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.

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