Bowl vs Face-Lathering

Created: 2020/6/2 :: Modified: 2020/6/2

I often see the question of whether a shaver should bowl-lather or face-lather. Since there are many shavers on both sides, you'll get a lot of opinions. Usually, what you consider most important about your shave experience will decide which is your preferred method. Here are some things to think about.

My own values are an easy, meditative environment and a well-hydrated, slick lather that lasts the whole shave. So the Bowl is my choice.

Face-Lathering

Instant Lather Detector
Your face can more easily sense when the lather is creamy and hydrated to your preferences.
Speed (Maybe)
Can be faster, especially if you like drier lathers
Simpler
Can be simpler, since there's less involved
No Bowl to Clean
Less equipment to clean up
Travel Light
Less to take with you when you travel. However, I choose a bowl shape (more like a 'V') that fits in the corner of my suitcase, so there's no real room taken up. And it offers a handy way to organize my shave gear on the hotel sink's counter in one contained location.
More Brush-to-Face Feels
Because so much work is done on the face, if you have a luxurious brush, some shavers want as much contact as they can, to fully enjoy the brush.
However, I still work the lather well into my face, especially at the first pass, so I feel I'm getting a great brush experience even lathering with a bowl.

Bowl-Lathering

Money Money
Can be more economical, giving you more lather passes while using less soap. (since a lot of concentrate goes down the drain when rinsing the face after the first pass of face-lathering).
For instance, I loaded for 10 seconds on Chiseled Face soap, face-lathered with it, and had a skimpy (but workable) amount for the third pass. However, I loaded for 3 seconds less and bowl-lathered and had plenty of lather for 4-5 passes, and the lather quality was excellent for all passes.
With another soap, a bowl-lather gave me 6 nice passes of lather. But with the face, and the same amount of soap, I just had 3 passes, and they weren't as nice.
Lather Consistency
Usually gives you a more consistent lather across all passes, instead of starting thick and getting thinner as you go, with face-lathering.
Meditative
Can be more meditative, since stirring in a bowl requires less thought than working your face.
Any Bowl Will Do
You don't have to have a special bowl. Soup, cereal, and mixing bowls (which I like better than mugs) from your kitchen often work very well. I really enjoy my Royal Norfolk Santa Fe bowl ... from the Dollar Tree!
Brush Burn
Because most of the mixing is done in the bowl, people with sensitive skin may appreciate that bowl-lathering requires less scrubbing on the skin during the shave, especially if they don't have a very soft brush.
Dry Skin?
I wonder if shavers with extremely dry skin might like the bowl-lather because the concentrate never touches their skin.
Less Mess
If you like wet, slick, ultra-hydrated lathers, bowl-lathering can be a lot less mess. When lather gets nice and wet, it tends to fly off more easily if you're face-lathering. If you're mixing in a bowl, there's nowhere for it to fly.
Prevention of Tedium and Impatience
I rarely get to the hydration level that I want due to the time it takes to add the water and the dripping/flying lather.
I find adding water slowly helps to keep more of it on your brush and face, but is tedious at the same time.
If you add water too quickly when face-lathering, then it just drips out or flings off. And since what flings off is likely the hydrated stuff I'm trying to build, I find that very frustrating: the dry stuff is still on my face, and the good stuff is on the floor.
Less Work
I feel more like I've done a chore when I've face-lathered. Not so with a bowl. It's easier to stir in a bowl instead of working a brush all over your face to do the lather-building.
Time
To get a lather to where I want it, in terms of hydration, face-lathering often takes just as long (or close enough to not make a difference) as bowl-lathering.
Universal Soap Love
It seems face-latherers have to be a little more picky about their soaps. There are soaps that require a lot more work to lather up with the face than the bowl. I could see how a face would get fed up.
This is not a strong reason, since there are still many very good soaps out there that face-lather easily. But I still thought it was worth mentioning.
Less Mess
Bowl-lathering can produce less mess, since you're mixing in the bowl. As you add water, often face-lathering gets stuff all over. (however if you like your lathers drier than I do, this may not be much of an issue)
Cleaner Brush Rinse
I have kids and don't know what has been done in my sink prior to my shave. By using a bowl, I can rinse my brush completely after a shave under running water, and I know it's a clean environment.

Ideas

High Density Knots
I wonder if really dense knots are as suited for face-lathering as less dense ones? A less, more traditionally dense knot has more space between the bristles to store the lather for future passes. Obviously, we have tons of guys who love their high density knots and face-lather... but I was just wondering.
Dry feeling post shave
I've rarely felt dry skin after a bowl-lather, because it's so easy to hydrate. But I have when face-lathering. Of course, you can hydrate properly when face-lathering, but I just find it tedious and frustrating.