Monday, July 3, 2017

The Risk and Rewards of Mentholation

If you've read my recent posts, you know that I like mentholated shaving products. This includes pre-shave products, shave soaps and creams, and post shave products as well.

I've gone so far as to order some menthol crystals to experiment adding them to my generic witch hazel -- perhaps with menthol alone and perhaps in combination with peppermint oil.

Why do I love menthol? Let me count the ways:
  1. It has a pleasant cooling sensation.
  2. It has an interesting, pleasant scent.
  3. It has a slight anesthetizing, soothing effect.

So what's not to love?

Well, let's get real: though menthol has the preceding rewards, it doesn't work miracles. If you are using a razor, blade or shaving technique that is going to be rough on your skin, then menthol might mitigate the sensation of the skin insult for a time, but it won't eliminate it.

For example, after my week of shaves with the Gillette Slim and despite my use of mentholated products, I was happy to switch to back-to-back shaves with razors that are much more comfortable on my skin. I still happily used mentholated products for these recuperation shaves, but the outcome was ultimately more skin friendly because I was using shave hardware that was more suited to my needs.

Then today I had a straight-razor shave using my Parker PTB barber razor and a second-use Derby Extra half-DE blade. My objective was to get merely a good-enough shave for the day, while enjoying the pleasure of shaving with a straight razor. So I took a one-pass shave.

Here's the rest of the story:

The mentholated pre-shave soap and the mentholated shave soap did in fact have a soothing, anesthetizing effect. My technique was pretty good; I didn't have a single what I would call nick or cut. I did, however, have a few minor wounds, weepers: small scrapes that ultimately leaked a bit of blood -- even though I didn't even feel them when they occurred.

All four weepers were small. two went away with a touch of alum. Two required a touch of styptic pencil (which is not the same as alum, though many seem to not understand that fact).

My point is that the risk of using mentholated products may be that they reduce the sensory feedback just a bit. It's possible that I could have felt my blade shaving just a bit too closely and perhaps avoided the weepers had I reserved my use of mentholated products for after the shave.

So the next time I pull out a straight razor for a shave, I'll use non-mentholated products for pre-shave treatment and the shave soap itself. After the shave, I'll happily apply products containing menthol. For my DE shaves, I'll continue to freely use mentholated products before, during and after the shave according to my whim.

Happy shaving!

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