Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Kaliandee Guide to Summer

Fun though Winter sports can be, Summer is most people's favorite time of year; or is at least the time of year when most people feel like they ought to be enjoying themselves. Some of us however are rather less adept than others at coping with Summer's few downsides.

1) Summer Skincare

The most important skincare consideration in the Summer is to avoid sun damage. Technically, this is a year-round issue, but people tend to expose a lot more skin in the Summer so it becomes much more pertinent. 

The skin produces vitamin D when exposed to sunlight, and if your diet is in any way vitamin D deficient, some exposure is healthy. Sunlight would also appear to have an effect on mental health, as bright light therapy has shown to be an effective treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder. However, extended exposure brings with it the risk of sunburn, skin cancer, and aging effects (and despite the implications of some skincare marketing, skin aging cannot be reversed). Several health organizations have endorsed 15 minutes of unprotected exposure (per day) as being optimum for receiving health benefits from sunlight. Anything beyond that, and you are advised to cover up. 

Sunscreen
If you are relying on sunscreen, there are 4 things you need to bear in mind.
  1. Pick one with an SPF of 30 or higher. If you are fair skinned, aim higher.
  2. Pick one that protects against ultraviolet A and B rays ("UVA" and "UVB")
  3. Be plentiful- it's easy to apply too little. Follow the instructions on the pack or aim for about a palm's worth, and don't forget your face, the back of your hands, feet if wearing sandals etc. If you are fair skinned, you may need more.
  4. Reapply- Even sunscreen meant for use while swimming will rub or wash off. Reapply at least once an hour- money wasted on sunscreen is better than money wasted on aftersun.
Some people have concerns about the safety of sunscreen, but they are rigorously tested products, and all the medical evidence so far says sunscreens are far safer than skin damage.

Shade and Clothing
I personally don't rely entirely on sunscreen. I've come to the conclusion that old-school explorers with their long sleeve shirts and brimmed hats had the right idea, and I think it's foolish to ignore the fact that the Tuareg, the Indians, and other inhabitants of hot climates tend to cover up. 

A good summer shirt (loose fitting, linen, long sleeves with a button to hold them loosely in place when rolled up) is often the better choice than a t-shirt or tank top. A shirt is more versatile than a t-shirt; sleeves can be rolled down to cover the arms or up to make the most of a breeze, collars can be raised to protect the neck, buttons can be undone to expose more skin without having to go shirtless, and you look smarter too (it is easier to dress down a shirt than dress up a t-shirt).

To help protect the face, a hat with a brim is ideal. There is a time when no sensible person would leave the house without a hat- this is a habit people really ought to re-adopt. Preferences will vary, but I favor a straw fedora or trilby. Goorin Bros. make some nice examples, though there are cheaper options that will work equally well (I've had several compliments for the £10 hat I picked up in an English supermarket).

If you are planning a day on the beach, it is highly recommended that you bring some kind of shade with you.

Skincare routine
You may find that your skin changes with the seasons- usually in how dry/oily it is. You may need to adjust to a lighter or heavier moisturizer to accommodate this. Geo. F. Trumper's Extract of Limes Skinfood is a great Summer option if you need to go for a lighter one.

Geo. F. Trumper Extract of Limes Skin Food; a good, light moisturizer
Geo. F. Trumper Extract of Limes Skin Food; a good, light moisturizer


2) Dealing with Sweating

Being sweaty is not in itself a bad thing, it is a necessary body function to keep your body within its safe operating temperature. The undesirable side of sweating is a) Body odor, and b) Sweat patches. 

As someone who sweats rather easily and copiously (though I have the good fortune to be as tolerant to cold as I am intolerant to heat), I've picked up a few coping strategies over the years. 

Go old-school and layer products

Body powders (mainly, but not exclusively talcum powders) are excellent, and often overlooked products. They have fallen somewhat out of favor thanks the successful marketing of spray-on and roll-on deodorants, and due to concerns about safety. As long as you buy from reputable brands, and don't go out of your way to inhale large quantities of the stuff, talcum powders are generally considered safe. Clubman, D.R. Harris, Taylor of Old Bond Street, and LUSH Cosmetics all make great options.

Pinaud Clubman Finest Talc
Pinaud Clubman Finest Talc


For me, talc has two main benefits. Firstly, while it doesn't stop sweating, it seems to buy a little extra "dry time". Secondly, I find that the application of dusting powder makes all the difference in scent. My wedding day was a stifling 31°C with high humidity, and I was wearing a 3 piece bespoke suit. At the end of the day, my suit and I, while slightly disheveled, still smelled mainly of Clubman Pinaud's Finest Talc, which I'd layered on top of my regular deodorant. 

Osma Alum Block
Osma Alum Block


Another product worth trying is an Alum block. Normally used as a post shave treatment, these crystals of hydrated potassium aluminium sulfate is antibacterial and mildly antiperspirant, and can help reduce odor. 

D.R. Harris Arlington Stick Deodorant
D.R. Harris Arlington Stick Deodorant


For best results, try layering one or both of these with a good quality conventional deodorant, such as D.R. Harris' Arlington Stick Deodorant.


Clothes

As I said above, on all but the most humid, still days, a good summer shirt is usually the better option than a T or tank top. Picking clothes that protect you from direct sun while being light enough to allow sweat to evaporate is a great help. 

Don't overdo the air conditioning

Years ago I read "Unscathed: Escape from Sierra Leone" by Major Phil Ashby. Phil Ashby was a Royal Marines officer sent to Sierra Leone as a military observer, who eventually found himself on the run from rebel fighters with three other officers. He mentioned in the book that, unlike most of his fellow observers, he chose to make minimal use of air conditioning when he arrived in country, so as to better acclimate to the heat. Later, while on the run, he credited this with making his time on the run from rebel fighters marginally less miserable. 

Reading this inspired me to cut back on my AC use during Summer. I've found that this works well. If you are in reasonable shape and take proper precautions to avoid heatstroke and dehydration (and over-hydration), working out in the heat seems to assist this acclimation.

I'm not suggesting that you give up using your AC entirely, but restricting it's use for only the hottest times of day will help to make venturing outside less unpleasant.

...............................................................


Now it's time for me to venture out into the heat to check out Toronto's World Pride celebrations. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

My Wet-Shaving Setup

Just a quick post today; I thought someone out there might be interested in what's in my shave den, and which products I use regularly.

Safety Razors:
Merkur 34
Merkur Futur (the matte version)
Edwin Jagger DEL8614BL (long handle, imitation ebony)

Straight Razors:
Vintage Sprock 5/8 hollow ground
Vintage Wade and Butcher near wedge
Dovo "Best Quality"
A hollow ground razor marked only with "Solingen"

Brushes: 
Edwin Jagger 181P27 Best Badger
Vie Long Badger & Horse mix with wooden handle (currently on loan to a friend)
Men-U Barbiere Pure Bristle (boar)
"Invisible Edge" Pure Badger (currently on loan to a friend)

Creams:
Proraso Menthol & Eucalyptus (currently on loan to a friend)
Truefitt & Hill West Indian Limes
Boots Cool Cologne Lather Shave Cream
Boots Freshwood Brushless Shave Cream
Men-U Concentrated Shave Creme
Mondial Sandalwood
Mondial Zagara
Bulldog Original Shave Gel
King of Shaves Alphagel

Soaps:
Taylor of Old Bond Street Sandalwood
Edwin Jagger Sea Buckthorn
Williams Mug Soap
Osma Shaving Soap with Alum
Col. Conk Amber Glycerin
Col. Conk Bay Rum travel soap
Boots Travel Shave Stick

Other:
Osma Alum block
Proraso Menthol & Eucalyptus Pre & Post
Various brush and razor stands
2 Dovo strops
Assorted Edwin Jagger cream and lotion samples
Various brands of blades
Shaving Mug


My current favorites:
Obviously, not all of this gets used every day. A lot of it was bought more out of curiosity than expectation of it being good (mostly the cheaper products like Williams mug soap).

I'm on a bit of an Edwin Jagger kick at the moment, so the combination I've been using most often in the last few weeks is my Edwin Jagger or Men-U brush, the Edwin Jagger DE razor with Feather blades, and the Edwin Jagger Sea Buckthorn soap in combination with the Truefitt and Hill cream. Lately I've not felt the need to use pre-shave, but I still tend to finish off with alum.

The bad:
Bear in mind that "your mileage may vary"; products that I hate may be loved by others.

The non-lathering creams really don't work for me with single edge razors, though I really liked the King of Shaves gel back when I was still using cartridges. The Osma shaving soap was also a big disappointment: I liked the scent but the lather actually irritated me, it has spent the last few years on a shelf.

The Boot's own brand cream and soap (Boot's is a chain of drugstores in the UK) and the Williams Mug soap aren't great performers, but they do get the job done and at that price point I don't feel I can call them bad products.

Men-U's concentrated cream didn't do a lot for me, although I'm still not convinced I'm lathering it right. That said, if it's harder to use than the $2 Williams mug soap, then some criticism is justified.

The rest:
I liked both my Merkur razors just fine before the Jagger came along, and the DEL8614BL only beats them by a small margin- the chrome on it is fantastic though. I prefer the 34 to the Futur, but have no regrets at purchasing the Futur (I bought it at full retail price).

My straight razors are all overdue a good honing, but when they're actually in shaving condition I tend to favor the Wade and Butcher for those rare occasions when I have more than a week's growth, and the Dovo for everything else. The hollow grind of the Dovo lets you feel each hair "pop" as the blade cuts it, whereas the wedge grind of the W&B relentlessly plows through the thickest stubble with barely any noise or feedback.

All four brushes are more than capable of whipping up excellent lather. I slightly favor the Edwin Jagger best badger, but the Men-U also stands out for me. I purchased it at the same time as the Boot's own brand creams, and was surprised at how good it was for £10- I have something of a preference for stiffer brushes.

I've hinted at my attitudes to cheaper and more expensive soaps and creams in the post on superlathering; I find that you generally get what you pay for, but cheaper products can still be fun to use, especially in combination with others. In the warmer months I particularly appreciate the scent of Edwin Jagger's Sea Buckthorn soap (now discontinued, but Muhle's Sea Buckthorn is identical), and find that it shaves at least as well as my winter favorite, Taylor of Old Bond Street's Sandalwood.

I'm less fussy about creams than soaps, and find that Proraso, Truefitt and Hill and my Edwin Jagger samples all offer equally good shaves. I tend to choose between them purely on the basis of scent.