Exfoliation Is Go

We have shave-off! It's so stupid, really, that I find shaving with the Dragonfeng FUN. What is it about putting the skin at risk that is so enjoyable? Well, in this case, the end of winter means I have a more pliable, thicker epidermis to play with. I can shave the horny layer down thin, and not see a lifetime of bad choices in my connective tissue. I have a high-glycerine soap I can tolerate now, and a new understanding of how to take advantage of it. There is a physical craving to expose my nerve endings to more sensation.

But danger is exciting, too, I have to admit. For a DE guy, the Yuma, R-41, devette, and this Chinese Yuma clone have the power to bring you back to the beginning, when shaving was like bowling. Not pro bowling, where you cry over anything that isn't a strike, or even the bowling where you have your own ball, shoes and a towel; the bowling where you take a ball off the rack, and the gutter is always a possibility. These are sporting razors. A challenge, with a sensual reward.

I forgot how tight I ought to have been gripping until second pass, and I think that's why I had a good crop of weepers in my chin creases. You don't have to loosen the blade on this thing to get more flex than you need. So I stopped after two, and still got a really nice shave. When you damage skin in a sulcus, it's sort of self-compressing.

I took a pass on the alum after that, but pushed my luck again with some moisturizer after a couple hours.

Pull My Stubble

No, go on... nothing bad is going to happen, I promise! I wonder what kind of old fart I'm going to be: the "pull my finger" type, the "what's behind your ear" magician, or perhaps, the horrifying severed thumb?  I imagine there is a correlation between the first type and regular use of SE razors. That morning arthritis isn't going away; I better make up my character quick. I've been doing cold water shaves for many months now, but my finger joints might change my mind for me.

I chose the Clog-Pruf today in order to complete the really-old school trifecta. Washed with water, face lathered Arko, no shaving oil. It's been awhile, and I could tell the new strokes near midline were helping me overcome the natural tugginess of the Micromatic's low-angle bias, much as they had informed my straight technique. I was more patient with this, though, because there was no struggle to find a grip, no beat-the-clock against drying lather. I followed the normal progression from low to moderate angle on passes 1 and 2, then dropped it back to low for a safe, but tuggy finishing pass.

It felt good, like a follicular massage. Alum gave me some prickles, but nowhere near the damage from the shavette. DFS, and I can see how a guy could get used to that, particularly when bracketed by the Merkur OC with its minimal skin contact, and the relatively hazardous straight edge. Just-like Brut was the perfect dressing.

Another DE has been beckoning me, though: the Long Feng DF-813. Danger!

Diminished Returns

The brandless shavette I bought turned out to be pretty good in the metal, and disappointing in the plastic. The "scales," if you could call them that, don't fit parallel, and were seemingly designed that way, diverging at the end where the knife attaches. The profile is also not tapered enough there, effectively ejecting one finger from the grip. So I know, right off the bat, I'm going to have to make scales for this piece of shit at some point. I've apparently also funded fraud against the Feather brand, as the product image showed "Feather," but came "Jifonli" ("Shanghai, China").

On the other hand, a tight action made backhand strokes alot more casual. So it handles like the Sedef, but with different grips, which I know makes little sense... I've always focused on the blade, not my grip. It engendered enough foolish confidence that I upped my second pass to XTG, and lazily went ATG on my neck and the ipsilateral side of my face, for some sore spots. The shave is passable, and the blade felt safe and perfect, but the result was still nothing special.

I mean, why bother? In case I have to shave someone else someday? The Merkur OC did an awesome job keeping the blade off my skin this weekend. The Old Type pretty near killed straight razors, and those at least have romantic appeal.

Speaking of romance, my wife negated all of my late efforts to smell better. She said I smelled "nice" as I got into the car for our holiday trip to her folks'. Skin Bracer and just-like Brut. Here I thought she was a liberal, and it turns out she's a sexist! Well, she does a lot to accommodate my preferences, so I guess the least I can do is make myself smell right.

The highlight of my weekend in shaving was seeing the last of the keratosis emerge from my cheek, after a shower preceding our journey. Kind of like a scab, but white and clear, I found it hanging off my face when I approached the mirror to shave. It was still affixed firmly enough that the towel couldn't knock it off, and it had to be deliberately pulled off of me, leaving a tiny, shallow, raggedy hole, like a leech had been there. It's completely healed today, barely a pink spot. No scar, for once! Yay!

I've had other successes as well, in streamlining the delivery of fluids. Instead of diluting aftershave in the cloth, I rinse as thoroughly as I can, then leave my face wet. Once the aftershave is applied atop the water, I lift it all off with my cloth.

After all our time in the minivan, we went swimming last night, ruining my hair. I applied my pumpkin juice popsicle directly to dry hair, then wet with a spray bottle, for an instant de-frizz. No glycerin, no oil. Worked like hair spray!

Stay Classic This Easter

No, I'm not growing a 70's stache. And my perennial profile pic is from Movember past. My lip is naked, but it still amuses me. Besides, I recently found out that keeping the same avatar proves that you're not a narcissist.

So I found out that the magic words, to find out what's new in shavettes on ebay, are "straight edge razor." Does NOBODY believe in search anymore? After a few hours idly browsing, crashing, disconnecting and reconnecting my keyboard, I decided that I would actually be able to stay under $10 with my new shavette -- by finding the same product on Amazon. It seems to be a similar design as the Sedef, which I actually like very much, but an upgrade all around, hopefully. If you were shopping along with me, I think I can share my search results via "collections" on the ebay profile. Just remember, please  -- ebay sucks! Your buyer protection is effectively 0% when you use PayPal, because they make you send the fraudulent junk back to the seller.

Meanwhile, I was considering grinding a larger radius onto the corners of my DE blades when it occurred to me, DUH, that I have a perfectly good safety razor that never shaves too close, and that is the Merkur 1904 Open Comb. I gave my skin the treatment I know it normally likes -- Noxzema, oil, and Arko -- and saved the pumpkin juice for an experimental sinus wash. My wife says the air is dry in our house, but I don't think that's true. The biome is definitely changing around here. Maybe I can exfoliate the bugs inside my nose before they get dug in for the summer.

Anyway, three passes with the blade tightened down good left the skin to its own devices. I'll juice it again now, but it's not as hot as yesterday. I could still feel the BiC damage when I put on the Noxzema, so I skipped the alum and used dilute Florida Water. Mmm.. gotta get me some Happy Cola now.

Catch you all after the holiday (speaking of candy). Interesting thing about Easter eggs -- high in hyaluronic acid. My finger joints have been cracking and occasionally painful in the morning. How about yours? Maybe my daughter was less erroneous than it seems...

Uh-oh, someone let an atheist in on the fun!
...if the skin degrades vitamin D into esters that signal tissue development, which could put a nutritional strain on hyaluronic acid production.

Shave Every Day

The most positive spin I can put on this nasty film of spring skin is that it could nurture a deeper, collagenous regeneration. You know how babies are born covered in slime? So I'm sworn to protect it, and I don't feel like shaving, but I gotta do better than yesterday. It didn't look terrible this morning, but it certainly wasn't going to be socially acceptable to skip a day.

Possible solution #2: BiC and Barbasol. Pro: it's idiot proof (for me -- you never really know how a modern shaver will suit you until you buy it, but to be clear, this is the non-Sensitive, white-handled Bic 1). There will be no scar-inducing injury. Con: fixed angle will unavoidably exfoliate, albeit lightly, and perfectly evenly. Barbasol is also a mixed bag, of cushion and moisturizer. The real draw is that I don't really feel like I'm "shaving," and thus, not fighting my feelings.

I never made note, but there was a period, shortly after coming up with my guidelines for older and younger shavers, when my skin felt TOO young (!), and was popping up zits. I'm pretty sure that was the wave of growth that I'm seeing die off now, so maybe it's not all attributable to vitamin D and the change of season. I might have asked for it. What brings this to mind now, is a flaky spot on my forehead that was the worst sore at that time.

The "mask" was less milky, and more shredded. I used alum to hold back some Skin Bracer, and didn't moisturize. I'm a little dry and uncomfortable now, in a not-quite burning sort of way, so I'm going to hit it with pumpkin juice.

Oh -- I looked into the M. Charles shavette, and it's only for injectors. What I need, actually, is a vintage Weck. Even better.

Spring Desquamation

I don't always feel like shaving close. (But when I do, I shave with a Tech or Super Speed.) Once again I can't seem to trust my instincts, because I can SEE a mask of stratum corneum lying dull on my face, after a late beard reduction with a shavette and Dove Expert Shave. I was all like MacConaughey in the car advertisement, with my fancy brush and wet schmeer of a lather. But I forgot to wet my face first, and that's probably where the electro-harmonica trance music would have changed to the Sanford & Son theme, if I were selling anything.

Fact is, I only picked up this junky Fromm razor to try a different type of blade. It has the typical piece of black plastic for a tail that I absolutely HATE compared to the Sedef's dentate aluminum. But that one has plastic scales that swing loosely around the pin, so I guess you can't really win for under $10. At least the ejector knob didn't seem to get in my way, which was a concern, as it doesn't really appear to have been designed for shaving as much as hair cutting.

Indeed, I liked the blade pretty well, the Personna hair shaper blade. I could see myself with a Monsieur Charles. Way more easily than I could see investing in a straight razor. I was getting some sliding action in there, thanks to the rounded corners. But again, this was just to remove a beard before it could destroy a pillow, 2x WTG. I know better than to try anything fancy with an open blade, since learning the hard way last time. Alum picked up a couple errors this time, too. But, considering the drying lather and the fact I still don't know how to maneuver the thing, I was clearly more successful at avoiding injury.

The only blood was from a little bathroom biopsy I had performed beforehand, on the remnant of my cheek keratosis. It's definitely coming up, but I think it got hung up on some vascular structure, which kind of looked like an ingrown hair, so I gave it a good poke with a lance. I guess it was sort of an internal scab, from when I scraped at it with a fingernail. Which I seem to have to do, to get the exfoliation sometimes. Might leave a little scar.

Maybe the potential inflammatory repercussions of shaving it off are the basis of my feelings. Allowing the horny layer to build up in winter had those kind of repercussions, and my instinct was to shave that the hell off.

Another interesting observation from the past week was when the tumor's formerly yellow striae were exfoliated like hair. I'd see this little white wisp projecting from the shrinking bump, and scrape it off, only to see a little more peeking out. Pretty cool. That thing was starting to bug me.

The Pumpkin Alliance

You know, the more I think about pumpkin juice vs. the cosmeceuticals, the more natural its effectiveness seems. I think it hinges on the idea of what constitutes a "dimer." Does it have to be the same molecule? That may be "sterically favorable," but if a pumpkin has an array of small carboxylic acids, they could hydrogen bond with each other in a factorial number of assortments. As the composition of the lamellar membrane of the SC varies, various solubility properties are obviously advantageous. We would probably like other layers of skin to reorganize in conjunction, also, for which a range of penetrance is helpful.

I would compare it to the rag-tag fleet of the Rebel Alliance in Star Wars, amassed over whatever single-minded dreadnought the evil Empire has brought this time.

"It's not a spin trap!"
I doubt George Lucas would have gone this deep for a metaphor -- "Mon Calamari"? Groan. On the other hand, the citric acid cycle is implied by the Force, as mitochondria obviously inspired "midi-chlorians." I found a "new" acid in my reading, propionic acid, which is said to have a B.O.-like aroma. That's because B.O.-producing bacteria make it, which finally makes a connection to summer sweat and the safe, but not very close shaves I enjoy after lawnmowing. Lookie what else it can do:

Diabetes, check. I thought I tasted a little cat piss! A plan for my teeth has coalesced. I'm going to use the juice only occasionally, to get deep tartar and release the tensions that would otherwise lead to abfracture. Did I tell you, my teeth made little crunchy-crispy noises the first time? Like ice getting colder. But not the second time, and I think I also detected a tinge of yellow developing. Bentonite added to glycerin toothpaste keeps the dynamite at the surface, for a stain-fighting changeup. I'll go back to baking soda or oil for daily cleaning, proven safe.

The one thing the decomposing curcurbit doesn't seem to have, that it really needs for shaving utility, is that protein-deforming, hair-pineconing ability of baking soda. I still think it will always be better to DIY than develop a commercial juice, though.

A pumpkin a year, no dermatologists around here.

Male Enhancement And Williams

I wasn't really liking what I saw in the mirror, this bright, Monday morning. The hair thing worked out great -- pumpkin juice was the equivalent of a Brazilian blowout, I think they call it, having a persistent restructuring effect on my hair. It only lacked a certain softness. So I brought out my bentonite clay and kabuki brush, dusted the hair then sprayed it with water, for what I call "the lake effect."

Brushing my teeth with pumpkin juice seems to have dropped a double chin down out of my tongue area, and into the shave area. That, too, might be a good thing: I have been prone to cramps in my tongue on over-extension. I'm still no Gene Simmons, but I think I have gained some mobility.

If your mind immediately leapt to another potential application of pumpkin juice, a sexual application -- I'm already there, and I think it's plausible. Timing the treatment is a bit of a problem, but the Viagra crowd reading this should have no difficulty. Did you know that prostitutes are big on cologne, as a post-coital sanitizer? (I saw it on Netflix.) Thanks, girls, for keeping the cost low! They might be appreciating the toning property as well.

I've had a feeling the past week (the third week of March, let's say for posterity) that my skin has undergone the opposite of the autumn transition, and is asking for different treatment. Vitamin D synthesis has been re-initiated, I think, despite some pretty harsh arctic winds lately. I went for a walk with the family this weekend and froze my cheeks off. Numbing cold. But the warmth of the sun could still be felt at sheltered curves in the bike path.

Since I already had the bentonite out, and I know it has a drying effect on its own, I decided to use it as preshave. I dusted my face, then wet it down with a spray bottle, and rubbed like it was a cleanser, and rinsed. I think maybe it did pull some oil out of my forehead. Williams was then the obvious, dry choice. I even skipped the oil.

And that's when the fun began, because my humble Williams was suddenly slick and wet, long-lasting and... well, I still won't say "creamy," but rich enough. The shave reminded me of PdP, because the hair wasn't softened at all, and I think I killed another blade. I wonder if some of the fuss about Williams reformulation is actually attributable to advancements in water filtration.

In an effort keep it clean, I toned with pumpkin juice and backed it off with a wet cloth. However, an itch beset me at drydown, and I had to go back for some Dollar Tree blue aftershave.

Big Man On Campus

I apologize for allowing this little private school to assume the atmosphere of a research university lately. Daniel Webster is still remembered in this quarter. My career frustration was strangely prescient, though, as to the potential impact of lamellar reorganization theory. What did I say, "...cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and drug addiction"? Here are a few concluding thoughts, just in case anyone with real educational credentials happens to blow through here. In case Google screws up, in other words. ;-)

After applying the deliberate, deep toner followed by moisturizer to persistent lesions on my face in the afternoon, I dabbed my vitamin D shaving oil at night, and I felt it. Like the first time I put supplement on the lesions that DID respond. Fibroblasts are little connective tissue cells that repair injury. Recently, they have been caught on video recruiting tumor cells, and probably telling them not to die. You know it's mostly old people who get cancer, and that's probably because the properly functioning, non-rogue fibroblasts are programmed to retire. Scientists are working on that, too, for good or ill. But I think the D3 gives a competing hormonal signal directly to the tumor cells, telling them to die. Which is a good thing not only in the case of cancer, but in the case of benign lesions in the shaving area.

I've read (sorry for no references, here, G+ isn't very searchable) that cancer patients experience intensely uncomfortable, generalized water retention in chemotherapy. What I don't know anyone understands at this point, is that that is probably why it works. Tumor cells normally use "antioxidants" for inappropriate self-defense against signals that they should die. But if they have to burn them up in acute tissue reorganization, they would then be more susceptible to those signals.

In heart disease, desmosomes already get a lot of attention, as they are part of complex junctions that define the special function of that tissue. In cardiomyopathy, the fibroblasts replace that function with nonfunctional cartilage. (My dad has a lot of this, after a first heart attack at age 30 and several subsequent bypass surgeries.) Everyone is focused on the blood-thinning, but isn't it obvious that aspirin could facilitiate more functional repairs of the cardiac muscle itself?

That's all I've got for now... diabetes and drug addiction involve highly complicating appetitive systems. Turn that on its head, though, and the co-morbidity of the major causes of death suggests related nutritional deficits. Though the body cannot always be satisfied, the brain is so flexible that it usually can be, despite everything. It's like the "rogue fibroblast" at large.

What Enzymes?

The astute reader will have noticed the absence of reference to pumpkin juice in the preceding post. Try as I might, I cannot find a single source identifying the presumed "enzyme" or "enzymes" that supposedly digest the stratum corneum apart, a process called "keratolysis." It doesn't seem like the cosmeceutical entrepreneurs have done much more than I to isolate a compound, using whole extracts and ferments of pumpkin in their VERY expensive preparations.

So, I'm officially calling "bullshit" on them. It's fruit acid. Lactic or glycolic, retinoic, I can't tell you. But that's my story, and I think it's as good as theirs. I'd really like to hear from the professionals (who may have been laughing at the last post) in the comments. I don't know if I posted this link before...
but #82 doesn't seem like the right place to note that "pumpkin has the highest natural concentration of salicylic acid of any plant." The campaign for vitamin S that I read about in Wikipedia doesn't seem to be going very well.

I'm starting to wonder if there is a cosmetic problem to which this substance doesn't apply. I have a lot of cracks in my teeth (another problem shared by icthyosis patients), and have been trying alternatives to glycerin-based toothpaste, parallel to the exclusion of glycerin from my shaving routine. I sense that the "abfractures" come from within, not from grinding my teeth, as my ex-dentist insisted. So last night, I tried "toning" them with pumpkin juice, raising my face toward the ceiling and slurping the pumpkincicle for some seconds before brushing.

When I spit, I was trying to remember what I ate that was BROWN. Nothing -- but I had been drinking black tea! And my teeth looked whiter, and this morning the cracks looked smaller. I know, acid on teeth -- got to be careful here, and I won't advise anyone else trying it yet. But it's pretty darned interesting, to say the least.

This morning, I put some in my hair, before applying a conditioning gel, and compacted my coif considerably. No hair falling out yet.

I  plan to launch a coordiated attack on persistent skin flaws with the pumpkin juice toner, alcohol to force penetration, and the Dr. Miracles moisturizer. Whatever vitamin D couldn't fix, basically, will get this harsher approach, while the skin I'm happy with will get the "soap and water" treatment.

Nobel Effort in Molecular Biology

Carboxylic Acids

I had actually noticed this before, that a lot of the good stuff I use for toning/astringing/aftershave had this "O" and "OH" arranged like a "V":

acetic acid (vinegar)

citric acid (cologne, rosewater, witch hazel)

benzoic acid (aftershave)

glycolic acid ("AHA")

salicylic acid (exfoliating pepto-bismol mask, "psoriasis" creme)

In organic chemistry skeleton structures (thanks, Wikipedia, for all the images in this post), "C"s and "H"s are left out so you can sort of see the shape, which is usually all the interest they provide. But these little forks of C(O)OH do something pretty neat:

hydrogen bonding dimers

And intuition tells me, that's got to be the key that unlocks desmosomes. It looks like the key on a can of SPAM, doesn't it? Maybe that's all this post amounts to, because even at the surface of the body, I am totally out of my depth as a scholar of biochemistry. But I vaguely remember a biology professor telling me something about lactic acid triggering adaptations in muscle tissue. The problem for my "theory" is, carboxylic acids are everywhere. Amino acids are carboxylic acids, fatty acids are carboxylic acids. These little guys from our shaving kit are small, polar, and easily soluble in water and alcohol, which may be the true selection factor, from an anthropological perspective. But I see the dimers coming together over the carboxyl binding sites between the much larger cadherins, then flossing them apart as osmotic pressure sucks them to and fro. The floss breaks, and each half then occupies a binding site, so the velcro won't stick anymore. (Until the skin dries, or the muscle gets some oxygen.)

Speaking of calcium-dependent protein binding: vinegar and citric acid are great for softening hard water. Is that why desmoglein and desmocollin seem to "need" calcium around, to occupy these ubiquitous chelators? I haven't installed a softener at my house: hard water is good for jelly making, and lower rates of heart disease. But the scale buildup is one reason I don't like to shower frequently. I let my family have all the hot water, so I don't have to crawl down in the subfloor as often to clean out the Rinnai.


Alcohol and carboxylic acids combine to make esters, which are interestingly prominent in both perfumery and fruits. So the new, "fruitier" me I've written about in relation to the former, may be less a personality development, and more a reflection of dietary needs related to my miserable skin condition. I didn't get much more than that from my reading about esters, though it did lead me to the theory above.

Triglycerides are actually tri-esters, of glycerol (glycerin) and fatty acids. The only thing special I could find about cocoa butter is that, whereas most oils have a variety in how the fatty acids are combined, cocoa butter consists mainly of a homogenous compound, with all the fatty acids in the same relative positions. Linoleic acid is especially facilitating to ester synthesis by our sebaceous glands, but the one that is actually converted is palmitic acid, found in the cocoa butter. So maybe the wrinkle-filling moisture gradient is derived from this metabolism.

It doesn't seem like the function of sebum esters are well understood; I think the reference article gives a fair assessment that these chemicals represent signals transmitted through the skin barrier. They're less polar than the acids, and thus able to traverse it dry. I would simplistically guess that they signal "dryness," therefore.

I conclude that Asquith and Somerset are even more clueless than me, having simply ascribed qualities to their soap on the basis of ingredients selected for fragrance. So they called their citrus soap "exfoliating," even though it is perfectly balanced for me, and their lavender "moisturizing," even though it dries me to the point of slight chapping. (Yes, I went back to the store, but they were out of my favorite!)  We can't expect much from soap makers, is what I've learned over the years. But again, maybe these scent cues aren't just market appeal. I'm impressed by the lavender, but I don't want to hold it to my nose and sniff deeply.

Preserving Youth

The opposite of yesterday's shave would be my ideal for youth. I guess being middle aged puts me in a weird place, that I don't mind doing it either way, but usually use toning in a compromise position. Having had my fill of moisturizing yesterday, I felt the need to dry out.

Chemical Barrier

Noxzema turns the lipid of the SC lamellar membrane into something more rubbery, so the soap to follow can't get in. Yet, it's also a great oil cleanse, and has enough moisturizer to keep you from being too tight later. Do rinse it all off.

Physical Barrier

Instead, shaving oil (Shave Secret is very compatible with today's products) fills in your acne holes and keeps blade mishaps from getting out of hand. It also restricts the penetration of what follows.


Soap. Just soap. Nothing creamy about it, honestly, but you can whip it up good in your palm. You don't shave over and over this stuff: just use the strokes of a young scholar. Squeeze out the crema and take a light ATG pass, whisking shadows off the surface. Don't try to use a low angle, except for skewing. Did you start with the whole VDH setup, with the rebranded Weishi, and this is the second soap you've tried? Perfect.

Tone Last

Witch hazel is the smart play, if you haven't hacked yourself all to hell. Lift the residues off with a damp towel. If you're still learning the value of the stratum corneum, use alum to do that, followed by aftershave or cologne (Florida Water), and seal it with a drop of oil. Here I balked, and used alum followed by rosewater, because my hide is thin and not as supple as most of you kids'.

Turning the Tables on Aging

Burning the midnight oil, trying to glean something I could understand from the mass of Wikipedia's organic chemistry pages, I let the TV stay on too long, and Dr. Orton from TV's "The Doctors" came on with his "Fill and Freeze" wrinkle solution. It looked like some eye gel I picked up once, long ago, or some kind of watered down cetaphil, in a narrow applicator tube for some outrageous amount of money. The marketing scheme: to point out what people pay for plastic surgery, and use that as the frame of reference to assess the value.

But there were some interesting graphics that referred to "releasing the fold memory" or somesuch, that made my ears prick up, and I guessed that the good doctor, in his con artistry, dabbled in the same toning and moisturizing palette as I've been exploring. He's not an an entirely evil character: I got my pepto-bismol mask from him. And let's not forget, it was Cindy Crawford's infomercial that turned me on to curcurbits! Below the cosmetic surgery, cosmeceutical and spa treatment eschelons, but just above the food-on-face folk, stands an army of modern foragers, using what is found at discount and dollar stores. And I found Dr. Orton's idea pretty easy to translate into today's shave.

Tone First

Asquith and Somerset soap raised a lovely, soft velvet on my face last night, before my questionable decision not to go to bed. Given its oil cleansing ability, I thought it might make a good pre-shave, particularly with PdP No. 63, which has zero inherent hair-softening ability. I'm starting to think of its luxury as a sort of laziness, where I will use less precise blade technique, less elaborate prep, my anchor-style or other razors, and chew through some blades. (Basically, shaving more like other people.) Pumpkin juice wasn't very effective with PdP, for some reason, and stood as a glaring inconsistency to that plan; eliminating Noxzema as well would be a bonus.

While I do see some skin shedding on my greasy nose with the citrus and ginger "exfoliating" soap, it hits me more as an oil-cleansing toner, simultaneously relaxing and shrinking my face. My skin isn't even tight when it's through; just soft, dry, and less inflamed. It is, without question, the best soap ever to land on me, shaving or otherwise, and I treat it accordingly, as a precious substance. The most generous application is to my wet face, like a shaving stick, keeping all but one face of the humongous 10 oz. bar dry. An even smaller portion can be dispensed to a wet palm, if I then carefully turn the puck in the other, dry hand to pick up the remaining liquid crystal. UPDATE: I used a hacksaw to split it lengthwise, so now it looks like I‘m washing my face with butter!

Something tells me that this is what rosewater does for men who have better skin than me; maybe the less alcoholic variant of witch hazel would, too. [UPDATE: Absolutely! Should have been the first option. Use it to cleanse immediately before shaving, instead of soap or oil.] And there must exist a beauty bar somewhere that isn't so horribly moisturizing as most. I'm sorry I don't know exactly where to point you, to get the effect I get from this amazing, discontinued soap. Maybe a bottle of jojoba oil itself would do, as an additive to a soap that you personally find to be moisture-balanced.

Shave It Like You Hate It

I consider three drops of shaving oil to be the prudent level of augmentation that my stratum corneum needs, regardless of preparation. I might use less if I'm trying to accomplish something technically, but definitely not with this prep. This is a low-performance shaving medium, with little tension held in the softened skin. Quite counterintuitively for me, I find that this is the right time to dig for beets, using the razor "like a hoe" and basically just getting as much hair as I can. Some discipline is required to avoid over-exfoliating, but this is where the "luxury" aspect of PdP comes in, holding the glycerin back just enough to avoid degrading the skin substrate entirely.

In a way, it makes me feel better about my first few years of shaving, because I deliberately turned away from Williams and Arko in the beginning. I suffered terrible burning and abrasion, but not nearly as bad as my inept technique with Williams yielded. My technique with PdP is basically regressive, but in a way more dissolute than degenerate. If you still believe exfoliation is good, you'll be happier about it than me.

Tone Deeper

I use the alcohol of cologne to push pumpkin juice into the deepest, living skin tissue. Skip alum, which would hold the penetration back. We're blowing right past the remnants of the stratum corneum now. Living cells have desmosomes, too!

Reverse Moisture Gradient

When I was looking at a Vaseline web page the other day, I realized that the cosmetic people don't even mean "water" when they use the word, "moisture." It's their shorthand for NMF, and coincidentally, the water it contains. Having pushed the "moisture" out of the skin surface, now I stipple myself with cocoa butter. This must have some of jojoba's "ester" quality, because these lipids penetrate. Instead of the substrata exploding outward, the surface oil pushes in, eliminating the appearance of fine wrinkles. This is the "fill"; when the skin dries down, and the desmosomes lock in their new configuration, your face will "freeze" into a younger-looking appearance.

The only thing the hillbilly needs now, to fit in in Beverley Hills, is something to turn himself orange.

Oh, No, not Organic Chemistry!

It seems I've hit the wall. For some people, the line between the classical, rational world and irrational, mathematical abstraction is drawn at quantum physics. For me, it occurs at the more proximate scale of chemistry. Equilibria may look like equations, but those arrows are lies! There is no story told in the sequences, no rule driving them but solipsism. Why? Just because -- now go and rote memorize the Krebs Cycle.

Reader, do you have any doubt, having witnessed my genius firsthand, that if I had not been prohibited by this barrier, and was admitted to medical school, I would have cured cancer, diabetes, heart disease and drug addiction by now? I'm afraid that the art of medicine, like the art of shaving, is in decline. Not because people don't need to know things like the Krebs Cycle -- Nobel prize, richly deserved -- but because the lack of practical emphasis leaves its rule to economics and statistics.

I know people have written books on this, but I've not read any of them. I'm speaking from experience. Like the time I strained a chest muscle, and got railroaded into the ER for a day's worth of unnecessary, amateur cardiology. $1000, what a coincidence -- exactly what the bank said I should keep in my savings account! "Professionalism" doesn't have the positive connotation it had when I was in college. It only means that the service you are about to receive has been corrupted by finance.


Lol. Yes, I am frustrated. The only clue I could find, as to why Jojoba oil might be exfoliating, is that its "oils" are actually liquid wax, or (I can't even remember the word) "esters." But wikipedia lists a standard-looking table of fatty acids... so I guess the distinction is meant to be read, not as opposed to "oil," but as opposed to "triglycerides."

And there is a story, after all. Jojoba is the cosmetic industry's replacement for sperm whale oil, from which our familiar, cetyl alcohol cleanser gets its name. Look how they used the seasonal temperature for extraction!

But it seems like we're just coming back around to oil cleansing, with a new twist. Presenting the skin with a chemical more like sebum probably signals it more effectively to stop producing its own. The sebum, too, is a major constituent of the "mortar" between corneocytes. So, okay, I guess there is more room for artistic intuition here. Sigh.

Exfoliation Epic

The dragon is slain. Glycerin has forever collapsed, lumpy and large-pored, never again to lay waste to my face with flame. The king of the dwarves triumphantly reclaims his mountain of shaving cream. Huzzah!

I recreated the shave prep from "Hold The Phone" -- Noxzema, Oil, Arko -- and I could have stopped after pass 1 today. I usually don't think of "blade silence" until final pass, but it made an early appearance with my more aggressive sliding pattern. I recognized immediately that that's how it should have been all along. First pass was DONE, not like getting the dishes wet and soapy, and rubbing them with a cloth, but like the dishes were CLEAN, you know what I'm saying? With my flat-lying, curly hair, I didn't think I'd ever see that kind of efficiency. I still did my ATG passes for a closer shave; it's not that I couldn't get more hair that way. Just that WTG was optimized, and it looked pretty good, too.

Yet evil lurks in the middle class, more incorporeal than incorporate. Toning and moisturizing collude against folk as two powers. If one shaves, the stratum corneum demands an adjustment to match the swelling of substrata immediately, before it dries. If you're a manly man, you just shave the whole mess off with an open blade, a skin planing cartridge, or a recent style of cutting head. If you're black or like me, you tone twice: once after the shave, and once at night, to keep from wrinkling like an old paper bag, and shave with something less exposed, draggy or gappy.

The first way also appeals to the young, who frankly are going to split the hell out of their SC anyway, due to not knowing how to shave. Also women, who will go to great lengths with sugar, baking soda, peach pits, microbeads, and even razors to replicate the effects of our shaving, which they call exfoliation.

I spoke to a couple, mother and daughter, browsing the soaps at TJMaxx, after overhearing that they were looking for an exfoliator. I myself selected a very fancy, lovely smelling soap for my evening face wash, and asked them what was "exfoliating" about it. They said there was probably something abrasive in it. Indeed, others from the line (Asquith and Somerset) had visible flecks, but this one didn't. We were all a little puzzled by this, but I took it as a good sign, that I'm not the only one in the world who perceives a subtle biochemistry in the phenomenon.

It's a smooth soap, alright, but it shrinks my face down in a gentle way, just as I had hoped. No need to waste Williams at night, and pumpkin juice can be optional. An online product description says it's "jojoba" that makes it exfoliating.

What, the oil? Isn't that supposed to be the one most resembling sebum? Even the manufacturer seems confused: I got my bar in a plastic case, resembling their other exfoliating soaps, but they don't sell this one in that set online.

Is this the part where the wizard defies the shadow, and tries to seize power for himself? Could an oil-cleansing, non-macerating soap with toning ingredients be magically formulated to adjust the SC to NEARLY equal area, and synergize with body chemistry in the couple of hours after the shave to GENTLY declamate cells?

Doesn't look like the story ended well for this soap, if I can pick it up for $4.

Water: The Ideal Moisturizer and Exfoliator

Confession time: I didn't continue the foot-washing as I originally intended, after the experiment was done. Once, I treated with pumpkin juice, and next day washed with Ivory, and maybe juiced again when I was done. I'm not sure what I did, but I remember the gooey feeling on the cloth as i tried to get as much of the SC off as I could. Maybe the left foot was worse. But then I felt pretty good, and my feet didn't look ten years older than me, and I forgot about it.

Today, heeding the wisdom of the FIRST website, I stuck my foot in a tub of water and rubbed with a stone. No goo. Some cloudiness of water, but no dramatic slough-off. Some parts of the heel callus remain. But I can continue this easily enough, and I think I will keep using the pumpkin juice, too.

I'm done with moisturizer. Don't need it. My visibly great shave from a couple days ago, turned to shit after an hour or so because of the residues left in my tissue. I think that's what the "lightest" kind of burn is, now. The one that pumpkin juice completely addresses. The substrata swell, and the SC needs another tension adjustment, or else it splits.

But if the soap is on the dry side (Williams) or balanced (Arko, PdP), my skin can maintain balance. I just have to worry about the hair softening.

A Good Cause


I may be half mer-man. It seems like I've seen every symptom that these poor souls have to live with on a regular basis. If you're one to deal with charities and taxes in a nice, closed circuit, this time of year, give their donate page a look. Their linking policy intimidates me, but please cut and paste.

More self-interestedly, these folks know a LOT about exfoliation. ("Living with icthyosis") Wow, right down to overheating. The only good thing I've ever done in my life, was to ship off to Louisiana after the Katrina disaster, to help take care of some animals. It was that time of year -- they got snow here while I was gone -- my skin would have undergone its seasonal transformation by then. And sure as shit, I got heatstroke the first day. The lady of the house had been a nurse, thank God.

It's all like that. The scalp scaling -- I JUST BOUGHT a bunch of combs for the family to try out, and I picked the super-fine one, to help me shed my dander. Some of my tiny age spots resemble the scales covering others' bodies. I'm filled with shame, that I ever let any skin problem bother me, and gratitude, that for me, eating less chicken and taking a shower would probably suffice as a cure.

They don't seem to know about pumpkin juice.


Perfection. Efficiency. Luxury. I know I've already mentioned one historical root of the modern "meme," but today I'm reminded of those dorm-room posters with a picture of a woman's torso, a Lamborghini, and... was it a Lear jet? I never indulged in such fantasies, even as a young man, so I wouldn't expect perfect memory on this. But after a "perfect" Williams shave today, I think I'm at the decision point with regard to shaving media.

And the answer, of course, is, "I WANT IT ALL!" Half of my Rapira was ruined, I noticed upon inspecting afterward, and I still got a great shave with the complete hair softening treatment. It was a weeper in the other chin crease that sent the blade to recycling. The stratum corneum, intact and natural looking, a distinct improvement over the moisturized look of the past couple days.

My new precision-buffing finish technique has stuck, making me feel more like a barber than ever. Steve Faragher told a great story about his confidence leading to shaving a friend with a shavette, and having to abandon it after massacring his face. This is why we have barber licenses. I've offered to shave my family before, and luckily, they declined. But I really think I could do it now!

Propylene Glycol: The Friendlier Moisturizer

Top commenter Mr. Gatza reminded me of the long-neglected KMF-VDH croap at the bottom of my soap stack, inspiring me to get my sick ass out of bed and shave. Good thing, too, because it was a great shave.

Another random Google Books result last night had propylene glycol, which is nearly half the ingredients of a VDH puck, categorized as "occlusive," which surprised me. Googling around further, others have it as both humectant and occlusive. There is a malady called icthyosis with the same etiology I have proposed for glycerine damage, and the treatment is propylene glycol (with other occlusives). So it's definitely not our imagination, that glycerine penetrates and inflates the stratum granulosum, while propylene glycol keeps it where it is needed, in the stratum corneum.

I don't think that necessarily makes Van der Hagen morally superior to artisans. How did they come up with the "half-moisturizer" formula? Well, I'm guessing that propylene glycol is cheaper than soap, and they know that it's rated safe as a cosmetic ingredient up to 50%.
I also found a blog suggesting that the 50:50 mix many of us prefer may not be an accident.

But it does make them the "good guys" when it comes to so-called "sensitive skin," which I think is really better conceived as just, "self-moisturizing." My plan for every beginning shaver is to start with VDH-KMF croap, and progress to more pure, cushioning soaps as lathering ability and all-encompassing skincare routines develop around them.

On the other hand, I don't think I'm missing much today, so if you never come up with your own, crazy "perfect shave," and stick to that VDH or VDH compound, more power to ya!

Last night, I finally fished up my castor oil and D3 supplement for a new bottle of homemade vitamin D shaving oil. My face was wicked dry today, and I wasn't up to a Noxzema preshave. Straight up oil cleansing was a great start.

Wetting down with pumpkin juice didn't soften the beard much. I made the lather on the foamy side, expecting some melt-down, and it was certainly wet enough. Maybe that Rapira isn't going to make it, after all.

Third pass was today's learning zone. I think my hands finally caught up with my brain, and applied oblique strokes with a rapid, buffing action to surgically whisk away shady areas, for a not-too-deep BBS.

I had been relying on slow, square strokes to get a little deeper on pick-ups. Weepers near my chin, in a crease, indicate that exception areas may apply. I always used fast, square strokes to pick up what I perceived as thin, undeveloped hair. I would not have thought speed could bring me deeper.

And really, it didn't -- I was just missing hair, with tension poorly aligned. These new strokes didn't let any off the hook. The friction against direction of motion acts like a second edge, and feels like catching hair in an imaginary pair of scissors.

Could this be the long-awaited dawn of a new era for me? Everyday BBS?

Playing With Glycerin

I figured I should take another stab at Stirling, to see if I could tweak my old favorite. I powdered the wet puck with bentonite, and applied pumpkin juice to my wet face. Didn't work. Hair pretty soft, no burn, but the SC was definitely fractured, with visible flakes, like my other glycerin and clay frankensoap. In for a penny, I followed it with oil, powder, and moisturizer to conceal the damage, putting alum in the defensive role with blue aftershave.

What am I going to do with these soaps? The only thing I know they excell at is pit cleaning. When an area of skin is already continually moist, it seems like the surface cannot be broken. Or maybe it's like shaving the creases beside my chin: slack in the skin from flexion makes aggression more tolerable. Probably both factors help.

Meanwhile, an interesting "ethnic" section came to the beauty aisle at Dollar Tree. Dr. Miracle's Soothing Elixir looks like the most moisturizing substance possible, a clear, thick liquid resembling glycerin, but actually having water and propylene glycol before it in the extensive ingredients list. It did stop my itching and dandruff, so, like the foot experiment, I have to admit that glycerin isn't always the dynamite to the skin barrier that I think of it as being. Like when I use it to protect from chlorine damage, expanding the substrata seems like a good defensive move, if the SC is being disintegrated by other means anyway.

I also picked up the butter for stimulating hair growth. Hey, you never know.

Feeling Better

No, the cold hasn't abated. I just gave myself a proper shave. Compensating for PdP No. 63's salinity, I omitted baking soda from my "perfect" shave, and applied the pumpkin pop directly on top of oil. My bowl-lathered foam had a dry start, and wasn't as luxurious as it could have been, but a little extra water made it good enough, and pass 2 was normal. Maybe a splash of water before the juice, next time. Third pass was not catching much, could have been pick-ups only below the jawline. That nice, clear ending that I like.

The stratum corneum was reassuringly visible today. It got a little milky, but not tacky. I think that helped keep the alum off my nerve endings. My technique was far from perfect with the Rimei, so I was surprised by the apparent lack of damage. (An hour post-shave, I do begin to feel some rawness under the jaw.) Finished with dilute Lime Sec and a drop of Shave Secret. (Could be the menthol.)

My plan was to continue chewing through my SS blade collection, the least preferred of my suitable edges, with a new Rapira, but things were soft enough today that it might last. Best of all, I got a close shave.