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.

More On Vitamin D

I wasn't feeling right all summer. Too much sleeping, and never feeling refreshed. I practically live for the times when the large muscle groups in my legs relax, and have for years been prone to terrible cramps after I do anything like change a vehicle tire or haul yard debris. Stupid garden wasn't doing much last year anyway, and I let it go, unable to face the watering more than anything, hauling that hose out in the morning. (I find a long-handled spade almost as satisfying as a safety razor.)

That's where I went wrong, in retrospect, because what I really needed was to be out in the sun. If I had slept in, and not gotten around to it till 11, some leaves might have got fried, but at least I would have gotten my Vitamin D. But I followed some stupid mainstream advice and largely avoided sunlight between 10 and 2. Barely pulled off a tan by the end of the season, through swimming. (I'm a classy guy. I usually wear a shirt in my yard. If you're at the beach, though, God help you. I've been known to sport lycra swimwear.)

What nobody told me is that unless the sun is fairly high in the sky, around 50 degrees of altitude, the atmosphere will deflect the wavelengths that your skin needs to produce Vitamin D, called UV-B. From November to April, at this latitude, it is basically impossible to obtain enough Vitamin D naturally. They say "fatigue" is one of the symptoms of deficiency, but I think that's an understatement. Wouldn't surprise me if "seasonal depression" is the same goddamn thing.

Because I've been fooling around with this D3, thinking it might help my skin and my shave, I'm doing it backwards this year. I must have moved a ton of leaves this weekend. I felt the wear and tear on the muscles, and thought, "I'm in for it now," but nary a twitch. Getting a little pep back. Easier to roll out of bed (still doubtful that I'll ever become a morning person).

I've been supplementing other things, off and on, since I felt like crap: fish oil, magnesium, zinc, all sorts of B's. I think something changed for me when we got on hard well water a few years ago. But Vitamin D seems to have been the key, hidden in plain sight, where the superficial meets deep physiology. If my skin needs this to kill off seborrheic keratoses, and it changes the skin generally, and I feel generally better having taken it as a supplement... it isn't hard to imagine the cancers I have averted.

And I wouldn't have figured it out without shaving.