Creating a Shave Soap

Recently at one of the markets I had an individual looking for a tallow based soap for shaving.  While I didn’t have a soap made just for shaving, I did have a tallow based bar – my Shetler’s Best soap bar.  The customer came back a few weeks later and said he LOVED the slip of the soap, but he would have like a little more lather.  So I set out to make the best tallow based shave soap I could.

Properties of a Shave Soap

As I started my search, I realized there are some significant differences between a quality shave soap and a quality bathing soap.  For a shaving soap, the ability to clean is not as important as the stability and quantity of a rich lather.  Additionally, a really slippery soap is preferred.  While having a bar with a lot of slip can lead to a very frustrating shower experience, and a bit dangerous as well as the floor of the shower can get slick, a bar that produces a lot of slip is PERFECT for shave soap.  Finally, a bar that is rich in emollients and moisturizers is great for everyone, it is especially important for a shave soap.

Fatty Acids for Shave Soap

As l look to create a soap for shaving, I decided to look at my oil chart to find the best oils to create the properties I desire.  I am looking for a hard bar with a stable, fluffy lather that is highly skin conditioning.  Looking a the chart, I want to maximize the Palmtitic, Ricinoleic and Stearic acids.  I also want to include a fair amount of Oleic acid, but I have to keep in mind the fact that the higher levels of skin conditioning fatty acids create a bar that is less able to lather.

shave soap oils

Keeping in mind the soap I want to make is a tallow based soap, I will surely have that as my base oil.  I normally would pair the tallow up with a conditioning oil like Olive oil, but because I want the high lather I will avoid using Olive oil.  Instead I will be using Palm Kernel oil.  Because it provides a nice lather, I will be using some castor oil to help stabilize the lather.

Additionally, because a high lather and good slip are important in shave soaps I felt I needed to use an additive.  Bentonite clay is GREAT for both.  When wet, bentonite clay has a slight electrical charge (so does water – nothing shocking there.  Get it?  Shocking!!!!  Ha!!!).  It also has a crystal like structure.  What does this mean?  Well, when you mix the ionic charges of water and clay they stabilize the lather making it last longer.  The crystal structure allows the clay particles to slide over themselves, and your skin giving the slip desired without leaving the skin greasy.

The Final Recipe

After spending some quality time with my base oils and a lye calculator my recipe was complete.  I used a beef tallow from Shetler’s Dairy.  It is from grass fed cows that are not treated with any artificial growth hormones or drugs.  The tallow will provide the nourishing fatty acids, but it also has a high amount of lather boosting fatty acids.  Palm Kernel oil adds an affordable boost to the fluffy lather of the tallow.  Finally, Castor oil (be careful of the amount you use or you will have a sticky, soft bar) boosts the fluffy lather and keeps it stable through your shave.  Add the bentonite clay my recipe is finished.

Shave Soap Recipe

  • Palm Kernel Oil  510g
  • Beef Tallow  450g
  • Castor Oil  170g
  • Sodium Hydroxide  168g
  • Water  430g
  • Bentonite Clay  16g

I prefer to hot process my soaps.  Remember to use ll the appropriate safety equipment.  To make the soap, you will first mix the lye and water.  Leave it sit until it is no longer cloudy.  Meanwhile, while the lye water is cooling I melt the fats in my crock pot and add the clay to the fat mixture.  After the lye and oil are close to the same temperature combine the lye water with the fats in the crock pot and stick blend until the soap batter reaches trace.  (For a video of the process check here.)

After the soap has cooked (if you are hot processing the soap), pour/plop it into a prepared mold and allow it to sit overnight to cool and set.  After it has set, remove the loaf from the mold and cut into even sized bars.  Allow hot process soap to cure for about 1-2 weeks for a better bar.  Cold process soaps should sit for 4-6 weeks.

Using Shave Soap

Once the soap is finished it is time to try it out.  To work up a lather you have two choices.

Many will grate the soap into the bottom of a shaving mug or bowl.  Alternately, you can swipe the wet brush across a bar to pick up the soap.  Once you have the soap on the brush it is time to get your lather going.  In a shaving mug or bowl work the soap in a circular motion.  As you work the lather, continue swirling the brush to incorporate lots of air.  This air creates the bubbles that form the lather.


Once the lather is rich and foamy, apply to your skin where you intend to shave.  Proceed with your favorite razor and enjoy the soft, smooth skin from this 100% natural shaving soap.

To get YOUR shave soap visit the Rolling Pines Farm Online Store!  And may you enjoy a close, smooth, cut free shaving experience!


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