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Shave without shaving soap


Well-Known Member
I did something a little unusual for my last shave. I was washing my face with some regular soap, lathering it up real good, and decided to just shave like that. Just some warm water, hand soap (maybe Dove), and razor. The shave was surprisingly nice. The biggest problem I had was knowing where to shave since I didn't have the shaving lather to guide me.

All in all the shave turned out just as smooth as a regular shave, except for a couple of patches that I missed. While awkward at first I think with some practice, and a few adjustments this method will work out just as nice as with shave soap. I think next time I'll try it with cold water.

Didn't people back in the day shave with just water? Anybody else try this before?



One of those "that shouldn't have happened" moments. So what makes a shaving soap? First of all, it must be alkaline. Because it must remove the oil (or tallow) on the face and whiskers. The rest is optional, such as the addition of potassium hydroxide and sodium hydroxide used as saponification agents. And then there is fluff, such essential oils, or coconut butter for nurturing the skin.

But the main feature is the whisker softening ability. Untreated whiskers are as tough as copper wire. A good shaving soap (or, of course, cream) will soften it by up to 80%. An often overlooked feature of beard preparation is that it takes around three minutes for the whiskers to become shave ready. Which is why good lather is a key ingredient in any successful shave. And why speed records are counter productive. As an aside, a high quality brush will drive lather into the hair follicle, which adds to a good preparation.

So, a good shaving soap will remove oil, soften the whiskers, and - ideally - raise them, too. Add lubricity, moisturising, and nurturing, and you have a perfect base. And regular soap just does not provide that. Especially the lather aspect. So while you might be able to use regular (alkaline) soap, I am not. My whiskers are far too coarse for that.

As for water only, or cold water, it also can be done, but it does not work for me at all. Might work for others, but I cannot see why it should. Either way, I like the luxury aspect of good lather too much to not use it. And just for the record, people back in the day also killed mammoths and dragged them into their caves - never tried it for lack of mammoths, but generally speaking, I prefer cooking meat obtained from the local butcher's. I call it progress. Same as modern shaving soaps.


Well-Known Member
I understand Dove soap is a little more than ordinary, whilst I have no idea what its made from, I do know I have shaved with it, and its ok, not fantastic, but ok.

I have recently started making my shaving lather "wetter" than I normally would, after seeing how our own Gary shaves his customers, and I must say it works great for me, I figure the extra water softens the whiskers more.

Ralfson (Dr)