My Best Tricks

Learning to lather Williams and slide the blade will trump any of the following, and are "tricky" enough, in the modern shaving milieu. But I do think it's worth reviewing some of my more original and worthwhile discoveries, so you don't have to find them in the disorganized mass of posts, and waste your time distinguishing them from the ideas that didn't pan out.

Boo-Boo Juice

One-half teaspoon of baking soda, dissolved in a cup of water, helps wounds heal. Like a local shot of "alkalization," it temporarily strengthens tissue that normally has to accommodate an acid-loving microflora. In the wound context, the acid could become ester, and signal scarring and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. Boo-boo juice can also be consumed, for similar reasons, as an old-timey cold and flu treatment/preventative. If you want to get fancy, try potassium bicarbonate. Bicarbonate solution is also excellent paired with cleansers, like shampoo or coconut oil, as it opens hair cuticle like a pinecone, and helps break up biofilm. It's like extra-soft water.

DIY Preshave

If you mistakenly try to flay yourself hairless, Noxzema mixed in your palm with bentonite clay can at least keep the dermis out of harm's way. Think of it as a variation on shaving oil. An oil cleanse would be the proper use; but it certainly can be applied as a protective layer under the lather, or even as the sole shaving substrate. (Dollar Tree has famously marketed cold cream as such.)

If you can get some soluble fiber into your face, the benefits of oil are greatly multiplied. Mixed, the result is a slippery hydrogel. There are many ways you could incorporate the substance: expensive products, soaking flax seeds overnight, homemade apple pectin (as used to make jelly), or an oatmeal mask. The real trick, though, is getting the ingredients to gel inside your hair, making it magically soft. So I say, eat some of that healthy stuff!

Coconut Oil

It's everywhere nowadays, and for good reason: there's apparently very little that coconut oil cannot do, matched against a wide variety of petrochemical and other oils. You can melt the "refined" version and soak an old razor to clean it up -- or make a new one less squeaky. For cosmetic purposes, the "extra virgin cold pressed" variety is the new oil cleanse, said to be anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, and even anti-viral.

Cured Witch Hazel

Putting a splash or two of plain old Witch Hazel, U.S.P. into a cup or bowl overnight will allow alcohol to evaporate, for preshave use. Or a million other things. Theron T. Pond and his Native American partner originally wanted to sell a 3% alcohol solution, but it didn't keep well. To use: apply 3-5 drops shaving oil, rub in cured witch hazel, and wipe off both with a damp cloth. Protects "sensitive" skin from chemical insults, such as the hyperosmotic effect of glycerin soap.

Pumpkin Juice

Set a small "pie" pumpkin outside to freeze, then wash it and set it indoors, in a clean bucket. When it decomposes and starts to look deflated, open it like a jack-o-lantern to harvest the seeds, juice, and intact flesh (but not the mush). Roast the seeds; nuke the flesh in the microwave and eat it like spinach. The juice, best frozen into silicone squeeze pop molds, is a chemically exfoliating, anti-aging skin toner. Apply the night before a morning shave. As a preshave, it helps the hair expand in diameter. Can be applied after the oil cleanse, too, but avoid sunlight afterward.

Washcloth

Take it off. Take it all off. Don't for one second believe that any externally applied substance is fundamentally good for you, or nourishing. Let the surface of the skin, the spongy stratum corneum, absorb as much as it can of what you personally think is necessary, at the very moment of application. When the moment has passed, if it's something that's oily or soapy, wipe the bulk of it off with a wrung, damp cloth. If it's something aqueous, soak it off with a lightly squeezed, wet cloth.

Aftershave splash, being both a potential irritant and a solvent that helps remove shaving residues, calls for a special treatment. Sprinkle onto a cloth folded once or twice over on the edge of the sink, then fold into a mass that can be passed under the running faucet briefly, for dilution.

$1.50 Scuttle

Bowls of approx. 4" diameter are easily held in the palm, without a foot or a handle. A Dollar Tree plastic salsa bowl, favorite of beginners, is less than ideal at 4.5", with awkward-to-hold legs at the base. But it does perfectly envelop a Big Lots "Great Gatherings" dessert bowl, leaving room for hot water in between. Classic color combos make the pair look purpose-built for each other: white on red, black on black. To use: half-fill the ceramic bowl with water and microwave 1 min. (to boiling). Dip a brush mindfully to transfer the correct amount of water to your soap for brush loading. Then, dump the remaining water into the base. Lather the soap wherever you like, but you might as well use the hot bowl, setting it clink-lessly atop the insulating plastic. To store in a medicine cabinet, stand the larger bowl vertically, inside the smaller.

Fragrance Soap/Balm/Deodorant

Smear the bottom of a lathering bowl with oil, and spray three times with (cheap) eau de toilette. Lather Williams on top of this. (If the perfume is of a type that totally kills lather, try adding a drop of glycerin.) Be sure to save some for your pits after shaving; the illusion we're creating is that this is your natural scent. Start building a deodorant film with alum. Melt a snurdle of coconut oil in your palms, and spray once with EdT. (Alternatively, emulsify a splash of aftershave; lotion for an alternative base. Commercial aftershave balm can be used here, too.) Apply to face, then armpits. Let it be a cream rinse for your shave, wiped off with a damp cloth, but leave the underarm coating in place. If antiperspirant-level protection is needed, go back with the alum -- but be careful not to lose your grip, when it sticks. Don't forget to apply the perfume as intended, also!

Keep Your Nose Clean

Sebaceous filaments are what most of us oily folk call "blackheads" on the nose. They aren't really, but extraction with a tool may still be cosmetically necessary, from time to time. Apply an oil cleanse before the extraction, using a damp microfiber cloth as you would a DE razor: hold skin taut with the opposite hand, skin tension erecting the filaments, and wipe WTG. Use pumpkin juice to allow the pores to stretch without tearing, and soluble fiber (again, eaten or applied) to bulk up the gunk. Move the extraction tool like a razor. When your skin is better balanced, you might simply remove plugs from superficially enlarged pores with a piece of frangible toilet paper.

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