How About Barbasol?

So I'm in the thick of a paradigm shift, this Merkur shakedown, where the accumulation of theoretical work has pointed to something like a new planet, and I have discovered it. A world where the skin is totally unaffected by shaving. A little bit of glycerin in the soap balances a little -- well, a whole lot of astringent, I should say, for my oily skin, adding up to zero inflammation. A notoriously non-aggressive razor, with a notoriously dull blade, gains perfect traction on the surface when the correct, oblique strokes are applied.

Hair is neither missed, nor cut within the follicle. There is no depth to this landscape, no beard "reduction"; it just gets whisked away. It's as if electric razors actually worked right, without the ashen finish of microscopic flakes, or neck bumps. Perfectly dry, all comfort, no stubble. This is where I awoke this morning, my beard still socially acceptable, merely feeling like sandpaper as I applied witch hazel solution as an oil cleanse. I know this place, almost on a genetic level. This is my grandfather's world.

Planet Barbasol

Following the trail from Anthronicle reviews of Fine American Blend aftershave, to an old perfume (Rive Gauche pour Homme, itself a throwback to an earlier era), and from the reviews of that, finally to Barbasol, I found myself squirting a dab into the tip of my synthetic brush. I overshot, the dab expanding to enough for three shaves. Clearly, the time has come to reconsider the true value of the $1 can. 

Since I know how to lather soap, and am mindful of transient osmotic gradients against the skin barrier, I knew how to wet my face first, and how much water to add to make that foam slick, reducing the volume somewhat. Not nearly enough, though: first pass left shaving cream icebergs floating in my sink basin. That dull Merkur blade is definitely going right to the skin on first pass, now; pre-shaving the sulcus "exception areas" WTG before sliding in on my "V" pattern was absolutely critical.

It really did look like XTG, when I turned the strokes far enough to catch hair again, shaving by ear; but if I were following that cookbook, it wouldn't have worked the same. Third pass was more mixed, about half composed of strokes that would be called ATG. Some of those were repeats on residual slickness, or soap scooped off the bottom of the razor, to avoid a fourth pass.

People worry about parabens and sulfates, but I worry more about the aftershave; either way, alum was the right call for astringent, minimizing penetration. Followed, of course, by Skin Bracer. I feel like (I just saved myself) a hundred bucks!

"The sleeper has awakened!"

Almost Forgot Aftershave

The Merkur 1904 Open Comb made its strongest bid for rulership of the cabinet today, handling the dulling Merkur blade that my face rejected in the Rimei yesterday.

It was an extra mindful shave, as my cognition played catch up with the instinct to preserve my skin. First pass lathered up dry, so I took the special option this razor provides, of not allowing the blade to touch skin, on reduction. What I'm now calling "XTG" is whatever minimal change in direction and/or skew allows the razor to catch hair again, but still trying to shave WTG; I criss-crossed a second pass doing that, with a third pass where the blade was loosened slightly. A rare fourth pass consisted of skimming on water, and much of that was properly ATG.

But the principle, in defiance of "progressive reduction," to simply catch more hair with no additional aggression, still applied. I was going to try to simulate a straight razor with a low pitch to finish, but I caught myself before making that error, yet again. The dull blade needed a moderate angle, where less skin tension (but high velocity) still managed to cut hair.

It's a pretty shady CCS, but my skin approves. The impressive thing was being able to walk away without astringent, having only used jojoba and Williams. I merely noticed, "Hey, my face is kinda tight," after five minutes, recognizing that numb, Ivory-like feeling. So I hit it with pumpkin and witch hazel to get the soap off, and went back later for moisturizer.


I planed my feet! Yep, soaking in water alone never did slough much off, and I didn't feel like wasting pumpkin juice, so I hypocritically went after the rough edges of my sole with that old BiC. I know the Clog-Pruf would have been more efficient, but I don't think that's really a good thing, in exfoliation. And, I really just wanted to kill the BiC.

My planned YouTube debut is being delayed by a persistent zit. That thing must have been full-thickness! It is going away, slowly, but the problem is, it never erupted. Also busy, I've only made one feeble attempt to fold a chicken-wings box into a camera platform, which went directly to recycling. New ETA: second week of May.

Pumpkin juice and witch hazel, U.S.P., 50:50 was not a self-clarifying solution. I stuck a coffee filter cone into the bottle that I poured it into to catch anything that might clog the sprayer, but the solution remains a cloudy suspension of God-knows-what. It isn't rotting, that's for sure. I use it after shaving and at bedtime, as I used to apply the pumpkinsicle, and it works better in those roles. I still need the ice for full extraction of sebaceous filaments, and hair softening serum. Both of those procedures are less frequently needed now, however.

Skin In Charge

It didn't take long for my face to take a liking to the WTG approach. I tried a lazy two-pass today, and my hand was stopped more than once by bad vibes ATG. The so-called "muscle memory" has been re-written once again.

The Merkur blade doesn't seem like its special temper is making it last, either. Considering the decreased use I got from Isreali Personnas, I think my beard might be kryptonite to Swedish steel. I think I'll send it back to its home razor and see if it recuperates.

My shave is not as even as yesterday's, though closer in most places. I just wasn't happy with the evening stubble, a little too sharp to the touch. But my skin knows what it wants now, and there's no undoing it.  As soon as it dried down, today, it was relaxed, after Stirling lather and pumpkin-witch hazel astringent (rinsed). I only applied the Lime Sec to the periphery of the shaving area, on my neck.

XTG: The Barber's Stroke?

I've long struggled with the XTG concept. On straight razor boards, they make it look like an ideal attack, the approach from which the base of the hair is most upright, when the square edge defines the frame of reference. But of course it's not a static thing, and in tension-alignment theory, XTG has no basis of support, being merely an accident of stroke direction that one encounters when the slicing and chopping actions of the blade balance in a certain way.

But what if you couldn't feel the tension alignment, the difference between pain and pleasant traction? What if all you could feel was the resistance of the hair? What if you were a barber? Then I think you might do something like what I did today, which coincidentally re-defined XTG in my mind.

I wanted to get a closer shave from the jaw down, but stay with the current program, of trying to shave as WTG as possible. The declaration of intent turned out to be the whole story. That's just what XTG is to me, now. I turned my skew and/or stroke direction only far enough from WTG to catch hair again. It's a subtle distiction, but a fine one, not just splitting hairs. OK, well, I guess it is that. But it's another one of those paradigm shifts that I so enjoy, bringing more of the "Facts" about shaving into my understanding.

I've mentioned the barbers... a stroke from ear to chin on the jawline, which I'm sure many of us employ is probably the best example of what I'm talking about. It's not about getting "more" reduction, it's about getting "more" hairs cut to skin level. Shaving by ear also becomes a much more useful concept; so much so, that I suspect this was the original meaning.

What you get is a close, comfortable shave. Nothing more, nothing less. 

Give WTG a Chance

I don't read about it much anymore, since I'm not dredging the annals of dermatology for shaving info, but some people advocate only shaving with the grain (WTG). I think I'm ready to give it the academic try.

Yesterday I went for the gusto with Williams, Shave Secret, and witch hazel solution, and was asking myself all day whether I had "gotten away with it," because I couldn't feel any hair emerging for more than five hours, and it was still mostly smooth at bedtime. Some abrasive soreness has been accumulating on my left jaw corner, and I dug too hard under the jaw, too, but it never developed into the late-onset burn that I dreaded.

The weird thingI noticed was, as fierce as that shave was, I could still SEE the stubs, little gray dots in my hair follicles, even immediately after shaving. I asked myself, why bother? I probably wouldn't have done it at all if I hadn't encountered some clogging with the Shave Secret and rapidly-drying Williams. When I re-installed the blade mid-shave, one edge was more exposed, giving the blade extra reach.

Today I went the other way with the same hardware, prepping with bath soap and lathering PdP No. 63. The hair was standing up nicely, as it seems more inclined to do since I started the witch hazel, so I shaved three passes WTG: lather, crema, and water.

And though I can feel stubble when I rub the wrong way, the visual result is at least as good, probably better when you take the skin condition into account. There may be something advantageous about a cut that is nowhere near parallel with the skin surface.

Rubbing the right way, most areas are smooth enough, too. Under the jaw, I would say, is still unsatisfactory. So I will now aim to find the minimally ATG solution for under the jaw. Well, I guess we'll have to see how I feel about this whole plan at bedtime.

Stirling Spring

Batting .500 in "following own advice," I face lathered some Stirling Coconut over a prep of Noxzema and Shave Secret. I wasn't just being a lazy dum-dum, either. I felt I needed some of the artisanal glycerin today. It's a pretty unusual feeling for me (though I shaved probably a year straight on Stirling) so I think I better take some time to figure it out.

Two things I know are going on with my skin right now, in this week after tax returns: the addition of astringent witch hazel to my routine, in one form or another; and the full return of cholesterol-based vitamin D metabolism. I sense the skin as being kind of oily, too dense or thick somehow, and deprived of oxygen. It's kind of like the difference between muscle relaxation and rigor mortis. Both coincide with an absence of inflammation. Like the fire line analogy I've drawn previously, the spark of life is another kind of controlled burn.

If D tells the granular layer to die off, but I'm still sending nothing but "dry" signals through my post shave, I think that does add up to a dormant state. And the skin was very relaxed after drydown today, sensitive only in the good way, of having active nerve endings. (I.e., the way that makes sense in plain English.)

Come on, glycerin can't be THAT dangerous!

The organism as a whole has been horribly lazy this week, I have to say. I do like to watch the Stanley Cup playoffs, and the preceding week was stressful, but it's more than tiredness. I thoughtlessly self-weaned from D supplements before that; still, I have to wonder if my adrenal glands are doing alright. The March lion is now lying around in the sun all day, craving nocturnal violence. Perhaps it is nature's way.

The Greatly Anticipated Merkur Blade

When I recycled the box to the Merkur 1904 OC, I couldn't remember what I did with the included Merkur blade. I heard something fall into the recycling bin, but I couldn't find it. I thought I put it in the bathroom cabinet, but it wasn't there. It was actually hiding in a plain wrapper, vertically alongside an upright in my little oval shaving box -- exactly where it was supposed to be, basically.

They say, the way-overpriced blades that come with rebranded Weishi's are Merkur blades, and justify it by saying they're ice-tempered. Also, I think I've read from people who don't seem to know how to shave that they're awfully rough. Which means: likely to be smooth for me. So I expected great things. In the razor it came with, it seemed to have good traction, but with hardly any skin contact, that was hardly a fair test.

Today I promoted it to the Rimei, and got a really good shave in two passes. Not bitey or squidgy, but still very catchy; able to penetrate follicles, smooth, but still able to pull out. It's like Astra went to college. But it's been awhile since I tried one of those, too, since finding I could milk Personnas for a month. I do tend to like "platinum" blades, though, and this one's off to a great start. If they remain locked up in marketing prison, my opinion will be of little import. I could only hope to be the first to happen upon them when they go on clearance.

No Pressure

Wow, did my face take a nosedive! Nothing anybody else would have noticed, but you know what a severe critic I am of my own dermis, when I can actually see it. As perfectly dermaplaned as the Sensor left me, I recognized its contribution to a skin texture both distressed and abraded.

Fairly certain that I never wanted to shave with cartridges or disposables again, I turned to the shelter of the Merkur 1904 OC. Mr. Hansford also gets credit for alerting me to the special shaving character of this gentle, open comb razor. When tightened down, which is how I use it exclusively, the first pass doesn't even make skin contact. Second pass is fairly steep for me, but almost Weishi gentle -- well-guarded, but with the serration-like aggression of the open comb. If I want a close shave, I have to fight for it. But if I see some dry flakes on the skin surface, as I did today, I know it's because I used hand soap for preshave.

I wonder what my face would look like if I hadn't ever peeled myself with the Sensor, years ago, or the shims (I'd certainly still have that piece of my lip), or the devette, when I was doing that. I infer from the incidence of my least favorite platitude that slant razors fall into the same threat category. Is that the final crusade/jihad, the ultimate plan that the glycerin-industrial complex has for me?

You Can Get Fooled Again

When Shave Like Grandad blogger Doug Hansford recently concluded that a twin-blade Gillette disposable could shave as well as DE, it hurt me. I know I continually step on his professional toes when I rant speculatively about Vitamins D and S, and make a mockery of his chosen craft of instructional writing. But he's like the only other blogger I know drawing strokes on principle; and I, too, intermittently check back on possible improvements in my ability with modern razor designs. I've gained a lot of ground in skin toughening lately, and I'm between blades, so... despite my immediate reaction, rolling my eyes and incoherently reciting presidential wisdom, I do owe the senior this much respect.

First Shave-raq

My weapon of choice, BiC 1 white handle. Jojoba oil and croap for prep, mostly just counting on the cumulative toning of late. Effortless reduction, of course, but I still couldn't get close. Trying to do so with pressure earned me some really weird injury under my chin, in fact, that I cannot get with any other kind of shaving instrument. Doesn't burn, but feels like a cut when you rub on it. Is it a hair-pulling injury? The only surface damage is really light chipping, as prominences in the skin were sheared off.

Both results consistent with P&G's own microscopic video footage of cartridges at work, except that I don't have a second blade cutting off that yanked hair, the so-called hysteresis action. Not that this was a terrible shave for me, but I know it's not what Doug was talking about.

I do still have some (undoubtedly priceless) Sensor cartridges around. I still remember that old double traction taking off twice as much of my skin. Those cartridges don't offer any more surface to distribute it than the breech of a DE. When dollar store disposables recently got up to six blades is when I finally became relatively safe again, though the reduction pass was  ridiculously choppy.

But I guess the witch hazel might give me a shot. Okay, then. F-- it: I'm going full commando. No oil, just Williams. I don't plan to be repeating any strokes. Maybe I'll light my Shave Secret on fire for atmosphere. Hells bells!

Second Shave-raq

The World Cup commemorative Sensor (Google says 1994, I think I bought in '95) leads the unstoppable offense, in metallic blue and would-be white, now a rust-colored butterscotch. The other old-man's trick I brought to this conflict was to rinse my first lather off, for extra skin hydration. Call it a "wet Williams," if you like.

My Sensor Excel handle fell apart around the time I started with DE. Prices were so horrible for refills, I didn't think to glue it back together, but I noticed the handles are weighted inside. The Sensor head lacks the tennis-shoe profile of the BiC, or Doug's Good News disposable. It is perhaps the purest expression of the cartridge philosophy, and the origin of the Fusion lineage. Charles Roberts thought they were pretty good, too. I find it interesting that Gillette distinguishes these designs in their recent ads, claiming the Mach 3 to be sharper after a month than their own disposable product, is when it is new. Once again attacking the whole disposable concept. Hey, it's been almost fifty years... maybe it'll work this time!

My shave would tend to confirm the distinction... sort of. Neither my BiC nor the Sensor are new, but the Sensor glides like a stealth fighter, making the BiC sound like a biplane. They're both sharp, but the Sensor tracks right on the base of the hair. It is more efficient. I just see these results as confirmation of hair pulling in the first case, though: I still don't believe in hysteresis. The second blade stabilizes the pitch of the first, so the cartridge can actually stay flat on the skin, where it needs to be in order to work right.

I had an entire patch of stubble under my jaw that was simply missed, and had to be dry shaved. Shady spots are visible under my chin and around my mouth. I tried Doug's slow ATG approach first, but that didn't get my jaw corners. BBS was certainly achieved, in the end. The problem is, the skin was reduced to the same depth as the hair. The old red spots on my neck are not oozing plasma this time, and I seem to have avoided a burn. Alum only picked up some pricking spots. (The alum test may have been recalibrated by witch hazel prep, but I do have a nice, dry post-shave feel.)

You can get this kind of shave from a DE, too, completely exfoliating. "Skin-shorn"? Dermaplaning. I don't care for it. I know a lot of guys do, though. Like that YouTube of Mark Herro demonstrating DE shaving in Chicago: his skin seems to change color as he shaves off an old tan or something. But a lot of other guys go the other way, to SE and straight razors, sacrificing the efficient tracking to enforce a low pitch angle and avoid the skin.


I'd like to think Doug found the perfect balance of Sensor-like traction and BiC-like elevation from the skin surface in his chosen modern shaver. I'm drawing my line in the sand with DE... actually, even a bit further back, between the Tech and the Merkur. To buy any modern shaver is to be drawn into a hopeless quagmire, where you can't define a successful outcome.

But I do actually have a Super-Max semi-disposable cartridge system that might fit the bill for travel, with three blades in the BiC form factor, and a hollow plastic handle. With the same prep as yesterday, it combined the mediocre performance of the BiC with some extra drag, for a visually acceptable shave with less exfoliation, but more chips in the otherwise preserved SC. Since it doesn't track efficiently as the Sensor, I had to press to keep it in contact, but with three blades, it missed less hair than the BiC.

I would have to characterise the skin condition as the slightest burn, in a one-hour interval that begins about an hour after the shave, but not really worse than the Sensor, which was just never comfortable, unable to relax.

Worst-Shave Scenario

When I start with a blade that isn't super sharp, I expect it will provide good traction and comfort, but not longevity. Racer and Baili, SuperMax SS, Dorco... today it was the second, pooping out. Despite a thorough prep, the hair would not respond to an efficient attack, only a steep angle of pitch that mildly abraded my skin.

Luckily, I saw this coming, in the distressed look of my skin, and selected my lavender KMF-VDH croap. Receiving a good balance of moisturizers, the stratum corneum displayed no damage. This phenomenon of preventative disintegration, like a controlled burn ahead of a forest fire, accounts for most of the appeal of croap, in my opinion. But, being that it is subconcious for most shavers, praise is lavished on lathering ease and scents.

I enjoy those things also. Lavender goes well with the powder of VDH Select, and it's nice to use lather as dense as Barbasol.

Que Sera Serum

Mixing pumpkin and aqueous witch hazel didn't seem to do jack for hair softening, so I mixed baking soda and aqeueous witch hazel. It was pretty good. Can't beat that baking soda for prying the hair open. But the keratin has to be made pliable in its circumference, too, when you're a wiry-haired goat like me. Pumpkin juice is ideal, but witch hazel is strong with the Force.

Oh, yes: I am implying that lamellar reorganization applies to hair, just like it does to the horny layer of the skin. Actually, there is still a small amount of alcohol in this dollar tree stuff, which is inherently dehydrating, and may be obscuring the potency of gallic acid. Could that justify paying more than $1? Hm... I'll have to think long and hard (buy Williams!) on that. I'd rather one of you test it for me, and post in the comments.

How Not to Start a Shaving Flea Market Business

As I scramble around doing my "end of year" inventory this weekend, I just got off the phone with the local farmer's market organizer, encouraging me to yet again make a fool of myself sitting out in the sun on Friday afternoons. I love doing it, because I'm doing good in the world, it's a pretty decent family activity, and I get to talk to other shavers in person. But if I had it do do all over again, I would do a couple things differently.

Don't Register With The State

Very proud of my ambition to elevate the shaving experience in my local market, I got myself a fancy business name, for the princely sum of $50, and registered a "sole proprietorship" to collect (and avoid, where applicable) sales taxes. Two problems with that. For one thing, if your business flops, you're on the books for 5 years. The other problem is that no one gives a crap about classic shaving. Sorry. It's a fact.

Depending on your perspective, it may be well and good for large distributors to charge four to 10 times the cost of something and cast a wide marketing net, which is probably necessary in order for them to make a living. The real-world incidence of suck-- customers is quite low. Plus, you don't want to charge your neighbors that much. You're just trying to get the word out, and save them five or ten dollars shipping. You're trying to change the market.

In tax terms, that's called a "hobby." You are asked to consider whether you have a "realistic expectation" to make a living. Answer: no.

Don't Buy $1000 Of Inventory

You think you're smart, getting a bulk rate on all that shipping, and you're going to pocket the difference. Nope. You're going to sit at a folding table under a canopy or umbrella, while people look at you like you're a bum and awkwardly try to ignore you, as they browse for vegetables or antiques, or do whatever they intend to do.

Occasionally, someone will stop to chat, but buy nothing. One lady will buy soaps for all the men she knows, and the rest will get sun-faded labels and eventually have to be given away. Most people want the razor and a pack of blades, and will use up the can of shaving cream they already possess. Would you buy cologne from some dude on the street? Times are tough all over, and they won't see the value you're offering, just the relative cost and the risk. Rick Harrison did his homework.

Just Have Fun

The market is a stage, and everyone out there is a character. One visitor sold me a couple razors that were corroding under the sink of a family member. I have an arrangement to supply apple pectin to the jelly makers this year, that I wouldn't have had otherwise. Small stake in a community we only moved to recently, but a start.

The flea market experience re-framed how I approach providing beginner information and gave it a tangible form: "The Missing DE Instruction Sheet." Feel free to run off some copies for your stand -- trim it, and it folds to fit in a box most professionally. But I've learned as much as I've taught. Everybody has a story, be it about their prized Rolls Razor, their favorite shave prep... or how cartridges are still tolerable to them.

Take pride in putting (a little bit of) your money where your mouth is, but don't blow your tax refund.

The Low Cost of High Performance

Attempting to recover an attitude of gratitude, I synthesized recent developments into a new American shave, inspired by the "Made In USA" label on the witch hazel solution. This is meant as a celebration of diversity, and the collective triumph over ignorant power that my country should still represent.

Because even though I was not so lucky as to have been born with a silver shaving brush in my hand, and will probably never own a soap costing more than $12, I have learned so many different ways to prepare my skin and lather up that there is no doubt in my mind: the opportunities available to shavers today, in the privacy of their own bathrooms, surpass those of any time or place in history.

After the witch hazel cleanse, I applied something like three drops jojoba oil to the beard area and didn't wipe it off. (Like witch hazel, I think jojoba is a plant native to this hemisphere, at least.) Then I mixed up some hair softening serum with pumpkin juice and baking soda, and rubbed that in. It smelled less like carbamide, and more like pumpkin, than usual. I was just the other day talking about formaldehyde with an instructor of hairdressing, which she said had been a problem with the "Brazilian Blowout" -- so that pleases me, relative to the Noxzema prep.

Then I face lathered Williams, a very modest amount, even less than my small synthetic's capacity. It could have used more water, I noticed as I got to the lower neck, but no problems. Instead of long strokes, I used more aggression and skin tension WTG, because the hair was presenting itself that way. This would certainly have been a viable one-pass shave for most people.

But (yay, diversity!) not me. I squeezed out the brush and did a 2-in-1 sort of ATG pass, approaching regions of my face with oblique strokes, and finishing them on the slickness, which, while not quite at "hydroplastic envelope" levels, was more than sufficient, and actually more conducive to shaving close. I seldom try to get ALL of my moustache, down to the root, but this was definitely one of those days.

There was even enough left after rinsing to skim for immature growth. In the end, a BBS shave... well, you know, if I don't press to hard, in the wrong direction. I picked a strong aftershave to challenge the skin barrier, Aqua Velva Musk, and it picked up a couple spots of skin that got razed, but was very tolerable, as I expected. I backed it off to limit the drying effect, and finished with cocoa butter.

Oh, shoot -- that doesn't come from the U.S.! Oh, well. North, Central and South America are also America. Solidaridad!

Now that you're here, let's put you to work. We can't
ALL f-- around with stocks for a living!

Solution For Sensitive Skin

Last week I wrote enthusiastically about witch hazel, USP (86% distillate, 14% alcohol) as a moisturizing aftershave. Now, brace yourselves as I blow the lid off this momentous news in pre-shave skin preparation: Dollar Tree's Assured brand "Witch Hazel Solution."

"Was I, then, a monster, a blot upon the earth, from
 which all men fled and whom all men disowned?"

Like Rosewater

I should have figured this out months ago, corresponding with a member of one of my former G+ groups, who was using what I thought of as "toner" as his pre-shave cleanse. I eventually tried some rosewater, but so sparingly, and mixed with other preparations, that I missed the full effect.

Today, as I looked longingly at my fancy-smelling, glycerin-laden PdP No. 63, sensing that I couldn't withstand it, I finally remembered this other witch hazel. It says right on the label, "cleanse and soothe." I've prescribed this very prep before, without having even tried it myself.

Well, I'm always game for a complete upheaval of routine. I splashed it on, rubbed vigorously, wiped and rinsed. With no other preparation, I bowl lathered the PdP and applied with my boar brush. The prep was not lather killing, like alcohol or alum. And I shaved...

Like a Gorilla

My gentle Tech, normally an agile performer, suddenly dragged as coarsely as a 300-lb. anchor, scraping the hair loudly. Had I become stupid? I was trying ATG on the first pass, XTG... my usual tension-guidance system was completely thrown out of whack! So I deliberately followed form: long, sliding WTG/XTG strokes in a "V" pattern, and two subsequent ATG passes. The hair was quite hard, as I had not showered, and I didn't get BBS. But I was certanly completely shaven, without a single nick or abrasion; indeed, scarcely having felt the blade.


Like, once or twice, the stars and my skin cells have aligned in such a way that I could splash aftershave on myself like a normal person. I didn't push it today, but I could tell from the dilute Lime Sec I did apply that I wouldn't have felt that, either. I dried down pretty tight still, indicating that maybe I should have. Moving directly on to cocoa butter, there was no itching or bumps.

So, this is what it's like. All of you pasty-faced, glycerin-soap, gappy-razor, knuckle-gripping idiots... I f--ing hate you.

Maximal Slickness

I've had De Vergulde Hand shaving soap on my buying radar since it was featured on one of the blogs of Anthronicle's new blog feed, a fantastic alternative to depressing Google searches. "The Golden Hand" seems to be the most highly developed of what I call "non-enriched," low glycerin soaps, with a lot of amendments in its ingredients that would seem to invalidate my terminology.

At least it's still "inexpensive," before shipping, anyway. (Anyone going to the Netherlands?) Fine Accoutrements has meanwhile incorporated its aftershave scent into a soap base attempting to match Tabac, also sourced in the Netherlands. If it weren't for the price, I might be regretting having mashed up that PdP, because from what I read, it sounds like they might understand what makes cologne special.

But if you think you have to spend big money to get a super-slick, moisture-balanced, low-glycerin soap, think again. This morning I did a simple oil cleanse pre-shave followed by Arko, and had such a slickness -- what did Roberts call it? "hydroplastic envelope" -- that I wondered if it would ever come off my face.

It occurred to me that the essence of that phenomenon might be having two different oils in the mix: mineral oil in the Arko, tending to de-emulsify toward the atmosphere, and the shaving oil (castor/sunflower), bound to the skin. So when you get past the cushion, this hydraulic floor remains, protecting from collision.

I didn't push it too hard, with smooth Baili blade and the Tech. And it rinsed off fine with my new aftershave, witch hazel USP and pumpkin juice 50:50, sprayed from an old Chloraseptic bottle.

Jojoba vs. Last Shave

I don't know what I was thinking this morning, but it didn't work very well. I used the new jojoba as preshave oil, but instead of a hot cloth, I took it off with the residue of an Arko palm lather. The subsequent (first pass) lather seemed extra wet, for Arko, but I think my skin really started out in the hole for moisture.

The Personna blade pooped out on me, too. I got my money's worth, I'm pretty sure, as I've noted its wear before, but it seemed premature considering the way "sliding" and "skewed" strokes were mirroring each other. Chopping and slicing still seemed to be contributing equally to the cut, when cutting began to fail. I would have expected to see steeper angles first.

That's probably just the old two-dimensional thinking, and way too much complaining for a close, comfortable shave. The slight irritation and missed pickups would beat any of my first-year shaves, especially under the jaw corners. I've further optimized my pitch recently, so maybe the 50/50 balance is just the new rule. When hair starts flicking the backside of your blade, at least you know you're killing it, and not your face!


Now Foods' 4-oz. jojoba has a pop-up, lotion-style dispenser cap, which is awkward with my fingertip application method. I applied something like three drops to the beard area, and used the rest of my face to soak up the excess. It took a while to absorb, but after a good half hour of faceturbation, at least, my face was nearly as dry as it is with cocoa butter. Ideal, actually.

As expected, it delivered a nice moisturizing effect, despite my weird prep. This came after drydown, but without the wait of cocoa butter. And notably, compared to 3-in-1 moisturizer, with less redness. I look... whiter. I mean, I don't think of myself as being fair-skinned at all, but since I usually worry about acne scars and turning orange with beta carotene, this is very welcome. I'm sure it has a lot to do with the witch hazel, too, but I hadn't put the necessary volume back into the epidermis until today.

So, despite sub-optimal hardware performance, Witch Hazel Week concludes on a high note. I can't wait to try my hand at cosmetics formulation, with the pumpkin-witch hazel USP mix. I expect a bunch of proteins will precipitate, and then maybe I'll have something that can stand on a shelf instead of in the fridge or freezer.

There Is a Vergence in the Cosmetics Aisle

When I tried to re-examine the connection between lamellar reorganization and witch hazel, I couldn't find the source that told me gallic acid was even present in the astringent. The Wikipedia entry hadn't been edited for a month, it said, but it kinda creeped me out, because I thought it had been listed there. I guess I could have found gallic acid from a different source, then gone back to Wikipedia...

But then I noticed another weird thing today. Looking at a book source, a specific "gallotannin," hamamelitannin, was mentioned as a major constituent of the distillate, along with the gallic acid by name. Named after the plant, but that didn't make the Wikipedia entry, either? That's weird. In German Wikipedia, it has an entry, so we can at least see what it is.

And from that, it's pretty easy to imagine the time-delay effect of metabolism, as the gallates could break off after penetrating to the dermis, and the astringent property give way to toning. Coordinating most excellently with the cocoa butter's emollient property, theoretically giving way to moisturizing through metabolism to moisture-eliciting ester signals.

Is the chemical composition of witch hazel, USP being kept secret? What is the force driving this information underground? Could it be the hugely successful, Connecticut-based producers? The medical profession, having lost control over it to common pharmacies and dollar stores, as an OTC medication? Or, most insidious of all, agents of the aspiring cosmeceutical industry? (There are always two, if the Lucas model holds true.)

I missed my aftershave today, so after a shave with Noxzema, oil, and Arko, I mixed a little witch hazel with just-like Brut, and splashed atop alum. I can't say I'm thrilled with my skin texture, but it's definitely the natural me. I like the dry feel to the touch, the comfort, and the hair standing up nice for shaving, but there is still an ever-present temptation to apply moisturizer. Luckily for me, Master Jojoba arrived in the mail today!

The New Minimum

From the dawn of classic shaving, echoes of Also Sprach Zarathustra were heard in this New England bathroom today, as the traditional, non-enriched soaps, and the modern, glycerin-filled soaps, submerged into a new understanding.

Witch hazel, USP was the missing link in the "Really Minimal" shave I arrived at after discovering cocoa butter. That routine, consisting of Williams, alum, pumpkin juice, and the butter left me tight, but substituting witch hazel for the alum reduced the turgidity. Actually, I applied the juice first, but the fluids effectively commingled on the skin surface in an approximate 50:50 mix. There was just barely enough alcohol in there to quell itching detected in the crease of my neck. Duh-daaaaa!

Smooth, baby!

The Glycerin Ride

Completely dominating the current resurgence of "traditional shaving," glycerin is actually the industrial waste of soap production, "valorized" for use in cosmetics, toothpaste, baked goods... but especially moisturizer. I know this only because I am one of the few people unable to withstand its explosive effects on corneocytes that are already saturated with NMF. I don't know why. I was born a month sooner than expected... I recovered from alcoholism fifteen years ago... too much chicken in my diet? To everyone else, and specifically, to my detriment, the producers of artisan shaving soap, it's just "moisturizer."

But I would protest that all of us -- dry, combination, and oily alike -- have been taken for a ride. The slippery slope started at our first shaves. My instincts did not fail me at that time. I tried to use the Williams. But the prevailing educational foundation of fixed-angle theory -- the "shaving plane" -- set me up for over-exfoliation, and I think many of you reading this will recollect the same experience. You might appreciate the cutting power that non-enriched soaps provide you now, but back then, it was directed right at your skin.

The popular, anchor-style cutting heads of our time are biased to moderate blade angles as well, having a sloped guard and high top cap. Whereas the classic Tech and Super Speed safety bars have a corner on which to pivot, when you're going steep, and a flatter top cap, for going low. But what beginner could withstand the hype? Not me -- I put my Rimei down and got me a Maggard! (A crooked one, no less.)

Glycerin is the perfect champion of consumerism, solving problems of supply and education without any effort of thought. Marketing it has been reduced to a one-word claim: "moisturizing."

Dave... Dave... Would you care to try a strongly scented shaving soap?

Is It Moisturizing?

Witch hazel opened my eyes to a different meaning of that word. Until now, I have desperately tried to balance urea, glycerin and oil, from the surface inward, in a way that wouldn't turn my SC to pulp. Before that, I used the few "moisturizing" shaving soaps I could tolerate to just shave it all off. Proponents of exfoliation would have said that my lovely "new" skin was shining through. But it got old, literally. "The Foot-Off" rapidly confirmed negative cosmesis in an experimental model versus a natural exfoliator, pumpkin juice.

A novel perspective on tissue homeostasis, lamellar reorganization theory, was born of that discovery, but I still only had limited access to the deeper layers of skin with aftershave. Toners like rosewater only seemed eager to build the collagenous layer up with scar tissue, perhaps sensing that, beyond that barrier, little remained to prevent water loss. Penetrating, astringent witch hazel, USP, has opened the natural floodgates within. NMF and sebum naturally balance, to counteract the stripping that shaving inflicts.

I submit that this kind of moisturization is preferable, in every way, to sending false signals of hydration to the epidermal substrata and destroying the very apparatus of natural signalling. It even looks better. I don't think we should be calling glycerin "moisturizing" at all. At best, it is a temporary, artificial, epidermal hydrator.

Morning Wood And Williams

Lol, I'll never stop! (Unless someone from Combe, Inc. asks me to.) And it's a lie: I didn't get up before noon. But witch hazel is the distillate of a wood. I think I maimed the very same shrub in my yard this past Xmas, to make a wreath from the "winterbloom" and the lower boughs of the tree. It's a super-flexible little bugger, not nearly as easy to snap off as it appears. They say that's where the "witch" name comes from, like "switch."

The question for me today was, would its deep tenderizing of the collagen in my face make the shaving substrate so soft and pliable that it couldn't hold tension, or transmit cutting power? And I will answer immediately, no. I applied the standard Noxzema, oil, and Williams with no hair-softening serum, the Rimei with a now well-worn Personna blade, and got a very efficient shave, DFS in two passes.

But yesterday (I did not post), I used a prep of just PdP and the straight edge, for a very inefficient SAS in two passes. Late in the day, the witch hazel USP was reminding me of adolescence, with sebum flowing like it hasn't done in years and years. Like when I was fighting acne with salicylic acid/alcohol toner. My face also was taking on the "old bag" look.

So I began my experimenting with the combination of pumpkin juice and witch hazel USP, as a late night refresher. It didn't tighten too much, but it soothed, changing the feel of my beard to well-lubricated velvet. In other words, the pumpkin juice counteracted the overly-tenderized feeling.

Somewhat later, for bedtime cleansing I chose something very odd, for me: the 3-in-1 Lubricating moisturizer. For probably the first time since starting in this way of shaving, I actually felt the need for glycerin! And it worked, too, for a dry finish and the face-shrinking feeling as I hit the pillow.

You Galla Be Kidding Me

Here's documented proof that witch hazel is the best thing since peanut butter:

Read carefully, men. The "cosmetics cop" "believes" tannins are responsible for any witch hazel benefit, as founded in Native American healing tradition. A chemical isolate has been studied and deemed harmful; while the whole distillate, which is the only form you will likely find, in production for over a hundred years, and popular to the point of being a $1 commodity, apparently does not contain the chemical they studied. Are you following? Let me paraphrase: "We can't make money off of it."

Yet somehow these guys manage to do so, like the industrious makers of Williams, or Barbasol...

Wikipedia seems pretty clear that they're talking about the distillate, and they say "gallotannins" are in there, along with -- you guessed it -- a small carboxylic acid! Gallic acid.

As for the terrible effects of alcohol, I switched to the plain ol' 86% distillate/14% alcohol today, in the big bottle, and no itching. Either the alcohol is helpful, or a different preservative in the more aqueous, Assured brand solution is eliciting an immune response. Citric acid and sodium benzoate are also found in the rosewater that gave me the itches. Wouldn't surprise me if the two woody shrubs share some chemicals of their own, though.

Despite that, positive effects on my skin were already apparent in my shave this morning. Hair was standing up more uniformly, which would make sense if the deeper, dermis layer were reorganized, since the hairs are planted in it. Furthermore, a plain shave with Williams accepted more pressure, as if it were glycerin soap, indicating deep moisturization.

So far, so good. And something caught my eye on the manufacturer website: suggested use of Witch Hazel USP as a base for other cosmetics. In other words, I might simply mix it with my pumpkin juice, to produce something similar to Thayers.

I had assumed Thayers were using steam-distilled extract as an ingredient, but they are not, touting the benefits of I guess other tannins that aren't in the Witch Hazel USP.
I think they're hitched to the wrong pony.

Witch Hazel: Good or Bad?

I'm revisiting the Dollar Tree's witch hazel offerings as post-shave this week. I've never been a fan of the smell, and it makes me itch, a sensation I associate with bumps and potential scarring. It compels me to go back for proper aftershave on my neck and jawline.

But it seems to be working for that YouTuber I posted a link to yesterday. And the more I read about it on women's blogs, the more interested I become. They say it's good for acne scarring, and I think that's my only remaining problem, now that there's nothing left to scrape off my face. The old zits basically left thin spots in the dermis, redder than normal, so the color tone is uneven. I don't think that's what is meant by witch hazel's "toning" effect,  though.

"Tannins," they say, are responsible for the benefit. Tannic acid, I see, is not a part of the carboxylic fleet. But I'm a tea drinker, so I'm down with polyphenols. When I accidentally get witch hazel on my lips, I can taste the astringency: much greater than the drink, as powerful as wet alum. Having learned everything there is to know about breaking my skin down, it would be nice to be able to put it back together. So long as it doesn't turn my face to leather!

I do like the idea of an organic alum equivalent. I don't really like to use alum daily, sensing that it leaves the surface just a tad dry. I don't like to moisturize, and washing it off to the right dilution, before the aftershave, is a technical problem. Take off too much alum, and the splash penetrates too much; leave it on, and the alum is pushed deeper than it would have gone otherwise. One site referred to witch hazel "precipitating proteins" and cleansing away soap film, so it really seems like we should think of it as alum and (very dilute) aftershave, applied at once. That would be very convenient, indeed, if I didn't have to go back for more splash.

Followed by a drop of oil and a stippling of cocoa butter (the closest I could get to jojoba for now), I also appreciate the ladies' claim that witch hazel moisturizes. The toning gives way to a sort of tenderizing that coordinates well with oils and butters. You know how very wary I am of moisturizers, which in soap and lotion weaken my skin and leave me poofy, if not flaking, or even burning. When it comes from the inside, it's different. Starting from a place where the tissue is pre-shrunk, nothing ruptures at the microscopic scale. Urea and glycerin, along with other components of the NMF, apportion themselves without me having to balance anything.

Dare I hope that, by the time of my video debut, I will have a flawless complexion? Maybe the itching is filling in gaps in the collagen?

Exfoliation Is Stop

For an extra challenge, I pitted the DF-813 against a taut prep of Noxzema and Williams, no oil. The result after two passes was neither as close nor as comfortable as with the PdP, and I even managed to nick my jawline, where the razor was apparently not up to speed before contact. Oh, well, can't win 'em all. My consolation prize today was that I picked the last "thing" off my forehead.

I'd like to be able to declare freedom from gross lesions, finally, but a zit is festering near my right eye, high on the cheekbone. After it heals, I think I'm going to give YouTube a shot, so you guys can finally see my crazy shaving techniques. Well, in a couple weeks, anyway. I have a terrible bathroom for video, with overhead incandescent lighting. I could literally scare people away from shaving. But plans for a window-washer-style camera platform made of clothesline and cardboard have been developing in my head. I think I can even get some lighting suspended. It's gonna be awesome! Not a "channel," or anything like that -- just a complementary educational facility.

Meanwhile, I found this hero at the mirror recently:
Cheaper AND better looking than me, but like me, settled on Noxzema and Williams with a classic-style razor. Sold me on jojoba oil... placing order now.