Wife Coming Home Shave

Regular readers may have noticed "The Perfect Shave" being reverted to draft, pulled from the "Disquisitions" menu. It's going to take some time to shake down, and I was always reluctant to take that approach anyway. Not as long as before, since the elements are becoming truly atomic, irreducible in number, cost, and counterproductive effect. Today's shave might be a draft, though. I'd like to say "when the shave really counted," but all I've accomplished while she was out of town, was to fix my stupid lawnmower. The house is still a wreck, in stark contrast to hotel living... which means, it's unlikely I'll be "getting any."

As I wound around the yard, adding gasoline and barley notes to the Dollar General Classic Aftershave Splash I know she prefers, I wondered: is sex really relevant to shaving, after all? Women shave, and some find it to be just as enlightening as we do. Wet shaving culture has often taken the form of a kind of retrosexuality, with wonky audio and funny moustaches, which seems generally wrong. Though my best days may be behind me, personally, my own theory has been that men are essentially trying to look like children, when they shave, sort of advertising to women that they'd be good at making children. If not a "little blue shave," perhaps I had still made a romantic gesture.

But I don't think that's it, either. Look at these synonyms for "developmental, as in cultural" from an online thesaurus.
Every one of those seems to apply to shaving, doesn't it? Reproduction is just one junction on the long and winding road of life. Shaving is a cultural analogue of evolution as a whole.
"Transformation" -- now we're talking! You could take that in the hippity-dippity sense I found on the garden path, or simply as a change in appearance. Perfect.

So, without further ado, it is my great pleasure to present to you: the "Transsexual" shave... :D

  1. Dab 3 drops Jojoba oil all over the shaving area.
  2. Emulsify with 5ml witch hazel, U.S.P., cured overnight to evaporate the alcohol.
  3. Remove emulsion with a damp cloth.
  4. Wet the skin with pumpkin juice, applied frozen.
  5. Palm lather Williams. Whatever can't be lifted from the hand, emulsify with the pumpkin juice.
  6. Apply soaking wet cloth for hydration.
  7. Lather and shave.
  8. Rinse, dry, and apply moisturizer to wet skin so that it feels slick.
  9. Get pickups using the lightest pressure.
10. Mop up moisturizer with wrung cloth.
11. Rewet cloth and soak skin again to back off the glycerin.
12. Dry skin and apply dilute aftershave splash in a soaking wet cloth. Wring cloth and dry skin.
14. Rewet cloth and soak the skin in pure water. Wring cloth and dry skin.
15. Apply cocoa butter.

Palmolive Classic Changeup

Having felt the edge of a Personna Super Chrome plowing through my skin entirely too much lately, I gave myself a treat: new soap! And an old razor, the Rimei. I guess that, to me, this is the Sunday shave experience, like a straight razor shave to some men. I don't expect to get a flawless shave, but satisfaction comes from the use of the tool itself.

I wish I had left behind all concern with prep as well, but I continued with oil and cured witch hazel, and palm lathered by applying the stick to my wet hand. In my confusion, I wasted an entire lather, instead of just using what stuck to my hand, on prep. Something was a little irritating, either the menthol in Shave Secret, or the strong deodorant scent of the soap. Maybe the combination.

Reviewers have claimed that their fragrance was gone after one pass, but I found this soap to be a real "eye-opener," "classic" as in the Coast or Irish Spring bath soap from the years when I was in high school. I wouldn't think it appropriate for anyone who is going to apply cologne, unless maybe it's Polo or Drakkar Noir. The monstrous opening does fade, but believe me, there's enough fragrance oil in this stuff that it's gonna stick to you. Or, as in this case, mix with your shaving oil and stick to you.

So after losing my focus, I ended up shaving the first pass on crema, and to make the most of it, shaved regionally back and forth, WTG and ATG (lightly, with skewed strokes) without relathering. Then, to get a shave close enough for my taste, I used the stick like I should have in the first place, direct to face, and shaved directly ATG. Which was not a problem, but due to the low natural pitch of the razor, I still missed some pickups, which I did not bother with.

Instead, I finished with a second oil cleanse, again Shave Secret, which I am now regretting as the mid-morning burn works itself out. I have to remind myself that, despite the smell, I am not a summer intern in 1986 NYC, and have free use of my home bathroom to apply some cologne.

Cured Witch Hazel U.S.P.

Trial 1

I began by employing my God-given analytical chemistry equipment: dipped a finger in the cup of Witch Hazel U.S.P. that had been left to evaporate overnight, and stuck it in my mouth. Tasted pretty witch hazel-y, but could have been the juice of any vegetation if I didn't know better. My tea often has more pucker-power. Since I decanted twice as much as I needed for my shave, I used it as a mouth rinse afterward. Quite agreeable, though mysterious. I found it to be a "full-bodied," water-sweet prelude to tongue scraping. According to wine makers, these are the marks of hydrolyzable tannin. (It never seems to go down that way with cold tea, I can tell you.) Or, maybe it's a matter of degrees. According to this specification PDF, the tannin content in Witch Hazel, U.S.P. is limited.

For the hell of it, or perhaps, to get over my conditioned fear, I followed that with a dab of glycerin, sugar-sweet -- but some bitterness sensors to the side suddenly picked up a residue of witch hazel then. No blisters were raised, as I half-expected given my love of the substance. The center of my tongue felt pretty warm for awhile, though.

Remembering Shark appreciation week put my Israeli Personnas in a new light. So it was back to the sharp side for me, and the new prep order (oil, WH, glycerin-pumpkin, lather) with the cured witch hazel. Here, the fluid did seem to form an emulsion with oil, but lacked the stickiness and tendency to absorb back into the skin that I got with Humphreys (containing glycerin). I wiped it off, proceeded with pumpkin juice and glycerin -- and that, too, stayed pretty wet on the skin. So far, so good: oil was cleansing and also putting up an effective barrier.

The hair put up no resistance, so it seemed the pumpkin juice was effective; but it was hard to say whether the cured witch hazel did anything. My skin took some heat from the sharp edge, maybe just because it was so sharp. I didn't have to pick up anything from the moisturizer to get BBS. The sensation in use WAS as good as the day prior, without any immediate glycerin-soap irritation. Alum afterward gave a new kind of burn: shallow, like the restriction effect of witch hazel on glycerin.

Bottom line: the post-shave feel was un-dry, modern, exfoliated. Overall, I was reminded of KMF, absent the intense feeling of skin congestion during use. But if that's all that witch hazel accomplishes against glycerin, it won't be enough for me.

Trial 2

Needing a break, I tried cured witch hazel as the sole oil cleanse with a gentler lather, pumpkin juice directly on Williams. This demonstrated some astringent power. The skin was very responsive, holding tension for great efficiency. As the well-softened hair was eliminated, however, the top cap rode more directly on skin, and the positive sensation was replaced by skipping, due to an alum-like static friction. In common terms, if these prep ingredients had been jumbled into a single product, it might have been described as having good "glide," but no "slickness."

My easy workaround was to take pickups on moisturizer, but now I wonder if glycerin might somehow be needed to counteract witch hazel, instead of vice-versa! God, I hope not. There is actually an "Osma" shaving soap with alum in it. It is enriched with shea butter. Time to bring back the oil, I guess.

Trial 3

Bingo! Leaving out the glycerin, and bringing back the oil, was so earth-shatteringly different and effective, that the trials can be concluded immediately. I wasn't sure whether this investigation would lead to a new perfect shave or not. I certainly didn't think I had any level-ups in me personally. However, after today's results, I hereby award myself a doctorate in Shaving Science. (Silence, peons!) This prep is the equivalent of skipping an entire pass, or being born with naturally fragile hair. I found myself taking short strokes on pass 1 WTG, because there wasn't enough traction in effect!

So, shall I bring on the Sensor? Uh, no. Curing the witch hazel and finding it better applied after oil, as well as having observed the dubious benefits of glycerin at various depths in the skin, both point to one conclusion. Analogous to and working in conjunction with the "angular error" in blade technique, is a "penetration error" in preparation. While "advancements" in razor design have steadily restricted our ability to align tension with the hair roots, cosmetic science has endeavored to turn our skins to mush in order to accommodate the edge of the blade. They have developed countless variations of tissue wash, truly having the power to correct this self-inflicted damage; but, limited by the drug model from internal medicine, drown the living organ of the skin in chemotherapy, and consent to amputation of vital tissue as "exfoliation." (That's what you get for having kicked the barbers out of med school, however many centuries ago.)

Every part of shaving should be restricted in activity to the depth of the stratum corneum, as little of which as possible should be removed in the process. Shaving oil addresses penetration along the paracellular pathway, and witch hazel -- sans penetrating alcohol -- shuts down the transcellular (aquaporin) channels. A well balanced lather and softening amendments are then free to wreak destruction upon the relatively vulnerable tissue of the hair.

Eureka (Again)!

(Ptooey! I smell-a like-a Lilac Vegetal.) ;-) I'm no "Heisenberg," it's true, but I second-guessed that I was wrong about putting the witch hazel first, and finally got a great shave utilizing the liquid glycerin today. I applied Shave Secret first, witch hazel directly, then wiped both off together, for the oil cleanse prep. Then, a drop of glycerin in the palm, and pumpkin juice melted into it, no pop-to-face. Williams, fully palm lathered, did not bring ruin to my stratum corneum, but still picked up some glycerin enrichment over the course of the shave, giving me a large quantity of "crema" on third pass. And you know what? I liked it, just like I used to like it with Stirling. It felt wet. Progressive wetting balances decreasing traction, so that the lower degree of cushioning protection is not harmful.

I'm going to start curing my witch hazel in my little solution cup overnight, to evaporate some of the alcohol. Then maybe a one-shot liquid can be concocted, a week's worth at a time. But today, my skin did feel very oil-depleted when I was done. The moisturizer was mandatory; and I took advantage of it by taking pick-ups. BBS with a dying Racer? Yeah, I'd say that was good prep. There is one bump where I tend to get bumps, on the contralateral jawline. Otherwise, no signs of distress or over-exfoliation. There is a difference between being really smooth, and removing a layer of skin with hair in it. (Wow, that's like a summary of my blog, right there in one sentence!)

"Shaven on the Darkside" in my video queue reminded me of the Lilac Vegetal. It's been sinking back in the cupboard, actually sliding into the toilet cleaner section, ever since I realized that its character changed for the better in the presence of residual carbamide. I don't usually smell like that. But since then I've realized the bigger picture, of the calcium matrix. It's not that carbamide (as in sweat) is required, rather chelation. The witch hazel, pumpkin juice and Williams in my routine take care of that, in spades. Not a HINT of cat urine, and I'm probably going to ride out the summer with it.

Finally, some emollient cocoa butter brought my skin back to its proper oiliness.

Project Pancakes Update

Speaking of chelation, the little midnight-blue betta that could was seen holding in an air bubble this morning! Swimming at the surface to induce me to drop in some pellets, his butt dropped whenever he slowed down, but impressive swimming for him. I've also seen him take a less settled stance when he's on the bottom, standing on ventral fins.

I've been trying to soften some old dry beans, and it turns out this is also a problem in chelation. They have "skins," like us... if you think too much about it, a bowl of beans is like eating a bunch of little homunculi. Well, one home remedy recomended for betta constipation, also related to air bladder disease, is the feeding of frozen peas.

I'm going to soak my beans in spinach juice, smash one after enough cooking to eliminate toxins, and give it to the fish. I bet I can get fragments that look just like his pellets.

Breaking Bad

I fetched my $6 (!) bottle of CVS vegetable glycerin out of the kitchen spice, flavoring and sauce cupboard, and assembled the largest array of soap amendments ever. My goal: break down the principles that make Humphreys Cucumber-Melon work, and replace it with $1 Witch Hazel U.S.P., pumpkin juice, and mindfulness.

Also fresh in my mind is a newer, artisanal product I read about on whyiwetshave.com, where a scented oil containing glycerin is sold separately from an (apparently) low-glycerin soap, giving shavers an option to preshave or uberlather, and try new scents without racking up a cupboard full of soap.. There's got to be a way to get my favorite additives, witch hazel and pumpkin juice, into such a scheme, with Williams as the puck.

When I mixed the two liquids directly, in a prior experiment, they formed a very suspicious-smelling, clear liquid with precipitates slowly developing over the long term. Because alcohol and carboxylic acids react to form esters, and esters are the sort of molecule our bodies use as hormones, I did not dare apply this substance, possibly liquid cancer, to my skin.


Combining the terms above and solving for what to do with witch hazel U.S.P., I applied the skin strengthener first, before oil. This allowed me to back off the alcohol with a wet cloth (rinse), and get some barrier oil between what remained and the pumpkin juice. Wiping off the oil still seemed effective in reducing skin volume -- another double oil cleanse.

I placed a drop of glycerin in my palm and stuck the tip of my pumpkin popsicle into it, to melt and mix simultaneously. This wasn't nearly as efficient as rubbing the juice directly onto my face, but we already know that the quick and easy shave is juice and Williams. I'm aiming for a new definition of perfection.

But then I lost sight of that goal, and impatiently tried to face lather Williams. As soon as the dry protolather hit my face, I knew my error. It felt like the SC turned to ash instantaneously -- without a burn, thanks to the prep -- just a sense of instantaneous, crispy dehydration. I hastened to add water and build the lather, but it wasn't at all voluminous. I had again recreated a glycerin soap, with tell-tale, third-pass crema.

The shave was good, though. Softened hair made a new Racer feel much like the old Shark that it replaced in terms of smoothness. I had some trouble on the ipsilateral jawline, missing toward my ear (dry shaved afterward) and abrading toward my jaw (nothing major). My skin has had more comfortable days, fully exfoliated, but it's mostly BBS.

A high-standard, glycerin shave. I can do better.

"Niels Bohr"

I started with the same witch hazel and oil, then doubled up on pumpkin juice, making the skin wet with the pop before applying the same glycerin/juice. Then, I lathered Williams in my palm, used what stuck to my hand as prep with wet cloth, and relathered to shave.

I saw a weeper in the moustache area after one pass, and that weird shine on the skin when I was done, that indicated complete exfoliation again. Hints of the dehydration feeling, which I think is just very shallow glycerin damage, appeared on second pass. This was an exfoliating shave, even though I learned from yesterday not to fight with the edge.

I'm much more dry and comfortable, but there are hairs here and there, and I'm still completely exfoliated. So I can't say I've found any advantage to breaking out the glycerin. I think it is actually easier to plow through the skin when it's in the lather, if you can stand the disconcerting sensations. And if you can't, go with the VdH, or a croap made from that.

As for my glycerin, it's going back to the kitchen cupboard.

Williams Sold for USD 1.19

And the big spender was me! I was pleasantly surprised to find TWO pucks of Williams on the shelf at Kinney Drug, and the price returned to the normal range. I purchased ONE. I imagine Combe and Kinney gave each other a reassuring nod over there in upstate NY, after the recent financial news, and kept their faith in the real world. A billion dollars for DSC (I believe the article said, not profitable?) is the capitalists' bet that you can't learn to shave.

So I guess these little white chips of soap are our last stand. All in! For your investment, expect at least six months' worth of lather. I still can't kill the thin film clinging to my bowl bottom. The quantity of lather, from a light brushload (canopy full) of soapy water was truly ridiculous today. I wonder if all the things I've put in there over the past year have turned it into something else, after all. But I'll have to be patient and wait another week, probably, before the darkening crystal exudes the last of its power.

Meanwhile, the Shark quit after about a week and a half, on a really good note, just becoming too much hassle for a barely-close shave. Although this is the time range where Personna just starts losing its keenness, I remain impressed by this sharp blade. It seems that when I've been slumming on the dull side, I've actually been putting my skin at MORE risk, not less, since those always finish with distressed skin. I can see some scars here, but it's more like BiC Sensitive -- blade never touched me. Nothing wrong with that!

Today's disappointment was finding that the little white bottle of witch hazel at Dollar Tree is (and may always have been) 14% Isopropyl alcohol, like the large bottles they used to have. That's going to put a wrench in my product development scheme. Hey, Combe, Inc... wink-wink... 1/1000th of a billion would probably buy my soul outright. Good deal...

How To Ruin Williams

Oh, man, life seems so good around here, right now. The heat is giving us a day off, and the storms have passed. The death of the GOP is being televised. All the kids' computers are fixed, and even better, none of the users are home at the moment. My lawn is going to hell, and the roadside is washed out pretty bad... BUT, I haven't had to water my garden for a long time, either. I ordered a new spindle for my lawnmower around midnight, and they shipped it before dawn; plus, I found out that Amazon beats TSC by about $25 on deck belts, essentially covering the cost of the part. Now, if only, I can just stop hitting rocks.

Despite putting in a fairly good day of "work" in yesterday's heat, between the tractor and a planning committee at the elementary school, I'm able to wear the same shirt today, because of my complete dominance over armpit flora. I think I actually improved the smell of the shirt by wearing it, because it was a bit musty when I put it on! :) My hair looked like hell all day yesterday, because I washed it, but is now compact and shiny again, with pumpkin juice. Even my teeth are harder and pearlier than they've been in a long time, after I gave them a deep cleaning loosely based on shaving prep: oil, glycerin toothpaste, then listerine. (That's not going to be a routine... I'm still mixing things up all the time in my mouth, too.)

God is probably about to strike me down with a thunderbolt. But before He does, let me tell you about a short experiment with only two commercial products, as part of my campaign to improve the world's understanding of glycerin. I hope to move beyond the debate (in my mind; no one would argue with me, of course) whether it is the devil, or shaving soap's only begotten son.

Turns out, I underestimated Humphreys' effect on lather. Yesterday, I squirted some on top of the skin of Williams remaining in my soap bowl and just incorporated it directly. The result was basically just another wonderful, glycerin soap. Super rich, skin-penetrating, easy to whip. And accordingly, my shave was shit. The hair wasn't softened enough, and the Shark dug into a chin sulcus, visibly abrading me. Sure, I could have used oil, and spared myself some of the damage... but I don't have to do that with pumpkin juice, and that's what I had in mind for comparison. But it wasn't like pumpkin juice. It was like "superlathering" or "uberlathering."

To make sure that the apparent hardening of hair wasn't attributable to the Shark lifespan, as one might expect of a sharp brand, today I returned the Humphreys to its intermediate role of the last post, between oil and Williams. The result was another perfect shave. Well, not quite: I didn't fight with the edge this time, and left some would-be pickups. But the hair was softened. The difference was obvious from WTG, and persisted through three passes.

So, what are we to conclude? Is this "Humphreys-lathering" folly? Since I omitted the oil from yesterday's test, I have to refer to previous experiments with actual glycerin soaps, and say, yes and no. Yes, one wishes to pull water into the hair, and to a lesser degree, the stratum corneum. Apply glycerin to the tissues in advance, and it establishes a favorable osmotic gradient between wet lather and the tissue. Furthermore, the hair-softening and skin-strengthening ingredients are present, where they are needed, in maximum concentration.

If the glycerin is already in the lather at large, it still penetrates. If water won't go to glycerin, glycerin will come to water. But I think what you get penetrating your tissues is much more dilute with respect to the hair-softening and skin-strengthening ingredients. (And furthermore, contaminated by any irritants in the soap, though I doubt that's an issue in this case.)

But, if I were a noob -- and remember, I completely failed at lathering Williams for an entire puck's worth of shaves, when I first started -- I might appreciate someone suggesting a way to make lathering it a bit easier. I don't see any evidence that the soap was permanently altered by the Humphreys application. Thus, with only one additional product, theoretically, anyone should be able to start with the best, and never use any other soap. ;-)

Prospective Naturalization Path for Glycerin

After mentioning it a few times to her in passing, my wife finally coughed up the missing Humphreys Alcohol Free Cucumber Melon Witch Hazel Redness Reducing Facial Toner. When I first discovered my pumpkin juice, I thought it could be developed into something like this, by adding vegetable glycerin as a preservative; and, sure as shinola, that's the fourth ingredient: filtered water, aloe barbadensis leaf juice, hamamelis virginiana (witch hazel) water, vegetable glycerin.... Not to put too fine a point on it, but glycerin (glycerol), bisabolol, ethylhexylglycerin, phenoxyethanol (rose essence) are obviously alcohols, technically speaking. You know what they mean by "alcohol free" though: no grain alcohol or isopropyl in the base solution, like other witch hazels.

Maybe it's not just a semantic issue, though. The first thing I noticed, when I applied this atop an oil cleansing prep, was oil coming up to the surface. That's a very alcohol-ish quality. But it became sticky rather than wet-feeling, and I took this as a sign that it would not destroy lather. Also, my hair was standing up most auspiciously. I wouldn't want to shave on something sticky, though, so I stuck to routine, rubbing in some lather by hand and rinsing.

Williams had again lathered up ideally in my palm, without any amendment. Two in a row; I guess I've finally dialed it in. Only took me two entire pucks! :-) I will say this, in defense of my initial failure with this soap: the well water here is clearly less hard in the summer, judging from the lime in the plumbing. I think it's because of the vegetation working hard, upstream in the water cycle. Even though Williams is the one soap that takes the highest responsibility for chelation, and that's always going to be great for your skin, that doesn't necessarily make it the easiest to lather in hard water.

Glycerin, as much as I hate it, is a big part of lathering ease. And I liked how it was working with the oil today, to enhance the oil cleanse chemically, without heat. I tend to look at the skin as an osmotic gradient in aqueous solutions, because glycerin is usually free to blow up my cells through aquaporin, uh, pores. But witch hazel shuts that shit down. I've already noted how the cheap stuff makes high-glycerin soaps more tolerable. That didn't constitute any actual synergy with the lather, the ultimate hydration that needs to be restricted to the very surface of the skin, and especially the hair. This stuff is different. It is better, and worth paying more for.

The 1904 open comb delivered the best shave of its career, bringing the Shark's broken-in edge to an ideal attack, one that felt directed at the root, but safely limiting traction on the skin. Like my best shaves with a Lord Platinum, in the Weishi. The hair was softened to such a degree that it seemed the cut was initiated by flexing into the blade, and finished by tension alignment. All at a safe depth and minimal impact to the follicles. Still a bit of work for me, pushing skin, but a perfect shave.

Of course you know very well, I'm eventually going to squirt some glycerin into my dollar store witch hazel, and mix it with pumpkin juice. The finish here was actually a little on the dry side, prompting me to go back and cleanse with moisturizer after an hour.

Faces Are Friends, Not Food

The Shark swung around to strike when its keen edge wore off, after a few shaves. This aggression seemed equal in magnitude to the lack of traction it had previously exhibited, and manageable. But there was a scary moment on the upper lip, where I made a mistake and just got lucky, so I moved it to the Merkur 41C (1904 open comb).

It's a bit of work to get a close shave now. Personna is the right DE blade for my hair, my skin, and most importantly, my approach to shaving: I use each blade until it cannot be used anymore. The present combination might be considered a "good pairing," though, if I believed in that. Light abrasion can be balanced against adequate closeness, and it seems like the steel is good enough to last, for the right person, other than me.

There was yet enough play in the variables that I could skip pumpkin juice today, and try an all-cheapskate shave. Shave Secret oil, Dollar Tree clear gel, moisturizer, and blue aftershave, all supporting a well-worked, massive Williams lather. The gel didn't feel right, very much counteracting the oil cleanse, swelling skin perceptibly. I expected diminished hair softening with the alcohol content, but it was mostly there, I'd guess 70%, which I think is a repeat result. Blade progress was smooth; evening stubble, velvety.

The gel has aloe in it, but I now realize, that isn't the right product to experiment with if you're curious about hair softening alternatives. I'd get the drinkable aloe juice from Wal-mart and make a popsicle out of it.

Too... Much... Synthesis

I used to think of all sorts of great things whenever I was drunk. Maybe that's because alcohol is a neurotoxic drug, right? Duh... but were my deep thoughts merely impulses associated with the throes of death, or the freedom that sacrifice afforded the remaining, vital neurons? I'm inclined to believe the latter. Artistic creativity is often famously founded on drug use; philosophy merely has the additional constraint of aspiring to truth.

(Dis)Honesty: The Truth About Lies is a fascinating overview of similar developments in people who simply lack integrity, which turns out to be most of us. It was almost as good as getting hammered and watching infomercials... and no hangover! At first it seems cowardly that professor Dan Ariely eschews religion's eternal assault on psychology by referring to his subject as "behavioral economics," since being any kind of sociologist is itself tantamount to abandoning a claim to truth. But the guy came up with at least one great experimental model, and the documentary generalizes from the science to a multitude of headlining U.S. scandals, complete with surprisingly sympathetic interviews with the red-handed.

Bells were ringing in my head all through this movie. They even had a little something for my summer parenting issues, which the PTA will be implementing. There is an actual story about shaving, tangentially based in Dr. Ariely's personal skin care experience. But with respect to my studies here, what resonated with me were insights into conflict of interest, and the mechanism by which lying can contribute to an accepted identity. I see commercial interests forming the wet shaving "online community" around an industry in really poor, homemade soap; but even to me, a living osmometer, the mistake wasn't immediately obvious.

There is just an overwhelming amount of hype being generated, by people who don't know how to shave on the one hand, and people who don't know how to make soap on the other. People who would have us squander the 20th century's pinnacle achievements in shaving, for nothing but a lousy buck. Even where the liars have been identified, opportunists keep throwing into the pile of lies. It's all quite natural, apparently.

Shark Seems Sharp

So I'm back to Williams, and have got a couple shaves on one of the Shark Super Chrome blades that came with "Ruby." It seems like one of the sharper blades, because I can't generate sufficient traction to keep the stubble from planting itself in my fingerprint, much less a cotton ball. The neck shave is great -- that's a natural steep angle spot. The cheeks are what I miss.

I'm trying to think of a way to repay the frustration of these sharp blade trials, to the advocates of skin planing. It's probably alum.

More productively, I took what I learned about moisturizer and applied the principle where it didn't make sense. After shaving with Williams, I could rinse with water and happily walk away, but I gave it the moisturizer, then dilute splash treatment today.

Speaking of splash -- my Dollar Tree didn't have the blue splash stocked, last time I visited. It seemed like green and blue variants were being combined into the one "Macho" label, to my nose. Maybe time to stockpile?

As soon as my face was dry, it was relaxed and dry to the touch. It may be too dry, even. I'd use pumpkin juice in place of the alcohol, but not with all this sunshine. I know -- cocoa butter!

Williams To The Rescue

I have some idea what I did wrong: pushed water into PdP through the slick point, to the sticky ("yogurt") point, and then broke it to melting, with large bubbles. It was the first time I put two juices in PdP, but I don't believe it's possible to have too much acid in the lather, so long as the lather is good. Unfortunately, this wasn't. I felt the backside of that Rapira more than once, even though this was only the second shave on it.

The combination of irritation and stubble after the shave was intolerable. I scraped at it dry, but that wasn't cutting it. I slopped on some sudsy Williams, more sloppy than the failed lather, and shaved it again. How the hell did I get away with that? Isn't that the worst thing you could possible do, to already overly-exfoliated skin? The POWER of Williams, of course!

Naw, it was stupid. I've been shaving stupidly since I started. No better way to learn! For example, that Williams is actually good for you. Even I was impressed with this, though. It's not that the damaged skin could be healed, but all the insulting residues could be replaced with Williams' goodness, and the stubble removed.

No more moisturizer, no more alcohol. Rinsed with water, pumpkin juice, rinsed again. Then my son and I were off to the big city (Burlington) for a boy's day out, because the siblings have been crawling up each others' asses all summer, and need to be split up whenever possible. ECHO, Cheese Traders, Pizza Putt. Oh my god, I ate three quarters of a medium pepperoni-and-mushroom!

Not a great shave today, and not a good skin situation, but I survived and managed to thrive, like Clem the wood turtle. This evening, Asquith and Somerset soap, witch hazel, and aloe gel (like one would use for sunburn, contains carbamides and propylene glycol) will keep me comfortable until I can get back to shaving right tomorrow.

I don't know why I had to generalize mastery of sharp blades to mastery of poor shaving media. I'm pretty near declaring exclusive fidelity to Williams. I believe PdP is as good as a glycerin soap could be, and it has today failed me for the last time. Artisan soaps are good for washing body pits and good in the short term for dry, damaged skin. Glycerin is a part of every soap, but it is not good as a moisturizer in shaving soap. Better ways to thicken lather are available, and the air situation is of an order less importance than the plain chemical suitability of a lather's liquid phase.

Finally: The Fundamentals

I recently observed that my peculiar constitution has required me to learn everything about shaving in reverse order. Thus, my final success is what most beginners are aiming for: a BBS shave with artisan soap and a brand-new, sharp blade. It felt as though I were relinquishing not only the sense of tension alignment, but even the two-dimensional grain, as reduction was completely dedicated to traction control -- what the num-nums call "no pressure." But I -- yes, even I -- actually passed the cotton ball test. Hey, normal people -- this may be the only time we'll ever be on the same page, so let's make the most of it! There are two main facts I wish to impress upon you:

1. Oil protects living skin cells from glycerin soap

Mindfulness had gone too far, apparently, when I got into the anti-habit of assessing skin integrity before selecting a preshave. Three drops of oil are needed as a barrier defense against hyperosmotic insult to the living cells of my epidermis, if I'm using a high-glycerin soap, period. 

The only technical refinement I can suggest to this conventional pairing, for beginners, is to wipe it off -- that is, make it a half-assed oil cleanse. (I use cold water to shave, always.) Today, I could actually see the stubble sticking out further after the procedure, demonstrating not how the hair was swollen, I believe, but how the skin was reduced in volume. I don't think that would happen if you were to just coat the skin and leave it there.

Probably the real key to my success today was that hair softening amendments were effective, for once, despite the high glycerin. Water and fruit acids were simply prevented from flowing along the usual path of least resistance, into my skin. Therefore, more got into my hair.

2. Moisturizer is really a special-purpose cleanser

Being an emulsion of water and various moisturizers makes Men's Lubricating 3-in-1 Lotion (Dollar Tree) the ideal intermediate between having glycerin shaving soap on your face, and nothing -- the natural state of man. After shaving, rinse as much soap off as you can, dab off excess water with a damp cloth, and apply the moisturizer. If it feels like a good shaving medium to you, go ahead -- that's how I got to the roots without hurting myself, but I'm certainly exfoliated. Then wipe it off, rinse and dry.

I have oily skin, so I like to follow that with an alcohol splash, further eliminating the heinous, artificial "moisture" from my flesh. Even so, my face won't be actually dry to the touch all day, exfoliated and oozing. It's kinda okay, because there isn't a single bit of stubble dragging on my fingertips. It's not a burn, just... not comfortable. It's like I've played the cartridges' game, and beaten them, but it's still not any good. I prefer having a layer of skin where they want to put a layer of cosmetics.

Pressure and Glycerin

My recent, less-than-perfect shave with Stirling marked the final challenge to a future of only-flawless shaves. So I was back at it this morning, using the streamlined double-juice method that was successful with melt-and-pour soaps, and the Rapira with less than a week of shaves on it.

The hair still wasn't softened, strengthening my belief that glycerin essentially diverts fruit acids away from the hair, to excessive reservoirs of "moisture" (humectant and water) in the skin. But it seems that the juice can at least facilitate lamellar reorganization in the skin, preventing what would otherwise be a chemical burn, for me.

How to get that hair, though? Well, with mushy skin, and a sharp blade, the only answer, ironically, is PRESSURE, to strike at the hair root, deep in the follicle, where it can't bend away. But everyone uses glycerin soap, and sharp blades, and they all seem to advocate the policy: "no pressure." LIARS!

Upon further reflection...

I do see how my least-preferred razor designs operate in defense of the accused. Open blades at the lowest pitch, as well as gappy anchor heads, raise skin ahead of the blade, so that forward progress of the edge is effectively directed more steeply as the cut is initiated. Slant razors increase traction by prying the hair away from the face, in addition to the usual cutting forces. (Or seem to... still waiting on that Italian Barber email notice.) And crazy flex razors allow the blade to bend more steeply toward the skin, pursuing the stubble's feint. Sorry for cursing earlier. ;)

In a perfect world, I would have opened my adjustable wider on the final pass, but I think Ruby did pretty well. Nice and even shave, a little soreness in one spot over the jawbone toward evening (intrafollicular damage). I can still try the moisturizer trick.

Happily Ever After

It appears that all my shaves are going to be great from now on. (The End.) :)) I got back on the horse that cut my chin, Rapira. I know it isn't the test of sharp shaving that Feather would have been, but I have to burn through the few remaining blades, just to be rid of them as soon as they tug. This exercise is enough to make me shave "blind" to tension alignment, at least in the sense to which I am accustomed.

Yesterday, I doctored my KMF-VdH croap with spinach and pumpkin juice, dripping them into the soap cup to wet the soap, and then some, maybe 10 ml total. The operation of melting the popsicles into my palm always makes me feel like a modern witch-doctor, preparing soot or clay to be smeared on some injury, magical or real. (Not far off, really.) It also occurred to me that the typical urban hipster, with his soft city water, might see a similarity to the horrible waste of soap known as "blooming." I dumped nothing, however, merely dipping the canopy of my brush that much less deeply in the basin, to account for the extra fluid.

If someone had held a gun to my head and told me to formulate a shaving cream, the contents of that brush after loading would probably have been it. (There was once an Indian shaving cream containing turmeric, high in oxalate.)  Oh, yes, it was as luxurious as could be imagined, and softened hair better than pumpkin juice alone; so that, in the end, I could easily take it with strokes approaching square ATG. The disappointment came after the shave, when I found that excessively moisturized skin had allowed wide areas above the jawline to miss. Solution: dry shave touch-ups.

Today, I gave the same treatment to my glycerin frankensoap, a microwave mix of PPF and Whoos The Man, in proportions I cannot recall, and the results were very interesting. Here, the hair was not particularly softened, but well erected, more in the manner of PdP. The feel of the lather on skin was even more surprising: completely tolerable. No irritation, no sense of the SC being broken down. Furthermore, it was possibly the richest lather I've ever made, with a sheen that put the croap's impression of luxury to shame.

The performance was none too remarkable, though, with a skippiness you'd normally only get from, say, a bath soap, or a watery preparation of something with extremely wide latitude, like Williams or KMF. But here, with all the glycerin, the lather was far from being thin. In fact, it felt sticky when hydrated, as the cushioning micelles of air seemed to be embedded in a gelatinous glycerin matrix. The hard hair required non-aggressive, traction-control attack vectors, and the missed hair this time was mostly under the jaw. I did the pickups on moisturizer, which was very slick and sort of the opposite of skippy, then finished with dilute aftershave.

Online commentators write of "glide" as separate from "slickness," but I've never gotten the distinction before. So it seems that, finally, my second novel botanical amendment for chelation has afforded me, a poor country boy with hard well water, a glimpse of city living. The values seem superficial, and the ways, technically deficient. Why do we keep sending all our money there?

Regime Change

The stink of my armpit used to be pretty constant. I'd do my shower thing, plaster it with pore blocker like a good worker drone, and maybe knock it down for a couple hours. But I believed what the TV said about "stress sweat," and our bacteria are practically a part of us, after all. The ones that stank found a mighty fortress in my axial Brillo bushings.

Eventually, I realized pasting them over with commercial, perfumed goo was pointless. I thought I at least had better comfort with alum, and freedom to choose my own masking scents in the form of Eau de Toilette. Coexistence, detente -- on the bright side, women would have no difficulty assessing my genetic compatibility.

Then I got into wet shaving, and adopted a slide-preparation model, from foggy college memories, to envision the interplay of oil, glycerin soap, alcohol, and water in my skincare regimen. I remembered how "wash" concentrations were raised gradually to preserve specimens, and media that wouldn't mix were transitioned by intermediates that mixed with both. Formaldehyde fixes the tissue, alcohol displaces water, paraffin preserves the specimen... or something like that. After shaving, I displace soap with alum, water, alcohol, and oil "washes." I imagine the effects of each shave component on a mental thin section of my face, same as the imaginary closeup of stubble being cut.

With the cheap, old-fashioned (pure) soaps, I often have lather left over to do some washing at the sink, and I haven't much use at all for some of my wonderfully perfumed glycerin soaps, so my pits have benefitted both materially and by gains of mindfulness. I may have reached the pinnacle of pit cleanliness recently, when I started using moisturizer instead of oil, and completed the skin conditioning cycle with water as a final "wash." I mean, think about it: why would you put some chemical crap on your skin and just leave it there? It stinks of an outdated, medical "magic bullet" mentality.

So try this. Give each wash 30 seconds to reach equilibrium before mopping it off with a wrung cloth. Plain water first, just removes the unbound stink. Rewet the skin and rub in some soap like a shaving stick... but no need to lather. Drive the oil cleansing home with Dollar Tree "lubricating" moisturizer. Follow all that glycerin with a dilute mix of water and Duru limon in a cloth, bringing antiseptic death even deeper than the normal extent of rot. Get back to nature with water alone, or finish with alum... even a deodorant, if you still believe.

I've edited the previous paragraph three times, because, like shaving, cookbooking is the wrong approach. Just keep at it, and know that armpits need be no stinkier than one's groin. (Well, I shouldn't say that, because there's always that one guy, with a whole different funk. Same technique applies to him.) The point is this: if you're wet shaving, you probably already have every product you could possibly need.

UPDATE:  Antiperspirant treatment I found on the hottest day of the year -- Witch Hazel, alum, moisturizer, cologne (no rinses, makes a tough film).

That's Odd

Oxalates are said to be a stomach irritant, but what I felt after eating pasta with creamed weed sauce, last week, was a prolonged period of hunger. Yes, peristalsis was in overdrive, but I felt that my abdomen was strengthened, much as it had been by a dilute slurry of bentonite clay.

With clay, abdominal strength gave way to a rebound in belly rotundness, and I may be in the process of repeating that mistake. But this is a little different. I went right for the worst snacks last time, both salty and sweet. This time, I mostly just enjoyed food more, and drank soda more than pigging out. But here's the weird thing: my pee turned colorless over the weekend. The kidneys have definitely become involved.

I still think it may be a good thing. Men my age excrete creatinine as the muscle breaks down -- so I was told during an employment physical once -- and that's not good for the ol' back-beans. (Pectorals turning into flabby man-boobs, though... one can hardly think of anything more disgusting.)

In terms of the imaginary calcium-acid matrix I'm living in at the moment, what I'm seeing is the opposite of what happened to the plants that created the oxalate. In an ammonia-rich environment, they produce less oxalate, I've read. Ammonia... that's what carbamide turns into... they must be talking about animal or microbial waste, also. I think I've been metabolizing protein and even some muscle in order to handle the hard water, since we moved here... but with the addition of oxalate to my diet, that suddenly wasn't a problem.

So, yeah, I can see how this could mess with one's kidneys, anyway, and I am now appropriately concerned. My kids, who howled in protest at the new pasta, then tried it and loved it, subseqently went crazy for chicken, and also claimed to be hungry at the end of meals, over the weekend. It took a day at Grandma's on the Fourth to satiate us all. Perhaps the pizza model, where the weeds are more of a seasoning, is the correct portion.

Oxalate Is Pretty Much Like Clay

Confirming that spinach juice can counteract unfavorable osmotic balance in soap, I wet the surface of my Coconut Stirling with it, dripping it from my palm like I used to do pumpkin juice. Much more water was added to load the brush and finish the lather in my palm. What couldn't be loaded back into the brush was smeared on as a lather pre-shave. It didn't feel like glycerin. Didn't feel like low-glycerin, either -- still plenty of "moisturizing" going on. But I can usually detect irritation before the blade hits.

Pumpkin juice was applied direct-to-face before the lather of the first pass. The blade progressed smoothly, but hair didn't "pop" against its own resistance. The edge on the Baili blade didn't look much different from a well-worn Personna, and is known to be on the dull side. UPDATE: With Arko/pumpkin juice prep, this blade leaves hairs similarly to the 19-day mark with Personna. So the hair was seemingly softened, but meeting less than ideal conditions on either end: mushy skin, and a dullish blade.

My first Stirling soap was Bonaparte, which had clay in it, and this reminded me a lot of that. Maybe their formula didn't change significantly, after all. Maybe clay just does the same thing as oxalate. I only got two passes out of the Semogue 620, then had to squeeze for crema, much like how I shaved all during my Stirling year, when it was my favorite.

My new trick of the day was to skip astringent and finish by oil cleansing, just a drop of shaving oil, wiped off with a cold, damp cloth. With no injury to my skin at all, I felt this was the best option for soap residue removal. Since learning about oil cleansing, I've come to understand that it is the oily quality of soap that accounts for its cleansing ability, as well. The fact that it dissolves in water makes it convenient to rinse, and able to perform the magic we call lather... but it dissolves in oil, too.

A couple of patches weren't completely shaven: contralateral neck hollow, ipsilateral jaw corner. I had to do some dry touch-ups to get it up to snuff. Nothing wrong with the shave, still DFS... just a notch below the ultimate for me. Oh, well. So much for that streak. :(

Project Pancakes

Gall bladder... air bladder... what's the difference? "Pancakes" is the sole surviving betta fish of a needlessly multiplied, classic grandparent's gift: three half-gallon animal torture chambers. No longer able to set his depth, he surfaces for food, or to display to his caretaker (me) that he is hungry. Gills protruded means it's been too long since a water change... he's almost got me trained.

But it's a long way from a Vietnamese mud puddle. I overheard someone at the pet store ask for bottled water, and learned too late that hard water is known to be terrible for bettas. Classic failure of commercialism -- I always just used the "betta safe" drops that came with his kit. They have "organic chelating agents," but "neutralizes chlorine" sounds like the formula for a city fish.

So Pancakes, with possible mobility to gain, became the first test subject for wild spinach extract, and project mascot, when a large drop was flipped into his bowl from the tip of a pot strainer. He swam up to smell it better, and though he sank back to the bottom, as always, I think I saw a little extra glide. No gill protrusion, anyway... not like bleach, which quickly suffocates fish. He was still alive in the morning. Roger that -- human trials are go!

I prepared a blue silicone pop for the relatively dark, primo leaf extract, and purple for an extraction from waste material. Waste was actually the greater amount, and reserves were put up in freezer jars so that an approximate whole-plant extract can be reconstituted later. Any of these will henceforth be referred to as "Pancakes," short for "Project Pancakes Formula," aka spinach juice. In the following, only the blue (leaf-derived) popsicle was used.

Experiment 2 - That Bruised-looking Thing

"Ecchymosis" is the word for bleeding into the skin, which I guess is what happened on my shin, possibly worsened by pumpkin juice. It's also a nice, safe place to see what the new juice does to my skin. Oh, joy: there's some kind of wart nearby, too.

Method: popsicle applied directly to skin at bedtime. Result: nothing definite, maybe the brown was more "even" looking, in the first lesion. The originally flesh-toned tumor next to it is now darkened, like it suddenly got a blood supply. Eat 'em up, immune system!

Experiment 3 - Coiffure Test

Method: I've taken to a new way of handling my juice pops, leaving the ice attached to the cap instead of pinching it up out of the sleeve. It makes more sense for short pops, when I leave them out too long and have to refreeze them, but it can be done with the long ones, too. I swept this over wet hair, after a shower, like a comb, then combed it in.

Result: The dry look. Hair compacted, but did not aggregate into larger curls like it does with pumpkin juice. I'm concerned it might cause breakage, but it doesn't feel weak when tugged upon. It also seems to be holding its compacted form better than pumpkin juice. More like hairspray.

Experiment 4 - Turn Ivory into Pre de Provence

If Williams is basically a potassium version of Ivory with some chelating agents, maybe using Pancakes to wet the face, and using Ivory as a shaving stick, would be more satisfactory compared to the typical, life-draining results of using Ivory as a shaving soap.

Method: Pancakes applied directly to shaving area. Well-used bar of Ivory (not square, not flat) applied by the short edge to the wet face, using WTG strokes. Water applied by synthetic shaving brush to produce lather, then scooped up for a pre-shave rinse. I chose to ease my return to sharp blades with a Baili in the Parker 87R.

Result: I could already tell by touch that the hair was insanely erect, like what happens with Pre de Provence No. 63. The hair was definitely not softened, but still cuttable with high tension, for a shave very close to my new standard, a DFS by any account; but more evenly cut, I suspect, than most shaves of that designation. One might have hoped that the very erect hair would retreat back into the follicles, but no: not so much.

Irritation during the shave, and the numbness afterward that are typical of Ivory, were completely circumvented by Pancakes. I still wouldn't advise this lather for a beginner, though, because it was not the easiest to handle. Even a bit thinner than Williams. The postshave skin is just a bit stressed, trying to regenerate moisture, but I could as easily attribute that to the Brut-like aftershave I used.


I don't clearly remember what a normal Ivory shave does to hair. I think it was always pretty hard. Sodium, also present in PdP, may account for that effect. But I do remember what it does to skin. Irritation during the shave gives way to a numb sensation, as if the essence of life itself was washed away. Oxalic acid seems to steel the skin against osmosis by chelation, in the way PdP is my most tolerable high-glycerin soap. High glycerin and sodium lye are both fundamentally detrimental to shaving soap, but have redeeming qualities that can be balanced by knowledgeable craftsmen.

Unlike larger, one-sided carboxylic acids, oxalic acid does not enable lamellar reorganization or pop desmosomes apart, the further step that seems necessary in order for water to be absorbed in greater volume, and enlarge the hair cross-section. That is what we perceive as hair softening.

As its lather effect was not detrimental, and toxic effects practically inconceivable, I would recommend that artisans (amateur soap makers, for the uninitiated) immediately adopt "green chelation." This would at least allow them to compete with traditional shaving soaps in the "grizzly old men" demographic, which is not easily impressed by marketing appeal.

34 It Is

I tried to push the limit with witch hazel solution, but like I said, there was no one factor to tweak. And so, though the skin may have been less subject to abrasion, the hair was getting a little tough for the blade to cut. Within acceptable parameters -- sort of like a broken-in blade with no juice -- but I still needed three passes, with really five or six passes' worth of strokes. Increassed shadow is also evident. Yesterday's shave was in the 10-12 hour range for smoothness when stroked with the grain (very good, for me). Today it seems more like 5-8.

So, to the blade bank it goes, and I guess my number hasn't changed much, after all. My reward was consistency. Synthesizing traction control with previous tension-alignment techniques, I realized my ultimate shave, in many ways. I'm not entirely satisfied to accept the cotton ball definition of BBS, since it excludes me, and yet I feel as smooth as I can be. (I suspect more men stroke upward with the back of their fingers than search the bathroom for cotton...) I've sidestepped the issue of a formal definition by substituting a functional one.

More satisfying is that this phenomenon of the final shaves being perfectly smooth, but too much effort, is precisely as foretold by Bosse, former correspondent at Badger and Blade, the guy who could get 100 shaves. I might need a little more practice handling sharp blades, before claiming that all my shaves will be great from now on. It seems my constitution compels me to learn everything backward.