving The Soap
Although the lathered soap in your mug will dry out and is best rinsed away, the soap you loaded with can be preserved.
A lot of people simply rinse the bowl and soap then close it for next time. However, if you think about it, it’s just soap that’s been whipped. Therefore, you might as well keep it for next time. If you leave the bowl open for a day or two, it’ll settle and dry. You can then use it next time you shave and because it’s been whipped once, it’ll be easier to load next time.
Nevertheless, avoid closing it when wet. Some containers and especially tins can become hard to open if the soap dries inside. The soap essentially seals the lid or screw threads, which can be a pain to get open again.
Rinse Your Brush
Firstly, it’s important to properly rinse your brush when you’ve finished with it. Hold the brush under running water and point it downwards. This will get rid of most of the leather from the knot. Massage the bristles carefully without tugging any hairs out and squeeze out the soap.
Point the brush upwards whilst cupping the top over the bristles so the water doesn’t hit them directly. Let some water trickle down into the knot and squeeze it a few times.
Finally, gently flick the rinsed brush a few times to remove any excess water.
Dry Your Brush
Gently wipe your brush on a clean towel in different directions. Once the excess water has been removed, wrap it with the towel and give it a firm squeeze. Although the brush will unlikely be dry, it’ll be damp rather than wet.
Storing Your Brush
There is a great debate as to whether you should stand your brush on the handle or hang it from a holder. Some argue that hanging it lets the water trickle out without damaging the knot. However, others claim that standing it will let it dry through capillary action.
In fact, the best method is to lie it down horizontally in order to achieve both these things. However, whatever you choose shouldn’t have much of difference.
Nevertheless, it’s always best to store your brush in a dry area away from the bathroom. Leaving the brush in a closed, damp environment may damage the brush and prevent it from properly drying. Therefore, keep it somewhere away from any humidity so it can dry properly.
How To Break In A New Shaving Brush
Sometimes brushes are a little stiff and coarse when first purchased. Although this can happen to badger bristles, it’s particularly common among boar brushes. Another frequent complaint is that new brushes come with a funky animal smell especially when wet.
Both these issues are easy to take care of but require a little patience. The following method is also great for cleaning your brush as it may have trace dust particles when delivered. However, take note that you can’t break in a synthetic brush so this is mostly for natural bristles:
- Run warm water through the brush and soak for 5-10 minutes.
- Fill a mug halfway with warm water.
- Add a dollop of hair conditioner and washing up liquid.
- Whisk the solution with your brush until foaming.
- Massage the bristles and leave to soak in the mug for another 10 minutes.
- Rinse out the next day and load the brush with a lather.
- Stand the brush and leave lather to dry overnight.
- Thoroughly rinse the brush.
- Dry carefully.
- Repeat if smell persists.
The above method should cover all your bases. It both breaks in the brush and removes persistent animal odours. Furthermore, it seasons the brush for a better bloom and leaving in the lather conditions the hairs.
Don’t worry if some boar brushes shed a few bristles during this process as it’s not uncommon with new brushes. Also bear in mind that it may not get rid of the smell entirely. However, rest assured that it is perfectly clean and hygienic. Keep using it for your shaving routine and the musk will subside.
Now that you’ve read about lathering up, remember that we offer extensive guides for other shaving materials and techniques. We recommend the following guides further reading: