How to Choose the Perfect Shaving Bowl for Your Preferences (Quick Guide)
We may earn a commission for purchases using our links. Learn more
What is the advantage of making shaving lather in a dedicated shaving bowl? Is ceramic better than steel? See more in this quick guide. Note: Some call them shaving cups and some call them bowls or shaving scuttle. In the following, we make an editorial decision and simply call them a bowl.
Good shaving cream or the best shaving soap is oily enough to lather well even without a bowl. Many people, especially when they are in a hurry, simply drench their shaving brush in hot water, shake off the excess water, and lather up right on the skin. So why use a bowl?
In a shaving bowl, the shaving brush meets a completely hard surface which, unlike the skin, does not absorb water. You can also put more pressure on your brush without it becoming uncomfortable. Water and air are whipped together creating a lather as efficiently as possible and you will also get a fuller lather in less time. This has many benefits:
- The full-bodied foam gives the razor (such as the best straight razor or a double edge safety razor) a better lubrication
- The lather becomes airier and easier to rinse out of the razor
- Your shaving cream or shaving soap lasts a lot longer
Masterclass: Pre-heat the Bowl
A shaving bowl allows you to shave as the best professional barbers do with full VIP treatment. Then do the following:
- Fill the sink with hot water (not boiling)
- Fill the shaving bowl with warm water and place it in the sink
- Put the shaving brush down in the bowl with the bristles facing down and let it soak while you shower or moisturize the skin with a towel.
- Empty the shaving bowl of water, shake off the excess water from the broom, and lather up in the usual way.
In this way, the shaving brush is saturated with water throughout while the shaving bowl keeps the lather warm. The warm lather gives a comfortable feeling that will put a smile on your face. Warm skin also minimizes the risk of irritation. The technique works best with ceramic bowls, which have a higher heat capacity than steel but can be used with all bowls.
Some barbers also put a few drops of shaving oil in the bowl to give the lather extra lubrication. In that case, remember to start making lather first, then drip some oil into the bowl and continue lathering. If you apply the oil directly to the brush or shaving soap, it will be water-repellent and impossible to lather with.
Different Types of Shaving Bowls
There are roughly three types of shaving bowls:
Ceramic Shaving Bowls
Advantage: Holds heat very well.
Disadvantage: Heavy and can break if you drop it on the floor.
Differs from coffee cups in that they have much thicker walls and often knobs in the bottom or along the side that make it faster to make lather.
Steel or Plastic Shaving Bowls
Advantage: Withstands large amounts of beating and weighs little. Travel friendly.
Disadvantage: Does not hold heat very well.
Wood Shaving Bowls
Advantage: Looks luxurious, usually reasonably priced. The rough texture helps create a quicker lather. Retain its heat quite well. Fairly durable.
Disadvantage: Can absorb water and will most likely warp over time. Most wood shaving bowls are for presentation only.
Storage Box for Shaving Soap
Cups in wood or other materials to store shaving soap in solid form. These are not shaving bowls. They are not bowls per se to make shaving lather (unless you are in a pinch). With such a bowl, you simply moisten the soap with the shaving brush and make the foam either directly on the skin or in another bowl. There are combo bowls that do both.
It is entirely a matter of taste and your preferences what kind of bowl you choose. If you want to take it with you when traveling, we recommend a steel or plastic bowl. If you appreciate a very hot lather, we would choose a ceramic shaving cup with a handle. If you use a large shaving brush, such as Mühle Traditional Silvertip or Edwin Jagger Large Silver Tip Badger Hair I would choose a bowl with some depth.
Note that soap residue and fingerprints are less visible on white ceramics vs on black.
Many shaving kits such as a good straight razor kit include a small steel bowl that can be removed from the stand. Some people think that it is there to collect water drips from the brush, but that is not the purpose. Through observation, we can establish that a good shaving brush does not drip after it has been thoroughly rinsed and shaken. The remaining droplets are so small that they simply pull towards the tip and evaporate.
A shaving set with a bowl is simply the solution for those who want all their shaving equipment gathered in one stand. As a bonus, brands like Mühle have shaving soaps that fit perfectly in the bowls of Mühle shaving kits. If you want a larger or ceramic bowl, keep the shaving set and bowl separate – without risking a pond of water under the shaving brush.