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.