1. Home

Discuss in my forum

Leisureguy's Guide to Gourmet Shaving

Shaving Made Enjoyable

About.com Rating 4.5 Star Rating


Leisureguy's Guide to Gourmet Shaving

Leisureguy's Guide to Gourmet Shaving by Michael Ham

Pogonotomy Press
Michael Ham, the author of “Leisureguy’s Guide to Gourmet Shaving,” left off a group of folks when he wrote on the back cover of the newest edition of his book, “This book is for men who shave but don’t enjoy it, and for men just starting to shave.”

Who is that group? You guessed it – the women (and a few men) who are making the shaving soap for the men who are shaving!

Shaving Made Enjoyable

I’ve made many batches of shaving soap over the years – from a quick and easy melt and pour shaving soap to a more involved cold process version. I’ve made liquid shaving soaps and even cream shaving soaps – all with different essential oil blends and additives.

This book is not about shaving soaps, however, it is about shaving.

However, many of the themes in the book resonate perfectly with us soap makers. Ham believes strongly, quoting Epicurus, that “life is a one-shot deal, enjoying life has a high priority.”

So enjoying a daily ritual like shaving – is much like enjoying a daily ritual like bathing. Ham says, “…the daily shaving task can easily be transformed into a pleasurable ritual that leaves the shaver feeling renewed and pampered and his skin healthy. All it takes are the right tools and a little practice.” Doesn't that sound like some of the very reasons we make our own soap?

The Leisureguy’s Guide to Gourmet Shaving guides the reader through the task of shaving step by step, discussing why to shave and how to shave in detail:

  • Different types of razors – variations from blades to handles
  • Different brushes for shaving - Who knew there were so many different types of brushes and bristles?
  • Variations in water temperature
  • Detailed step by step instructions for the perfect shave
  • (And for us soap makers) A great discussion of different shaving soaps, creams, pre and after shave products
I was relieved to read that the author is indeed a fan of real shaving soaps, not commercially available creams in a can. He states, “Lather is born from a cream or soap with the addition of water and the action of the brush. Done correctly, the result is far more fragrant and efficacious than dry chemical foam squirted from a pressurized can, and more pleasant than most brushless shaving creams.”

His recommendations for a shaving soap is that it be:

  • abundant [in lather]
  • fragrant
  • lubricating
  • protective
  • long lasting
Hamm appreciates the work of artisan soap makers but warns that “unless the artisan understands shaving and shaving soaps, an artisanal soap can be terrible – some seem simply to add some clay to bath soap, hoping to get shaving soap. (You don’t: you get a bath soap with clay in it.)"

He also warns against shaving soaps based on olive oil – feeling that the lather is sparse and short-lived.

Reading this book and incorporating Ham’s guidance into my daily shaving has changed how I shave, both in the tools I use, and in the products and methods to use them. For example, he mentions a post-shave oil (he’s not a fan of pre-shave oils as they interfere with the lather of the soap) that most of us should be able to make with ingredients in our soap making closet:

  • 2 parts almond oil
  • 2 parts avocado oil
  • 2 parts olive oil
  • 1 part grapeseed oil
  • 1 part macadamia nut oil
  • 1-2 drops essential oil
He also says just few drops of jojoba or grapeseed oil can be great too.

The really remarkable benefit of this book is that by teaching me more about shaving, and how to shave better, it’s taught me how to make better shaving soap. I must admit to being “one of those bad artisans” who just added clay to bath soap. Understanding the art of shaving has allowed me to understand the craft of creating shaving soap. I’m definitely going to be going back to the drawing board on my shaving soap recipes and incorporate his key tests of shaving soap success: abundant lather, fragrant, lubricating, protective, long lasting.

Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.