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.

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