Once a staple of the edwardian man’s toiletry collection, and a common sight in old school barber shops, the concept of Shaving Soap has come in and out of popularity over the last century. Until the mid 1950s it was a staple of every well groomed man’s sink. Somewhere in the late 1950s or early 1960s this form of lather for shaving gave way to aerosol cans of shave cream which was instant with the press of the button on the can. Beneficial soap with bentonite clay gave way to a chemical blend that whipped with the help of aerosol.
Shaving soap is not a cream, but rather a very gentle cold processed soap that has been infused with a small amount of bentonite clay to create that smooth and close shave. Bentonite clay is a natural clay that is pasturized for use on the skin. Bentonite clay is the ingredient that provides a smooth slippery surface for the razor to glide over the skin, and naturally pulls toxins from the skin.
Our soap is a blend of Coconut, Palm and Olive Oil that is cold processed with sodium hydroxide (Lye), bentonite clay and essential oil added, and the soap is then poured into a 3″ diameter mold. (we use a piece of PVC pipe that has been lined with freezer paper, although we are experimenting with alternative linings for the mold.) Each of the oils in our soap have specific purpose and qualities. We use coconut oil in this formula because it offers the best lather and makes the soap harder. Recently we inproved the formula with a larger percentage of coconut oil – harder, longer lasting, and way richer lather.
Once the soap (combining of the oils, essential oils, clay and lye water and blended to a pudding stage) is poured into the mold it is covered, and wrapped in a large fluffy towel to keep the batch warm. Soap is a bit like glass or ceramics – Heat is generated by the process of blending the oils with lye and that formula has to slowly release the heat, and cool to room temperature. The chemical change that occur is known as saponification, or turning oils and lye into a solid soap. Lye acts as a catalyst to blend oils with water. But the saponification process must be carefully controlled with temperature (the bath towel allows the heat to remain and slowly dissipate). The molds are set aside for a week of soap curing in the mold before they are cut, wrapped and boxed up.
When the mold is opened a 3″ diameter log emerges. Steve takes the log to his cutter, creating 1″ slices. Then I take over, wrapping each “puck” of shave soap, and packaging each in its own little gray box. The wrapping is known as french wrapping… which starts with a circular piece of deli wrap, the soap placed in the middle, and gently small pleats of the paper are wrapped over to the top center. This folding process continues until the entire bar is wrapped. A small sticker holds the wrapping in place. Each box also receives a small booklet titled “A Guide to Using Shaving Soap”. We realized there were questions about how to use the soap, and what methods are recommended… so we developed this quick card that offers recommendations for using the soap and getting the most out of it.
Why shave soap? Well, honestly it was not on our radar until we kept getting people asking if we carry it. We kept saying “No, we don’t make shave soap at this time” and realized how many times we turned someone away. Our research provided some interesting facts about the benefits of shave soap. It was so compelling that we began with our first recipe of Sandalwood scented shave soap. We packaged the soap, and put it out for sale… and sales were brisk. We began using the product ourselves and loved it. Steve reports that he is extending the life of his disposable razor blades by at least twice as long, which we attribute to the pure soap, free of chemicals. There is nothing in the soap that would break down the metal of the razor blades. Also, the clay in this formula makes the razor glide easily over the skin’s surface, reducing resistance and wear on the blades. Bentonite Clay is the hero of this formula. The clay itself is quite interesting. When lathered up the clay develops a low grade electrical charge – just enough for hair to know and stand on end. This makes for a cleaner and closer shave. The clay also acts as a detox, bulling toxins from pores of the skin. Finally it acts as a lubricant, allowing the razor to slide effortlessly across the skin.
Currently we offer shave soap in five flavors and we are developing one specifically for women in the near future:
Barber Shop – Our Barber Shop Shave Soap uses only essential oils to scent this wonderful cold processed blend of olive, coconut, and palm oil along with aloe butter, essential oil and bentonite clay. The essential oil blend is herbacious and woodsy – a blend of bergamont, oak moss and basil. Takes you back to vintage barber shops.
Bay Rum – Bay Rum is the vintage fragrance of barber shops of the turn of the last century with rich notes of rum, and the herbacious scent of bay. Its a classic masculine scent from a vintage era.
Lime Ginger Peppercorn – Clean citrus of lime, ginger for a touch of spice, and black pepper essential oil for that pepper note. It’s masculine and modern. Lime essential oil is thought to be a cleaning and purifying oil. It is also associated with helping people with skin issues, such as acne. Lime is one of the most strong of the citrus oils, holding its fresh fragrance long after others dissipate.
Our shave soap bears the seal of the Handcrafted Soap Makers Guild because it conforms to their standards, and we are pleased to say we are members. We are pleased to offer it at several retail shops, including Bay Arts, 78th Street Studios (#203 ), Prosperity Jewelry (Old Arcade/Downtown Cleveland), always with us at art events, and online. Clicking the link to each soap name will take you to our online shop. At Checkout use the code “FreeShip” and we will ship it free.