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 Post subject: The Art of the Shave
PostPosted: Tue Mar 21, 2017 3:53 pm 
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Joined: Thu Mar 02, 2017 11:35 am
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There are few things on this planet which is "owned" by men more than shaving. For many of us, it is something we have done every day our adult lives. I remember my first awkward shave, my face full of fuzz, myself still being in Junior High School. I acquired the appropriate tools - a razor and shaving cream, locking myself in the basement bathroom for my first attempt. I was embarrassed that someone would walk in on me and see my awkwardness and inexperience. I survived.

On more than one occasion, the act of scraping the hair off my face with a razor blade would cause my skin to break out. I was lapse in the use of an aftershave lotion which closes the pores and reduces the chance of infection i.e. I was lazy. I have never been crazy about the commercial offering of men's aftershave, until I found a unique offering in a box of Frye boots.

The Frye Boot Company offered a fragrance sample and postcard to send away for Frye Cologne and Aftershave. The scent was amazing. It smelled sophisticated, but wild. The ladies loved the smell and its uniqueness made me stand out in a crowd. To my great disappointment, Frye discontinued the cologne and aftershave. I saved the last few ounces in the back of my medicine cabinet for decades, waiting for technology to catch up.

Thanks to high speed computers and gas chromatography, I found a company which sold me a copy of the Frye Boot Cologne at great expense. I was thrilled. Some time later I asked them to create a matching aftershave. But, the company could not come through for me. They said they didn't do aftershave.

Why can they create cologne and perfume, but not aftershave? It's just a matter of adding more water; or, at least I thought. It turns out that aftershave is a special formula of liquids which is designed to be applied to raw, bleeding skin, having had all the hair ripped off it with a sharp piece of metal. One needs to stop the bleeding, close the pores, reduce the chance of infection, while providing a comfortable experience, leaving behind a pleasant scent. This takes a bit of organic chemistry and a bit more study.

Surfing the Internet, I found the basic formula for aftershave is an astringent, traditionally alcohol, a secondary mollifying astringent, an emollient, a styptic to stop the bleeding, and a touch of fragrance. Alcohol is a wonderful substance. It's cool on the skin, antiseptic, yet can be harsh and stingy. Alcohol-free aftershaves are more soothing, but might attract bacteria. They also tend to leave one's face feeling like you just slopped goo all over it. I found that Witch Hazel makes an excellent aftershave and doesn't sting like alcohol. Combine them both, add a bit of glycerin as an emollient, and you've got yourself an excellent basic aftershave.

Now, let's address some issues - like, rubbing alcohol really smells bad. One can purchase Perfumer's Alcohol, which is primarily Ethanol aka vodka, mixed with a shot of denatonium benzoate to make it undrinkable and Isopropyl myristate (optional) which makes the formula less flammable. But, Isopropyl myristate doesn't mix well with water, so aftershave's and perfumes tend to cloud; so, some formulas add Monopropylene glycol to mix the scent oils and water better - not so much needed if we can skip adding water entirely. Add the fact that, in the U.S., the Federal Government wants to keep an eye on the purchase of Ethanol - a holdover from the days of prohibition when it was outlawed entirely. Today, we may only purchase our liquor through a licensed distributor or purchase Perfumer's Alcohol in quantities of less than 5 gallons per year without a permit. For private use, here in New York I can still purchase 190 proof vodka which suits my personal needs for making aftershave.

This leaves the styptic. Since the dawn of man, roughly around 200 B.C., there has been known a wonderful substance known as Aluminum Potassium Sulfate aka barber's alum. It's stops nicks and cuts from bleeding, can be used as a deodorant, puts out fires, purifies water, is used in medicine to aid in the use of vaccines, and is used as a mordant to fix pigments and textile dyes. In one of its alternative forms, aluminum sulfate aka baker's alum, it's used to whiten bread and make pickles more crunchy. It's amazing that the cosmetic industry chose to replace alum with aluminum chlorohydrate in antiperspirant, which is more readily absorbed by the body. For my formula, I'm going back to the tried and true Potassium Alum.

Mixing all the ingredients together, along with some scent of Bay Rum, Key Lime, and Vetiver left me with a wonderful aftershave, except it was a bit cloudy. While the ingredients were mixed correctly, some particles remained in the solution. This wasn't bad... per se, but it did distract from the presentation. I had missed the step of fining aka filtering. Some use magnesium carbonate to clarify scents, but it can be a skin irritant. The better solution is to use Bentonite, a clay powder which makes all the suspended particles cling like a magnet. Then, pour the solution through a filter to clarify.

The Bay Rum scent I created was in response to me purchasing the commercial variant of the stuff, only to receive a bottle of horrific smelling clove oil scented aftershave. I thought I could might do better. I did. But, I am not stopping at Bay Rum. I sent the Frye Boot cologne to another company to engineer a scent oil, which they did for free, under the assumption that I would purchase the resulting oil back from them to make my aftershave. This will be the final step and I wanted to prepare and educate myself on the process.

With great trepidation, I found myself in the bathroom with a razor and a can of shave cream. I scraped my face of hair, leaving my skin raw and irritated. I reached for my bottle of home-made aftershave with the Bay Rum scent and applied it liberally onto my face. I felt the sting of alcohol just for a second, replaced with a cooling sensation as the Which Hazel and glycerin calmed my skin. The alum addressed my nicks and cuts and the fragrance left behind a pleasant scent. No gooey feeling of snot being smeared on my skin, but rather a clean, brisk, dry to the touch shaved beard.

I have created the planet's best aftershave and I am never going back to store purchased swill ever again.


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