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.

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