My father wore a suit and tie to work every day for sixty years and would never have dreamed of leaving the house without shaving. Living through the Great Depression and serving in World War II had made him extremely frugal, and he was the sort of person who saved the last little bits of each bar of soap (which of course first his mother, then my mother made) until he could stick them together to make a brand new, multi-colored bar.
Although aerosol shaving cream came on the market when he was in his thirties, he continued to use his own preparations until the end to save money and not waste anything. It goes without saying that he used a straight edge and never, not once did he purchase a disposable razor. I once bought him an electric shaver for his birthday. As soon as he saw the box, he thanked me and asked me to return it and get him a few ties. My father was a character, but now that I am trying to live a simpler life, I try to think back to all the things both he and my mom used to do to model my habits after theirs.
When new and “convenient” store-bought products become available, it is amazing how quickly many of us forgot how easy it is to make that same product at home. Shaving cream is actually one of the simplest personal care products to make in your own home, yet store-bought creams and gels are more popular than ever before.
Personal and Environmental Impact
Manufactured shaving cream does its best to entice shoppers with the promise of “advanced formulas” that do all sorts of amazing things that the homemade variety does not. However, this often means that a store-bought shaving cream is chock-full of chemicals and additives that most of us don’t recognize and need a degree in chemistry to decipher. And most of us, when we stop to think about it, don’t want mysterious chemicals coming into contact with our face or other skin.
Furthermore, the effectiveness of aerosol shaving cream has been called into question. Soap naturally creates a thick lather when agitated with water, creating oil-coated air bubbles that moisturize and soften skin and hairs. Aerosol cream uses pressurized air to create foam without truly lathering the substance, meaning the oil bubbles that usually protect the skin from nicks do not form. Aerosol cream will still soften hairs, making them easier to shave, but it may not protect the skin from cuts in the same way that hand-lathered cream will.
Most mass-manufactured products have one thing in common, and that is the creation of excessive waste. Packaging alone usually means the use of plastics and metals that become garbage when the product they contain is used up. Items like aerosol cans cannot be easily re-used once they are empty since they are pressurized during the manufacturing process.
Aerosol cans may negatively impact the earth in other less visible and tangible ways as well. Aerosol cans used to contain chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) as a propellant until research began to suggest that excessive amounts of CFCs were impacting the naturally occurring gases in the atmosphere. Modern day aerosol cans are no longer permitted to use CFCs, but it is still strange to think that highly flammable gases such as propane and butane are used to create an effect that a person can achieve in about one minute. Really – lathering soap is not that hard!
So if you are thinking twice about the contents of manufactured shaving cream, looking for ways to minimize environmental impact, or simply eager to try a new project, here is the information you will need to create your own shaving cream.
Tools and Ingredients
The tools for making homemade shaving cream are pretty basic, and most people will already own them. First, you will need a container for the hardened shaving cream – a clean coffee mug or a ceramic bowl works great. Second, you will need a double boiler system. If you have a true double boiler, you are in business. If you do not, a pot or saucepan used in combination with a frying pan or metal mixing bowl can work just as well.
Just as there are only two basic tools required for homemade shaving cream, there are also only two basic ingredients. You will need a bar or two of solid soap, either standard soap or glycerin soap. Glycerin soap is made through a special process and is easily identifiable because it is translucent. You will also need a little bit of oil – sunflower oil, olive oil, or castor oil all work well. Keep in mind that any scents contained in your soap or oil choices will be apparent in your shaving cream and will linger on your face long after you’re done shaving.
Although it is not a part of the creation process, you will need a shaving brush to be able to use the completed shaving cream. The final product will have a similar consistency as margarine that has been in the refrigerator. The brush and a splash of water are used to lather the cream into foam and apply it to your skin. In a pinch you can use you fingers to lather the cream, but a brush is much more efficient and will create a greater volume of foam.
When making your shaving cream, you are essentially “re-batching” soap. This process can be used to rectify a batch of homemade soap that did not set properly, or to take existing soap and add your own ingredients to make a re-formed and unique batch of soap.
You will be using the double boiler system to melt down your bars of soap, and grating the soap ahead of time is a good way to make the melting process quick and even. Place the grated soap into the top of the double boiler or into a pan that you will lay across a pot of boiling water. Add your oil at the same time – about one tablespoon of oil for each bar of soap is perfect.
Add a small amount of water to the grated soap to help the bits of soap bond to each other as they melt. The water will evaporate, leaving you with a smooth pan of liquid soap. Once the mixture is thoroughly blended, poor it directly into the mug or bowl where it will cool and cure for several days.
Before pouring the cream, you may also add essential oils to give the shaving cream an attractive fragrance. Menthol crystals (pre-dissolved in oil) are also popular additions to shaving cream. This is entirely optional, and it is perfectly acceptable to finish with a simple and unscented product.
If your cured shaving cream seems too soft and viscous, it simply means that the water you added did not have enough time to burn off. This can be easily remedied by returning the shaving cream to the double boiler and re-heating it until the additional moisture evaporates.
When it comes time to shave, dip your shaving brush into warm water and swirl it around the top of the mug or bowl until you have enough lather to coat your skin. It’s that simple! Now all you need is to find yourself a straight edged razor and you’re really in business!
©2012 Off the Grid News