Unraveling The Capitalism (Lies): 19th Century Edition

I believe I actually live in the natural range of the witch hazel shrub, or some near relative, as I've seen the "winter bloom" in my backyard when I went to make a Xmas wreath. But I think the idea of curing Witch Hazel, U.S.P., overnight, allowing the ethanol to evaporate, is exponentially superior to annually harvesting and boiling twigs myself, because it's available locally -- and probably globally -- for only a dollar a pint.

Even if I only really get 86% or less of that volume because of the preservative, it seems the better value, because the extract would also have to be more useful than the distillate already is. Shavers know it and love it as an aftershave splash alternative. Arguably, most shavers are idiots, also heavily into skin planing and glycerin. But I've found it to be an ideal preshave, amplifying the skin-compacting benefit of oil cleansing, and preventing the glycerin burn, bane of my existence, before it even happens.

No frickin' way am I going to believe that a 14% ethanol solution could accomplish what I've seen Witch Hazel do firsthand... though, if I ever got the chance, I'd be happy to test that. I think the reason we still hear that kind of noise today is due to the fascinating history of Witch Hazel, having come to us via patent and alternative medicine, which the medical establishment resents greatly. I've been Googling awhile, but I guess I finally poked in the right terms today, coming up with these insightful accounts:


No idea what that first site is, nor have I confirmed the print source, but it sure rings true in its identification of the principals. An anonymous, native medicine man simply desiring to put the medicine into a form that could be shared or traded easily. Theron T. Pond, the entrepreneur synthesizing the ancient knowledge with modern technology, too soon excluded from product development by his own demise. And Leon T. Hurtt, the technician who actually perfected the product. Then, all the crooks... this is just like the Gillette story, only a hundred years prior!

What stuck with me from the second article is that when the market was tapped out -- well, as far as capitalism was concerned -- around 1910, the descendant company turned to glycerin and mineral oil. A stupid, corporate decision that, in the form of the cosmetics industry, is still ruining our lives today.

Just for giggles, I gave the vanishing cream concept a try in today's shave. I saw exactly how it could fit in where I was using moisturizer: withhold all glycerin until after the blade, then rub 3 drops jojoba, ~3ml cured witch hazel, and two drops of glycerin briskly in my hands. Apply, wait 30 seconds, and wipe excess from face with a damp cloth. All of that oil didn't "vanish," like stearate (soap) cream would have, but I'm sure a little was sucked in.
Period advertising from the second article suggested that ladies should powder after applying the vanishing cream. I powdered with bentonite, hoping that all trace of stubble would be eliminated by the swelling skin and adherent clay. No such luck. As glycerin applications go, it was comfortable enough, thanks to the Witch Hazel. But it wasn't long before I was back to the cologne again! It just feels like more cosmetics to me.

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