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.

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