March 30, 2010

Product: KoS Woman Shave & Moisturize Shaving Oil

I stumbled upon the King of Shaves online shop by accident when surfing the web. I knew literally nothing about the company, but I'd just discovered how lovely shaving with an oil could be, and I was intrigued by the idea of a shaving oil designed for dry or spot-prone skin. When I read the descriptions and heard you didn't even have to rinse the oil off after shaving, I knew I had to try it.

There were several options to choose from, and the coward in me chose the one shave oil for women. Sadly, it appears it was discontinued not long after I purchased it, but it still deserves a review. I think the other versions will be worth trying as well. (Let's be honest, though. I'll miss the pink bottle.)

King of Shaves Woman - Shave & Moisturize Shaving Oil - 15 mL

  • Dimethicone, cyclopentasiloxane, dimethiconol, cyclotetrasiloxane, trimethylsiloxyamodimethicone, aloe barbadensis leaf juice, melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree) leaf oil, tocopheryl (vitamin E) acetate, citrus aurantium amara (sweet orange) flower, lavandula angustifolia (lavender) oil, cananga odorata (ylang-ylang) flower oil, ormenis multicaulis (chamomile) oil, rosemarinus officinalis (rosemary) leaf oil

Things I liked:
  • The price was reasonable, even with shipping--it may be small but it goes a long way.
  • It has everything I like about a shaving oil: it protects the skin, it's transparency allows you to see where you're shaving, and it moisturizes afterward.
  • Unlike mineral oil, you can even pat your face dry without rinsing to take full advantage of the moisturizing properties, without worrying about clogging your pores.
  • The tiny bottle is perfect for travel and it really does last for 50 face shaves.
  • Eventually I got used to the smell and miss it now that I've used it all up.

Things I didn't like:
  • The smell, at first. It smells very green--lavender, tea tree and rosemary are all very present.
  • I can't buy it anymore!

Did it do what it promised?

"Gives a close, smooth comfortable shave"--about the same as anything else I've tried--I do break some shaving rules with pride, after all. "Leaves your skin feeling ultra supple, intensively moisturized and silky soft"--definitely better than anything else I've tried. I just love that it is safe enough to leave on my skin. I still moisturize generously afterward, but using an oil makes the post-shave cover up a little bit easier. And unlike the mysterious chemicals in a lot of other shaving mediums, I recognize the oils used and know they are good for me. I liked it so much, I didn't use it anywhere but my face.

I have seen the woman's type sold on other sites, but for several dollars more than I paid going directly with the company's own shop. I think I'll stick with them, as I'm pretty confident their other oils will be just as nice. Just with less flowers.

See what other people thought of the KoS shaving oils:

March 24, 2010

Acceptance Stipulation?

The other night, my family decided to have a little movie-watching time. We were sitting in front of the TV, waiting for one for two stragglers to join us, when my step-sister piped up, out of nowhere, that one of her workmates was getting laser hair removal.

"She has some dark hairs under here," she said, gesturing to her chin and neck.

The way she said it was as though she was proud to know someone undergoing the procedure. I was surprised and intrigued, because you may remember our last exchange regarding a woman with facial hair. My mother expressed her sympathy while I tried to puzzle that out.

Finally, I had to ask, "Has she had tests done to make sure she knows the cause?"

I went ignored, but I wasn't going to press it. I'm still not comfortable with everybody knowing why I have any sort of authority on that topic. But it made me wonder if the teenager who laughed at a hirsute stranger and called her ugly would in fact be magnanimous to other girls she knows once she finds out they're bearded.

Do people feel it is "okay" to be bearded only if you take pains to hide it?

March 16, 2010

Hair in History: Mesopotamia

Yeah, I didn’t expect Mesopotamia to come up in my research of historical hair removal either. Anyone who has heard of the nations that made up that empire (Assyria, Babylon, Ancient Persia etc.) will recognize their epic beards. But apparently before those beards became the height of fashion, the people of early Mesopotamia went clean shaven and bald like the Egyptians, and for similar reasons.

Hairstyles (or lack thereof) were important for identifying slaves and captives. Slaves of a certain household often had some sort of marking--something that could be removed with a razor, because one ancient text does threaten that if a barber willingly removes the distinctive hairstyle of a runaway slave, his hand must be cut off. I also saw a few mentions of being shaved as part of their medical treatment or for a religious ritual.

But all my reading tends to contradict whether hairlessness stayed popular with anyone but slaves or eunuchs when the men depicted in reliefs and statues began to show evidence of adopting oils and curling tongs. Perhaps the two styles cohabited peacefully, but obviously it was not fashionable for long hair to get too out of control. Even in the Bible book of Daniel, part of King Nebuchadnezzar’s temporary madness was described as letting his hair grow “long like eagle’s feathers.”

Many sites mention the finding of clamshell tweezers in a Mesopotamian archeological site, as well as bronze and perhaps obsidian razors. Other sites quote some mysterious record of kings commanding maidens to be brought to him with their bodies hairless. But could that be fashion or an individual affectation, considering how in another text, young brides took pride in body hair as a symbol of sexual maturity? It’s been very hard to find out with certainty who removed their hair and why. Modern aesthetics force us to assume automatically, but can we try to fit those ideas on life thousands of years ago?

I did find something interesting in Mesopotamian mythology, however, regarding the goddess of both love and war, Inanna (or Ishtar). Aside from her ominous story and the prostitution involved in her worship, she is said to have the ability to change a man into a woman and vice versa, a kind of benefactress for those with biological gender “abnormalities”. It seems that in this area of the world, people born with intersex conditions were to some degree accepted in ancient times, or at least attempted to be explained through mythology.

March 12, 2010

A Note to Recent Commenters

I am having some trouble viewing and moderating the comments I have been receiving lately. I promise I am not ignoring you or getting some wicked delight in letting your thoughts and questions languish in limbo. I can see that I have comments, but I simply cannot get to them, and if I do happen to be able to read them, I cannot moderate them.

I know the minds behind Blogger are working on it--in fact, it may be that the comment count is just off and nobody has actually said a peep--but if you are waiting, soon your comments will be set free and replied to. In the meantime, I hope you'll bear with me.

March 10, 2010

Care for the Face that Hates to be Shaved

When I first abandoned bleach and tweezers and turned to wet shaving for my face, the results of the switch were encouraging. I loved the clear smoothness of my jaw and chin, how close I could get to the skin compared to the bleach, how few follicles would get infected from the incessant tweezing and stretching, and scorned the fear that had kept me from trying it sooner.

But over time--I'm talking years, here--it began to take its toll. The skin dried out, grew red and sore and flakey. I would nick ingrown hairs again and again, making it hard for them to heal. And shaving at least every 24 hours meant not a lot of the hairs were breaking through the skin by the time I was trying to hide them again, so I was shaving more skin than hair.

I'd get a cold or flu and be in bed for a week without shaving, and I'd see how a break from the razor and foam restored my skin to normality. I began to see that I couldn't ignore the abuse I was giving my face--if I was going to do this, I had to take better care of my skin. So I set out trying to find ways to moisturize, soothe, and heal between shaves.

Compared to two years ago--or even a year ago--my face has been doing much better. Not perfect, of course, but the improvement is noteworthy enough to share. Sometimes, I wear my hair tucked behind my ears. That is significant.

I've said before that I wouldn't recommend medicated cleansers because they help dry out the skin. And I've also mentioned that I have come to prefer shaving oils to foams and creams. It also helps immensely if you can afford not to shave every day. I know many of you can't. If I still worked full time outside the home, I couldn't do that. But taking a day off now and then, giving the hair time to actually emerge, has put a bit of a damper on my social life, but it makes the start of the next day much better. And right now, having confidence the next time I'm in the office or for the next big event is more important to me, personally.

So here are a few of the things I've tried to care for the skin after the shave:

  • Aloe Vera
+ Soothes
- Doesn't moisturize well

Aloe vera is recommended often for the treatment of skin burns and irritation. I've always loved the topical gel for a sunburn, but when it comes to using it after shaving, I'm not sold. I don't find aloe vera has exceptional moisturizing properties, not for skin as dry as mine. I found a gel that has an added 1% lidocaine (an anesthetic), which soothed and took away a little of the redness. Trying to apply make-up or even a better moisturizer over top of the aloe tends to cause the aloe residue to ball-up all over the skin. So for me, this was not the best solution.

  • Bikini Zone
+ Soothes even better, dries out pimples
- Stings and isn't moisturizing
I picked up Bikini Zone for use on the bikini zone, originally. After seeing the commercials for the medicated gel I was curious. It really does take down the irritation right away, and I didn't get nearly as many bumps. Their website does say that it is safe to use on delicate skin everywhere, but even so, I never considered using it on my face until another lovely young woman on one of the forums I visit asked about it. I will tell you this: it stings! But it does help with redness a bit, and it is designed to dry out infected follicles. Of course, if dryness is also your problem, like me, this might not be your best solution either.

  • Vichy Thermal Spa Water
+ Stops the stinging of razor burn
- Expensive, and doesn't take down the redness exceptionally well
I almost forgot this one. My mother once spoke of my problems to a woman at the Vichy counter in a drugstore when I wasn't present. The woman recommended, among other things, their Thermal Spa Water to soothe razor burned skin. The mineral water is apparently bottled at Vichy's own private volcano, and can be used anywhere, on the face, in the eyes, even on sore throats. It really is quite pleasant to use--it cools and I was surprised to find my face felt a lot better after shaving. But considering it's price tag and the fact that I still need to moisturize heavily and hide as much redness as always, I didn't think it was worth it to buy it again.

  • Vitamin E Oil
+ Moisturizes and promotes quick healing
- Expensive, hard to apply, can cause breakouts
I admit, I already loved this stuff for its healing properties. (A less jargon-y article on its benefits for the skin here.) It is wonderful on scars. I could show you a deep second degree burn on my finger and there is no evidence of it anywhere. I keep meaning to try it on very old scars and stretchmarks because I hear all the time that it can reduce their appearance, too. The trouble is, even a small bottle is expensive. After you shell out more than $20 for 28 grams (in Canada, anyway), you want to use it sparingly.

It is a very viscous (think maple syrup) unscented oil that is not easy to spread, and it takes a while to soak into your face. But after a time I could see the skin was healing faster and staying softer. Applying make-up was a little bit easier. Eventually I realized I should be letting it work its magic overnight, too, especially since the benzoyl peroxide I use for spots is so drying. I switched to using it at night over top of the benzoyl peroxide cream, which also lessened the little breakouts I would get from using the oil. I still needed a pretty heavy moisturizer after the shave in the morning, as a base for the make-up, but the whole routine gave me better results overall than anything else I'd tried so far.

  • Jojoba Oil
+ Moisturizes, doesn't clog pores, absorbs faster
- Doesn't speed healing as well
I was quite happy with the vitamin e oil, expensive though it was, but in my reading I began to notice recommendations for jojoba oil. It got my attention, and I began hunting for it. Eventually I found a bottle in my favorite local handmade soap shop and began introducing it slowly into my regimen. It's a much thinner oil, like mineral oil, so it doesn't feel like you're pressing and pulling your skin to apply it, and a drop goes a long way. It soaks in faster as well. I noticed no sharp "green" smell as some places have mentioned, though perhaps that's just the particular kind that shop bottled. It's been very nice on the face in the morning and at night, and causes absolutely no spots. I'm considering trying it as a shaving lubricant as well.

I notice it doesn't promote quick healing like the vitamin e oil did, though, so I'll often dab a bit onto a certain area if it's needed. But for the price of a bottle of vitamin e oil, you get ten times as much jojoba oil. Still, I think I might try to buy it online next time, where it seems to be much cheaper, even with shipping.

Does anyone else have a favorite after-shave treatment? I heard someone somewhere once recommend diaper rash cream, which I'm reluctant to try for the smell alone. But it's important to be willing to try things when you're part of a relatively small group of women who shave their face, because there's so little support information out there. So feel free to leave your suggestions in the comments.

March 2, 2010

Hirsutism is Kicking My Butt

This post is for the beautiful young lady who recently sent me a rant that I wish I could share with you all, because it certainly summed up the way I've been feeling this week. It made me feel less like I was struggling on my own.

So this post is also for all of you, whether you've said hello or are watching silently, because I want to pass on that feeling. Right now, I'm just tired of fighting with the stubble, the razor burn, the ingrowns, the make-up. And more than that, I'm tired of it dictating what I do.

Scratch that, I'm tired of letting it dictate what I do. I'm painfully aware that it's me who decides my face needs a day off to heal, and as I cloister myself at home I watch the things I want to do pass me by. But in order to have a better shave the next day, I just sit around in hiding, feeling angry and ashamed. I let it happen.

So it's been a bit of a low week, but it'll pass. I've just picked up my fourth refill of my prescription, and I'm experimenting with some new skin pampering techniques. This is by no means an expression of defeat. I'm far from lying down. And so, for all of you who might be feeling a little down right now, a video!

Love to you all. ;P