I was awakened from sleep or near-sleep (I can't remember) by little twitchy feelings in the sun-damaged area of my face, and if I recall correctly, from the spot on my cheek as well. My immune system had apparently chosen the low-traffic hours to do some street repair, bringing in the heavy equipment to clear the apoptosis debris from my D3 topical treatment. I awoke to find the largest "senile wart" pretty near flat, reduced to a bit of roughness where the blood vessels had already been broken. Every spot seemed less palpable. So first impression, I think the D3 cure is for real.

Earlier, I also got the impression that my evening shave may have been a little bit more magical than it had first seemed. I had not shaved to complete follicle evacuation, still feeling the pain from the shave prior. Just a good close shave; however, it seemed to grow back extra slowly, if at all. The hair may not have gone down like a submarine periscope during the shave itself, but slowly after the fact, like the Titanic. 18 hours later, there was not enough beard to justify shaving above the jawline.

The skin felt a new kind of oily/dry. Like the "hard" feeling of the seasonal change, yet more pliable. I sensed an opportunity to get back to BBS, despite the worn Rimei blade. I switched it over to my black-handled Super Speed and took three passes, with touchups on rinsewater. Alum was fairly well received, with the burn restricted, not surprisingly, to the area below the jaw, where the hair had been longest.

I see now that the low-angle approach to increased blade traction was a mistake. The low angle and steep angle become the same, moderate angle as a blade breaks in. The Rimei will stay in the Super Speed until it expires.

Today, when I wanted to evaluate the skin independently of shaving variables, I chose no pre-shave and Stirling soap, palm lathered with my boar brush. If the blade had been sharper, I would have used the Rimei razor, but I think today's setup is what I would call a benchmark.

Vitamin D3 Shaving Oil

The LC NEW did what it was supposed to do yesterday afternoon, and I woke up with a long wait before the next shave. It was NOT a great shave, though: for the skin damage, while invisible and evenly distributed between roots and surface, detracted from the satisfaction of smoothness. I think rubbing it made it feel better, though, which was sort of lucky.

So I've got these two amazing, natural, practically free skin treatments which allow direct manipulation of the skin moisturization process in accordance with cutting edge dermatological research. Pumpkin juice I obtained through freeze decomposition, a novel discovery. Carbamide solution (fresh, clean-catch urine) of an origin with which I obviously still haven't become completely comfortable. I look awesome, feel awesome, and for the first time, am really on top of my skin care.

Still, the ideal shaving experience eludes me, and it is driving me mad. One evening long ago, I left KMF lather on my face while watching the beginning of "The Walking Dead," and the hair just popped off under the razor during the first commercial. But I couldn't reproduce the effect with time and lather alone. There was something about my hair that day. And then there were times after lawn mowing, when it seemed impossible to hurt my skin with the razor: the skin was so deep that the roots were unreachable. I just shaved until the blade went silent. I must synthesize these experiences!

A new lead follows my interest in vitamin supplements to where it meets a shaving-related reexamination of the gray, age-related growths on my face, known as seborrheic keratoses. A Livestrong article suggested that D3 supplements might erode the little buggers. When I investigated the source, however, I found a topical application had been used.

Last year, I was putting D3 in my tea sporadically, but recently I found the bottle rolling around, nearly full, at the back of my fridge, date expired (like most of my vitamins). First thing I did when I read this is dab some on my solarized skin spots. But I also considered: I can easily imagine myself consuming a pot of tea for an evening of zombies and internet (before becoming a "serious" blogger, -cough-). And isn't D3 a major benefit of being out in the sun, for example, mowing the lawn?

I've learned how to break the bonds between skin cells, and how to make membranes more permeable to water and glycerin; is cellular destruction the last piece of the puzzle? Could apoptosis bring a new porosity to the basal layers? Does creating more space there allow the hair roots to submerge?

This morning, I put a dose of the D3 in my Tang, and it made a blob on the surface, being a liquid preparation of a fat soluble vitamin. The recommended dose, 0.5 ml, is at least ten times the amount of shaving oil I would use to make a preshave emulsion. So I went ahead and used four drops as preshave at teatime, with baking soda as the aqueous solute.

No magic yet, but I won't be quick to judge. The thinness of the sunflower base suggested that Shave Secret is mostly sunflower, too. So, if this D3 thing pans out, I guess I'll soon have a new, dual-purpose shaving/toothbrushing oil, "with natural orange flavor."

Reconsidering Blade Longevity

The Rimei blade is two weeks old, and interacting with my skin in a novel way, probably due to my unwillingness to work it ATG at a low angle. It cuts very well WTG, but misses too much ATG. All this time, I have respected the edge as if it were a Feather, because it was so efficient WTG. I also began a new (to me) technique of loosening the handle to work blade flex in my favor, though, so I can't be too sure of that original estimation.

The art of shaving, for me, largely consists of imagining a microscopic interaction based on normal-scale evidence. My interpretation of this shave is that the edge is sliding up the hair shaft ATG, pushing the hair upright simultaneously. When the hair comes into opposition (which it would have immediately, if I weren't so cautious), then the cut is initiated. But by then, a lot of it has rolled off the blade entirely. The further you get from the root, the greater the difference between the intended cut, determined by the root orientation, and the effective cut, determined by the orientation of the hair at the cutting point.

Meanwhile, I have prior evidence that the traction of the blade has increased, threatening the perfect comfort which I've long known should be my priority, but more and more have been practicing with discipline. "Trial by Feather," you might say; also attributable to better understanding of natural moisturization. The catchphrase there would be, "Quality IS Quantity."

So what should I do? A month ago, there would be no question: break out the long-comb NEW, maybe the devette, and go for it. Now: not so sure.

Decoding Hair Conditioner

My "travel kit" this past weekend was just the boxed Rimei thrown in a carry-on case shared between two people, along with a toothbrush. (Putting my published claim, of being able to "shave with anything," to the test.) I chose hair conditioner and "beauty soap," which I assume is something like Dove. I wouldn't call the conditioner a preshave, because I originally intended to shave on it. But I found it wasn't slick enough, and simply layered on a schmeer of soap.

That went surprisingly well, perhaps indicating the success of the previous shave more than anything. I had to keep an eye on hydration, but I was able to shave to BBS for the third day in a row without blood, and hold forth at breakfast with confidence.

But on the morn of Sunday, curious what I could accomplish with a leave-in conditioner and Stirling at home, irritation was soon upon me. I had to stick to close and comfortable. Besides the lack of cushioning protection the previous day, I wondered if the richer products' glycerin was an insult. Perhaps conditioner is like carbamide: better paired with cheap soap.

Williams plus the same hair moisturizer on Monday was indeed a damn fine shave, with comfort confirmed by potassium alum. Especially remarkable because I know that the Rimei blade is nearing the end of its useful life. It seems to be approaching a limit of traction before it actually stops cutting hair, threatening to shear off too much from the uneven surface of my skin (like a cartridge). Despite a slightly blotchy (not having a better word) appearance, the alum barely elicited a few prickles.

Tuesday was an even better shave, back to Stirling. Contralateral cheek, BBS. Ipsilateral, DFS. I realized what fine distinctions my skin can make when I saw flaking after the shave, and remembered I had been swimming in chlorine again. That invalidates testing of the glycerin hypothesis, because I know I can take more glycerin when my skin is dried out. At first I thought it was razor burn, like the skin chipping effect of a cartridge -- especially since yesterday's observation of increased blade traction. But the pattern was different, like miniaturized athlete's foot, and the same was evident in the unshaved areas of my face. (Also, my face feels great.)

Though I cannot differentiate the effect of conditioner's glycerin from a previous shave's damage, I conclude that among preshaves, hair conditioner is among the most moisturizing. It seems to operate on the same intercellular pathway as glycerin, as opposed the the paracellular pathway utilized by urea, but in a balanced way, with its other emollient alcohols and occlusives. And while it may not break down keratin as efficiently as urea, the effect on razor efficiency seems pretty positive. A well conditioned beard hair seems to stand up better to the cut, without detrimental tugging.

Tighten Up Now

Tonight my sugar momma is taking me out to a resort to mingle with her influential friends. I kinda wish I had thought to cut my hair a week ago, instead of today, but I am fully on top of the shaving situation.

Yesterday, I shut down my biologically active beard with an Ivory shave. And that was pretty darn close. And you know I just had to try it with carbamide solution: somehow I got it too thin, but the postshave was great. Ivory always makes me feel like I've regressed the skin to pre-adolescence. What the urea added was softness, so what threatened to be a tight feeling quickly relaxed, without any sense of excess hydration or oiliness.

This morning, that left me with velvet barely long enough to shave, but I hit it again with a close two-passes and touch-ups. Plain Arko (assuming minimal contamination), and no shaving oil, followed by a straight Florida Water splash and cold cloth soak. I might be able to find a hair rubbing around my neck, a few hours later, but that's as BBS as I ever get. Actually, I got a little too close, noticing a nick-ish neck weeper after the splash that needed styptic.

It'll have all day to heal before dinner.

I've concluded that the Rimei with its handle loosened emulates very well the blade-flexing behavior of the Long Feng DF-813, accounting for its first-pass success. And with a suitably smooth blade, the Rimei is a good finishing shaver for me, behaving like a TTO with a very sharp blade when I go slowly ATG.

So I guess it's goodbye to the shims, and all my other razors are now eligible for PIF. (Except that mint gold Tech, which my son will inherit.)

Are You Ready?

Thanks Chris Clement, for the reminder (Oct. 1960 comic)
Aside from a brief description in the "Post Shave" disquisition, I haven't specifically told you how to get your own Pumpkin Face Balm, aka pumpkin juice. And now's the time, as Halloween approaches!

It's not actually a Great Pumpkin we're looking for, but one of those little 2-pounder pie pumpkins. I accidentally used a larger one myself, last year, but a little bit of this stuff goes a long way, and pumpkins are surprisingly expensive. There is also the question of long term storage in your freezer. Not all of us have the standalone version. I expect you'll get around a cup of juice as your year's supply.

Likewise, whereas I relied on mother nature to extract my juice, you may employ your freezer. Wash the pumpkin and set it in the freezer overnight. Then take it out and let it melt; set in a dish, in case it leaks.  If it seems to deflate and becomes soft, you are ready to proceed; otherwise, repeat the freezing and thawing.

Cut the top off the thawed pumpkin and you should see the cavity partially filled with liquid. Pour through a large sieve (mesh strainer). I'll leave it to you to decide whether to squeeze or not. I squeeze, but I imagine it's like jelly making, where you're trading clarity for flavor; in this case, the "flavor" is general biological activity.

I've had good results with a second round of freezing to purify the juice further, which makes it somewhat less slimy, orange, and pumpkin-smelling. For this optional step, a freezer-safe jar or plastic container will be needed. Thaw in the fridge and decant the clear fraction. (You could still make ice cubes of the remainder, and give it a try.) Finally, portion into the ideal dispenser and refreeze for long-term storage.

Besides its rustic, natural appeal, my strange discovery may have properties that are actually superior to cosmetics, just as the flavor of maple syrup is superior to refined sugar. Vitamin A and anti-oxidants are presumably both preserved by freezing, but it causes some trouble (expense) to make them work together in a skin cream. (Search "AHA and Retinol" for a sample of pissed off cosmetic producers.) I like the flexibility of applying it with shaving oil or alone, as a preshave, postshave or spot treatment.

Definitely Rinsing This Brush

Dear reader, you know I do seemingly random things all the time, in an effort to intuit lost traditions and discover the perfect shave. Today's shave will stand, I believe, as my greatest achievement in bizarre shaving. For I have synthesized my recent advances in chemistry into a rock-bottom, low-cost routine, and coincidentally solved the mystery of two of the most polarizing scents in shaving.

Of course, I am referring to Arko and the Veg, often compared to urinal pucks and cat piss, respectively. I think the association of these scents with urine has been misunderstood. It is not the presence of piss odor that offends our noses, but the lack.

There is a completely legitimate reason for a soap to smell like a urinal puck: you're supposed to pee on it!

Previously, using "carbamide solution" in my pre-shave made my skin surface rubbery, which really hurt my razor glide. I decided to reserve it for seborrheic lesions, where skin trying to moisturize itself mistakenly proliferates at the cellular level. Urea breaks the intercellular connections, providing an alternate pathway to moisture balance.

But at the same time, I noticed it softened the hair considerably. So I put half a stick of Arko on the line today, and used clean-catch urine instead of water to liquefy the surface. (If I hadn't pressed mine into a bowl, I can see how two morning functions could have been easily combined.) My synthetic brush was immersed in water, but squeezed damp. After loading the brush, I lathered in my palm.

I almost couldn't believe how soft that lather was. As good a lather as I have ever lathered. Even my palm was soothed. The pee odor wasn't completely covered, and I wasn't very comfortable brushing around my lips; but for once, I was glad of the Arko scent.

After three passes, I felt a little too raw for touch-ups, but recalled seeing the phrase "oil pass" somewhere recently; so, I oiled up for one. I aborted when I found the blade wasn't catching much. But interestingly, the oil seemed to emulsify like a latherless cream, helping to cleanse away the pee lather and prepare the skin for what was to come.

Pinaud Lilac Vegetal can have a sharp, acrid note.  But it is the perfect pee-emulsion remover. It actually smelled a lot like... lilac! I applied it in my usual manner, diluted in a cloth. Afterward, my Dollar Tree moisturizer also wanted to emulsify, demonstrating the persistence of this ultimate humectant.

I forgot to mention, I had the pumpkin-shaving oil preshave in there, too. That is routine now, unless I see bright sunshine in the window. The shave itself, pretty near BBS. I'm still going to have to lighten up sometime, but I can live with it today.

Leaning On The Bar

Of course I couldn't change one variable at a time, and chose this moment to peel a new Stirling Coconut. Glancing at the ingredients, I saw Sodium Lactate filling in for what I recall were once Sodium Chloride and Sodium Bicarbonate... which probably means I have been operating under a mistaken impression regarding the glycerine content for at least a year. It may also explain why I've seen fit to rotate lower quality soaps in its place lately.

Lathering up, it was certainly chemically active on yesterday's wounds, bringing that pain back to life quickly. The physical security I was looking for did not disappoint, however. A simple progression of mixed strokes WTG on pass 1 seemed both gentle and effective, with the handle unscrewed a quarter turn or so.  On pass 2, I squeezed out the brush, saving nothing, and tightened the blade down for a retrograde progression of slow, steep, ATG strokes.

As I hoped, even the well-broken in Rimei blade picked off hairs at low velocity like a new Lord Platinum in a Weishi. I did wet down the residue for some touch-ups, but forwent the usual skimming for immature hair. Even a baby's butt has some of those, right?

Feels great, looks great; I think one trial was enough to nail down the blade technique (two if you count yesterday). All that remains to be seen is whether I can maintain some NMF.

You're Full of Surprises, Number One

The last thing anyone would expect is to catch more hair with a less-exposed blade, but the Rimei with a Rimei blade seems to have more to teach me about geometry.

I make my daily shaves intuitively, feeling the beard from within and without, looking in the mirror, guessing the blade's disposition as best I can. The arsenal of tools and techniques is ever-expanding, but many are forgotten to save space. One such was recollected today: unscrewing the handle slightly to flatten the blade, that goes back to the first Gillette razor. I had a good shave without shims yesterday, but wanted more today... and yet, reinstalling the shims did not appeal.

Preparation was homemade shaving oil and pumpkin juice, topped by Williams. Oil applied dry, juice as a frozen stick to the face, and the palm lather residue completing the pre-shave emulsion. That was rinsed with a soaked cloth, so the lather that followed was fully firm.

Two passes WTG-ATG (basically) had me thinking I was done, as the razor went quiet. Then I thought to screw the blade back down. Suddenly, another ATG pass seemed warranted: it was catching beard again! But that got me a fair amount of irritation below the jaw. In retrospect, I remember having recommended this approach as a variation of Doug Hansford's "Two-riffic" shaving technique, which uses two razors. I wish I had made the adjustment after pass 1, and stuck to two passes.

However, my accident did reveal an interesting and unexpected increase in efficiency when the razor was tightened down close to the safety bar. It seems that the flexure of skin into the gap, which extracts hairs like a sliver, is only effective at a narrow range of moderate pitch angles, or else only when the gap is small.

New project!

Soaking Is For Suckers

Well it's been awhile now, since I stopped rinsing out my brushes after every shave and made a habit of just squeezing out the lather before drying. The question in my mind at the time was, would the Semogue 620 brush tips suffer from being stuck together? Frayed tips or split ends seemed to detach and end up floating in my soaking mug water, initially.

That observation stands, I suppose. Qualitatively, I sometimes wonder if the boar couldn't be softer. However, no catastrophic failure has occurred. It has not eroded to coarse, blunt, "best badger"-like scratchiness. (Nor has the nylon splayed unexpectedly or corroded in any way.) I usually stroke to separate bristles when they are still slightly damp, which may make some difference.

My routine was shortened from beginning, middle, and end. No soak is required before the shave. Soap holds the water's place until it is simply wetted again. But it doesn't leave when the water arrives, either. That prevents the bristle from eating lather, because it's already full. I can imagine the soap makers wouldn't necessarily want to point that feature out.

The keratin is unlocked at all times, also allowing the bristle to dry quickly. Perhaps that reveals the dark heart of this story, since it has been suggested that boar afficionados should have two in rotation, to allow for complete drying between shaves. Drying probably is an important deterrent to microbial growth, and soap could be suspected of absorbing moisture from the air. Vermont is a humid environment for at least two and a half of the four seasons. I've noted no odor in my brushes but soap.

Though I have not used badger or horsehair in the meantime, I expect boar would be the most problematic, if there were a problem with not rinsing a brush. It certainly benefits the most. Ah: perhaps THAT is the evil source of the rinsing "tradition."

The Dreaded, Included Blade

The Feather that cost me so much skin over the past couple weeks started sounding like tinfoil before it actually stopped cutting hair, which I term "foiling out." I didn't have any sense of what kind of edge my beard needed next. I didn't want any deep-digging in my follicles with a "smooth" brand. I just would have rather that the Feather had not bitten, and kept to the surface of my skin instead.

So I took a chance and opened a Rimei blade that was rattling around in the case I recently dug out of my closet. It has become my habit to store the razor in current use this way, in the "medicine cabinet" (which contains no medicine, but is installed on either side of the mirror in the wall over my sink). The edge looked very obtuse, with a relatively narrow visible band of grinding, but it cut hair. It was probably just what the doctor ordered, in fact, having no excavating reach. Even with two shims.

My lather was horribly thin, as I continued to hack toward a hair melting emulsion of pumpkin juice, homemade oil, and "carbamide solution." I got the same rubbery shaving substrate as last time, with a constant threat of blade skipping. But, unlike last time, I got a damn fine shave. I took three passes, but the third wasn't finding much of anything to cut. A few self-healing weepers were not unexpected, under the circumstances.

I'm thinking perhaps softening the hair brings out the worst in a very sharp blade, allowing it to zip up the hair cortex instead of cutting clean through. That would be a problem only for wiry hair like mine. I do advocate sharp blades for hair of large diameter.

Getting My Stratum Corneum Back

I concocted the most powerful preshave conceivable this morning, starting with (just like) Noxzema, adding baking soda mixed in water, and, yes, one more time with the carbamide solution. Still a good bit of tugging under Dove cream lather, but it made for a good shave in two passes. More like one, really, with the second lather used mostly for skimming. No "touch-ups."

This week I've been digging into my skin mentally, instead. And today, after one pass, my skin looked smooth and bright, not because the hair had been cut to the root, but because the epidermis had been allowed to completely reform. I value that more because of the study. Eight hours later, it's shady, but not dirty looking: socially acceptable, and not rough to the touch either. It is precisely what Doug Hansford has termed a "standard shave." Sustainable everyday, close enough.

Closing the chapter that began with "Putting the Wet Back in Wet Shaving," I regret that my little jaunt in skin biochemistry has not yielded the effortless, chemically-assisted BBS which is probably the hope of every shaver. I think the attention still accrues to technical mindfulness, though, enhancing my intuitive understanding of the little bumps and leathery textures that appear when I keep with aggressive razors and blades, or dig for BBS all the time.

With new chemicals in my bag of tricks, I will approach these "keratinic" skin defects with "paracellular" carbamide treatment, and lay off the blade. A proper layer of natural moisturizing factor will be maintained with a more aqueous approach to moisturizing. The special "transcellular" weapon is one I already had, pumpkin juice, but it makes more sense now that I have a concept of aquaporin upregulation.

DMV Shave

Not wanting to take any chances for my four-year license renewal, I kept with the Feather, now well broken in, in my 70's Super Speed, which easily surpasses Weishi as the preferred casual shaver. Synthetic brush and KMF-VDH croap provided the foolproof lather.

One pass with a mix of strokes brought out a new style around my mouth and chin, where I was going ATG-XTG (depending how you look at it, razor motion or skew direction, but never directly ATG). It wasn't like when I tried shaving with oil, though, because the WTG follow-up stroke was perfectly safe.

I think I've discovered a standard even lower than "socially acceptable": "bureaucratically accpetable."

Oh, I forgot: I used my little cup for baking soda, and felt a whole lot better about it.

More On "Carbamide"

Urea or carbamide is an organic compound with the chemical formula CO(NH2)2. The molecule has two —NH2 groups joined by a carbonyl (C=O) functional group.

The term "urea" is also used for a class of chemical compounds that share the same functional group, a carbonyl group attached to two organic amine residues: RR'N—CO—NRR'. Examples include carbamide peroxide, allantoin, and hydantoin.

[Edit: Not to be alarmist, but I feel it would be irresponsible not to point out, given the preceding paragraph, that "DMDM hydantoin" does not function as a urea substitute in cosmetics, but as a preservative that works by breaking down to formaldehyde. As read on The Close Shave blog. Deemed safe by industry, info here.]

Urea dissolves the intercellular matrix of the cells of the stratum corneum, promoting desquamation of scaly skin, eventually resulting in softening of hyperkeratotic areas.

Urea cream is indicated for debridement and promotion of normal healing of skin areas with hyperkeratosis, particularly where healing is inhibited by local skin infection, skin necrosis, fibrinous or itching debris or eschar. Specific condition with hyperkeratosis where urea cream is useful include:

Dry skin and rough skin
Damaged, ingrown and devitalized nails

So although I'll have to look again at whether "keratosis" might be that thing on my cheek, it seems like urea is more help for a different, drier kind of so-called sensitive skin, where the moisture has trouble balancing on the "exogenous pathway," through intercellular space in the stratum corneum. It looks like the mites and bacteria I was thinking might be important to my seasonal skin change are well recognized as factors here.

I know I probably make too much fun of the ashen-skinned fanboys of glycerine shaving soap. You can't ALL be unscrupulous, alcoholic psychopaths. For what it's worth (call it a "pee offering"): urine turned my skin back to summer soft.

Piss Poor Shave

I liked the model established by yesterday's shave, where the preshave emulsion did more than oil cleansing, and helped define skin permeability. Today I rubberized my skin using the homemade shaving oil, and clean-catch urine.

Yep, you heard right. I have a small ceramic cup, purportedly for brush soaking, originally a bamboo planter, which hasn't gotten much use. It shall henceforth be the mixing vessel for solutes. Maybe I should put a label on that... nah, it's implied by proximity and matching to my Williams bowl.

This... is... well, you really don't want to know what this is.
With that soap and my white nylon, black rubberized synthetic brush, I should have gone with the matchy-matchy Super Speed, but I left the Feather in the RM2003, with no shims.

The ease with which the blade was cutting through my stubble was noticeable, and I got pretty excited. Maybe this was the magic preparation, finally, to saturate my beard like a long swim in seawater, or an afternoon on the lawnmower. But it turned out to be the shadiest shave ever, despite two and a half passes, including ATG.

Close... not really. Comfortable, yes. Socially acceptable? The jury is out on that one.

An Uncompromisingly Natural Shave

Instead of pushing the closeness envelope, I pushed my botanicals collection to the max today, for the health of my skin. I wasn't thrilled with soaking off the first lather of Kiss My Face as preshave, so I went back to pumpkin juice and oil -- this time, Shave Secret -- and left it in place in a fairly traditional manner, soaking IT off with cold water.

That effectively negated the weird feeling of KMF, and only knocked the lather down to a rich yogurt, though the boar brush may also have taken some cushion away. I mixed the liquid in a bowl to not-quite hydrated state, and so never saw the full volume until I took it to my wet face.

The hair was cut with relative ease, and the skin felt very safe. I'd call it half-way toward those rare miracles after lawn mowing, when sweat seems to inflate both skin and hair shaft. Two passes plus long strokes didn't get everything, but raised a red bump on my neck, so I shaved to finish on my face, but left well enough alone under the jawline.

By the time I was done touching up, the razor had done what I normally expect the cloth to do, which is rinse off all the soap. It was a perfectly natural progression from cushion to slickness, the closer I shaved, which is part of what makes Stirling so endearing, too.

So I felt like I could have just walked away, but then I remembered the seldom-used vinegar I keep in an old English Leather bottle, the most natural way I know to remove or neutralize soap residue. I sprinkled that in a cloth and applied as a dilute soak. Finally, after my skin dried and calmed down, it occurred to me that I should also have some moisturizer, and went back for a drop of Shave Secret.

Still Loving Kiss My Face

To complete the comparative analysis of top-shelf soaps from a couple posts back, Kiss My Face Moisture Shave has a more dynamic profile, which can put skin at a bit of "physical" risk if you're not hydrating it just right; but it pushes "chemistry" into the realm of positive nourishment. As such, it probably offers THE best possible shave, in a rare instance of truth in marketing.  (Today I gave my skin a break, with the Rimei and  a light, 2 1/2 pass shave.) But because it has a sort of congestive skin feel, I think, I turn to it mainly in autumn.

Already my favorite time of year. Today I became a tourist of my childhood hometown, paying way too much for apples we picked ourselves... but it was cool, because I found a new favorite variety, which is Snowsweet. Its utterly blemish-free skin reminded me of shaving. "You got this from a supermarket," I teased the cashier. "Why is it so perfect? It must be covered in pesticides or something." I had buffed it to a high shine while waiting in line.

"No, that's just how they grow," she said, and let me sample that one on the house. Indeed, it was a standout among the other varieties in the crates, which is what drew my attention in the first place. Expert that I am, I sniffed deeply before biting, and smelled nothing. But upon biting, I could detect fleeting aromatics from the blossom preserved in that flawless peel.

And in the orchard, they were ALL LIKE THAT. Having perfect skin seemed to contribute to the development of the fruit's flesh, too. Many, many apples were set horizontally against each other, or on the trunks of the young trees, little more than saplings. They were way too big for my kids to handle, much less bite into.  Someone seems to have mixed my two previous favorites, Granny Smith and Macoun, to produce the most healthy looking, freshest-tasting apple possible.

On the way out of town, we stopped at the world-famous cheese factory, across the street from which my childhood home was recently torn down. Thing was over 200 years old, so, not a bad run. (I was surprised to see the other neighborhood houses were also torn down, though.) From the parking lot where it used to be, I could reach the old apple tree (from descriptions online, "white transparent," but my great aunt thought there was Jonathan in it) that used to be in my back yard, for one, overripe fruit. The familiar taste was comforting, but I threw it into the brush, thinking, I'll come sooner next year.

Dad Gum Feather, Dang Ol' Pumpkin Where'n Sun Don't Shine

Boomhauer here, acknowledging that my writing is getting pretty lackadaisical... sorry, but still don't intend to edit much. Maybe I should be thinking about hibernation instead of my skin, eh? I shattered a small plastic bin at the market the other day because I forgot it was there, in front of my car.

Hypothermia might account for that one. Next Friday's market is cancelled; nobody wants to do that again. In other news, some numnut collided with the rear of a schoolbus yesterday and flipped it; thankfully it was empty, except for the driver, who was the farmer next to me at the flea market. (He's fine.) Even the punks on the street at 2 in the morning seem confused about whether to be noisy or not. Som'thin's in the air... harvest gone up in smoke? Fall version of mud season? I was going to try McAllister's today, but nobody was there; at least by the time I rolled in, at 11:30. I hope everyone's okay.

Nice to have a good shave at times like these. I kicked pumpkin juice out of today's routine and used it as an exfoliant before bedtime, as for people with ingrowns. That didn't hold anything back from a new Feather in RM2003 cutting head and Madhav Metal Industries travel handle. I shaved until the blade couldn't find anything -- too close, perhaps, but that Dove cream inspired confidence, and I wanted to impress the flatlanders. I lost another divot of lip, this time from my moustache. Ooh, that blade just does not suit me! At least I wasn't using shims this time, and it wasn't on much of a prominence.

My attention is still fixed on skin biochemistry, where I finally came upon some science to back up my intuitive assertion that glycerin explodes skin. SEE? SEE? lol
(Disregard the endorsement of cartridges -- go to the third Q.)

Now I just have to figure out what pumpkins have to do with it, but it might not be long before they have the research on that, too.

Dove's Fancy Shave Cream

Last fall, I went to one of the larger flea markets that tourists frequent around here and spoke to a gent from NYC, with a nice-looking girlfriend and a finely polished scalp. I said to him, "I know you didn't get that shine from an electric!" and had a nice conversation, but no sale. I didn't get it at the time, because he said he shaved with Dove. So I'm like, yeah, you can definitely shave more comfortably with this Stirling... what an idiot! I just assumed he meant the moisturizing bar. As in the view presented in the cosmetic scientist's blog from yesterday, many believe such products make fine shaving lather. Little did I know, Dove had a $25 traditional men's shaving cream! Introduced last January, Dove Men+Care Expert Shave finally trickled down to me this week, at Big Lots, for $2.50.

If you live near me, you better hurry your butt down there, because I'm about to wipe that shelf clean. Having used it, I'm struggling to understand the economic disaster that precipitated such a disgrace. I imagine it must have been offered only at the original price, without any brushes available, then discontinued by someone who was already averse to traditional shaving. I'll mark it up to $7, and give it on Christmas if nobody's smart enough to buy it at that price. I'm not even going to bother with the wholesale tax discount, or book it as inventory. What a steal!

I'd hoard it for myself if it weren't so... presentable, in its cellophane wrapped box, heavy, powder-finish plastic jar with mirror lid. I prefer rustic soaps and botanical products, which, don't get me wrong, this is definitely not. But I had already planned to make a croap out of KMF and VDH with an aquatic cologne, for a special treat or occasion, and this purchase just saved me the trouble. The smell most men would recognize as "lady magazine," is actually a pretty close match to another discount buy I made long ago, for a Johnston & Murphy cologne and aftershave balm (more pineapple in the latter). But I will definitely be scouting about for the other products in the Dove line, as part of today's shopping mission.

The lather was comparable to Stirling, in that some volume was sacrificed to quality, but in a different way. Stirling has the superior physical quality, and this has chemical superiority. You can see it in the slick that forms in the basin, thick like hot-sour soup with all the biological goodness. And oddly, no bits of hair floating, like it infused them with something to make them more dense, or treated them against boundary effects with special surfactants. Post shave feel is a draw, since physics and chemistry are equally responsible for skin damage.

I still don't have anything that will melt the hair, but it joins Stirling and KMF on the top shelf.

Natural Moisturizing Factor

Natural Moisturizing Factor (NMF) is a term used in cosmetic science to describe the decomposing contents of the cells in the stratum corneum, the dead skin cells of the outermost epidermis. Some of its components are identical or analogous to materials used in wet shaving, including glycerin. Check out this article from blogger Susan Barclay-Nichols. (That's like, a REAL blog -- look around, there's some shaving stuff in there, too.) It seems to point the way to understanding why the complex preshave emulsion of shaving oil and pumpkin juice has been working so well for me.

But look at the diagram describing the dynamic relationship of atmospheric humidity, NMF, and the reservoir of "filaggrin" protein from which NMF is produced. YES: that is what I felt when my beard became "hard" last week! The protein metabolism must have kicked into gear, filling my stratum corneum with NMF and making it capable of seemingly superhuman feats of shaving.

It's probably more complicated than just variable humidity; we've had rain and high temperatures here in Vermont, except at night (when, if not asleep, at least I'm indoors). In particular, I don't think the chemist has taken the skin's flora and fauna into sufficient account. Lots of critters, like those that cause dandruff, are known to fluctuate in number seasonally.

My instinct was to shave it all away with harsh lather and aggressive razors, maintaining the fully-exfoliated feeling to which I am accustomed. I may have to rethink that. Today's shave did leave me with a couple blotches.

The DEvette lives

Hacksaw and file gave new life to the would-be redundant Tech clone. With bits of safety bar covering the blade corners, it shaves closer and just as manageably as the DF-813. I may file off a couple more millimeters; this is just where the lather channels ended:

Of course, there is no reason the Dragonfeng couldn't again challenge, to regain its handle, by losing one of its own safety bars. There is enough room for both cutting heads in the Long Feng case.

Oh, and look what came to Big Lots! A 6.7 oz jar of cosmetics grade shaving cream! I recognize "sodium PCA" from the article about NMF in the ingredients. It couldn't have gone to a more deserving individual. ;)