Streamlined Casual

The Merkur OC didn't care for taking on hard, wiry hair at a low angle, and gave me a patchy shave yesterday, so I rolled out the big gun: Schmidt R10, on the two-piece solid brass "travel" handle that is actually the heaviest handle in my collection. Not Cadet brand, but the same thing. With a terrible cold, I needed to take it easy.

The most effort went into pre-shave, with a hot washcloth to wipe off four drops of Shave Secret. I face lathered PdP, and didn't get burnt. I guess I've adapted to it. With a terrible noise, the Jianyu SS blade coughed up the final, uneventful shave of its short life. Looking at the edge, I could see no glint from the overhead light: even without a microscope, visibly jagged. But who cares? I didn't let it get anywhere near my skin. Two passes, and I didn't even go ATG above the jaw. I used square strokes the way modern shavers use ATG to avoid shaving close.

The new thing was, a less fussy, more mindul post-shave. Didn't dry my face, just wiped alum over it, and rinsed that with a single spray of water, which I did dab with the cloth. I let the cologne do the restof the rinsing work today, figuring I had to back it off anyway. I thought of the polyhedrons in my face expanding into spheres, rather than acting out of fear of pain. I even risked (gasp) immediate moisturizing.

I'm not liking my prickly cheeks after 2xWTG, and they're a little warm, too. At least where i went ATG is velvety.

Micelle, Ma Belle

Touche Lime Sec Verdict

If I sounded a little negative about the Lime Sec, I apologize. My post-holidays shopping spree (if you can call it that) has been an amazing winning streak! Substituting beans for meat was exactly what my personal scent profile needed. More complex, foreign. People say that this particular cologne overwhelms EdT, but it adds a vital basenote to my new, middle-heavy perfume. It also connects the current toilet water to the past, none of which had any benefit as post-shave, giving my sense of personal growth a practical dimension.

Of course, I'm sure all of that has a lot to do with my being naturally oily, pas sec. If you are also, I would suggest deliberately pairing Pinaud Lime Sec with your wife's perfume, and see if it doesn't transform you into the perfect olfactory counterpart! Finally, I note that a similar difference distinguishes the "dark" version. So I will take the suggestion, and reserve mine to refresh at the end of the day, thus presenting essentially the same, lecherous air to the world continuously.

Tweaking on PdP No. 63

In old-man-speak, "tweaking" means fine adjustment, not methamphetamine-fueled maladjustment; so again, I'm sorry if my writing was unclear in a prior post. I don't think you would find anyone associated with this soap dismantling their muffler, or dressing like an urban clown. I, however, was too lazy to mix up more vitamin D oil, so I continued with 3 drops Shave Secret and a new blade, some random Shanghai junk.

Man, was that beard standing up hard! So, that answers one previous question: the hair is not softened by oil. And I guess that's the story with PdP, too. It advances the shave with a new blade, to where it would be after a week breaking in a blade, with carefully pre-softened hair. I think the soap was responsible for killing my Personna. J'accuse!

In a more positive spin, as Paul H. would put it: I paid for that blade, might as well let it do the work. I cannot complain about the efficient performance, or the soft, smooth post-shave. The skin is tempered, in other words. Like tire rubber, without the inflexible reinforcement that Williams provides. Which is good, because then you don't get the bumps. Even when I went too far with it initially, it gave me fifteen hours of smooth comfort.

Dry to the touch, but not dried out... This is glycerin soap for people who don't like glycerin soap. It's a keeper, and I think I might even be amoreux already. The next tweak will be to give it a try with the Merkur open comb. It will be more comfortable to get the blade off my skin, and with the hair standing up, I should get a better result than usual.


A really cool Google Books result randomly popped up the other day, and I think the author is French, keeping with today's theme. (But it's in English, don't worry.)

I might even buy this book (yeah, right -- $80 to rent) but just from the geometric diagrams in this one section, I began to think about both skin and lather in new ways, and especially, the mysterious effects of glycerin on desmosomes. Because I was thinking of the cells as sliding over one another and just sort of fitting together, like ravioli. But the desmosomes have this geometric implication, that there is very little "sauce"; it is more like paving stones than pasta.

Until you start inflating them with glycerin and water, by osmotic pressure. Then (if there is a cell membrane still) the shape regresses to spherical, popping the velcro-like dots hydraulically. Up to 74% intercellular space accounts for area discrepancy between strata better than thinking the cells just get bigger. No, the half-living keratinocytes can't just put out more surface area under such an insult. Even if they can pump out the excess fluid and save themselves, still the barrier function and tissue integrity are lost. Deeper, in more vital tissue, such a breakdown is almost the definition of inflammation. That's why I get edema on my foot.

Compare pumpkin juice, without glycerin. Taking the rebar out of metaphorical cinderblocks, you still have an intact wall. And urea: dissolving the mortar between bricks would only make the wall that much smaller. No wonder these are so much gentler to me!

Cushioning Defined

The references to soap bubbles in the book passage, as a model for how cells in tissue get their shape, make it clear that lather follows the same law of integrity. What we call "cushioning" is the degree to which the lather constituents are incorporated into micellar membranes. When the inter-micellar space is minimized, our blades have paving stones of air supporting them!

To that I would add my original observations from Doug H.'s blog, as follows. Fluid (such as oil) filling the micelles would also be less advantageous: the greater the density of the lather, the more the top face will deflect the edge skinward. And there must be ideals of micellar size and integrity as well, depending on what oils were saponified and what else is present in the membrane itself. Could you fish your kid out of a ball pit filled with basketballs, or ping-pong balls, as easily as one filled with rigid balls of about the same diameter as your arms and ankles? Our blade is fishing hair out of the lather that way.

But as far as, why aren't we all shaving with soapy water? It's slick enough. I think geometry has it covered. Better the blade hit air, than wet skin. On the other hand, I've stopped lathering in the shower.

Soft And Dry

Pinaud Lime Sec reminds me of times when I tried to make beans and rice, and didn't quite succeed. It's a kind of beany, ferric smell, which makes me wonder if my head is not the bean in the recipe. I did have a couple of weepers today.

Like a bitch, I blamed the blade. After only two weeks? Hardly seems reasonable, but there was one stroke that went completely sideways, and could have been much worse, and so that was my reaction, having also felt some roughness previously. I was going for BBS under my chin, trying PdP with the whole routine. As so often happens, I almost succeeded. I could see skin chips afterward, and the finish was a bit tacky before the cologne. True to the original French - "sec" means "dry" -- that was well taken care of. Glycerin has obviously softened me, too.

It suggests that fancy soap is meant to stand alone, or again, maybe with an oil. Time to mix up some more vitamin D stuff. I've been using Shave Secret pretty regularly, and it's coming across less like a James Bond, more like a Tricky Dick (or a Marco Rubio): I don't trust it. Not that I've caught it doing anything wrong... yet. Maybe it's the menthol. Maybe it just looks really bad next to the vitamin D.

My face also needs Hans and Franz, Williams and AV Musk. Too much soft living. Results are in for the foot exfoliation, btw.

Face Not Falling Off Yet

My other new acquisitions arrived today, two new Eau de Colognes -- I'd like to just say "colognes," but I guess that ship has sailed, referring to perfumes that aren't as powerful as some others. No -- you know what? F-- the perfume makers. This is a practical difference, and it's high time more people got familiar with comfortable skin. Today I received my two new colognes. Deal with it. I'll let you keep your "toilet water."

Duru Limon has the thin aroma derived from the rind of the fruit, with some of the unnatural notes from Arko, landing its initial impression somewhere between furniture polish and PEZ. True to the class, the strength is closer to the candy, which makes it entirely pleasant. And it delivers the comfort I learned to appreciate from Florida Water, which I believe citric acid brings. It has to be the best value going, just like its soapy colleague.

Today, it was cleaning up after Pre de Provence. I loaded it thicker this time, allowing myself its full luxury. I find it impressive that it can be "bent" either way, like KMF, with more or less water. It irritated me during the shave, though, like any other glycerin-heavy, artisanal shaving soap.

But this lather has the "wetter" quality of a soap enriched with clay, and the discomfort stops short of injury. It must be the sodium hydroxide. It makes it feel "soft," like the time I peed in my Arko -- and we've since traced that to ammonia, another base. As aggressively as it moisturizes, the two balance out, preventing my SC from disintegrating. I think this is going to do well with a straight-up oil cleanse preshave, but fear it may get tacky with the additional digestive action of pumpkin juice.

Today I skipped the alum, and applied moisturizer after cocoa butter, in order to avoid yesterday's collapsed skin. A few little chips appeared after that dried down, but it's holding. The skin is more opaque than usual, for a very clean look.

So, did they reduce the glycerin, or not? I think they did, but very deliberately, mixing most back into the puck. Everything about this soap is tweaked, but as efficiently as possible. I recognize that mentality, that decidedly French sensibility, and find it very endearing. That, and it isn't chewing up my face. But if I can't solve the irritation, this could end as another "it's not you, it's me" situation.

Rough Start

I waited for my new shaving soap to come in the mail, and shaved late. My glycerin antennae were up and focused sharply. PdP No. 63 does remind me a lot of the old Stirling; without the clay and much harder with milling, but clearly, grounded in the artisanal process. The lather is much as the reviews promised, though: light, cushioning, Williams-like. To get a feel for it, I used no oil or Noxzema, and just lather as pre-shave. I do think the lather took something from my skin to enrich itself.

Different Strokes

It's an odd time to be changing my stroke pattern, of all things, but it happened, in a very organic, half-conscious way, gradually over the last week. I always preferred "sliding" strokes, as pictured by Gillette, at the periphery, starting from the sideburns, but turned the blade to a vertical "slant" closer to the midline. Now, as I move into the midline region (still shaving in zones), I extend the slide lines, essentially making a big "V," with a few odd strokes.

There WAS a conscious moment for these exceptional strokes, when I realized the lower-neck spots were mirror reflecting the creases next to the chin. Those get an aggressive, slanted stroke before they can be raked wrongly by the general pattern.

But mostly, it was just something that congealed out of subconscious trial-and-error. My hands tried the different strokes, settled on the pattern on their own. And THEN, I saw it. Because I don't think logic could have found these strokes. They're all the same sort of weird XTG as the jaw corner. I guess that's what I would have to call it, XTG, but what my hands really found, once again, is good tension alignment, and skin avoidance. The most comfortable strokes.

Not Too Comfortable

The Personna is in the last phase of life, it seems. PdP set the beard up "hard," for the efficient shave I've come to value from Williams. But the post-shave today was not good. I used alum and pumpkin again, but my skin volume was crap, texture was crap, there was just no relaxation. It tended more in the "itch" direction than a burn. I noticed a bump while lathering, so apparently there were some consequences in play from the minimal treatment this week, too. It took a few hours for the cocoa butter to do its thing, and suddenly my face was smooth and relaxed. Then you could see how good the shave was, but it was sort of too late.

Could it be the salt? Did they leave the glycerin in there, and just throw the salt in so that the two could fight it out on my face? I don't know. Too soon to say. Optimistically, I smashed the puck into a ceramic crock with a lid, to preserve its scent, and gave it some prime real estate on the bathroom countertop. It is a pretty hard soap: smashing it was not easy. I did it with the bone at the very root of my palm, more a part of my wrist, crushing the puck on the countertop first. That makes it pliable enough to knead with thumbs and knuckles in the vessel itself. This was a much more difficult undertaking than when I put Williams in its cup.

You Smell, Madam -- I Stink

The outrageously pungent perfumes women are wearing nowadays has opened up some airspace for men of discernment, who would like to go in a more floral direction, and not necessarily in the acrid, B.O.-covering way of Lilac Vegetal. There was always Polo, I guess; but the intended mossy impression struck this country boy as more fungal. I liked Dad's English Leather best.

As an adult, I staked my claim in a citrus-wood aquatic peninsula, trying to avoid powdery clouds that my nose identified as Dad's inescapable cigarette smoke. I signed just like Paco Rabanne for awhile, but mostly focused on washing bad odors away. That turned out to be about 20 years' worth of work.

As I got into classic shaving, a more confident identity emerged, a fruitier me. I was lucky to pair some discount buys, Johnston and Murphy cologne with Dove Expert Shave cream. Not quite "out there" enough... I wouldn't want people to think I'm a banker! Over the holidays, I began searching for a new signature. Not so easy to do, online, without a frame of reference, but while Xmas shopping I got to smell around at Macy's. I came up empty.

On Valentine's Day, I asked my wife if she had anything I could wear. That raised an eyebrow! I don't think the question was understood well; I wasn't referring to her workplace vanillas.  She's almost as out-of-date as me, except for a couple "juicy" knock-offs I picked up at Big Lots. Value for money, they're the best. Better smelling than the $1, better integrity than the CVS (which was also my impression of the authentic scents at Macy's -- in an effort to preserve strength, pricy designers seem more comfortable with things that change odor.)

The discount chain came through for me again this week, as they had their version of Gucci "Guilty" on clearance for $2.50. (Two bottles, actually, with the more subdued "dark" version.) I can't say I was entirely comfortable with the symbols on the bottle right away, but I get it. I'm glad I didn't put down for the more expensive Curve Crush at TJ Maxx, which almost made a fool of me. Icing on the cake -- today my fancy French shave soap arrived, and it's pretty darn close. Another (manly) fragrance pairing!

Alcohol As Itch Control

Substituting a drop of Shave Secret for the cocoa butter in yesterday's shave, I was gradually aware of a slight itch, as the skin began to dry down. With oil on, the main cue for that assessment, besides the sensation, is the timeframe. I had to think fast, and I reached for the blue aftershave.

Good choice. I looked a little rough in the afternoon, but better than scarring. And it was more effective than carbamide; just as fast, but targeting the tissue at the heart of the problem, deeper in the skin.

All of this, from the initial sensitivity to impending itch, to the targeted response, highlighted the role of science in the art of shaving. Logic was the strongest tool in my kit today.

Really Minimal

Pumpkin is off probation this week, and glycerin back in the doghouse. Williams, pumpkin juice, and cocoa butter logically constitute a complete regimen, when the toning function follows alum's astringency. That way, the tighter SC never has greater volume than the substrata.

It's tight and shiny, you bet, but somehow it balances out as moisture naturally returns, over the course of the day. No itching (the warning sign of scarring) no burning. Best of all, no exfoliation. Well, next to none. This shine didn't happen because I shaved it down to the substrate itself, and that makes all the difference. The cocoa butter makes it look and feel good, right off the bat.

I can still Noxzema at night -- which apparently I will be doing to my hands anyway, so long as the foot-off is happening.

The Foot-Off

I was going to be strictly constructive, and try to emulate the quick-fix products by putting my feet in a bag, after using the most powerful solutions I could think of. Then I considered using actual shaving soaps, and maybe some aftershave, but none of the soaps I love to hate are actually in my possession. Finally, I got real, and realized that an African schoolchild knows more about basic foot care than me, addressing it at the tub upon returning home, then putting away their sandals for next day.


With that frame of reference, I elected to keep things extra simple. Each evening, after my family is settled in bed, I will wash and treat each of my two feet differently; the time between each washing will be considered an experiment "day." For my left foot, an orange bar of glycerin soap -- or cleanser, I'm not sure of the brand. It's supposed to be for faces, oily skin... I'm sure you're familiar with it. It smells. For my right foot, Ivory. I don't have instantaneous control of the water temp, so I'm sticking with cold. Soap will be sparingly applied by bringing the dry bar into contact with a dripping wet foot on the sole, then spreading it around with bare hands. No exfoliating tools will be used throuhout the experiment. After rinsing and drying, the "moisturized" foot will receive one fingertip dab of Dermasil lotion. The "exfoliated" foot will receive pumpkin juice sufficient to wet, an ice pop applied to the damp-dry sole, then distributed.

No antimicrobial or cross-contamination precautions wlll be taken; I simply assigned the flakier, more fungus-prone right foot to Ivory and pumpkin juice. Nothing is "blind" about this, either. I expect to see more exfoliation from the supposedly "moisturized" foot than the one getting soap and juice. Notes will be accrued to this post until a conclusion is reached.


Day 1. Within the first hour, a tight and numb sensation was felt at the toe-tips of the left foot, which passed before the second hour. Hands were also significantly dried out, presumably by the glycerin bar. Noxzema was effective for the hands. Day 2. Right foot loses the first layer of skin, under the simple abrasion of the hand applying the next treatment. In retrospect, some was lost from between the toes this way on day 1, but I thought it was dirt I had missed. So, that was gross. Both feet are becoming less flaky. Day 3.  Pink areas around perimeter of heel suggest that the right foot is marching to baby smoothness. Skin continues to slough off during the application of pumpkin juice. It rolls off, to be swiped away with the damp cloth. Left foot is just perceptibly softened, as the hardened shells around the periphery of the heel become smaller. The contour of the right heel is rounder. Black socks indicate that both feet are shedding small flakes, though.

Day 4. The thick pad on the big toe of the right foot looked really grey and gross after the wash, macerated but not wrinkly, and received an insuppressible fingernail dig during the subsequent juice treatment, exfoliating a good chunk as dry paste. The heel looked similarly disgusting, and showed a fingernail trail, but was not as vulnerable. There was a sense that all the "loose" stuff was gone, as the slough rolling off was slightly diminished. The left foot is just as smooth on the toe, but still has a thick shell on the outside of the heel.

Day 5. Left foot is swollen -- ankle visibly round, but not pitted, toes sausage-like, everything reddish. In retrospect, had appeared "fat" or "older" since early in the experiment. Fish oil and acetaminophen took care of it overnight. "Missed dirt" type of slough detected between the toes. Right foot received more fingernail digging at the heel pad, where a termite-eaten texture appears at the rear periphery, lighter than the rest due to space inclusions. All sloughing has ceased. Despite a total lack of swelling, top of foot is smooth enough to shine with reflected light, while the left appears relatively masked and dark. This distinction disappears overnight, however.

Shows What I Know

Well, that's enough for me. I'm not willing to take a circulatory event for science, and I could feel the tingling of edema creeping up my calf! It's possible that a new pair of slippers presented an allergen to both feet, and interacted with enhanced permeability due to glycerin. ("Dearfoams" were on clearance, and since I was taking care of my feet now....) Or, I may have been sensitized to another ingredient. Glycerin itself is supposed to be "skin-identical," already present in the skin, and therefore not a potential allergen.

Clearly my prediction was wrong about the glycerin being the stronger exfoliator. The known exfoliator actually did exfoliate, while the known moisturizer merely changed the texture and preserved the stratum corneum. I detected a slight hint of the mechanism I had in mind, as edema may have started a slough. If so, however, I would have had to incur an injury in order for it to progress.

This result disappointingly precludes generalizing to an explanation of why glycerin shaving soaps flake me out. Apparently, the disparity in skin structure and thickness between the two body parts is a determining factor.



But I'm Not Wrong

The fact that slouging stopped, under continuing exfoliator treatment, does confirm the lamellar reorganization hypothesis. The skin was not digested to baby smoothness, merely adjusted to a healthy toughness. Even the pad maceration seen at the end could be taken as "natural," if we presume that wearing shoes is not the natural state of man. There would have been sufficient abrasion on a sandy beach to accomplish what my fingernails did, and better.

It would be difficult for a day spa to redirect to a more gradual process, but it is certainly within the reach of the consumer, with astro turf-like foot exfoliating rugs and pads. Just the slightest shift toward common sense is required... and a pumpkin.

It's All Toning

Sweet Jesus! I awoke, this fine Sunday morning, with the nose pores of a 16-year-old girl. Thirty years fighting the nasty nose goblins, and the decisive battle took less than three days? That's how technical advance is supposed to work, folks! And now, a word from our sponsor...

Kill me. Eat me. Annoint yourself in my essence.

The most glaring possible counterexamples to my re-imagining of exfoliation as a tension adjustment are the cosmetic treatments people give to the thickest skin of all, on the soles of the feet. You think a razor is harsh? Look at those power grinders and cheese graters! I had heard of the acid peels before, when someone incurred a disfiguring injury by accident, but it's gross enough when it works as intended.

Now that sounds sort of like a combination of alcohol shaving gel with pumpkin juice, doesn't it? I would never do that... let's just say, it wouldn't be my first foot rodeo. But could this help explain my flaky face episodes? The reviewer (and I presume the manufacturer) claims that the desmosomes are "destroyed"; whereas, in the medical research article from the last post, glycolic acid did no such damage. I think my liquid skin theory can account for that discrepancy.

As moisture is driven into the skin by the gel (as dermatologists suggest is the benefit of gels), and living cells are simultaneously killed with alcohol (my assumption), The SC is reorganized by fruit acid, reforming in the shape of the underlying, swollen tissue. The peel would form when the cytoplasmic volume of the granular layer is subsequently lost, after drydown, when the SC can no longer be trimmed. It retains the larger surface area that covered the original volume, and detaches as a result. Depending on the treatment's penetration, the strata could re-configure as small ripples before shedding, in which case one would see flakes, or as a thicker peel.

Obviously, controlling the penetration is a key problem for chemical peels. I think urea would be the faster, extracellular route, but predict glycerin would explode corneocytes, for a gentler shedding. More fracking, less cracking.

Or bumping, or lumping... and there it is, the glycerin connection. Do you really want thin skin? People wonder why old men look so young, while women look like wrinkly "old bags." Could it be 30 years of applying the valorized industrial waste of soapmaking, which is the foundation of all cosmetics? Or is it the fact that we shave? We could wait 30 years and ask the "traditional shavers" of today, with their glycerin shaving soaps.

A Test

I have plenty of pumpkin juice. There are four pumpkin pops from this year's jack-o-lantern scrap experiment, especially, that I don't have any use for. I have a bottle of pure glycerin, from an oil mixing experiment: ditto. And, I have some gnarly-ass feet. I usually use a pumice stone when I shower, but I don't shower often, and lately I've been thinking of it less as "exfoliation," and more as "the only way to get the dirt off my feet." I don't wear slippers or socks, usually.
I'm gonna try to tame these wild dogs, without "peeling" anything! Stay tuned. (Avert your eyes now, if the image might offend.)

Towards a Post Exfoliation Cosmetology

"By golly, Jim, I'm beginning to think I can cure a rainy day!" McCoy is the one I identify with, now that I'm... well, older. I just want to preface these comments with a clear declaration: I'm a homemaker, not a doctor! Or a barber, or a cosmetologist. But it seems like anybody and everybody is free to give bad advice about shaving and skincare, so I cast my lot with them.

I think the whole idea of "Exfoliation" is wrong, as it is currently conceived, in exactly the same way that it was wrong for me to amputate my SC in the autumn.

First confirmation of my alternative, lamellar reorganization theory came from my nose. Whenever I spread pumpkin juice over my entire face at night, I would find a zit on my nose in the morning. Other nights, if I lathered up and extruded the sebaceous filaments with a tool, using a shaving-like motion (which in itself was a significant breakthrough), I would awake with flaky skin in the area.

Last night, though, after washing and applying my pumpkin juice, I addressed my clogged pores as follows: on the still-damp face at large, gentle swiping with a microfiber cloth. On the nose, firmer wiping, followed by extrusion. And I awoke with nary a zit or flake. In the acute state of lamellar reorganization (for which a better word will have to be found), the follicle openings are sufficiently deformable to maintain corneal integrity.

Also elastic enough to dry down smaller than before, thus revealing why pumpkin juice alone would cause a comedone. It's not that "exfoliants" shrink the surface of the skin, by ejecting cells. They allow its energy, contained in the bonds previously holding it together, to flow to the lowest potential. The pore opening was always genetically designed to be that smaller size, until a gob of sebum stretched it open.

"Exfoliant" just lets skin do what it wants to do. What it would do, if it weren't so beat up. It's the Tanqueray for the skin's tango!

I pored over diagrams of the quaternary structure of "intermediate filaments," and though I cannot rule out some chemical action of pumpkin juice on that level, the more likely site for chemical restructuring of the SC is the desmosome. Note that muscles also have them: so what we're talking about is probably more like muscle "tone" than voluntary relaxation, like I was originally thinking.

These protein complexes hold the corneocytes together like velcro, but are reinforced by keratin filaments within each cell. Even when the cell structure is completely lost, it is believed that the conjuction is still functional.

Hold The Phone

An error in my post earlier today may be the key to my next great epiphany. I referred to today's prep as "perfect," which usually means Noxzema, oil, serum, and old-school shaving soap. Actually, I omitted the pumpkin and baking soda today. I think I figured Arko was enriched enough. And I experienced excellent efficiency ("smoothness").

An idea of how pumpkin juice works suddenly leapt up in my mind. What if the SC is like muscle fiber, with filaments ratcheting against each other to hold tension? And what if pumpkin juice contains the chemical, like ATP, that releases that tension? What if what is commonly termed "exfoliation" is less a slow, columnar succession than a rapid, chemically catalyzed, lamellar reorganization?

Pumpkin juice, not slough-facilitating EdQ, was the key to melting my lumps last night. I now believe that the texture arises from collapse, not swelling, of the substrata, as more granular cells transition to the SC. When the overlying lamina have greater surface area than the underlying, it bunches up at the surface.

We certainly know that the SC is composed of filaments. "Filaggrin" is the protein known to decompose into Natural Moisturizing Factor. And that's pretty much all you read about, because cosmetics is all about women. But for shavers, the mechanical functions are just as relevant. Skin tension is our source of cutting power. (If the catalyst is AHA or vitamin A, as I would guess, we have a lot of common ground with the anti-aging sector, however.)

It now appears that the juice is the weakest link in my presumed "perfect" routine. If I were looking at some texture as I approached the shave, I might use it as estabished, and then, also, not try to shave so close, knowing that every stroke will be underpowered and a hazard to the skin. Day-to-day, though, I want the performance -- the "responsiveness" -- of a well-integrated SC.


One of my kids is just like me. I'm glad she's a girl! Adept, agile, but somehow clumsy when it comes to falling on her face. Smart, shy, sensitive -- all better on a girl. I look forward to her academic excellence. When I was her age, that was indicated by an "O" on the report card, for Outstanding. The curves on which kids are graded are too big for that nowadays, I guess, which should spare her the damage done to my ego.

Arko gave me a sign that it could stand forth last night, when the lumpiness returned. I guess I didn't lose too much skin, after all. Pumpkin juice alone was sufficient to smooth it immediately, but I got the sense that it was reacting to a substance already on or in my skin, probably the cocoa butter. There was a distinct film on my hands after I rubbed it in. Could also have been the handsoap I washed with, a fancy triple-milled thing that feels like it has oatmeal in it. The reaction was impressive, anyway, for its rapidity. Pumpkin juice: Outstanding.

I reduced the oil in my "perfect" prep to one drop, and engaged the Tech and Rimei in a challenge for the throne. The Tech provoked it by being ridiculously smooth WTG; clearly there would be no consequences from yesterday at all. Unlike most side-by-sides you see, I just quickly passed the same blade between the two razors, four times. The Tech was better out at the jaw corners, less picky, but the Rimei chowed down on the midline. There was a misload on third pass: I've been noticing the Rimei needs more fiddling with lately, for some reason, though no damage is apparent. But it redeemed itself on pickups, able to lightly swipe things that the Tech couldn't reach. Long live the Emperor! The Tech will remain President of Smooth. Both: Outstanding.

Super Speed, the Czar of Environmental Protection, will remain seated in the medicine cabinet as well. You know what I really need, the technical advance this experiment points to, is an adjustable top cap. Retractable trim bars near the edge, like on an airplane wing. That one's on the house, insane razor designers -- another path to potential riches which I'll gladly pass up.

Speaking of wealth, big news: for the first time in my life, I have paid more than $10 for a bar of soap! Thanks to a generous Amazon card gift (from Willie's family, when we finally got together for late Xmas), I put down $11 for Pre de Provence "No. 63." I've had my eye on PdP for a long time, since I was on the forums and a member graciously noted the sodium chloride in its ingredients. I take that as a sign of reduced glycerin. There are many other indicators that this soap can fill the vacant luxury lot in my new soap lineup. It's difficult to contain my enthusiasm and expectations, but I will stop there for now.

In the same vein, I've struck out on a quest for Florida Water alternatives, too, with Pinaud Lime Sec and Duru Limon. The ethereal ideal of a minimalistic setup continues to elude me, but at least the categories are diminishing!

Have You Tried the BBS?

There is a great, old, soft ice cream ("cree-mee") place in the town we used to live in, where they would always ask me, "Have you tried the large?" I would glance down at my belly: "Yes, I have tried the large." That would make a great T-shirt, I suggested, with a correctly-proportioned diagram of the towering confectionery placed over the tummy.

Knowing full well what I was sacrificing, I shaved the F-- out of myself this morning. Yesterday's shave was just too goddamn perfect. It was still awesome when I awoke, in fact, the little square-tipped stubble hardly casting a shadow, feeling like scratchy velvet on my hard, but supple and smooth, face.

Ding! Auto-dialectic engaged. I couldn't just lay down another layer of stratum corneum with Williams. I wanted to know what this new face was really made of. Could it be pushed further than before? Jeffrey Tucker's words assumed the echoey voice of Eric Cartman in my head: "Mushy... unresponsive," as I dug into my Arko-"perfect" prep with gusto. After two passes, I found I could still extrude hair and get strong traction, using extreme leverage. So I got my answer -- that was unusual.

My instinct was to avoid alum and go to splash afterward, but I did both. The alum was worse, stinging the hell out of my neck. There was still enough deep epidermis to accommodate the penetrating solvent; I didn't back it off.

Oil, powder, and moisturizer didn't look natural at all, on a shiny, skin-planed surface. I looked like a made-up corpse; I had a dead-man's shave. Made sense; I had literally just killed my face. (Rinsed it all off and put on cocoa butter, later in the day.)

But there was only one weeper, in the toughest whiskers under my chin, and I didn't feel any burn for two hours. It passed an hour later. Isn't that wonderful? Isn't that a great shave?

NO. Hear me well, learners. That stubble is going to come back just as fast, no matter how glassy the surface of your skin. This is not the kind of "smooth" you want.

Elaborately Minimal

I've sort of been kicking active ingredients out of my lather, and applying them more mindfully to the skin, as layers or in a sequence, for a long time. From the beginning, really, if you count "air." Glycerin was the first conscious ejection, but I wanted it back to deal with this nagging superficial flakiness.

Have you noticed the "Remember This?" sidebar article? That's there for me as much as you, which I guess is a poor excuse for never having it updated in a timely manner, in conjunction with the publishing of the current article. But it engages me in a conversation with myself, a dialogue without a forum, a didactic footing for my extremely dualistic mind. So I found a reference to using glycerin and bentonite in opposition, and that's what I did today.

I also brought back all the #1s around my Personna blade: the Rimei with Schone handle, and Arko. But then, just on a whim, or out of laziness, I substituted vinegar for pumpkin juice. I mean, it's possible I was wrong about the gel aspect being most relevant; it could be the acid.

What I got was a DFS with a tacky NMF finish. The ammonia smell didn't bust out of the Noxzema layer until second pass, giving pass one a nice bite. I shaved it all the way down, believe me; the Rimei, most aggressive of my core cutting heads, wasn't catching anything.

I definitely didn't feel like I needed to rinse anything away, but selected alum as astringent, oiled to seal, POWDERED, then immediately applied moisturizer. It worked! My skin dried down to perfect calm. The skin had nothing to process, in terms of injury or chemicals, but water itself. I figured what the hell, might as well add the cocoa butter right away, too.

I can see some shade and some skin texture, there are still a few chips in the SC, too. But it just looks so... natural. All I really have to show for my effort is perfect comfort.

Sweat And Pumpkin Juice

My skin looked dry in the morning, but of good volume, after the clay water. Some heavy wet snow gave me a workout this morning, so I tried something different: skip the Noxzema, skip the baking soda, to see if those two ingredients are the equivalent of sweating, as I currently think of them.

Pumpkin juice perked up the hair a little, but not much. The shave was tuggy. The lather was wet, but thin, and I kept it to two passes. There was no chance of getting really close. On the other hand, the first pass alone could have been sufficient, with the extra leverage I was able to apply. Next time I get a workout, I'm going to add oil, and use that to gauge how softening it really is.

After a shower, my skin exhibited a shredded appearance, which I interpret as long, directional cracks having half-exfoliated. There was an itchy spot on the jawline. So, clay, I conclude, is purely drying. Even if it helps internal healing, and improves appearance, it's not going to protect or infuse the surface with anything useful.

It reminds me of how clay treated my leaky gut. At first, I was amazed at the muscle tone in my abdomen, but then there were two holidays dedicated to the consumption of sweets. I'm carrying my spare tire again, and this time, it isn't just swelling, it's fat tissue. On my face, at least the extra tissue is a good thing.

So I went back to my manly 3-in-1 moisturizer. After all this drying out, it burned me! Just like the heavy lotions I remember from winters in the 80s. I had to back it off.  It was enough to make the itchy spot go away, at least. And since this shave was velvety pretty much from the get-go, I think I'm in line for a truly spectacular shave tomorrow.


My errors in managing a thicker stratum corneum were initially indicated by flakes, then a microscopic kind of razor whip, and most lately, a bump like an elongated mosquito bite. To this proud list, I now add... lumps.

Near the new scar on my left cheek -- yep, still there, like a pop-up turkey thermometer, indicating inadequate skin volume -- 12 hours after a spectacular Valentine shave, a new kind of texture arose, as if half of the skin had become cornified, and half had not. When I looked at it in the mirror, though, the firmness was clearly turgidity arising from below, like the mosquito bite, just under a thicker SC.

The timing was the key clue. I was familiar with late-onset razor burn from my days of thin skin and over-exposed edges. It is the consequence of excavating follicles too deeply, with a blade not sharp enough to cleave hair above the surface of the skin. As the hair is cut, the edge then snaps at the skin. Sometimes you can even see the snakebite, superficial cuts on either side of the follicle opening. But it doesn't hurt until the re-emerging hair gets there, pushing the cuts open from below. I guess the microscopic scabs aren't elastic enough. Some sweaty irritants seem to accompany the hair, too.

The lumps spare me that pain, but the thickened SC itself seems to present a similar barrier to the emergent hair. The injury is not the usual shearing, or even the injection of sharp hair tips (my hair isn't that tough) that are usually blamed for bumps. It's a kind of de-lamination, the SC being pushed off the substrata as if by thousands of hydraulic jacks.

All that is necessary to release these hairs is exfoliation. I layered Eau de Quinine, a hair tonic that helps shed dander, with pumpkin juice, and awoke with perfectly smooth skin again. I gave myself another close shave, and the skin was still nice and tough at the end.

But I didn't push it too hard. I checked out the Arko ingredients label, satisfied myself that glycerin was low enough on the list, and paired it with Noxzema. Arko has mineral oil in it, I noticed, which I think makes it more suitable for the oil-less preparation. Ammonia was less prominent, which may have made the hair a little less forthcoming. I only expect 8-10 hours out of this DFS.

Today's mystery clue: a chipped (smaller version of "flaky") skin surface. I would normally go with Dollar Tree moisturizer. Cocoa butter and a drop of oil don't make it go away. If I can't use glycerin, and don't want to pee on myself, the only thing left is... dilute clay. Will let you know how it goes.

Happy Neck-Shaving Day

Just a little Valentine's Day reminder... you probably don't need to lather up to straighten up the neckline of your haircut. Just a handheld mirror, to look back at your bathroom mirror with and see the back of your head, and a DE. Steep, square strokes, riding on the safety bar. Now why not bust out the scissors, comb down that forelock, and straighten that out, too? Clear around the ear? You just saved ten bucks! (Buy me some roses tomorrow, when they're half price.)

My Valentine shave is one of the very closest. The Flying Eagle was retired after shaving my neck; I just don't think it's been helping me lately, the performance degrading in terms of both skin and hair. #1 USA Personna filled the vacancy, and for extra caution, the Super Speed. I skipped the oil, and brought in the pumpkin juice, for a lot of water activity, or "velocity," as Roberts would have said. Putting the serum right on Noxzema stank of ammonia, and Williams dried right out without any oil; probably shoulda gone with Arko this time. But I did all the touch-ups and got my BBS with little soreness; alum prickled some; AV Musk had to be backed off, this time.

I tried putting some cocoa butter on before the splash, but I still have no idea how much coverage I'm getting. It's like using a stick of chalk to apply powder. I can just feel the softness with my fingertips when I rub it in, whatever "it" amounts to. After an outing in the cold, I could see the surface was completely dried out, but I still have the smoothness.

I guess I have to rub my hands together to get some heat up, and actually melt it down in my palm if I want to use it as a postshave. It's also not good to stretch a freshly shaven face too hard, and the stick does drag. That technique goes back to the original post I saw... still can't find a link, so thanks, man, whoever you are! (And whatever group you're in, that I got kicked out of, lol.)

Forget Chocolates -- Buy This

I don't know whose blog or post it was, that put the seed of cocoa butter in my mind, but I had been walking past Queen Helene's 100% at the Dollar General in recent weeks, tempted by a vague recollection. I'm pretty sure it was a black man, yet again, with the info most relevant to me, claiming it was the perfect moisturizer and didn't smell too strongly.

Well, it smells like cocoa. That much was clear from sniffing the $1.50 tube, a simple thing without a twist-up mechanism, just a cylindrical chunk of vegetable fat rattling around loosely on a push-up platform. Still it seemed like a bold move, for a middle-aged white guy. I needed time to think about it.

Then this cold snap hit, coincidental to Valentine's Day, and suddenly it made a lot of sense. The biting gust freeze-drying my face as I stepped into the parking lot was my first of the year. It would always be good as a lip balm, and look what they charge for those puny, inorganic things! Along with the basket full of dietary garbage, a little something for my health. I could pass the odor off as a romantic gesture, if necessary.

It rubbed on very dry. I had no way of knowing how much I had applied, because I felt little tactile difference. But it smoothed the skin just the same as the changes in my postshave routine, as if from the inside. Amazing! And then, the "emollient" effect. Yes, the skin was softer, but did you know, that word also means "soothing"? The skin relaxed, as if I had done an oil cleanse. Not as deep, or long-lasting, but recognizable. And the smell is fine -- I quickly lost it amid the turmeric residue of my curried rice dinner.

I don't see anything like those effects from that Dollar Tree moisturizer. In fact, hit on negative references to "aqueous cream" in the dermatology abstracts and exzema sites. It sounds suspiciously similar, and has fallen out of favor in medical circles for not improving skin condition in the long term. I think I might be there already.

Williams Is Skinagra

Forgive me for trying to beat the marketers at their own game. I really am very excited, if not hard. In my face, that is.

There was a bit of interruptus following yesterday's success, when my skin started looking like flaccid again... in the direct overhead light of my bathroom mirror, at a visual range of only inches. Do you ever notice the skin textures of screen actors? I guess I'm doing alright. After declamating the stratum corneum with nighttime pumpkin juice, and collapsing the stratum spinosum with a shot of straight AV Musk, the whole thing just seemed to collapse. The only thing left was a better color.

I don't think it's any kind of setback. The basal layer is usually depicted as deeply folded, and the spiny layer fills the crevices. So if you shrink those cells to the granular state, there goes your skin volume.

I missed the tougher surface I had enjoyed for the last few days of shaving, though, so last night before bed, I used Williams as a "toilet soap," as they said in the old days. (I don't think they had come up with "facial cleansers" yet.) And I got that punctuated finish, the "blade silence," back this morning, but not so much the smooth look.

It seems like, if I can just get the scheduling right, I've gained very "granular" control over my skin condition, with the cheapest shaving supplies available.

Aftershaving Like a Normal Person

Breakthrough! A heavy, direct application of Aqua Velva Musk, fully wetting the surface of my face, penetrated in a tingly-warm sort of way, and fizzled out without burning me at all! No dilution, no wet cloth backing it off my face. Penetration simply stopped short of my nerve endings, as the alcohol evaporated. How thick can my skin become? Nobody knows! How did this happen? Let's review.

Combe, Inc. products catalyzed my first growth spurt by "killing" keratinocytes, making them into corneocytes. Low glycerine content helped the buildup remain intact, apparently, by avoiding direct explosion of the SC, and preventing false "moisture" signals to the granular layer. There may be other chemical factors increasing the cohesion of skin proteins; the old Williams producers implied as much in their advertising.

On the opposite side of the clock, meanwhile, I applied my exfoliator, pumpkin juice. Keeping things smooth and not bumpy seems to depend on an orderly slough, as opposed to the gross flaking seen after reverting to high-glycerine (KMF). Plus, it stimulates more cells to grow. Thickening the "living" layers of epidermis came as a surprise, but that is the natural order of things.

The subtle swellings and shrinkings of various strata are sometimes reflected in skin texture re-emerging, mild warmth, or an urge to faceturbate, all of which can be safely addressed by moisturizer (containing glycerin). But in light of the above, that is no longer applied immediately after the shave. Instead, vitamin D3 shaving oil seals the freshly shorn surface without swelling it, and may send a beneficial growth signal ("It's summer!") to the deepest skin layers.

The New Smooth

I'm not one to brag, but I really liked what I saw in the mirror this morning. I had a headache before bed, and woke up with the same. I expected a pruney, dehydrated face to be looking back at me, but was pleasantly surprised. Such qualitative distinctions are hard to describe... actually, I think it was the lack of a distinction, between my beard area and the rest of my face, that's notable.

Just a plain old oval, of smooth contour and even tone. Of course, there was stubble to be shaved off, and a bit more than yesterday, the shave clocking in at the usual 10 hours of smoothness. I released the Noxzema from its preshave boundaries and spread it all over my face, in accord with the new gestalt. I gave the shaving oil a reduction, down to two drops, feeling strong, hoping for a closer shave.

Williams responded well to this formula, showing itself at its creamiest on my face, after a somewhat foamy start in my old cereal bowl. That was especially gratifying, because I had given the Arko a sniff, too. The Williams was odorless, but the decider was the dry feeling of the Williams' surface, whereas the Arko felt suspiciously of glycerin.

I think I simply forgot to use alum, but came to my senses before deliberately applying oil ahead of Skin Bracer, remembering yesterday's burn. More pleasant, but I still had to back it off.

This shave felt, and the result looks, no different than a summer shave. No unusual blade feel, of plastic or undercooked spaghetti. I am once again, my fully moisturized self. Only, smoother.

It's not the hair. A cotton ball catches ATG. I'm pretty neutral on the conventional descriptions of "BBS," "DFS," and "CCS," but today I could flush 'em without compunction. There would only be "the ideal shave," then, and this would be it.

More Crackpot Theories

The death of Charles Roberts, coincidental with my own explorations of the usefulness of clay, placed him very much in my thoughts as I grew this new, harder face covering. Heavily protective, water-suspending shaving media could have caused the same changes in his skin. If strange new bumps appeared, as they did on me, it could have been mistaken as an apparent change in the direction of growth. I think the "forms" are better interpreted as, "don't worry so much about stroke direction," and ultimately, "don't shave too close." But that theoretical underpinning of his, that the grain can actually change, has never made much sense to anyone. So, there's a hypothesis, anyway.

Jeffrey Tucker seemed to take the wet out of wet shaving, when he suggested using oil to transition to no shaving medium at all, but he still splashed warm water on his unprotected skin. I've previously discussed how oil could, theoretically, better protect skin from fixed-angle face planers than canned cream, and posited that as the basis of his experience. Now, however, I have to think that his skin was actually strengthened, too. I suggested he try a DE with Stirling (which is, to my mind, an encapsulated form of Roberts' media), and reap the benefits of mechanical advantage. But it's not at all clear that glycerin wouldn't have done the same number on him as on me.

Agenticity is the social form of a naturally selected perceptive ability, "patternicity," that allows us to avoid danger before conclusive evidence is discovered (too late), by recognizing patterns. Most of us recognized immediately that Roberts was just trying to make a buck, coming up with new words for "soap," "cream," and "oil"; Tucker used a theory of agency to dismiss classic shaving, apparently, without even trying it. The degree to which people rely on such heuristics has been studied and found to increase when they feel less control. In his TED talk, Shermer gives the example of baseball superstitions: batters (the best of whom average around a 30% success rate) are extremely ritualistic, but fielders are not.

It's pretty obvious where today's shavers stand on that scale, and I pity all of them. But there are plenty of patterns yet to be found, in the creation of our own routines. The answer is to take more responsibility. There's no need, either now or in the forseeable future, to herd up under various banners of stupidity.

After yesterday's shave, which clocked in at about 11 hours of smoothness, there was hardly a visible beard to shave this morning. And I noticed a reduced thickness in my new skin. The finish was less conclusive, based more on the sense of reaching the skin, than complete blade silence. It still has a different feel under the blade, though, more like plastic. Noxzema, oil, and Williams gave me another great shave.

To remind you, I'm moisturizing when I notice the skin texture coming back, presumably due to dehydration, some hours after shaving. Before bed, I wash in whatever way seems best (hand soap, cetaphil, water alone) and apply pumpkin juice as an exfoliator.

Me So Horny

Beyoncé: my heroine! I'm still not a football fan, but (kissing fingertips) mwah! How about a vice-presidential bid, on Bernie's ticket? Now there's a woman who would put the government to work!

Today's shave was amazing. Even having laid out thickening the stratum corneum as a clear objective, feeling it was unexpectedly good. The Flying Eagle blade was in its prime, getting good traction, and it sliced a smooth surface out of what I had built, bringing the visibly textured area of my face even closer to midline. The alum registered nothing, the Skin Bracer burned in an even, healthy way, bringing back the new flush. There were no little fissures (yesterday's was actually a tiny slice, I decided). The drop of oil was necessary to reduce the shine, as much as to seal the skin. I usually only see that with a devette.

Best of all, the third pass didn't catch much hair, bringing the shave to a clear conclusion without relying on my discipline. The SC must be swelling during the shave. The spaghetti becomes fully cooked!

I'll be very delighted if this wasn't a fluke. I did shave pretty light yesterday (it turned out to be about a 7-hour shave), and late today, so I had a really good shot at the stubble.

Putting Pumpkin in Its Place

In the interim between posts, I've been trying to make sense of the stratum corneum review I finally finished, and editing the "Post Shave" disquisition like a madman. Spoiler on the medical paper: the ending was disappointing, pointing to a need for more cosmeceutical products.

In shaving, or at least in my budget-conscious collection, that approach is represented by Dove Expert Shave cream. I used it recently, and noted an unusually greasy residue on my new, thicker skin. Interestingly, though, I had the sense it was exuding from myself. But as far as my current aims in skin texture, that day was a bit of a setback. Just slightly. Still my first choice when in a hurry.

My improvement of the "perfect" routine seemed to hit a wall at pumpkin juice. That alkaline serum seems is just too exfoliating for the midline area. There has been no resurgence of bumps -- in fact, the two I was tracking on my cheeks are no longer detectable, much to my relief. Things are definitely smoother, but I see a consistent pattern from the seborrheic area near my nose, to the rougher texture on the mouth side of my cheeks, and chin.

So, plan "B": today I dropped the serum from the shave, and will only exfoliate at night before bed. I didn't dig for a great shave, with stiffer beard in play: two passes, oblique strokes only. The result is not as close, but visually, no worse. I've been getting used to 10 hour shaves, and I expect at least 6 from this. Will hope for 8.

Another new kind of injury was noted today, in the shaving area nearest the nose: a tiny red line, like piece of lint, a capillary broken in a shallow fissure. I suppose it could be the same thing as the "invisible" bleeding from before. My complexion is overall becoming more ruddy, if not blotchy. Can't say I love it, but if it's part of epidermal thickening, I'll take it.

Biggest Bump Ever

I was finished with my post-shave inspection of the stratum corneum, lost in my theoretical musings, when THIS appeared. I had seen the lower red spot during the shave, and ignored it, shaving over it repeatedly, and bringing up some friends. I attribute that to going ATG on first pass. The hair was so easy to cut, it just didn't feel any different. But the bump is definitely some kind of immune response. it looks like an elongated bug bite.

Stubble in the area provided a pivotal clue (Not visible, because I dry shaved it.) What I thought was ATG, sort of aligned with the long axis of the bump, was actually XTG. So this area was hit ATG on pass 1 also, then XTG on pass 2. I was already suspicious that similar deviations and aberrations in my stroke pattern were responsible for recent bumps up higher, at the corners of my jaw.

You know how you can skew one way or the other, depending on how aggressive you want the stroke to be? Apparently, these choices make a BIG difference when the stratum corneum is thick. The blade that would normally flick off a macerated bit of skin with ease, sticks in the uncooked spaghetti and refracts deeper.

Keratinocytes sheltered by the the horny layer may be in a better position to signal for inflammation, as well. Urea treatment didn't touch this thing, but I'm confident that it is a less fleshy sort of bump than the earlier ones. Speaking of which, the jaw corners were smooth as porcelain today. This was supposed to be a self-congratulatory article! The shave wasn't super close, and little shreds could be seen on the surface, but it has a very clean look.

In sum, I've recreated my electric shaves of old -- clean cheeks, damaged neck -- only, closer. 

Day Of Faceturbation

My wife's been going to the gym for one of those insane cross-training classes. I wasn't really on board with it -- late dinners, fussy kids -- until I got a squeeze. It seems there's more to it than meets the eye!

So it is with today's shave. Exact same prep as yesterday, but no difficulty at all. Two pass, very fine shave. And I can't stop rubbing it... a-HA! It's that sneaky progression of skin cells, stimulated by last night's pumpkin juice, on its way to tomorrow's thicker stratum corneum. 

Actually, though, I was rubbing myself a lot yesterday, too. The nice, square stubble, emerging from a well hardened skin surface, also provoked tactile appreciation. Is it just the satisfaction of being a living G.I. Joe doll?

I don't think so. I think there was a subconscious imbalance in the skin strata then, as well. Stroking, flexing the skin, depressing the follicles, momentarily relieves the tension that, taken to extremes, would otherwise become itch or burn.

In the ultimate perfection of my shaving routine, there should be little or no faceturbation. I addressed it today by moisturizing, some hours after the shave. Oh, but it still feels good!

Urea Vs. Bumps

So my evil plan, to develop some stratum corneum and hide the orange-rind-looking substructure of my skin, in a controlled way that doesn't prevent me from getting a good shave, is coming along nicely. I'm just changing elements of the "perfect" shave to make it ideal as a routine, and plan to keep with the Tech.  I saw the milky stratum beginning to subsume thinner, pore-dotted elevations today. This is two days after applying pumpkin juice at night, and one day after going back to Williams from Arko.

I mention the pumpkin juice because my recent bump-raising experience seemed to indicate a two-day delay between topical treatment and emergence of the stimulated skin cells as corneocytes. I could be wrong, I'll admit. This isn't exactly "science." But when I had some difficulty at the jaw corners, and felt the itch of bumps rising again today, I acted on my theories by applying carbamide on a cotton ball -- after AV musk, and before oil as moisturizer (one drop).

The bumps were nearly gone by the time I left the mirror, and the itching relieved. I don't think rosewater was as effective at reducing the swelling, though it also stopped the itching, last time. The cotton ball reealed something else, too: a tinge of red indicating that the skin was invisibly bleeding. I had felt my error during shaving, a sharp cutting pain, but had not seen the wound.

I am not very familiar with this kind of injury, but suspect that it is another example of the horny layer causing me technical difficulty. Like teeth sticking in a pork rind. I wonder if this is what men of color deal with all the time. I think I have heard that it is a kind of dry skin susceptible to the ingrowns. And when I was scoping out the black women's blogs, one was trying out Noxzema as an ovenight skin treatment.

Since nighttime exfoliation is recommended for the ingrowns, and these bumps seem similar to that, I will now do nighttime pumpkin juice daily... but I'm keeping the Noxzema on deck, for sure, lest I end up putting pee on my face regularly again!

Bypassing The Compressor

"Yeowhooo!" screamed my inner R2 unit (don't tell me you haven't internalized any Star Wars characters) as the Travel Tech zipped around my face this morning. It exposes a lot less edge than the Rimei, and thus has the comfort elements of the R10 shave, but all the responsiveness and feedback of the Rimei -- actually better handling, with the beveled top cap.

My best shaves are not the naval undertaking implied by yesterday's post, but a million rocket shots of hairs, out of the thin atmosphere of lather. Or in the mirror perspective, a multitude of stars zooming past as the hyperdrive engages. I have long considered myself a "cosmetonaut." I think the back construction holds true for "cosmetonautics," the branch of public service for which we're training here. The science and practice of (blade) traveling through lather (or other shaving substrate).

For entertainment value, this beat up razor is either my X-wing or Millennium Falcon, depending on which identifies with my beat up Super Speed. Because I've put a classic Merkur-style, solid brass handle on the Tech, it would seem to be the heavier craft. And accepting shims would be analagous to Chewie's ceaseless tinkerings.

"Great, kid! Don't get cocky."

Anchors Aweigh

To "weigh anchor" is to bring it aboard a vessel in preparation for departure. The phrase "anchor's aweigh" is a report that the anchor is clear of the sea bottom and, therefore, the ship is officially underway.

I had another two-shave day over the weekend: one with Dove Expert Shave to get me out the door, and a complete routine in the evening. It was rough with just the cream, and not completely clean with the hair softened, either, so I canned the Israeli Personna blade. So much for Swedish steel.

Rooting around, I found a "Flying Eagle" to try next. Not wanting to expose myself to its unfamiliar edge, and also wanting a break from excessive skin tension, I selected a razor I haven't used in awhile, the Schmidt R10, to break it in. It's one of the few decent Edwin Jagger clones, representing the "anchor" style of cutting head (developed originally by Merkur) in my collection.

Pretty quickly, I sliced my neck in a place I didn't even know had hair, way down low. Maybe I forgot about the gap, or misjudged where the blade was? But I got my bearings quickly, and was reminded how easy this razor is to use. Even moreso, with a heavy "travel" handle from another razor.

I usually think of this as the razor to use when I am ill. My perspective has changed. It does a lot better under my "perfect" prep regime, and I know better than to struggle for closeness now. I'm more confident in my strokes, and better able to perceive the much subdued tension and tugging cues, which are relatively clear with the classic Gillette designs.

That is why I would still never recommend this razor to a beginner. It would be like learning to drive on a town car or some other "boat." Fine if there's an adult right there, telling you not to push it, but of course you're going to push it. Bumps and burns are our destroyed mailboxes and trash cans. Repeated strokes are our donuts and burn-outs.

Me, two passes and done; out to McDonalds for coffee, and right back home. It is a bit warmer than I'm used to. If I had been aiming to bring my shave about, to an opposite heading from where I was with the Merkur, this would be right on course. Pitch is a little too high here, where it was too low with the older design. Less work to use it, less skin tension, fewer missed hairs in the shady, but smooth, result. I'm not going to be sticking with either razor as my daily driver. Next up, the travel Tech on the old faux Merkur handle, is a legitimate contender.

Old business - one of my new scars shrunk down to a little connector trench between two pores, and the other stayed raised as a scar shaped like a tiny Star Trek emblem. They are both consistent with my skin texture, not really standing out on their own, but I know. Itching: the danger signal. Do not apply rosewater (acid). Will try carbamide, if that ever happens again. (Update: alcohol splash is my standard emergency itch response.)

Last night I used Williams soap to wash my face before bed, and it dried my face dramatically. Not in a flaky way, though I was slightly chapped around my mouth corners in the morning. Like I could feel my face shrinking as I fell asleep. Really neat stuff, and coming back to the shave tomorrow.