Rose Water

Last night I felt like I wanted to neutralize the clay treatment, but thought maybe exfoliant pumpkin juice wasn't in order, given the peeling I had already seen in the "T" zone. The beard was also feeling not so perfect, with a little bit of intrafollicular damage from the GEM's low-angle shave (and, probably, my poor shower technique). I remembered the Italian gentleman and his rose water toner.

I chatted again recently with "RazorGuy Straight Razor Channel," as we were both kicked out of "Classic Shaving" on G+ at the same time, and he was just as... nonplussed? The owner acknowledged that it was intentional when I contacted him directly, not wanting so many links to "outside sites." Right. I don't think I linked my blog more than twice, and that was to spare them my months of updates. (Oh yeah, I was a contributing member before I even started this.) You know what it must have been: those two links to Shave Like Grandad!

More likely, my political speech has again earned me a rebuff from the SMS crowd. Though the only category offered on Classic Shaving is "Debate," I have to consider my longstanding complaints against overpriced, irritating glycerin soaps and cartridge dermaplanes two automatic strikes wherever I go to bat. When I was pitched out of "Traditional Shaving," I was told members themselves were complaining, and to this day, I don't bother posting on marketing sites. Bulletin boards, as you already know, are the most bitter disappointment of all.

May they be identified by their unjust actions. And please, if you're reading this, post links wherever you can, especially G+, as that is pretty much EXACTLY what G+ is for. Personally, I'd send all the SOTD twits to Twitter! Which is why I probably shouldn't start my own "Community."

Anyway, I decoded the difference between commercial rose water toner and plain rose water, as sometimes online the culinary product seems to be simply relabeled for cosmetic purposes. I have only the flavoring, but it indicates pH is balanced by citric acid. Voila! A little bit of oil, a little bit of citric acid, mostly water: sounds like toner to me. A 4-oz bottle ran me $2.99 at TJMaxx.

So washed my face with cloth and water, then dropped a cotton ball into my solution cup, and poured a small splash of rose water onto it. (I need to find some rounds. I think they'd fit.)  It wasn't too smelly, though it certainly lingered afterward. It cleaned, soothed, and softened my oily skin. It didn't make my skin feel less oily at all, really, but when I rubbed my fingertips on my forehead, they didn't pick up any shine.  I think this might be my winter alternative to pumpkin juice, in the evening before bed.

Witch hazel fans may have noticed the appearance of an alternative, citric acid formula at the Dollar Tree. It's in a smaller, opaque bottle.

It's Winter

The season started unofficially today, with a heap of wet snow deposited by snowplow in my driveway. Otherwise I wouldn't have bothered, for three inches of rain-wet and melting. I should have dragged the propane grill around front before this, but I had hoped the ground would freeze first. Gambled and lost.

My little workout did teach me some things about exfoliation, though. I casually scratched at a seborrheic keratosis on my neck, and the bulk of it was scraped off. I went to the mirror and gave the one on my cheek the same treatment. Crude, but effective: first time I've seen that one perceptibly shrink. I haven't been keeping up with the oil/Vit. D treatment, either, since the cosmetically important ones all fell off. This was the hydraulic power of sweat alone.

I've often referred to "fracking" in relation to surface applications. What is its natural counterpart in geological processes? Whatever it is, the metaphor was evident after my shower, when my entire "T" zone was flaking, the worst of it next to my nose. I powdered it lightly with bentonite clay, and wet the same area with a cloth. The clay, microscopically reconstituted, served as invisible glue, concealing the damage instantly.

In retrospect, I should have put on some pumpkin juice and baking soda serum, some Arko, and gone for a half-natural perfect shave. Unfortunately, there will  be many more opportunities to test that over the winter. Today I did my first pass in the shower with bath soap, and ATG after the shower with KMF-VDH croap. Trying to break in that old Ever-Ready 250D.

My Mama Never Told Me

"You better shop around." I always got lost in the store! Whenever I'm in Portsmouth, NH, I like to visit the Ocean State Job Lot, a discount store we don't have out here in the boonies. I had half an hour to kill before a family dinner, and before I knew it, an hour had evaporated. But I scored what for me will probably be a lifetime supply of SE blades at $1.99/10.

I found them in the tool department, because modern store clerks of course recognize the SE as a tool blade. They revealed, by their markings, the true identity of my CVS blades: "Treet Super." I moved a couple packages back to the shaving aisle, as my heroic deed for the day. More unlikely, perhaps somebody will ask for them at market, allowing me to play the hero again.

It was so nice to be traveling with a strong, intact stratum corneum, for a change. While away I shaved once with hair conditioner and shower gel, which was kind of like shaving on oil -- no lather, no hair hydration. I got away with it by not shaving close with the Rimei, but it would have been better if I had risked bringing my new Merkur OC.

Today, it was back to Noxzema and Williams. I skipped the baking soda and applied pumpkin juice directly. I didn't feel as protected without it, oddly, and I'm not sure it was just traction due to lost hair hydration. Maybe it's a good thing to macerate the skin that extra bit. Or, maybe it was just yesterday's damage talking.

At any rate, the feeling inspired me to use more shaving oil before the splash, which is a good way to improvise "lotion." It seems oil can be used wherever thin skin would be a liability, generalizing from its barrier role in the perfect shave method. I just wonder how much glycerin I'm stuck with now. It's a bit warm; I'm going to moisturize.

Tidings of Comfort and Joy

Santa came through with my first premium-quality razor, the Merkur 1904 Classic Open Comb! There was a good bit of "coal" in the nut, though, a common complaint in customer reviews. I went at it with a brace of Q-tips, some aftershave, and finally vaseline. To avoid lodging cotton in the handle, I carefully "screwed" each swab in and out. But it's still rough, because that crud is actually composed of plating chipped off the inside threads. I expect I'll have to repeat the procedure once things are worn smooth. The screw looks like it's in pretty good shape, at least, which I guess is how they get away with it.

To get a feel for it I did my Christmas shave with oil and Stirling, and was delighted with its shaving character, which is very much in line with my current leaning toward preserving the NMF. The open comb, in combination with a sliding technique, ensures no hair is missed; yet the low exposure gives it Super Speed-like skin defense. I wasn't able to get a very close shave out of it right off the bat, but I found the ATG much less perplexing than the GEM, a decisive technological advance. It doesn't feel as though you have abandoned the low angle, but you can hear that the tool has displaced your effort.

The new players

One of my kids was ill yesterday, and I was up all night configuring their damn tablet computers, so Boxing Day was a lazy one this year. I tried a more accessible alternative to the bentonite as preshave, namely a charcoal mask from the Dollar Tree. It did seem to accomplish the same deep skin conditioning as carbamide solution, Noxzema, or clay, as 3-in-1 moisturizer stayed slick and spreadable after the shave. I had doubled down on splash, which makes that last fact even more remarkable. Another new player from my stocking was Aqua Velva Musk, which Santa picked up at a Kmart going out of business. Wow, does that remind me of my grandparents! I love it, but it's a bit too sharp, so I put some dollar store blue on top.

Finally, perfectly fitting the gap left by these selections was VDH-KMF croap in Lavender. I didn't feel the hair standing up at all after the charcoal; but, rubbing in the first lather and towel-soaking helped get some of the lotion-like substance off the surface, as well as hydrating the beard. This is a much closer shave than yesterday, with the much-desired "submerging" quality after leaving the bathroom.

Season's Greetings!

It Smells Like Victory

My Micro-matic stubble was quite tolerable, if not perfect, and my skin really liked the low-angle treatment. So I gave it a go with my new method this morning, and was even more pleased, with a close, casual two-pass shave. I made sure to keep the angle low ATG and not push it this time.

The end of my little storage cup of old, store-brand Noxzema afforded me the perfect opportunity for some mixing experiments. I'm pretty sure the "urea" smell that I've been attributing to my own sweet self actually emanates from the cleanser, especially when it reacts with soap. Ammonium Hydroxide is in the middle toward the end of the ingredients on my replacement tub. Pure urea has no odor: it releases ammonia in the presence of water. DMDM Hydantoin, a little further down in the list, is also a carbamide, but it puts off formaldehyde.

So I think we can begin to move to some theories as to why the "'Murican Shave" is so effective on my thin skin and wiry beard. I think what I've done with this particular layering, of 1) Noxzema absorbed into skin, 2) shaving oil dabbed and rubbed in, and 3) juice and baking soda last, is to recreate an "acid mantle" one step removed from the usual location, in the NMF. Noxzema penetrates and raises the pH, and probably kills everything, too; oil takes the place of skin, as a crude, temporary barrier; and pumpkin takes the place of the acid-producing bacteria. Baking soda is a substitute for the salt in ocean water -- where I once noticed my stuble breaking off in my hand when I rubbed my face -- but with the benefit of not killing lather.

I don't think I was wrong about the value of my own substance, though. Recollecting those great summer shaves: Skin, made more permeable and oily by solar-generated vitamin D3. Urea percolating up through the tissue, deposited with salt on the surface as sweat. Bacteria flying everywhere and having a heyday on my face. 

Alcohol splash (I recommend the Veg for authentic sweat, Florida Water for the synthetic version) slaps it all back into natural alignment, displacing the watery layers back into the skin structure.

Nothing New but the Blades

Phbbbbbbbb! Another forum bites it: "Classic Shaving" was conspicuously absent from my G+ "communities" this morning. I can see my recent posts are still there. Maybe I didn't get banned... this time. I fear Google may be going the way of Yahoo, with their recent update. I would offer this simple distinction to web developers. Data mining: useful to client. Search function: useful to user. So to streamline, get rid of "suggestions." Almighty thought controllers, or one advertisement insertion away from obsolescence: to which reality will you subscribe?

The last senile wart on my temple is gone, after a long period of shrinking circumferentially. One on my arm went that way, too. One on my cheek and one on my arm are resisting, by remaining low and fleshy. At least those are invisible. I usually just use shaving oil now, instead of the supplement from the fridge, and I'm not very consistent about it.

I don't usually shop at CVS, because things are pretty expensive there, but it's a treat to get away from the bustling crowd sometimes. I had a 20% coupon from my flu shot, so I threw some SE blades in my bag. Yeah, the good ones, from American Safety Razor Co., are nothing like the crap Hannaford's was selling. What I failed to gather from schematics at Ted Pella is that the 3-facet edges are twice as deep, from the apex. So it's basically ground thin before the two facets that actually cut hair are created. The structural integrity relative to DE just comes from sort of an "A" frame support, not absolute thickness.

With these blades, I can now enjoy the GEM Micro-matic properly. It shaves completely silently when I start (because I'm doing it right, at a low angle). Only ATG does the bias make things a little dicey. No miraculous BBS here, but my face does seem to like it. The alum didn't sting. We'll just have to see how much NMF I have left tomorrow, and I thnk the stubble is rather pointed. I did not use my new method with the GEM.

I tried recreating the "Perfect Shave" yesterday, with a sharp blade and no bentonite, either as an additive, post- or preshave. Great shave,  but I didn't get great closeness, especially under the ipsilateral jawline near the chin. The GEM did that area clean today. But I can feel it's slightly sore, too. Given a choice, I'd rather have the stubble.

These recent shaves make me appreciate stories of barbers who achieve very close shaves, despite changing the blade for each customer. I guess I know why they go with the Derby.

Baby Come Back

Now viewing bentonite clay as a skin transformer and hygroscopic balance to glycerine, rather than an inert post-shave, and suffering from unaccustomed dryness, it only made sense to go crawling back to Stirling. I tried to use it as the skin hydrator in my new method, face lathering, scooping it back into the brush, soaking it off, and then applying oil, hair hydrator, and finally the lather again. No caustic odors were detected.

It was a completely imperfect shave. The hair was soft, and I mowed it right down. ATG felt very catchy and easy, too. The skin just wasn't plumped up enough, it seems, although 3-in-1 moisturizer didn't penetrate much either, taking a long time to dry down. I wonder if I kept up with the powder, though, would I develop a thick stratum corneum, which would then have swelled to produce a perfect shave? Something to think about, for the dry-skinned readers.

I mixed pumpkin juice with bentonite clay directly, and didn't smell any reaction. Adding baking soda didn't seem to release any gas, either. I think I picked up the urea scent again much later, though, from some broken skin on my palm, which I have been rubbing with the powder. So it seems the urea is drawn into the skin from serum by the powder, and only later released as ammonia by pumpkin juice and/or baking soda. Recall that the first time I picked up a whiff was the day after I discovered the powder.

Bentonite as Pre-shave

Upon rising the next morn, I drank two glasses of water (one would have quenched my thirst), powdered my beard area, and retreated to bed to watch a couple Sunday shaving videos. I thought I could detect the urea, or perspiration, percolating up through my skin after 20 minutes or so, with little picky sensations, and I continued to lounge for another ten. Wanting to embellish the lather and remove the excess, besides doing some cleansing, I skipped the oil and face lathered with a boar brush.

I don't usually work Stirling up all the way from a liquid, but that's how it worked. The early foam was suppressed, but there was nowhere to run, either. It performed a lot like the first Stirling puck I used, Bonaparte. So if Coconut was still a bit more irritating, I would attribute that to the lack of botanicals and presence of perfume, more than glycerine imbalance. I don't think soap makers conceive of it this way, but then, they don't seem to care about the hazard glycerine presents, generally.

The hair was softened much as in carbamide solution, yielding a not very close shave with long-sliced ends. My olfactory chemical detector picked up no ammonia. An direct test for urea I've found is Lilac Vegetal. The acrid note that urea erases was just somewhat reduced in pungency. So I brought in the other fluid that improves that, which is pumpkin juice, which I was missing anyway. Finished with oil, moisturized much later.

The sensations of postshave were notable and unusual: an immediate itch, acute warmth (if not burn), and relief with the moisturizer. It's not the first time I've itched, but I don't know what it means. I suspect it is glycerine damage, restricted to a shallower plane. Yet the moisturizer put out the fire completely, and there's glycerine in that. It could be a completely internal form of skin fracture, with the skin surface collapsing inward!

Bentonite Clay: Too Drying?

It's hard to believe. I reached specifically for something with glycerine to help me out this evening, Dermasil lotion, to be used as an oil cleanse. My face was burning a little, but I didn't know why: I saw the NMF intact this morning, I thought, just before applying alum and aftershave. Yes, I had some difficulty restraining myself, and did a full shave with a new Astra SS, a blade that has burned me before. But it seemed a good one.

There was one odd thing: I smelled ammonia when applying my pumpkin juice and baking soda hair-hydrating serum. It worked as usual. Actually, I can almost smell it now, having applied straight pumpkin juice after the oil cleanse. But there's no way any carbamide solution could get into this chunk of ice. I gave that up some time ago, and now melt a good bit of the pumpkin-sicle directly into my palm nearly every day.

My forehead this evening was visibly chapped, whereas the beard area was not. Now that area had received less pumpkin juice, only at bedtime. I did give it an even dusting with the bentonite this morning, though.

The powder is proving to be very interesting. It seems to have the power to work the paracellular moisturizing pathway backward, sucking fluid to the surface. Urea could well be a prominent component of such fluid. Thus healing lesions that look too dry, flaking or cracked; but it could have fracking power equal and opposite to glycerine. Indeed, this forehead chapping looks much like after swimming in chlorine, and that's the other time I reach for glycerine products.

I guess I can't take the powder so lightly... but I may have found a better natural resource for urea.

Sine Qua Non

"Without which, nothing." While I've been hacking the barber-style shave, Doug Hansford has been exploring shaving minimalism on the Shave Like Grandad blog, and making me jealous. I, also, crave simplicity. Breaking up with my favorite soap was a good start, I think.

This morning, it was the Noxzema I couldn't face. I had done generic Cetaphil cleansing before bed, and didn't feel like coughing up any more oil. So instead of an oil cleanse, I just put a few drops of shaving oil on my dry face, and left it there, hoping it would at least protect the skin, in a somewhat dehydrated state.

And it did. I got a very fine shave, in fact. The "light" kind of BBS, I would call it, where you don't feel any stubble without pressing a bit. The skin, hydrating itself during the course of the shave, produced the "blade silence" which I had abandoned in my quest for perfection. And thus, it was a particularly easy shave.

The degradation in quality which this ease cost could only be inferred from the postshave skin condition. Instead of a complete NMF film, only pores showed tiny, cloudy dots of maceration. I intuited that I could not apply alum to such a dehydrated surface, and so went with dilute Lilac Vegetal. When it dried down, 3-in-1 Lubricating moisturizer penetrated quickly, with no excess to distribute to the rest of my face. The surface was just oily enough to apply bentonite clay.

Still, I can see that the pores were slightly gouged out, and the shave doesn't look quite clean. On this very subtle distinction, and a slight perception of difficulty during the shave itself, I decided that this would be the final shave for my Personna blade. The criterion has swung that way before, from hair to skin, and vice-versa, as my skill improved, so I'm not too surprised. But this time, I can specify exactly what it is, without which I will not shave. It is the layer of natural moisturizing factor. Or rather, the sense that it is being nurtured and maintained.

With a sharp blade, I should be able to enjoy a few not-so-close, quick shaves. It's been awhile -- I calculate from my blog posts that this blade had exactly 36 shaves on it. It will be interesting to see how my new preparations apply to a sharp blade, too.


Ugh. The perfect shave party is over. Now what? Is my overly-hydrated vow, never again to shave away the stratum corneum, binding in the cold light of morning? "I love you, man. Hic! Brothers forever! Hey... hey -- let's streak through the library!" Now my posh, but completely respectable girlfriend, Coconut Stirling, is glaring at me from the foot of the bed. She does not look happy.

I rise with the hair of the dog, a little baking soda in water, and take a long shower. I'll try, one more time, to shape up. A couple dips of the boar, some skillful stroking, and the friction is dissolved. But there's something missing, and I know it's a fraud. This shave is just a quickie, not a proper reconciliation.

"It's not you, it's me." Glycerine tears leave me burning below the jaw. It's better to have ended it now, before making a committment I'd live to regret. I think we might even manage to see each other again, from time to time. As I upend a bottle of blue alcohol, spilling the last drop, mixed feelings of resignation and freedom mark my entry into adulthood.

Found In Translation

The question now arises, given my adaptation of bentonite clay to postshave, whether I have become a man who wears makeup. I'm going to argue, no. The trace minerals in the clay are nutritive, and I think the powder answers a long-standing problem of mine with regard to oily skin. My seborrheic eyebrows, for example. Always flaking, neither Vitamin D nor pumpkin juice helped for long, except that they were somewhat moisturizing. One whisk of the powder brush, though, and I can't see any sign of scales.

Recent developments are very auspicious for my nose, too, where sebaceous filaments have been enlarging my pores for years. Of course powder has a cosmetic effect, but does it not also wick the root cause away? Since I had the old, generic Noxzema fresh in my mind, I used it as a substrate for wire loop extraction, which, as I do it, is an operation very much like shaving. I believe it would be difficult for anyone to identify my skin type, at this point.

There is one dark secret, though, which I'd like to get off my chest. I bought the kabuki brush from Dollar Tree, and tried to use it as a shaving brush. (Phew, what a relief!) Stupid thing tangled right up, so I finally understand what disappointed horsehair brush owners are talking about. I mean, it was exactly the right shape -- it LOOKED like it should have worked. Well, now it has a legitimate use, because I'm not going to be able to keep my synthetic shaving brush dry just for powder.

In honor of Dollar Tree, and really, all that the Chinese have given me on this magnificent journey in shaving, today I employed nearly everything I've bought at the store. Instead of pumpkin juice and baking soda, I used their alcohol-based shaving gel as the hair hydrator in my new, perfect shave system. (The trials are over; this experiment is more like proof of concept.) And that cold cream, which they also tried to pass off as sufficient to shave on, I employed as the skin hydrator. Same, homemade shaving oil in between.

Another perfect shave! Well, pretty near perfect: slightly tougher cutting, slightly more aftershave penetration at the end, good for at least 8 hours with a worn blade. So if the only thing growing in your garden is a Dollar Tree; or you're looking at some city-slicker cosmetics and thinking, "Wow, I must be really missing out": take $5 and select some "shaving" cold cream, some oil, some "shave" gel, and some of the (truly excellent) blue aftershave, along with a kabuki brush. Leaving clay and WIlliams as the only special, traditional supplies -- but they're pretty cheap, too.

I'm afraid I've now done to Stirling what I did to KMF, and broken its luxury down to cheap components. Clay is certainly a significant part of its post-shave appeal. But I'm still proud to offer both products to my flea market customers. Learning what your face needs is a process, one that's taken me at least three years of careful attention (disregarding the 25 some-odd years of complete ignorance). You do need somebody else to do the thinking at first, and it sure ain't gonna be the good people of China, Gillette, or Barbasol.

'Murican Shave! Puck Yeah!

That barber-style finish held up amazingly well. Still smooth to the touch 12 hours later, by which I mean, stroking in the direction of growth. No irritation, no chapping.

Yesterday, I took a break from the trials, though, because I had to shower and shave for a ride on the "Polar Express." I did incorporate the skin-side strategy, applying hair conditioner to my beard in the shower, and then oiling up as soon as I got out. It was just a good shave. I didn't have to cash in my NMF reserve, but it didn't hydrate the hair enough. Too much traction meant fewer passes were feasible for the skin, and the cutting angles on the hair were imperfect. But it got me out the door with my herd of spoiled brats. Plain splash followed by moisturizer was sufficient and un-tacky.

Mission Accomplished

"Humility must always be the portion of any man who receives acclaim earned in blood of his followers, and sacrifices of his friends." Not this time -- party on, dudes! The perfect shave was achieved on December 13, 2015, a date that will live in infamy, when I selected the other oil-cleansing alternative, generic Noxzema, and put together an All-American shave (well, except the Semogue Boar brush -- D'oh! Should have gotten out the Ever-Ready). The tackiness with which I successfully dealt two days ago, I realized, was one of the main things that put me off Noxzema. Not that I was ever particularly conscious of the value of NMF, but no thin-skinned individual wants to lose entire layers of their face to chemical maceration. Today, I was confident of retaining it, with even less shaving oil than usual -- a mere three drops.

To avoid all possibility of collapsing lather, Williams took the understated soap role, and showed similar, but less dramatic enrichment than Arko, layered atop dried pumpkin juice and baking soda. I thought I might have smelled some, uh, contaminant, if you know what I mean. But no "water pass" today, boys -- rich crema brought me to blade silence in three passes.

And I straightened out the postshave, too, with Florida Water first, which went on very lotion-like because of the Noxzema. I could have stopped there, but I was rather looking forward to more powder, and wanted some Shave Secret spiciness in this scent profile. So one drop of oil, followed by Bentonite clay again. I found out it's a legitimate talc alternative. I'm -- ahem -- sticking with it.

I can rub backwards and find some stubble on my neck and below the jawline, but I'm attributing that to blade wear. This shave is even, it's perfectly comfortable, there is no damage, and I'm guessing it will hold up closer to 10 hours than the usual five to eight.

This concludes our regularly scheduled programming... thank you, and good night.

The One With Powder

I recently joined a most interesting forum, though fora aren't really my thing. This one only allows actual, geographic neighbors, and functions as a digest listserv: you send an email, it aggregates with neighbors posts and sends a sort of newsletter. It's called Front Porch Forum. It's a Vermont product, so I don't know if you could find anything like it elsewhere. I guess you could set up your own on Yahoo!, if they still have Groups... but the low corporate umbrella provides an easy way to communicate in real life that you're "on" it, which seems like the most significant innovation.

Anyway, I got on there to do some flea marketing. Something like this:


Bring comfort and joy to the holidays with a new, old-fashioned, double-edge (DE) safety razor. These economical, quality selections from China have come to town and are conveniently available for pick-up whenever.

DF-813, $5: A high-capacity, low-angle shaver similar to the Turkish YUMA, but without the ugly brand stamp. This  entertaining, stylish choice for the experienced DE or straight shaver is also a logical start for one who would otherwise be drawn to an open-comb razor or shavette.

RM2003, $5: This modern version of the Gillette Tech features a fully capable, unbiased design. Lift the blade on the top cap, keeping the angle low, or pitch it down and ride the safety bar. The Rimei razor offers a complete course in the art of shaving, with just moderate risk to the skin.

YJL 8206-M, $5: One Super Speed clone famously brought DE back to store shelves recently. This less expensive alternative in aluminum, steel and zinc is still more decent than most. While giving cartridge users a safe option, its low edge exposure also allows old pros to make blades last longer.

ALSO AVAILABLE: blades, 5 for $0.75 or $1.50, depending on brand. Oil, $2.25. Soaps selected to perform with hard water, $2.25 - $8. Florida Water et al., $4 - $6. White nylon brush, black rubberized plastic handle, $6. Pur-tech faux badger brush, shiny black resin handle, $16. Education,

And I realized: I gotta get rid of that carbamide solution! "Just delete that," my wife says. Uh, yeah... I guess you don't really know the depth of my insanity, Dear.

So today, for trial #12: back to just-like Cetaphil for the skin moisturizing, followed by an oil cleanse so as not to get too engorged, which would prevent BBS by submerging the hair before the cut. This didn't do my lather any favors. With the pumpkin-juice/baking soda hair moisturizing prep on top of it, Stirling fizzled to almost no cushion immediately.

But when I put razor to face, I found that one pass would have been a good shave. Like butter! But again, because this is a "perfect shave trial," I pressed on to three passes, and found that by the water pass, my Super Speed wasn't catching any more hair. Slickness supported the full touch-up treatment, even on my neck.

Post shave was real weird. I had a film of NMF "wet rice paper" again, but because Stirling feels so good after rinsing, I forgot to dehydrate it and went straight to oil. The tackiness was most apparent at that point, however, so I went to Dollar Tree splash, which raised a light blue emulsion out of the oil and macerated skin. I applied a wet towel to remove and neutralize it, but I was still a bit tacky.

I realized what I needed was a traditional barbershop dusting of powder. I had accidentally finished my shave like barbers do! But I don't have powder. All I have is some Bentonite clay, from early soap-doctoring experiments. I retrieved my second shaving brush, luckily the soft synthetic, and applied just the smidge that stuck to the lid of the small storage container after I shook it up. And that was enough.


Phase III: Integration

Having abandoned the "blade silence" criterion, and being in the final stages of Personna blade life, I'm relying on very subjective variations in cutting angles and drag to asssess the refinements that I hope will produce "the perfect shave."

I was not entirely pleased with the level of exfoliation in trial #10. I think I would have seen the rice-paper effect if I had not shaved it all away. It wasn't SO bad -- usually I put a casual, "standard"  shave in between trials. But my skin felt chemically off, as if I had overapplied glycerin. It looked pretty leathery. The Egyptians also used natrium to prepare mummies, as I recall.

Trial #11 therefore brings oil and carbamide back as a primary, hopefully skin-focused preshave. Hot towel on the oil, followed by simple "splash" (though my motions were considerably more gingerly than usually implied by that term). And on the hair side, less baking soda, just a sprinkle of micrograms, in the pumpkin juice.
As expected, the latter did not sink into the skin so fast this time.

So as not to deprive the lather of enrichment, KMF-VDH croap was employed. The oil and urea certainly decreased the cushioning, but in a good way. The lather performed like Stirling or Dove Expert, with the classic progression from cushion, to crema, and a final slick residue.

The hair was noticeably harder to cut, however, so I will want to increase the soda back to a small pinch tomorrow. But my skin looks much better. Moisturizer practically bounced off my beard area afterward, despite having used the Veg as primer. So I spread it all over my face, which I guess I ought to be doing on a regular basis anyway.

Perfect Shave Trial #10: Eureka!

"But I smell-a nice!" I apologize to any Italian readers for that joke. Actually, an Italian gentleman, posting some time ago on G+, contributed to today's discovery by introducing me to the concept of applying rose water toner before shaving. He said it cleansed and prepared the face for the shave, but I incorrectly filed that information under "loose skin"... for future use.

In the last few "perfect shave" experiments, you will have noticed, I've been trying to work baking soda back into my routine. I didn't list it as one of the suspected keys to perfection at the outset, but I'd like to sneak back and edit that. I used to make an emulsion of oil, water, and baking soda as preshave. It very much erected the hair, and when followed by a higher-end soap (Stirling, KMF-VDH), wasn't too harsh.

Come to find out, that's an ancient, African trick, predating soap, for general skin cleansing. Desperate to solve the riddle of unlocking my cuticles to water, I read some blogs written by modern black women, regarding hydration of scalp hair. And by Jesus, wouldn't you know, they, too, have their mad scientists? The Egyptians, you may be aware, were some of the most obsessive shavers known to archeology; and I can certainly understand why, if their hair was as wiry as mine.

My contribution to these proud lines of heritage adds good ol' American pumpkin juice, to produce a gentler treatment that also enriches lower-grade soap lather.


Into a small vessel, but one you can reach the bottom of with your fingertips (such as an empty shaving mug or bowl), deposit a small pinch of baking soda. Holding the palm of your non-dominant hand vertically over this, melt a slightly less than splash-sized aliquot of pumpkin juice. This should dissolve the baking soda quite easily.

Dispense the solution back to your cupped palm. Then, to recapture any of the precious fluid left in the mug, drip a tiny amount of water into the vessel, swish it around, and add this to your palm as well. Apply to the shaving area. It adsorbs and dries quickly, so distribute vigorously.


You will immediately notice the skin tightening and hair erecting. It's like an alcohol-free, oil-free sort of 'Lectric Shave!

But the real magic happens when you add soap. I chose to bowl lather Arko, but I think face lathering would work just as well. Unlike alum or saline, baking soda contributes to lather, rather than destroying it. But it's the fruit acid gel, I think, that elevates this preparation to the level of pure magic. Humble Arko suddenly takes on the super thick, impenetrable to brush-tips quality of Kiss My Face or canned lather.

Friends, let me confide, I once again paused to consider whether I should try to bottle this stuff up and make my millions. There's already been a prickly-pear liquid soap released in the U.K. which, to me, viewing users on YouTube, was obviously equivalent to KMF. They charge up the wazoo, though, compared to our domestic friends in upstate NY. I'm almost sorry that my discovery subverts the glory of KMF economically... but it will always be more convenient to just squirt it out of a pump, I guess.

Bath-ackward Shave

Perfect shave trial #9 pitted moisturizer against water itself, in the hope that it would protect the skin from full hydration somehow. It did not.

Upon rising, I applied Dollar Tree's "Lubricating" as preshave, flushing the natural alternative. I think I had tried this before, but in the amateur way of not wiping it off entirely before lathering, or soaking it off with a wet towel. I also reasoned that showering after the shave would wash away the chemicals my face was so eagerly absorbing. For soap, plain ol' Williams.

It seemed like a success at first. Very clean, very close. I caught more hair than I expected, because the previous shave had been pretty close, too. I didn't notice a great range of pitch angles, but the blade is pretty old. So I will say the hair was well hydrated. And I was able to shave to completion, rather than guessing when to stop for the sake of my skin.

But after the shower, hair had re-sprouted nearly everywhere below the jawline, and the damage there proved unacceptable as well. I don't think the irritation had to do with prep so much as some experimental strokes ATG -- I ought to know the actual orientation of my hair roots everywhere by now, but I guess I don't.

Conclusion: 3-in-1 it is, not 4.

Peripheral Hydration

For perfect shave trial #8, I tried to put baking soda where it couldn't do any harm. I began with a quick oil cleanse, to lay down the first barrier. I then face lathered Stirling, but swept as much of it as I could back into the brush with circular strokes. I sprinkled a damp cloth with baking soda, folded it up carefully, and filled the cloth with water, lightly half-squeezing it out to dissolve the powder. I soaked with that for a minute, then rinsed, and reapplied lather to shave. As my Personna blade is noticably worn, I gave the Weishi 9306-H a shot.

The hair was indeed hydrated well, as evidenced by a good range of effective cutting angles. Where most people would shave XTG, I shaved ATG at a low angle, and only went steep on the final pass ATG, which used the fine "crema" of Stirling that I squeezed from the brush. The cheeks were completely devoid of hair afterward, with the midline nearly so, but the neck just acceptably smooth. Again I had to rely on strict discipline to stop repeating strokes, as the full smoothness did not come until after the dry down.

I think this will be my final update of the neotraditional approach. As for the wet rice paper effect, it was still slightly visible, but not nearly as extensive, mainly appearing as white spots, which I guess are pores. Alcohol aftershave made the classic finish, and having written this, I'll go back and apply some sort of moisturizer.

2015 Cyberweek Shopping Guide

And so this is Xmas

Inspiring this post, there was an infotainment program on Link TV that was just perfect for the week after Black Friday, and the guy wrote a book, too. Beyond Consumer Capitalism: Media and the Limits to Imagination...for the man who has everything.

If you don't have too much croap already

Buy a bottle of Kiss My Face moisture shave, and the whole family will shave in luxury. Ladies can smear an entire leg with just a squirt, conveniently standing in the shower. The man of the house can pick up the least offensively scented Van der Hagen from the pharmacy, melt it (20-30 seconds) in the microwave, and stir in an equal volume of KMF, using the conveniently provided VDH mould cup to measure. All you need is some fancy bowl to pour it into before it hardens to a margarine-like consistency, and maybe some scent ingredient of your preference. The scented KMFs are already sufficiently smelly, though, and I like the pomegranate-grapefruit especially.


I trawled forty pages of Amazon "Price: Low to High," and picked the Merkur 1904 open comb, discounted to around $21. I haven't seen any Gillette Old Types at the local antique stores, and I know I'm going to like that handle because it's shaped like the Long Feng DF-813. I'm not saying its the greatest razor ever (yet) -- it's just what I'm asking Santa for, personally.

The DeFitch DF91 razor got good reviews from YouTube's "Frugal Shave," and an Amazon reviewer mercifully provided better photos than in the listing. It appears to be an update on the excellent Schmidt R10, with blade posts that are actually finished round. I'm not a huge fan of that type of razor, but it is exactly what a lot of new shavers are looking for. That level of quality is a steal at $16, a price which you can be sure will not last.

As always, your local antique stores should be able to provide some kind of Tech or Super Speed. A reader of the Shave Like Grandad blog recently vouched for Doug's source of the supremely cheap and effective Rimei 2003, a sort of Tech clone. (I'd still use a credit card, just in case.) Actually, for that money, why not go for the original, with Bluebird blades? That was my last successful retail purchase.


My wife got me a $300 ASUS Transformer some years back, and the damn thing is chipping apart. Just like the Apple crackbook before it. But I got a $30 RCA tablet from Wal-mart last year, and though it isn't as fancy-looking in terms of case details, it performs fine, and has been repeatedly dropped by children without incident. Putting 1+1 together, I recommend this $79, 10" Android tablet with keyboard. I picked up one for the kids, looked at it (without powering it up), and bought two more so they can't fight over it.

UPDATE: The soft, non-brittle plastic approach only works well over a certain span. Someone crushed the touchscreen of last Xmas' Wal-mart special HP laptop by accident  today. I'm not so much mad that I didn't buy the $50 protection plan, since a new digitizer costs around $70, as I am that the tech manual suggests repair isn't even possible! Oh well, maybe $50 will buy a small monitor.

Double Down on the Oil Cleanse

Perfect shave trial #7 attempted to skew the hydration to hair with essentially a double oil cleanse: cetaphil, then shaving oil. Just a pinch of baking soda before the first lather was then supposed to pop the hair open to receive Stirling's glycerin. Oh, and I had taken my 1000 IU D3 supplement earlier -- to be a new routine for winter, as I am tolerating it well.

No magic this time. It was all very familiar, resulting in BBS and just enough neck irritation to be detected with the alum block. Two passes would have been DFS, but the oil allowed me to sort of shave to a kind of stalemate, where my skin couldn't take any more, and the hair couldn't rise any more, but the blade never went silent. I just had to find the discipline to skim on water and stop shaving.

The double oil cleanse did enhance a proven approach to my oily skin. Oil and artisan soap make a good pairing. It's just nothing new, or especially easy.

Going Deep

If I could bring baking soda to the very root of the hair without macerating my face, that would give the hair a jump in hydration. Upon rising, I applied pumpkin juice as an attempt at deep skin defense, and also popped a 1000 IU D3 pill. After breakfast, I shaved. First an oil cleanse, for outer skin defense. Then I put baking soda ahead of carbamide, hoping to employ osmotic propulsion to reach my aim in the follicles, on a path of least resistance. KMF-VDH croap would ensure eventual skin plumping via the cellular pathway, however.

Trial 6 Results

Three passes almost achieved blade silence. Hair on the contralateral cheek -- where I start shaving -- was still coming up, so I hit it a little harder when I skimmed elsewhere. Sort of a three and a half-pass shave. When I approached the mirror to examine the skin surface after rinsing, I saw broken skin, but it wasn't chipped. It was macerated, an entire layer laying like wet rice paper on the surface. I could not recall ever seeing this before, but chose Florida Water to dehydrate it so I could apply some oil. Only after some time was it dry enough to try rubbing on some Dollar Tree moisturizer, which didn't exactly sting, but it could be felt.

Gosh, I think I used everything but alum and Noxzema this time! The shave was very close, approaching 3/4 baby butt-ness, but doesn't look very clean. And I don't think I can really live with light chapping, as winter begins in earnest.

Perfect Shave Trials Phase II

Differential Hydration of Skin and Hair

My skin was not at all happy with the glycerine from yesterday, escalating to a mild, acute burn. The shave that initially seemed shadowy and displeasing to the touch, actually held up very well, appearance-wise. The ends were just cut too sharp, apparently, consistent with the hypothesis that the skin was sufficiently softened, but not the hair.

Today's shave established a new baseline, by taking my benchmark Stirling shave and applying maximum hydration to both skin and hair. For the skin, carbamide solution; and for the hair, baking soda; applied in that order and backed off with a wet towel. Face lather was also used as an additional preshave.

Trial 5 Result

This combination yielded blade silence in three passes, and a damn fine shave, marked by perfect comfort. The glycerin content of Stirling may not be what it used to be, but it effectively toes the line. Just when I was about to begin the second pass, I could feel it penetrating to full depth.


Using the paracellular pathway to hydrate skin effectively protects the skin's basal layer against lather with a reasonable glycerin content. Hair seems to have been hydrated fully also, and in a feasible time period (not requiring a shower and prolonged lather exposure). This was indicated by a more square cut and zero skin damage due to blade deflection.

My new direction for future research is to maintain this degree of hair hydration and skin integrity, while decreasing the skin thickness due to hydration somewhat. Thus, when hair dries out and skin is moisturized after the shave, the former should retract further beneath the skin surface.

Welcome Back that same old soap that you laughed about...

I smell like the 1970s today, after perfect shave trial #4. Attempting to compress the hydration time back to normal scale, I brought a glycerin bar back into the routine, after an absence of nearly three years. As you have probably gathered by now, my skin reacts poorly to glycerin soap, swelling too rapidly, even painfully. I have oily skin, and presumably enough moisture already. But I liked the way preshave oil handled two preshave applications of croap, allowing it to penetrate all the way to my nerve endings, but not really harming me. It bought the hair time to really fill with water, making it longer, which seems to be the difference between BBS and DFS for me.

So today I reversed the conventional sequence, and did a brief oil cleanse BEFORE an additional glycerine soap preshave wash, and only applied the KMF-VDH to shave on. I guessed correctly with respect to my skin: it just reached the depth of the nerves. And three passes got pretty much every hair on my face. That is, it was an effective preshave.

I was disappointed to see so much shadow afterwards, though. Hair was palpable everywhere, rubbing against the grain. Worse, the damage to my skin was visible as chipping. (Yesterday was just a gentle, two-pass shave, so definitely not residual.)

Glycerin makes water wetter, but affects hair and skin differentially. Recalling the membrane channels that glycerin opens, it seems reasonable to assume that hair does not have as many, if any. It is only susceptible to the paracellular pathway.

For skin, that means urea. For hair, it means baking soda.

Black Holes in My Face

Free HBO brought "The Theory Of Everything" to us, which was very timely. I'd like to dedicate this post to Stephen Hawking's smoking hot nurse and second wife, Elaine Mason. Oh my God, why did they not extend that Penthouse Forum scene with bowl lathering and a Gillette Tech? Perhaps the scene wasn't intended to be viewed in such a positive light, being based on his first wife's book.

I read a book about black holes in sixth grade, when Hawking's ideas were being popularized... I wonder if he wrote it? I really like the guy, anyway: who declines knighthood? Time near a black hole appears to slow down, in the frame of reference of an external observer. For my third shave perfection trial, I tried to extend hydration time for my hair, which is not quite infinitely dense, but does represent a physically extreme natural phenomenon.

After taking an emergency dose of Vitamin D liquid to stop a Thanksgiving hangover leg cramp, I put four drops on my beard, instead of the new castor oil mix. Subsequent uses of the mix weren't as dramatic as the first, raising a suspicion that the vitamin isomerizes when not refrigerated. It's still great oil, but since I had the cold stuff out anyway... I figured it would have at least 20 minutes to exert its biological effect, given my predilection for long showers.

Before entering the shower, though, I mixed up an indestructible bowl of KMF-VDH lather. As soon as I stepped out, I lathered up, then went about grooming, for a total hydration period of approximately 25 minutes. Then I rubbed it in with my fingertips. It looked thin on my face, but the emulsion seemed rich. After applying the wet towel, I decided to double down, and wasted a second lather on prep. Now I could feel the glycerin reaching my nerve endings.


Two passes in my usual fashion (long strokes WTG at low angle with blade loosened, short strokes ATG at steep angle with the blade tight) was already as good a shave as yesterday's. I only went further to see if I could shave to blade silence. And I could! The blade was catching hair like crazy, allowing me to choose a greater range of angles ATG and really polish under the jaw.

Four passes was still a bit too much for my face. I thought I had forgotten to rinse the alum when I applied some moisturizer, and it irritated me. I expect I'll have to revisit that with a special carbamide treatment. 

Thanks for a Good Shave

Perfection trial #2 follows a gentle 2-pass shave yesterday, WTG-XTG with nothing but Stirling. I switched the preparation strategy around and applied pumpkin juice upon rising. I made my pies, got the turkey going, then did an oil cleanse immediately before shaving, again with the Stirling, Rimei, Personna, Semogue. I didn't want to smell anything but dinner, so postshave was just alum and dilute vinegar. I think it's the first time I've tried dilute vinegar since I started minding hydration with a wet towel after everything. Still I saw some skin chipping.

I think it was the blade. The hair just kept coming, so that when I tried to skim as a fourth pass on water, it was hitting more than light resistance. Straight oil instead of emulsion seems to have made things slow to hydrate fully.

And yet, I preserved more flesh than my first attempt. It felt safe, too. It's a very good shave, visually and in terms of evenness, and I'm glad of it. I nailed the moustache, which the extra length seemed to help me catch. But it just isn't perfectly close.

A Negative Result is not Failure

The most impressive part of the first "perfection trial" was the oil cleanse. Wow, was my skin tight! Not in a swollen way... if you've never done an oil cleanse, and you have oily skin, get right on it. But this new oil went way deeper than the original Castor/Argan blend, and no comparison at all with my cheapo homemade cooking/mineral blend.

I'm heavily into reading about Vitamin D now, and its non-metabolic effect on target tissues (there's a receptor for practically everything, it seems) is described as "anti-proliferative" as well as causing differentiation, as from basal cell to corneocyte. That's a distinction I missed originally, and it highlights the need for exfoliant pumpkin juice, which does, I believe, support proliferation.

Those processes are supposed to occur over a period of time, but just like the first time I put D on a senile wart, I could feel the need for balance immediately. Having applied the whole pumpkin juice, it just felt perfect. If I can get away with that daily, I will do it. I think it might even turn things around for my greasy pillowcase.

The Shave

I enjoyed long, easy strokes on the reduction WTG, and settled on a new method to adjust for blade flex: tightening the razor against my face. The rationale is that no skewing motion will exceed the force used to twist the baseplate exactly perpendicular into my face. I've been doing it for a couple shaves now, and so far, so good: the blade is secure.

But there was no free pass, and no "crunch." I had to work pretty hard for near-BBS in three and a half passses, and it showed: erythema at the contralateral jaw corner, a general appearance of prominences having been razed. Missed stubble in the ipsilateral cheek hollow and under the irritated jaw corner are perceived as especially insulting. So far, it seems purely superficial, at least, and nothing's burning. Carbamide and the Veg are harmonizing in their special way. Post shave doesn't get any better, with the Dollar Tree 3-in-1 going on extra wet, and drying down to what must be the most moisture my skin can hold. If I were preparing for a special event, I would be satisfied. Trouble is, I'm not.

I think the combination of preshave oil and congestive agent was a bad idea. Maybe if I had done the whole oil cleanse first, then applied the Cetaphil. Maybe not even then -- I need something as frictionless as soap on the surface and  in the follicles, and the sludge these things make with NMF seems to swell the stratum corneum alone, not the deeper layers.

On the other hand, swelling the outer layers of skin is probably why I didn't manage to cut myself. My pitch went quite a bit higher than I wanted, hitting the hair so far away from the root. I could feel myself screwing up at times, but there wasn't much skin to catch. Congestion at least made it fairly smooth. But, like I've said before: I'm not in this for the exfoliation.


I cannot shake the feeling that the answer is within my reach. Some combination of these conditioning tools will yield the perfect shave:

D3 supplement
D3 oil
Pumpkin juice
Hair conditioner or Cetaphil or KMF

I've just  got to think, and in terms of a 24-hr game clock. All shaving, all the time... only by embracing my insanity can I hope to escape!

Pumpkin, I am quite sure, provides cellular proliferation and glycerin defense. Pre and post should both be beneficial, but not a certain window before or after the shave, as the biological process of skin growth resembles or induces mild inflammation. As preshave emulsion, the aloe-like protection can be emphasized. As bedtime skin treatment, the nutrient effect will be safely accentuated.

Hyperosmotic carbamide solution (i.e, pee) brings alum-like power to the skin's barrier function as an acute effect, but adds extreme natural moisture, while making room for development of NMF over the course of the game. These qualities make it a great aftershave. It also enhances lather, especially the cheap stuff. In retrospect, I think this too is partly due to osmosis -- the lather gains penetrating power, allowing it to reach irritated nerve endings. You might not think of soap as something that soothes wounds, but it is. Another acute effect is breaking down the keratin detritus in the pores and hair softening. So long as it doesn't enter the preshave after oil, it's all good.

Congestive agents (hair conditioner, Cetaphil, Kiss My Face moisture shave) interact with the oil in my skin and hair, swelling them in a way that could only be accomplished over a period of hours in fresh water, but without maceration. Because I am such an oily dude, the idea that simple hydration is going to soften my beard is a fantasy. Cetyl, stearyl, cetearyl alcohols, whatever, are detrimental to lather, unfortunately. KMF is a lathering liquid cream, but it's a challenge to get it hydrated. It becomes supernaturally good when added to microwave-melted VDH, however. Another approach is to get the solvents into the hair and skin as preshave, but remove a certain amount before the lather comes.

Finally, Vitamin D promises to give me the skin that my genes would have denied me. There are hazards to consider. One is kidney stones. (I've had one: it feels like giving birth to a baby-sized turd.)  Vitamin K (or for those of you who eat properly, dark leafy greens) feels like it should help. And then, I've always had borderline cholesterol, and I can feel my liver swelling when I do the pills. Vitamin D is synthesized from cholesterol, so it seems I have caused a traffic jam somewhere in the metabolic pathways. Luckily I knew how to make my liver puke it out: red yeast rice. Doctors tried to make me take Lipitor years ago, and I couldn't stand the queasy side effect at that time. This prescription-free stuff does the same thing, BUT given the Vitamin D reaction, it just balances out. So send all that goo down the bile shaft, liver, and we can enjoy the modern, refined lifestyle together.

Applied directly to the skin as liquid supplement (in sunflower oil), seborrheic keratoses differentiate into something that really looks like a wart, but eventually fall off. I'm preparing to mix up my new shaving oil, and I think I'm going to make it castor and D/sunflower, 50:50. The supplement alone is a bit too greasy; castor oil, while having a high viscosity, is really the cleansing component in shaving oils. I wonder if the new mix will take down a keratosis on its own... maybe I can find one to test on the back of my shoulder or something. Actually, the one on my cheek is proving to be the most durable, probably because of the constant dilution of washing and shaving.

When possible, I will apply this oil at least 20 minutes before shaving, hoping to reliably produce the skin deepening effect, where the razor cannot possibly reach the hair root. Normally it takes a whole afternoon of lawn mowing to achieve, and there have been other signs that D3 affects basal layer porosity over a period of several hours. I couldn't possibly wear oil to bed -- my pillowcase is gross enough -- but oil cleansing is perfectly reasonable, followed by the pumpkin juice. To do both -- night time treatment and preshave -- would be something new.

So there's my strategy. Tonight, mix up the new oil, cleanse with it, then moisturize with pumpkin juice. In the morning, I'll put the oil on at least 20 minutes before the shave, then cleanse with (just like) Cetaphil. KMF-VDH croap as lather, but for the first time, with carbamide solution added, might bring something special. I like the efficiency of blade flex, and can't give it up, despite the risk; but I will also be mindful of the skin tension differential. Looking to repeat at least the nighttime pumpkin treatment, and not liking a gel approach to this winter weather, I'll go with carbamide splash and Dollar Tree moisturizer. If alcohol is to be applied, it will be as a cloth dilution after that, or even just at the borders of the shaving area.

Limbo Shave

In-laws and my folks were coming to join in the spoiling of my youngest child, Evan, who turned six this weekend. It was literally a weekend-long event, with treats on the last day of school, a takeover of the McDonald's on Saturday, and the family celebration today. My house was a wreck, as usual, and I didn't get around to shaving until ten minutes before.

KMF-VDH croap didn't respond well to a ten second load into a drip-shaken brush, giving me a bowl of thin lather. I could tell just how thin when rubbing it in for preshave, but opted to proceed, anyway. Tired of the cuts that seem to be accumulating as a result of blade loosening, and not seeing much growth, I remembered the last time I had thin lather, and focused on relaxing, with my blade safely tightened down.

I was rewarded with a wonderful crunching sound, something attributed to SE shaves, but which I have experienced more with the Weishi. I think it means I got the low angle I was looking for. Final result was near BBS, with some neck damage.

For the hell of it, I stopped it up with carbamide aftershave. As if my face were a fire and my skin's natural fluid the firemen, this shouted at them to get back in there! And it was perfectly soothing. I will have to monitor the ammonia reaction in the cloth used to back that off, but there was no residual smell on me, at least.

Dweeb, Geek, Or Spaz?

I enjoyed an easygoing shave today, wherein I didn't configure anything to danger mode or touch anything up. Now that my boar brush and Stirling are friends, with the no-rinse philosophy, I discovered I could use the bristle contact to alert me when the lather was getting thin, as it penetrates with a clear sensation. Curious as to the meaning, I did not build it back up. Two passes left me just close and comfortable, looking good, but with palpable stubble pretty much everywhere.

You might say that today, for once, I shaved like one of the cool kids. In the school cafeteria of shaving, those are 60-year olds who can tolerate cartridges and bath soap. I would always have characterized myself as a geek, but halfway through shaving my cheeks, I noticed something. My face was not entirely relaxed. Maybe it's the Vitiamin D talking, but by focusing on the tone of my facial muscles, when I thought my face was already quite slack, I managed to make the razor catch more hair. Could I have actually been, all along, a geeky spaz shaver?

As I said, today's shave was unremarkable in terms of results. But, with a full preshave treatment and better lather, I wonder if the sort of biofeedback I experienced could be an alternative approach to the benefits I achieved with blade flex. Flexing the skin up ahead of the blade, instead of lowering the edge, theoretically will not produce the music-box effect of local edge deflection, but should give me the lower effective shaving angle with rigidity that I was hoping to explore via SE.

This Razor Is No More

SE Day 3

What have I gotten myself into, here? Four passes, including a steeply angled pass on water, and all I have to show for it is the equivalent of 2xWTG. Messrs. Dorco and Hannaford, let me inform you, I am not in this for the exfoliation! Even if I were, my skin is looking large-pored, which is to say, distressed. I think I am supposed to return to the store and give you a Norwegian Blue argument, but I have misplaced my satisfaction guarantee. And being so new to SE, I don't know if I would even be comfortable doing that.

So where does that leave me? Looking at the glint under an overhead light, I can see that the edge, such as it was, is still well-defined. It's only "dull" in the pragmatic sense, of not being able to shave; it looks like it could section slide specimens or scrape paint very well. Now I could sift through the paper recycling again, go to the bother of recovering my $3, and probably spend an additional $3 at CVS for the correct blade. Or, I can try my hand at honing again.

I guess I really ought to do both. It's not like I can un-use this blade that I've already tried. Maybe I can "satisfy" myself.

SE Day 4

No chance. Just as in my experiments in DE sharpening, I get an edge that makes it as far as my chin, and then, pfft. The odd thing about this razor though, is that I could still struggle through three passes without hurting myself, and the process was smoother than yesterday. But the result was totally unacceptable, equivalent to one careless WTG pass. I actually got out my #1 and went ATG to finish, not even caring if I missed anything. It was as clear a difference as "shaving," vs. not.


Single-edge razors of the classic era are more closely descended from the original Kampfe safety razor design than Gillette's. A relatively inflexible blade, resembling a section of a frameback razor is clamped atop a baseplate, with a geometry and general function not entirely unlike the later double-edge.

But whereas DE razors are (mostly) optimized for moderate angles of pitch and close contact with the skin, and offer the user a wide range of control, the SE seems extremely biased toward the low angle, and zero skin impact. So much so, that the open blade technique of rolling the skin up loosely ahead of the edge, is inaccessible. While the shaves are invariably safe, and the results comfortable, this new kind of angular error results in distressed skin and a rough shave, that isn't very close either.

I'll reserve a personal "Conclusion" for when and if I can reasonably attain a more appropriate edge, and of course it must be recognized that lots of people are satisfied with SE razors. As far as I'm concerned, though, this thing was obsolete the day the Old Type was introduced, and I can say that having never even used an Old Type.

Millē Aspectūs

The first milestone! Veni, vidi... let's flip the screen, shall we? I remember considering titles and subtitles for this blog along the lines of, "A technical school for underprivileged, sensitive boys," as an affront to all the manly-man shaving sites, and an honest mission statement. I stuck to the classical education model in the end, though, because it pleases my sense of humor better. Blogger was also offering this lovely template, reminiscent of brick and ivy, for free.

But who ARE you? I can't tell much from this end, actually. Countries are represented below, and operating systems. I'll let your browsers remain a state secret; but just so you know, the Blogger tracking is gibberish to me, and not at all informative. (Entry from Google Play Store? How?) I at least know that all of the non-Android entries are not me, even if I haven't maintained my non-tracking cookie from the beginning. And I notice that the all-time numbers don't add up to 1000, so I guess that for some of you, stealth mode is working.

Don't worry, I won't be sending assasins if you go back to cartridges, or buy a $200 shaving brush. I assume that is why you guys never comment, as I am so very friendly and approachable.

A Hard Sell

I considered newspaper-stropping my 10/$3 supermarket SE blade to see if it could be improved. Some combination of search errors led me to an article on jeans stropping, where one perceptive modern shaver commented, "My face is so effective, that by shaving I'm sharpening the blades of the razor." LOL.. but that is exactly the strategy I went with for my second shave with the Clog-Pruf.

It seems that what our Korean friends and Hannaford Bros. have done is to champion a two-bevel blade contour, in a world that can only tolerate three. My blades got the pooh-pooh treatment at Badger and Blade as long ago as 2009. How on earth are they still selling them?

According to Ted Pella, Inc., it is a compromise intended to improve durability. Honestly, I didn't get it, either, because the angles depicted are narrower, but these are the actual science guys. From this information, I could at least reasonably project that with wear, the cross section should come to resemble the three-facet edge, and ironically become "sharper." Thus, my expectant treatment of today's shave.

I'll be damned if that cartridge shaver wasn't right: my face DID improve the blade! It's still tugging like a third-week DE, and I also shaved less fearfully than yesterday, which may account for the somewhat closer result. But this was a considerably smoother shave. That spot at the bottom of my buttresses, I realized, is the spot where I have to pitch the blade down especially steep. We're only just approaching DFS on my cheeks, but the trend is positive. I'm in for the long haul.

In retrospect, I can now begin to imagine how a more acute edge can be less sharp. It's like an axe that sticks deep in wet, green wood, unable to throw chips from the cut. There's not enough wedge action. I expect that my shaves will get closer, as the blade starts to sink into hair closer to the skin, and more comfortable, as that will in turn decrease the tension alignment error.

To help things along, I cleaned the back of my neck. And folks, I'm sorry to report, this razor isn't really clog-proof.

GEM Micromatic Clog-Pruf

I've resisted the temptation for years, but my local vintage razor supplier has got me pegged. Put one functional, halfway-decent looking safety razor under glass for $7-$10, and I'll bite every time. I knew there was a spring or something to worry about with this single-edge (SE) model from circa 1946, but I simply spoke a few words into my cell phone and familiarized myself with its operation on the spot. Spring action, confirmed. I'll take it!

That was just the last hurdle. I've long been prejudiced against SE by my minimalist sensibilities. Subscribing to more than one blade system is fundamentally lacking in parsimony.

"It is futile to do with more what can be done with fewer."

Frugality, however, subsumed that concern. I noted the appearance of $3 SE blades at my supermarket a several months back, which tipped the scale of judgment away from "Feather Artist Club" and back to "cheap." My initial commitment to DE was swayed by such bargains.

Besides, it must be admitted, I have since degenerated to the point of buying razors for entertainment. I could at least justify this new one as an educational expense. My birthday razors started me fooling around with blade flex. I began with reservations, and recent increases in the incidence of cuts have again called value into question. Without any other blade type, it would be difficult to evaluate fully, but the thicker SE blades are known to be more rigid, besides being clamped into the GEM razor by hooks at the front corners.

And last week, my error with the shavette branded me with the conviction that I am quintessentially a low-angle shaver, which I've always heard is an outstanding feature of SE. Though most YouTubes depict shavers holding the blade high, I know that's only becuase modern safety razor users generally refuse to tether the skin behind the blade. Those images alone (well, plus the horrendous grating noises) are almost sufficient evidence that I'm going to love SE.

Logic practically demands that I possess this razor! Friar William of Ockham himself could not fault this purchase. "No plurality should be assumed unless it can be proved (a) by reason, or (b) by experience, or (c) by some infallible authority." I'll take (b) for $9, Alex.

The final Pruf

Bowl lathering Stirling with my Semogue 620, my foam came up a little thin, which seemed prudent enough, anticipating a burn risk. Anything but draggy, and the less glycerin, the better. At the temple, it was immediately apparent that low angle was the only way I could make the razor progress. And man, was it tuggy! You know I don't really mind that, but wow -- as tuggy as a completely, won't cut hair, 25 shaves dull DE blade. Possibly even more than that, which was unexpected, for a design often said to be the next closest thing to a straight razor. I seriously doubt that claim.

I didn't get a super close shave this time, but it was more than acceptable. I suspect I was overly cautious about attempting my usual sliding strokes, given the forces in play. I skipped the splash and went straight to Shave Secret, which rewarded me with its menthol coolness. One thing I will approve immediately, is the post-shave feel: that nice, velvety feeling of having just removed an old beard.

And not a hint of burn, though a slightly sore spot on the contralateral jawline suggests highly localized intrafollicular damage.

How a Senile Wart Dies

Seborrehic keratosis came to the fore of my attention when one popped up in the shaving area of my right cheek. It was an unusual specimen, more of a cross-section, planed continuously by the blade. Most of mine are in the area of the left temple, and I have one as far south as near my elbow on that side, presumably because that's where the sun hits when driving. Those have a grayish, fleshy, not quite "stuck-on" appearance, as usually described, because they're not very large, but I guess they are sort of putty-ish. They invite picking that way, but that just makes them look like actual warts, when the blood vessels break.

Unless you've been putting Vitamin D oil on them, in which case they actually do become unstuck and fall off. One such dried crust came clean off under my fingernail last night. A previous, larger lesion sort of broke off in pieces prior to that. I think those two went first because they were old, and eager for apoptosis. the one on my cheek isn't as dramatic, but I have seen it shed layers and shrink, which I'm sure is the equivalent process. Essentially, after the basal layer cells give up the ghost, the overlying structure surfaces atop the normally differentiating skin, as closely resembling normal exfoliation as possible given its keratinous nature.

I think the ones on my elbow are shrinking, too, though. They have the best shot of falling off clean, without a verrucous phase.

The Cucumber Analogy

I have previously written that the different shaving tools available today are like those used to peel a cucumber. If you know what you're doing, you can succeed with a chef's knife, and leave enough green to provide vitamins, with an artistic flourish. A paring knife is the most precise tool, allowing the greatest yield of cucumber, but its sensitivity to control inputs is likely to leave a couple unintended divots. A potato peeler is the fastest way to peel a cucumber, but it takes away significant value.

Now more than ever, I know, my face is that cucumber. My first normal shave in awhile happened this afternoon. I got a divot in my moustache near a lip corner, and hit a bump from previous misadventures on my chin. I'm nowhere near 100%, as measured in skin thickness, but at least the pain is over.

Taking a pointer from "Frugal Shave" to Anthony Esposito on YouTube, I found that indeed, I do not know what I am doing with a straight razor. I watched in horror as his pitch progression trended exactly opposite mine, beginning with a low angle, then going even lower ATG. It appears that ideal sharpness is key to that maneuver, carefully flicking the hair up with the top of the edge until it comes into opposition with the bottom and cuts through with near-zero traction.

Most humiliating is my realization that the DE steep-angle maneuver I have settled upon as a finishing pass, depending on the distribution of traction to the top cap and safety bar, is as far removed from that as a cartridge is, from how I shave. Still, for the freedom of not having to sharpen knives every day, and getting three weeks out of a blade, I feel pretty good about my preference in tools.

Several months ago, I made a deliberate move away from the open blade style I was learning with the "devette," because I recognized that convenience, and this week, I paid the ultimate price. But I think also, at that time, I sensed that there was something lacking in my skin condition, always looking at its acne-scarred, sun-damaged, cartilaginous underpinnings. As I am again now -- and it's not a good look on me.

Where the cucumber analogy breaks down is that a chef can use his knife to separate chicken pieces and chop carrots, besides prepping cucumber; while in shaving, it's the DE shaver who is required to draw strokes and push the capabilities of an edge.

All I Know Is Pain

My goodness, what a great shaver I am! From the worst cut ever received in September, to the worst burn ever received, this week. I got a good look at my skin last night, all leathery and completely exfoliated, with the deep scarring again visible next to the seborrheic keratosis on my cheek. (At least that last marker is getting smaller, thanks to Vitamin D oil.)

There was still plenty of pain, too, which I used to test the next pumpkin pop, the one squeezed from the flesh. It was surprisingly slimy. Extra slimy, in fact: I was able to smoothly spread the beard application all over my head and neck. It had a pretty strong smell, too, though pleasant, lacking a sour note that the "guts" carried. Interestingly, this preparation failed to soothe at all. It burned in an aftershave sort of way, and the skin glowed pink, indicating it was biologically active... but no relief. I had to fall back on my last resort, Psoriasis cream, just a little dab applied on top after the pumpkin dried down.

It occurred to me that the Vitamin A I was once prescribed for acne, back in the day (not sure which type, but I think Retinol) carried warnings against chemical burn. Maybe all this pumpkin wasn't a great idea. So this morning, when I awoke to still more pain, I tried to shut it down with Ivory and carbamide solution. The pain persisted.

I gave the "guts" pop another shot, and again, it soothed like first aid should. I conclude that the pumpkin parts synergize naturally. Unless you have acne, in which case the pulp alone might be interesting, or you're an accident-prone beginning shaver, looking for something like aloe, the juice for everyday shaving and anti-aging purposes should be extracted from whole pumpkins.

I'll still shave today, but I think I'll go for the Dove instead of the Stirling.

The Difference a Day Makes

I noted before the delayed effect of damage received when I shaved on hotel supplies, and am now compelled to do the same, after shaving with a shavette. It felt fine yesterday, but now that seems to have rather been a reflection of the Weishi's prior performance, or dare I suggest, even Barbasol? (Heavens, no.)

Well, I knew just what to do about this latest of late-onset burns: bring in the pumpkin pops! First up, the slimy one, made from the "guts." (And no, I never am going to look up the right word.) It was indeed very slimy, as expected, and seemed to be the fraction containing the entire complement of pumpkin smell, which was rather unpleasant in application. But, it faded fast upon drying, and no unmasking oil was necessary, given the irritated state of my face.

Best of all, it made me feel better right away. I have to wonder, though, if that's really significant. I mean, yes, I want to feel good; but does that mean I am being cured? Like the damage effect of shaving, the health effect of pumpkin juice could depend on a delayed reaction.

Doesn't matter, I guess, as both effects are good. (Unlike alcohol or alum.) Ideally, it would function like this stuff I have for wounded animals, EMT Gel hydrolyzed collagen. I totally use that veterinary product on myself, because it's the only thing that instantly terminates the stinging pain of skin splitting on knuckles or hangnails. (Smells ten times worse than pumpkin guts, unfortunately.) But it also helps the wounds heal.

Today, I only gave a couple hours to recovery, and shaved the whole mess off. Hurt like hell, and it wasn't my best work, but I'm not even going to think about it. I did my thing, with all my favorite stuff, and I expect I'll be back on track tomorrow. Excuse me, rather: I believe I am on the right track, now.

Every once in awhile, you read something like, "I like alum, but two days later..." I shudder to think how much this phenomenon, of healing that is more painful than the injury, has corrupted our efforts to communicate and learn.

Dalliance With Open Blades

I relaxed this Sunday with some shaving-related explorations. I froze the last pumpkin juice ice pops from this year's jack-o-lantern, in an experiment to determine which part of the pumpkin has the "good stuff." Is it the slimy "guts," or the spongy flesh? The halloween extras had been frozen in gallon freezer bags to compensate the loss of an intact rind, and the liquid extract re-frozen in cake frosting cups, then thawed and allowed to settle. The slimy part was problematic, in that it had the consistency of refrigerated gravy. I couldn't decant the thin layer of clear liquid on the outer edge, so I just scooped out as much congealed vegetable mucus as I could. The flesh yielded much more actual liquid. Either could give you your year's supply of two or three pumpkin juice freezer pops, though, so stay tuned for those results.

I applied the ceramic mug-bottom knife sharpening method to a cuticle knife and an acne lance, then went crazy with it and put an edge on three (3) Dollar Tree kitchen knives. (I have a nice big sharpening stone, too -- never used it.) One had a crappy spot that could not be ground out, giving me my first inkling of what "won't take an edge" might mean,  but it was probably my most successful knife-sharpening experience ever. After honing on cardboard, I (of course) considered taking the little "santoku" to the next level with newsprint, and shaving with it.

Nah. A better option has been lurking in my closet for a few months: the Sedef shavette, loaded with half a Racer. I shaved with it a couple times, I think. While still capable of cutting hair, making me uncomfortable with the idea of throwing it away, I never felt quite up to using it. Having taken the Rimei blade to its limits was just the confidence boost I needed.

Not knowing (or caring) about established forms, it always takes me much longer to shave this way, and I take a little damage. I usually blame the razor (can't see), soap (too dry) or the blade (too sharp, too dull). But this time I knew it was all me; and this time, I didn't hurt myself. I don't think that was a coincidence. But I was still detached from my hands, almost as if I were an observer of my own "muscle memory." Disproving that idea: I don't practice with the shavette. My fingers were subconsciously adapting what I had just recently learned from safety razors!

Initially they tried the lowest angle, pitching down until the blade caught hair. But not -- and this is what was new -- into the danger zone, the moderate angles where one fishes for BBS. Better to draw the blade, they seemed to calculate, with hardly any intent on my part.

Next trying the steep angle, they tightened to a rock-hard grip, which made me realize I had been holding the blade rather loosely at the low angle, just like my loosened safety razors. My hands sucked eggs at this part. But still they refused to hurt me, not letting the edge sink in.

So I have this wierd shave, barely close enough, and some BBS spots. I blamed the blade (hypocrite that I am) and slid it out of the holder with the back of my comb. Best shavette shave ever.

Academy Shave

The brats were upon us early. I wasn't expecting a great shave, with a dull blade, but dull is as dull does, right? And I had the Weishi loaded... why not just use a squirt of Barbasol? Everybody knows you never go full commercial; I relied upon the blade alone to provide the bare minimum of dignity.

It was a performance worthy of recognition, sure enough. (Some call it, the Gillette Slide...) I did get quite a bit closer on the jaw corners, contrary to my prediction, with the razor chudding along at maximum drag and traction. (Shave, Forrest, shave!) I could see that the same area was slightly pinkened, or "blotchy" afterward, but it did not burn. I looked myopically for skin damage, and found none, despite having gone swimming last night. Finished with with water-only rinse and Dove SPF 15 moisturizer. Overkill for a drive to the Chinese buffet, but after swimming is the time when I would want a normal moisturizer.

The low exposure approach to worn blades was proven. Still, it didn't change the fact that the blade was done. Some of the missed stubble was redistributed to below the jaw, and the center of my face wasn't quite clean looking, though those areas were subjected to touch-ups on water, and fairly smooth. The Super Speed is simply better calibrated to my skin elasticity.

I think it's interesting that feeding my skin with KMF, and not following it with astringent, seemed to have a protective effect against chlorine. If I can remember, I'll wash with glycerin soap before getting in the pool next time. Like fighting fire with fire?

Life is like, a box of razor blades...

Whoomp! There It Is

I didn't want to write today, I wanted to read. Me and Doug Hansford -- the "Tag Team" of shaving? Whazzup? Bloggin' ain't easy, I know. I look forward to posts from others, too, a special few on my dashboard. Some have gone silent, and because I don't do well on, er, more social media, I'll never know why.

Might I run out of things to learn someday? I did totally call it on that Rimei blade: shave 23, and I find patches of missed hair at the jaw corners after a two-pass shave. I'm not dissappointed, though; I am triumphant. What an amazing run, and it points me right to where I want to go next, which is back to Personna, my favorite and the most similar blade in my experience.

But first, I'll see if I can extrapolate from a principle, lower exposure with increasing blade wear, and get another shave out of it with the Weishi. For science! Prediction: probably not. The natural pitch of the weishi may be a bit steeper than the Super Speed. But those jaw-corner hairs are the first to be missed because you can't back them up with skin. The effective stroke has got to be "nothing but hair," unless you're really scraping with a steep-angle, open blade.

Today's materials were aimed toward sowing some NMF (natural moisturizing factor). Skipped the oil and went straight to Kiss My Face, lathering up the hard way, on my face from zero water content. No astringent, which for me is a sort of glycerine disposal system -- after rinsing thoroughly, I simply applied 2/3 of a drop of shaving oil, the other third going to my blade. Finally, some pumpkin juice to get the party started in my basal layer.

These three words mean you're gettin' busy:  'Whoomp, there it is!'

Special Rainbow

One of my 7 yr-olds asked if she could "shave" this morning. The kids each have their own nylon brush and a discarded razor from my many dissatisfying purchases, in this case a Nanjie TTO. I was going to argue that women only shave their legs, but that sort of BS doesn't hold up with Milly. She selected KMF-VDH lavender scented croap, made it thin in the bowl I let her borrow, and put it all over her face. I came back and whipped it up for her. More than an hour later, I borrowed her brush to use the same lather myself. (How's that for long-lasting?)

Before shaving, though, after dropping the kids at school, I looked over the "Angles and Perspective" page to begin figuring how to shoehorn in what I've learned about using blade flex, and found it also dated in terms of extended blade use. The Rimei entered its fourth and probably final week today, and is starting to skip if I'm not careful. But I was able to take some advice from my own disquisition and gain a surprising new perspective from today's shave: one where I'm not so special, after all.

Loosening the Super Speed mechanism a bit, as usual, I let the razor find its own pitch by using a twiddly grip, which is not my habit. This follows logically from the angle convergence I've noted as blades wear. Since the edge is more obtuse, trying to use the bottom or top side in an extreme pitch technique, utilizing only half of the edge, simply reverts to a moderate angle, where only one half of the edge is effective on the hair. With respect to the skin, shaving at a moderate angle is when the standard "no pressure" advice kinda makes sense, because the edge is at its most burn-threatening opposition.

It was suddenly clear to me why a dull blade is the most dangerous, in inexperienced hands: the effective pitch changes. Ironically, though, I found myself using a technique which I myself learned to loathe through early, bad experience with sharp blades and anchor-style razors.

It highlights a difference between "sensitive" and normal shavers. I think most of us who have escaped from cartridges know that the label is basically false. Our skin is more susceptible, not just overreacting to the same damage normal shavers sustain. You can't fix it with a special balm.

I'm going back to a firm grip tomorrow, because my skin is still a bit warmer than usual having done this. On the other hand, it is reassuring to have found some tiny sliver of common ground. It's just unfortunate that for me, it requires post-graduate level work to understand what a satisfied cartridge user is able to acquire in DE shaving kindergarten.