Updated: Jul 17, 2019
Shaving soaps have developed their own popular niche market as well-groomed facial hair and men's skin care have become more acceptable and mainstream. Men are now able to find products that meet their needs with ingredients and scents designed for specifically for men that also provide conditioning and nourishment. Men’s shaving soaps and shave products have become so popular that there are now entire stores in the mall dedicated just to these types of products. There are international brands that have become incredibly popular and successful, and we have learned that our customers are willing to pay more for a premium shave soap that provides both superior quality and performance.
And don’t think that shave soaps are just for men; more and more ladies are finding out that shave soaps can be another one of life’s little indulgences and offer quite a few benefits over store-bought shave gels! Women can use shave soaps for a conditioning, gentle, and smooth shave for legs, armpits and more. With the right shave soap, a short 30 second swirl with a shave brush is all that is needed to lather from the toes all the way up!
Although shaving soaps were once limited to the more traditional wet shaver, new wet shavers are finding out that shave soaps offer many benefits that commercial products don’t. Shave soaps provide a more conditioning and better lathering product with a far more superior performance compared to most commercial products. They are also more eco-friendly, cost effective, and offer vegan and sustainable options that help reduce the environmental impact. Shave soaps reduce plastic and metal waste, support small businesses, provide positive, safe, and well-paying jobs, help reduce our carbon footprint through the use of eco-friendly ingredients, help voice support for the reduction of deforestation, support animal rights, and more. That is one powerful shave soap. A premium shave soap will have a very thick, fast forming lather that is long-lasting, gentle, and conditioning. We want a soap that forms a thick, creamy coating that offers a smooth, close and non-irritating shave. In order to obtain this type of lather, we must formulate our recipe accordingly and select our fatty acid composition based on these goals. Although there are quite a few recipes online for shaving soaps, many of them include an extensive list of additives, including expensive and hard-to-get oils. Most of these recipes require a lot of preparation and at least 1-3 hours of process time. Additionally, all of these recipes also require the use of an immersion blender and a crockpot. Today we will be creating a timeless soft shave soap in less than 90% of the time, without the need for a crockpot or an immersion blender (although you can certainly use these things if you desire), and just a few classic ingredients. To make things even easier and more simple, most of our ingredients are available at local grocery stores, can be used for other soaps, skincare products, or cooking, and they are all budget friendly. Our recipe is a timeless and classic recipe that has been made for over a century by artisan soap makers throughout Europe and is a duplication of the Martin de Candre Unscented soft shave soap. A single 200g Martin de Candre shave soap sells for $45, often with international shipping fees, while our entire recipe costs less than $3 to make (assuming you make a few batches because your ingredients will be bought in regular size quantities).
Let's take a look at our formula to better understand why we selected each ingredient and how they help provide the ultimate luxe shave. The two primary ingredients in our recipe include stearic acid and coconut oil. Stearic acid is a fatty acid that has no glycerol bond, unlike the other oils and fats commonly used in soap making. Because there is no bond that needs to be broken, our stearic acid will immediately react with the lye. The stearic acid creates potassium stearate, a soap that provides a full, white, thick and stable lather. Coconut oil is high in short, soluble fatty acids like lauric and myrstic fatty acids that also rapidly saponify, but the potassium myristate and potassium laurate will provide a full and voluminous lather. The combination of the fatty acid content from the stearic acid and the coconut oil provide a rapid and accelerated saponification, and will result in a beautiful shave soap that has a fast-forming, thick, full, stable, and long-lasting creamy lather. The use of KOH (potassium hydroxide) creates a bar that lathers at a much faster rate than NaOH or dual-lye options, while also providing a slightly softer texture that can be easily worked with a shave brush. The sodium chloride, commonly known as table salt, helps harden the soap in an affordable and effective manner. Finally, our olive oil PCSF (post cook superfat) and added glycerin provide additional softening elements which ensure that the recipe provides a conditioning and gentle shave. We will be using a modified HTHP (High Temperature Hot Process), a process that is discussed in great detail in our book The Ultimate Guide to Hot Process Soap. Our oils will be heated in the microwave in a polypropylene bowl, which has an "A" safety rating for use with hydrated sodium and potassium hydroxide, has a high melting point, and is microwave safe. This makes the entire process super fast, although you can certainly also use your crockpot or stove to heat your oils if desired. Instead of using an immersion blender, all you need is a lye and heat-safe mixing utensil like a stainless steel spoon or stainless steel whisk. When our ingredients are safely combined, in conjunction with the high starting temperature, hot lye, and specific chemical composition, this recipe is saponified and molded in just a few short minutes. You can be prepped, processed and cleaned up in less than 15 minutes total! Are you interested in learning more about hot process and liquid soap making? Do you want to learn how to make beautiful, fluid, and swirled hot process soap? Visit our bookstore to learn more about The Ultimate Guide to Hot Process Soap.
Do you want to learn how to make beautiful, crystal-clear liquid soap in less than 30 minutes? Be sure to check out our newest book The Ultimate Guide to Liquid Soap.
Directions and Recipe:
Follow the provided recipe below. It is imperative that all lye and heat safety protocols be strictly adhered to. A container that is at a minimum of three times larger than the total recipe volume must be used to allow for expansion. This is mandatory. Failure to adhere to this will result in a dangerous soaping environment and possible injury.
Caution: Due to the temperature and chemical composition of this recipe, the recipe may foam and expand upon the addition of the lye. Please be prepared for this and follow all directions.
Soft shave soaps made with potassium hydroxide and glycerin with solidify and harden after saponification into a solid bar and will soften over a period of time. Cover your shave soap by lid or with plastic on top, rather than curing in the open.
Your shave soap may be used immediately after creation or you can wait until it softens
Be sure to use with a shave brush, a shave mug , and a proper loading technique for a full bloom!
The recipe as written uses 300g of oil and is calculated with 100% KOH at 90% purity with a 3% cook superfat. The KOH SAP value of the coconut oil we used was 0.257 and stearic acid at 0.198. If your KOH is at a different strength, please use a soap calculator to adapt as needed.
For a more solid bar, substitute a portion of the KOH for NaOH
For the best results, we recommend using the optional additives listed.
The classic recipe does not include the following additives, but we add them to all of our recipes to enhance the performance and functioning of our soaps. For the ultimate shave soap, we suggest including them as well.
-Cetyl alcohol- stabilizes lather, increases the foaming abilities, emulsifies, and provides emollient properties; this ingredient will literally make your lather last for weeks and is my secret weapon in shave soap
-Citric acid- when added to potassium hydroxide creates potassium citrate a chelating agent that helps fight hard water -Sodium lactate- provides a smoother blade and humectant properties -Sorbitol/Sugar- increases the rate of reaction, acts as a solvent for soap, increases the lathering properties
Want another 5-Minute Shave soap recipe? Try our Classic Williams Mug Duplication in our Student Recipe Book for those who have purchased The Ultimate Guide to Hot Process Soap.