Sensitive Skin, Allergies, Fragrance, & Cosmetics

Posted by Leighton "Lee" T. on

Sensitive Skin? You're Not Alone.

Itching, burning, or redness are signs of sensitive skin. But what is it really? According to WebMD, dermatologists look for 1) skin reactions such as pustules, bumps, or erosion; 2) very dry skin; and 3) skin blushing or flushing. In another article, they define it as “the skin condition of people who easily break out in rashes and get blotchy, itchy, or stinging skin in response to products or the weather.” Dermatologist Dr. Zoe Draelos states, in an article in Dermatology Times, that while the term defies a technical or medical definition, the types of people who “sensitive skin” products are made for include: sufferers of rosacea, atopic dermatitis, or cosmetic intolerance syndrome.

Being a manufacturer of skincare products, I can assure you that some people most certainly do have a sensitivity to something in cosmetic formulations. In the rest of this article, I will discuss what the common thread is and what you might want to avoid if you think you have sensitive skin.

The prevailing wisdom regarding sensitive skin is mixed. Some experts believe it is just a marketing term. Others believe that it may well have a physiological cause. But all agree that sensitive skin is becoming big business and a growing issue with some sources citing 60% of women claiming to have sensitive skin.

What Causes Sensitive Skin to React?

The #1 reason your skin will react to a cosmetic formulation is… fragrance. Period. Full Stop. The End. No, really, that’s basically it. An allergic reaction to fragrance is the leading cause of any irritation due to a cosmetic formulation.

And believe it or not, it’s actually normally caused by a natural ingredient. Yeah, that’s right, synthetic fragrance ingredients are less likely to cause a reaction. But…formulations with fragrance oil as the scent cause me problems. Well, the truth is, fragrance oil is just a generic name for any and all fragrances. And for the most part natural ingredients make up the bulk of the fragrance oil as it’s vastly cheaper to use readily available, but known allergens, such as clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, rose (geraniol), jasmine, and oak moss. The other big fragrance allergen is a synthetic lily of the valley, but I’ll probably never use it, so… The point being, it really doesn’t matter whether a fragrance oil or essential oil only blend is used to fragrance a product. But if it’s essential oil only, you can ask what essential oils were used and avoid the known dermatitis causing ones. Tea tree oil is another known allergen.

The #2 cause is an allergic reaction to a specific ingredient in the cosmetic. Which is why the FDA requires any cosmetics to be labeled with the list of ingredients in descending order of prominence. So people can make sure they aren’t putting a known allergen on their skin. Formaldahyde is probably the biggest one. Unfortunately, it is used as a preservative, and it is highly effective, so it’s hard to avoid if you want to use a lotion or other water based product.

What to Do About It

Like all things I will write about, the takeaway is “your mileage may vary”. But just because you’ve experienced an allergic reaction to one cosmetic, doesn’t mean you have sensitive skin. You could simply be allergic to one of the fragrance ingredients. And believe it or not, a LOT of people are allergic to some of those ingredients in my above list. Cinnamon is a very common allergen, as is clove. Oakmoss is prohibited in Europe because a significant portion of people are allergic to it. And these are all fairly common fragrance compounds used to make many fragrances.

Try unscented products first. Your sensitive skin could be caused by one or several volatile fragrance compounds. This is the most common cause of dermatitis. If that’s still not enough, try eliminating any water based products like lotions. The preservatives used to keep bacteria and fungi away are also volatile and may be irritating your skin. Instead, use things like whipped butters or body oils. Now, I don’t currently sell either of those, but my unscented shave oil can be repurposed as a body oil.

Dry Skin Might be the Cause

Dry skin may be causing your irritation. When your skin is dry, the top most layer starts to flake off. The lower layers are starving for water and your skin becomes red, irritable & peeling. The obvious treatment is to use a moisturizer. The less obvious treatment is to stay hydrated and drink more water. While a heavy duty moisturizer like my Blue Collar Hand Balm can work wonders and help soothe dry & irritated skin, it cannot add water to your skin, it can only keep it in and soothe your skin. So, drink up!

If You're Still Suffering from Dermatitis

If none of the above helps, it’s time to consult an expert. You’ll need to narrow it down to whether it’s the soap you’re using or any additional moisturizing products. It could be that your skin is extremely dry (eczema). Or it could be sensitive to soap/detergents and you need to use very low cleansing formulations like Cetaphil’s gentle cleanser.

Read more →

How to Stop Ingrown Hairs, Bumps, & Irritation from Shaving (Without Growing a Beard)

Posted by Leighton "Lee" T. on

If you suffer from ingrowns or redness from shaving, then you know the pain shaving can cause you. This article will go over the causes of ingrown hairs, red bumps, & irritation from shaving and how to stop it.

So, what causes these awful issues? Improper shaving! Shaving should cut your hairs cleanly, at the skin level, with no muss & no fuss. Shaving shouldn’t pull your hairs out, scrape away 6 layers of skin, or allow the hairs to grow sideways afterwards. And the #1 culprit is that 3/4 bladed cartridge razor you’re using. #2 is the canned shave goo. The stuff in tubes isn’t too much better either.

Before going forward, a quick note on red bumps & ingrown hair: red bumps and ingrown hairs are the same thing. It’s just that a red bump is the potential start of a full blown painful ingrown hair.

What’s Happening to Cause it?

A number of possible causes are irritating your skin and causing those ingrowns.

This illustration illustrates the issue in a rudimentary way, but requires some explaining. All the illustrated issues are really caused by using a multi bladed cartridge razor. The tugging & pulling, pressure, & cutting beneath the skin are caused by the use of a multi bladed razor.

Why? Because of the multiple blades and the way it’s designed & works. The tugging & pulling actually causes the hairs to be cut beneath the skin. And this is by design! A multi blade razor cuts closely by first pulling up the hairs, and then cutting them. That’s what the multiple blades are for. The first blade(s) are there to pull up the hair so that the final blade can cut it. The result: hair that has been pulled & tugged and is now cut below the skin level.

When hairs are cut beneath the skin, they may or may not grow straight up. This problem is exacerbated if you have curly hairs or basically any hair that doesn’t grow completely straight. What happens is that the hair will grow sideways and into your skin. This leads to infection and a lot of pain. Your skin then grows over the follicle in an effort to combat what it perceives as a foreign body.

Excess pressure is not necessarily caused  by a cartridge razor, but it exacerbates the problem. The cartridge razor is so fool proof and so dull that it begs you to push it into your face to get a close shave. The result: you push the razor blades too far into your face and scrape away several layers of skin. This causes the irritation & redness associated with razor burn.

What to Do

The first thing you absolutely need to do if you’re using anything but a double edge razor, is to switch to a double edge razor. Why? Because it is currently the only razor (that’s not a straight razor) that is purpose built to give you a great shave using only one blade at a time.

But what about those cheap single bladed Bic cartridges? Unfortunately, the description gives away the reason those won’t work. They’re cheap! They are the cheapest form of cartridge razor. And that means they have cut tons of corners to get the price down.

So why are DE blades any different? The truth is that DE blade technology is so old and past any patents that it can be mass manufactured extremely inexpensively. The other reason is that nothing at all has changed about the way they are manufactured these days. So, you’re still getting the same great quality blades that you did 100 years ago. The final reason is lack of an up sell. DE blade makers make only one type of blade: a double edge. They aren’t making a 4 blade Mach 4 to try to up sell you to. So, they have zero incentive to produce a lower quality blade (unless they’re a lower quality factory, but there’s plenty of great DE blade factories still in existence).

Once you’ve upgraded your razor, you’ll also want to upgrade your lubricant (shave cream/soap), use a pre shave oil, and aftershave balm.

How Using a Brush & Soap Will Help

Using a brush & soap or cream will help with irritation & ingrown hairs because of the superior lubrication & protection (cushioning). The stuff you get out of a can is not even real soap (it’s chemical detergent), contains drying alcohol & aerosolizers (propellant), and doesn’t even do that great of a job. I mean, let’s be honest with ourselves, it’s barely better than shaving with just water. There’s a reason it’s relatively cheap stuff; it’s just not that great. It works, but it’s the lowest bidder (except shave soap is still actually cheaper per shave).

Real shaving soap is real soap. It’s designed to protect your face and offer superior razor glide. It is made with super foods like coconut oil. It has moisturizing glycerin. And it’s been protecting men’s faces for hundreds of years because it works.

The only downside is that you have to use a brush with it. It just won’t work as well (if at all) without a brush. But that’s a small price to pay for a superior shave. Besides, you should get many years of use out of that brush anyway, so the cost per shave is extremely tiny.

Better Prep = A Better Shave & Less Irritation

There are two parts to shaving prep. Soaking your beard and using a pre-shave oil/lotion. Soaking is absolutely essential and no great shave happens without it. And while men who never experience irritation, redness, or ingrown hairs may never need to use a pre shave; it can offer another step of improvement for those who do suffer from said ailments.

Soaking the beard can be as simple as taking a shower before you shave; washing your face before hand; or wrapping a wet towel around your face. They all do the same thing. Make your hairs soak up that water.

This is important because a swollen hair is much, much easier to cut. It’s like a balloon. If there’s not much air in it, it’s pretty sturdy. But if it is over-filled, it is much easier to pop.

A pre shave will help by adding a protective barrier between your face and the razor. It also helps lock in moisture. This protective barrier will help you not use a lot of pressure, helps the razor glide over your skin, and generally acts as a protective layer between your skin, the shave soap, & the razor.

A final note: pre shave oil is basically lotion without the water. So it’s more concentrated and powerful.

The Post Shave Routine

While this may be the least important step, you damn well should do it anyway. Plus, if you’re going to do everything else, you might as well take this additional step. Besides, your face will thank you even if the previous steps solve the problem.

This part of the process consists of two parts: using a toner (aftershave tonic) to tone, tighten, & sanitize; and using a balm to moisturize & soothe.

The reasons for using an aftershave tonic like WSP’s are obvious. Alcohol is an astringent, and you don’t want bacteria growing in your follicles. Emmolients such as witch hazel & allantoin will help soothe the skin and beat back the redness. And the alcohol serves a second purpose: to tighten up your pores so that the hairs won’t have room to grow sideways, and to keep dirt & gunk out.

Using an aftershave balm will help heal, moisturize, & soothe the skin. By now you’re probably wondering why I’m harping about moisture so much. It’s because we’re 70% water and our skin is no different. It needs moisture. And asking it to suck it up from underneath the skin is not the best way to replenish that water. So, just freaking use it already. It’s good for your face. And it’ll help stop the redness.

Other Considerations

If you already wet shave and incorporate everything above, but you are still suffering from irritation, here are some other things to make sure you are or aren’t doing.

Use as little pressure as possible. A DE blade or straight razor is pretty dang sharp. It does not require any pressure to cut your hairs at skin level.

Use a lower angle. Using the lowest angle that still works is going to irritate your skin less. This is because the higher an angle, the more the razor can dig into your skin. Shaving with a blade will exfoliate your face no matter what, but you don’t need to take off more skin than you want.

Shave every day. Shaving requires more effort the longer your stubble gets, so make it easier to go easy on your face by keeping your stubble as short as possible in between shaves.

Try different blades. The blade you choose has a noticeable impact on your shave. So, try different blades and see if one works even better for you. And don’t be stingy, DE blade are cheaper than gas. You can afford to swap them out every day. So, recycle those suckers as soon as you notice a decline in performance.

Read more →

How Many Shaves Do You Get Per Rustic Shave Soap Tin

Posted by Leighton Tyau on

In this article I set out to answer the question of how economical WSP's Rustic Shave Soap really is. Turns out that it really is fairly inexpensive per shave, even if you load the **** out of your brush.


The challenge in trying to figure out how many shaves you get per soap is that you have to load the brush on the soap. This process both adds water, and subtracts soap. And if you lid the soap after the shave, you trap the water inside. Also, no two brush loads are the same, as you'll see. You might use twice as much soap in one shave as another.

  • Use a medium size brush. WSP Monarch in High Mountain White was selected.
  • Overload the brush. Use up enough product to get at least 3 passes. Try to get enough for four passes just to be conservative.
  • Start measuring after a test lather. This way, the added water can be accounted for.
  • Weigh the tin of soap after each use. Photograph the result & the loaded brush.
  • Water used: Arizona's extra hard tap water.
  • Rinse, lather, repeat.

The Results

As you can see from the photos, we started with 102.6 grams of soap (tin included). Seven loads later, we are left with 93.9 grams of soap. Which averages out to 1.24 grams of soap were used per simulated shave.

Minimum Expected Shaves per tin of Rustic Shave Soap

So, given that each tin of soap contains at least 125 grams, we can expect at least 101 shaves which should last at least 3.33 months. And that's only if you load the shit out of that brush. If you use your soap conservatively, you can certainly stretch that number out to 6 months.

Maximum Expected Shaves per tin of Rustic Shave Soap

But what if you didn't need enough lather for 4-5 passes? How many shaves can you expect if you loaded the brush less?

Given the amount of soap in the brush, we can use up to 50% less soap per load, but that might only get you 1 and possibly two full rich & thick lathers. Which would give you possibly 200 shaves or close to seven months. But that's only if you're super stingy with your soap, and that kind of defeats the point. Enjoy your shaves! Rustic Soap is not expensive. Use it!

A normal load for a three pass shave would probably consist of 2/3 the amount of soap I loaded in these tests. Using that number, we can infer about 150 shaves or five months.

Read more →

How Many Shaves Do You Really Get Per Can of Shaving Gel?

Posted by Leighton Tyau on

How much will you save by switching to brush & soap? First we need to know how many shaves you actually get per can of shaving cream.

Edge says that you should get 40-60 shaves per can of their 7 oz shaving cream. Well, I put that claim to the test.

First, the methodology. The plan is pretty simple really. It's to 1) measure out how much gel is required per pass, 2) measure how much total gel is in that can, and 3) calculate the number of lathers a 7oz can will deliver.

How Much Shave Cream is Used Per Shave?

4.2 grams. That's probably the upper limit as to what a typical person would squeeze out of the can for one lather. So, for purposes of this calculation, we can therefore assume 3-4 grams of product is used per pass. Enough lather to cover your beard.

But realistically, unless you're really steady on the "trigger finger," you aren't going to be using only 3 grams. Also, 3 grams is a pretty light layering of shave cream. So, most people are probably closer to the 4 grams than 3 grams, and each squirt of the can will vary.

How Much Shave Cream is in Each Can?

This part was easy. And yes, it was wasteful. But now you don't have to repeat it to find out.

The answer is: about 7 ounces by weight (202 grams). A little more than what's advertised on the can.

The Math

So, we then divide 202 by 3 = 67, and 202 by 4 = 50.

And, therefore... You can expect to get 50 to 67 lathers out of one can of edge shaving gel. But wait! That's lathers, not shaves.

If you do two passes, cut that number in half to 25 or 34 shaves. And if you do 3 passes, you can only expect 16 to 22 shaves per can.


You're really only getting less than one month's worth of shaving cream per can if you shave every day.

Compare to our Rustic Shave Soap which will net you at the very least 4 months of 3 pass shaves or 130 lathers. And up to 6 months or 190 lathers. Sure, it's not as huge a savings as double edge blades, but the quality of the lather is leagues ahead of anything a can. And you're still saving money!

Read more →

5 Common Questions About Shaving Soap

Posted by Leighton Tyau on

1.  Should I rinse it out after using it?

It is not necessary to rinse out your soap after using it, but if you do, make sure you dry it out before putting the lid back on.

Keep in mind that the longer the soap is exposed to air, the more fragrance is evaporated away, so I recommend wiping out the excess lather from the container rather than rinsing it off.

2. Does it need to dry before I lid it?

Only if you rinse out the lather from the container. Contrary to popular belief, bacteria and mold can grow in watery soap! That is why a preservative is always found in shaving cream. Removing excess moisture will prevent nasties from growing on your soap.

So, why doesn’t bacteria grow on a bar of soap? Bar soap and most shaving soaps do not retain enough moisture to be able to grow bacteria. And if your bar soap gets all slimy, you just wash it down the drain. And then invest in a soap dish which will keep it dry.

3. Do they have a shelf life?

Yes, but the shelf life is usually measured in years. Unless an extremely volatile oil, such as rosehip, is used as a superfat. In which case, the soap can go rancid within months. Triple milled soaps can have a near indefinite shelf life. But all soaps will lose scent over time, so it’s a good idea to use up that soap! You can always use it as bath soap to use it up faster.

WSP soaps are formulated to be good for at least 2 years.

4. Do they need to be bloomed?

Blooming has two purposes: to release the fragrance with gentle heat (similar to an oil warmer); and to make it easier to load the soap. You bloom a soap by letting hot water sit on the top of a soap puck for a few minutes.

Whatever the reason, soaps don’t *need* to be bloomed. And unless it is a hard triple milled puck, it doesn’t make it any easier to lather. But blooming it for scent does help fill the room.

5. Why do you fill the soap to the brim?

A couple of reasons. One is to give you maximum value for your money. You're already paying for the container and the labor to fill it. Why not fill it all the way?

Okay, I do realize that some people want the head space and quite a few people ask why I don’t use a larger container and leave more headspace. Well, the reason is that it’s not feasible to do so given the existing formulas.

My shaving soap formula is not pourable. It has to be scooped into the container. It is the consistency of a barely mashed potato. Therefore, we scoop it into the container and level the top.
Read more →