A warning - once you try a real soap to shave with, you'll never use a commercial shaving cream again!
This recipe, which you can tailor and modify to suit your own oil preferences, is not a whole lot different than a regular cold process soap recipe, although it has been adjusted to give the qualities needed for a shaving soap. As Michael Ham recommends in his book "Leisureguy's Guide to Gourmet Shaving," a shaving soap should be:
- abundant [in lather]
- long lasting
This recipe has been formulated to give these qualities: The recipe I use is:
- 30% Coconut oil - rich, bubbly lather
- 30% Palm oil - stable, creamy, hard bar (can substitute lard or tallow)
- 10% Castor oil - for lather and creaminess
- 15% Sunflower oil - for conditioning and lather
- 10% Olive oil - for conditioning
- 5% Cocoa butter - for conditioning
To make an almost 3 lb. batch of soap, this works out to be:
- 9.6 oz. Coconut oil
- 9.6 oz. Palm oil
- 3.2 oz. Castor oil
- 4.8 oz. Sunflower oil
- 3.2 oz. Olive oil
- 1.6 oz. Cocoa butter
- 4.6 oz. Lye (about a 5% discount)
- 9.2 oz. water
- 2 Tbs. of Bentonite Clay
- 1 to 1.4 oz. of fragrance or essential oil
The clay helps give the soap extra "slip" and also works to purify your skin. (Think of a clay or mud mask.) The added castor helps give a thick creamy lather. All you need to do is grab a shaving brush!
To modify your own recipe, just take your basic soap recipe and adjust your recipe so that it has more long lasting and lathering oils...and not as much olive oil. Animal oils like lard and tallow work well in shaving soaps - as they have long lasting, stable lathers. Use a combination of liquid oils like sunflower, canola, almost and/or oil.
Using multiple oils contributes to the complexity of the lather.
Add about 2 tsp. of Bentonite or other clay for every pound of soap in the batch. I prefer Bentonite clay, though you can use Kaolin, Rhassoul or Fuller's Earth. (Click here to buy clays direct) or look at the links below for more information about clays.) Add a fragrance or essential oil appropriate for the person shaving - but be sure that it is one suitable for sensitive skin - remember, you're shaving through this soap.
Make the soap like you would any other Cold Process Soap recipe. You can add the clay pretty much any time you want in the recipe. Some people add it to their lye water. Others just mix it into the oils as they are melting. You can also take a half cup or so of your melted oils, put them in a measuring cup, a mix your clay into the oils. Then add this pre-mixed clay/oil mixture to the soap once you've reached trace. Any method works fine.
I like to pour the soap directly into coffee mugs or tins. Another option is to pour it into lengths of 3" PVC pipe that has one end plugged up.
This will give you a disc of soap that can be placed into a mug or tin. Let the soap cure as normal, and when it's done, enjoy a wonderfully old-fashioned, but terrific shaving soap!