Monday, July 10, 2017

Razor Rotation

I rotate through my stable of at-hand razors because each one offers me some type of enjoyment, but each provides a slightly different type of pleasure.

Close Shaves

When I want the pleasure of really close shaves, the nod goes to my double-edge instruments. In particular, my two adjustable razors, the Parker Variant and the Ming Shi 2000S (the imitation Merkur Futur) are my choice. They are favored because they have the ability to start conservatively, but I can dial up the aggression as needed to shave as close as I dare.


Comfortable Shave

I like the original Double Open Comb (DOC) razor from Phoenix Artisan Accoutrements (PAA) for those days when I want a good shave but am not obsessed with ultra closeness. The DOC can provide a very close shave -- especially if one takes advantage of its responsiveness to a little less snugness of the handle to make it slightly more aggressive. However, its most salient feature, the combed top cap, combined with its basic mild shave character makes it easy to get a comfortable, face-friendly shave.

(For those who want the lubrication benefit of the DOC design in a more aggressive razor, you might look to PAA's premium, stainless-steel Evolution DOC razor. For those with a more modest budget but who still like a medium aggressive razor with some of the benefits of a DOC, there is always PAA's Prismatic Safety razor, which has a scalloped top cap rather than a comb top cap.)

Technical Challenges

Though my two straight razors don't quite provide the technical challenge of free-climbing El Capitan, they do provide the challenge and satisfaction of shaving like great, great grandad. I've written many times that I don't get a baby-smooth shave with my straights, the vintage 5/8" or the modern Parker PTB, but I get a good-enough shave. More importantly to me, I also get the lingering satisfaction of using the most manly of shaving implements. Even as I'm performing the shave, the proficient use of the straight razor gives a significant degree of in-the-moment pleasure.


Lather, Rinse, Repeat

Do modern hair shampoos still have directions to lather, rinse, repeat? Long ago, shampoo sellers figured out that by instructing their customers to shampoo twice at each use, they might sell twice as much shampoo.

On a related note, I've become fond of PAA's pre-shave soaps. (Just this morning during my vintage-straight shave, I prepped with the unscented pre-shave soap, Scentsless!) How pre-shave soap relates to vintage shampoo directions is that the instructions for pre-shave soaps often suggest using the soap to wash the beard, then rinse, then re-apply the soap prior to lathering with one's choice of shave soap. This struck me as pretty much being lather, rinse, repeat.

So I started skipping the rinse and repeat part. I simply wet my beard, then apply the pre-shave soap and lather with wet hands, adding plenty of water to hydrate my whiskers. Then instead of rinsing, I finish setting out my shaving implements, which gives a bit more time for the soap and moisture to soften my whiskers. Then I shave-soap lather directly over the pre-shave-soap lather. This process is similar to old canned-shave-foam instructions, which suggested washing the face with regular soap, but then simply applying the canned lather directly over the soapy beard.

Using this modified approach, my pre-shave prep hasn't suffered a bit.

A Few Garage-Sale Razors Remaining

If you're open to trying what may be a good value, take a look at my remaining garage-sale inventory.

Happy shopping!

*All links in today's article are to affiliate organizations.

Friday, July 7, 2017

One Nutrient that Will Likely Benefit Your Skin

Our skin takes a beating. In addition to wind and sun, we take things up another notch with our daily scraping with sharpened steel.

Moisturizers and balms are fine as far as they go, but they are limited in the benefits that they offer.

It's always good advice to stay out of the sun. If you can't, then wear sun protective clothing and sunblock as appropriate. Sun damage isn't reversed or prevented by the application of mere sun oils or butters, for example.

A little-known fact is that many people get plenty of omega-six essential fatty acid (EFA) but not enough omega-three EFA. In the USA, our primary source of more-than-enough omega-six EFA comes from all the soybean oil and other inexpensive vegetable oils such as corn oil that we consume in commercial foods such as restaurant meals and processed foods such as salad dressings.

Our sources of omega-three EFA is much more limited. Most do not get enough to offset and balance their intake of omega-six EFA. Our omega-three-EFA deficiency does have many effects, and one of those is in our skin. Folk with an omega-three deficiency will have skin that feels rather papery -- a bit dry and smooth -- while those with adequate omega-three intake will have skin that feels more velvety.

This velvety feeling is lubrication that comes from within rather than topical applications like moisturizers or balms.

Common sources of both EFAs include Canola oil, which would be fine if that was our only source of EFAs. Other less-known balanced EFA sources include hemp oil and a proprietary blend of oils known as Udo's oil. However, most of us need more omega three to counterbalance our excessive omega six intake, not a balance of both EFAs.

Walnuts are a good source of omega-three EFA. The best source, in my opinion, is ground flax seeds. They are rich in omega-three EFA, are relatively tasteless so they can be added to almost any dish (especially hot soups, stews, and cereals -- but after cooking is the best time to add), and make an excellent thickener when desired. I recommend ground flax seeds rather than whole flax seeds because the whole seeds are difficult to break up by chewing, and, unbroken, are likely to pass right through you without yielding their precious omega-three oils.

I add ground flax seeds to my breakfast oatmeal every morning -- along with a lot of other stuff including cinnamon, some cooked legumes (for extra protein, soluble fiber and other good stuff), raisins, various berries, blackstrap molasses (for iron and calcium), unflavored gelatin (for the amino acid, glycine), raw sunflower seeds, chia seeds, sometimes other nut pieces such as raw cashews or pecans, oat milk, and kefir (a fermented diary beverage rich in healthy bacteria to benefit the gut microbiome).

If you get in the habit of a daily dose of a couple of heaping tablespoons of ground flax seeds, you may eventually see an improvement in the texture and health of your skin.

Happy shaving!