I prefer lathering in a bowl. I think I initially started with a bowl because I didn’t know you could lather on your face. And, using Taylor of Old Bond Street (TOBS for short) cream which I started out with was very easy to use in a bowl. In fact, if you are in a hurry, using a cream like TOBS is a very fast way to get a good lather going quickly.
But there are other reasons which lead me to recommend using a bowl over lathering on the face. Ultimately I believe lathering in a bowl gives you better control over forming the best and most optimum lather. It is easier to control the amount of water that you add and it is visually more accurate. You can see right there in the bowl how good the lather is. You don’t have any feel for it on your skin but you can feel how the brush moves and in that way also determine how thick or thin the lather is. As well as just lifting the brush up and out of the lather to see how it peaks.
Once the lather is formed, you don’t have to spend much time painting it on your face, it’s already formed so just spread it around and get on with the shave. I also like to use my brush like a painter uses a brush with a paint can and scrape lather off the brush on the side of the bowl. This also allows me to control where the lather is on the brush which in turn allows me to optimize the lather on my face.
Ok, now that I have convinced you to use a bowl (probably not), you have to decide upon a bowl to use. At first, if you don’t want to spend any money, just find a cup or small bowl from your kitchen and use it. If this works for you and you are happy, that’s good. If you want a mug that has been specifically designed for lathering there are lots of good choices. I see many people using the Captain’s Choice mugs which seem to fit nicely in the palm of your hand. I like the Doug Smith Pottery bowl in the photo above because it adds to this idea a thumb hold. So you can have the bowl in the palm of your hand and an added bit of security to prevent dropping it.
The Wet Shaving Podcast (a great resource by the way) did a discussion of bowl vs face lathering in a recent episode and Joe suggested that it is inconvenient to take a nice bowl when you are traveling. This is true but it’s easy to take an inexpensive metal bowl which will work fine.
So, have I convinced you to lather in a bowl yet? Maybe not. But whatever the case, it’s part of the shaving ritual and whatever floats your boat is certainly good and fine. Feel free to ask questions about this or offer your thoughts on your favorite form of lathering. But whatever the case, enjoy the shave!