As a child, winter was a magical time. No other time of the year could you hope and pray for a snow day from school. Too much rain or a thunderstorm; even a tornado wouldn't cause school to be cancelled, but freezing rain, sleet and snow in the weather forecast and a young boy's heart leaped for joy. A snow day meant being able to sleep late, watch television and if it snowed enough or there was a little freezing rain just before or after the snowfall there were a couple of nice hills (streets) that were prime sledding locations in my home town.
Looking back, they weren't very big hills but to a small boy they were plenty long and slick. Such fun on those special days, if you had a sled. A rare commodity for my part of the country. Not much use for a sled during many winters. I grew up in Southern Illinois about 40 miles south east of St. Louis. It isn't much different than living in Oklahoma City where I currently live. Both are on that precarious line where a storm system decides to travel to the north or to the south. The jet stream brings a low pressure system down into the lower plain states from the far northwest or Canada and then it turns eastward. A system would come blasting down from the Rocky Mountains and then track eastward but in Oklahoma City and many times St. Louis there would be a glancing blow to everywhere south. Most systems travel in a northeastern fashion and miss us completely.
Such bad luck and heartbreaking to watch the St. Louis TV stations listing the school closings but my school was rarely one of them. No snow, so no snow days. The same situation exists here in Oklahoma City. The jet stream usually dips down but then tracks northward in an easterly fashion. We were on the front's line but the good stuff...the snow would go north and the freezing rain or a wintry mix was more likely south of the storm's track. This is only during the winter. The spring and summer are different beasts all together when warm weather patterns of storms kick in.
Yet on those occasions when there was a decent snowfall, kids from all over town would gather at the hill next to the school, just a block from my house, and use sleds, sheets of cardboard and anything useful to ride down an icy street to slip and slide to frozen bliss. There wasn't any traffic because cars and trucks couldn't make it up such an incline and avoided that route entirely. A few would attempt going down but the smart ones found an alternate route. A few resourceful lads would scrounge in junk yards and bring car hoods that were good sledding devices; dangerous, but very very fun. As many as half a dozen or more kids could fit on a car hood at one time and it took almost as many to drag it back up the hill afterwards for the next trip down the slope.
You could bundle up as much as you wanted but the icy wind made for some very rosy cheeks, beet red ears and noses so cold and frozen after a few hours you couldn't feel anything to the touch and oh so painful when the warm inside air began to thaw them out. Afterwards your skin was very chapped and irritated from the wind and the cold dry air. Your hands were also chapped from over exposure. Wool gloves and mittens could keep your hands warm as long as they didn't get wet, but what use was snow if you didn't have at least one snowball fight.
Later that evening, warm and cozy and thawed out, boots and coats and layers of clothes draped and hanging everywhere to dry out in the warmest locations in the house, you had that deep down satisfied sensation; that feeling of utter contentment and wishful dreams that tomorrow you could go out and do the exact same thing all over again. In my house the warmest places were by "the registers" - the forced air heat ducts that pumped warm air from the coal fired furnace in the basement throughout the house. I'm sure for others drying snow sodden clothing was probably by the fireplace. In my grandmother's house it was next to the potbellied stove where both coal and wood was burned to keep warm. At school where there was a steam boiler deep in the basement and heat was delivered to radiators filled with hot water and steam. The closest daily sensation to that level of "snow day" excitement and deep contentment is when I'm shaving with traditional instruments using traditional products and methods that results in a smooth, comfortable, relaxing shave. Sadly, it is during the winter months of coldness and drier than usual air that shaving can be very uncomfortable due to low moisture in the skin.
During the winter there were two products my mother always slathered on us to remedy the after effects of being exposed to the cold dry air - Corn Huskers Lotion and Noxzema Skin Cream/Cleanser. They were also used during the summertime for over exposure to the sun and a red raw sunburn resulted. In both situations we needed to get moisture back into our skin to sooth irritation and cellular damage and these two products did the trick in restoring and healing chapped, dry, irritated skin.
When I began wet shaving instinctually I picked up these products whenever my skin became irritated after a shave. It wasn't too long before I also used them as a pre-shave balm. I've tried many other products designed as pre and post shave balms but to date I have never found any product more effective in moisturizing the skin than Corn Huskers Lotion or Noxzema Skin Cleanser. It was as a result of my tinkering with these two products, adding essential and fragrance oils to them that my shaving friends started calling me "the Mad Scientist of Wet Shaving" or the "Wizard of Wet Shaving" or "the Professor." Instead of a shaving den I had a shaving laboratory. The rest is history.
I don't mind the nick name because I do like to tinker around with things and do research. Recently I have fielded several questions about how to resolve suddenly getting poor shaves and usually this time of year it all revolves around not having enough moisture before, during and after a shave. When dry the skin is no longer flexible and capable of moving in harmony with the leading edge of a safety razor. This results in skin irritation and nicks and weepers. I can feel my face become irritated even before a razor touches my skin.
You need to moisturize your skin more and apply more water during your shaves, but still if the air is very low in humidity then it will take herculean efforts to put enough moisture to bear during a shave. Now is the time for the hot steamy showers and application of hot towels after applying a thick moist layer of shave cream. Now is the time to use a pre-shave balm with glycerin. An oil or oily balm can be helpful with the slickness but may not be as helpful with the moisturizing of the skin, which is the real problem. Cold water shaves could also be counter productive in the dry winter months because cold water makes the skin more taught but if not moisturized adequately first taught dry skin is still dry skin and subject to increased irritation.
During the winter months be cognizant of your skin's needs and if necessary don't push for the BBS level shave. Be satisfied with a DFS level. When trying new products also be aware that the dry weather conditions will probably impact the performance of the product being tested. It will take more time to adequately evaluate a product when done during the wintertime.
Be aware that glycerin based shaving soaps will tend to be much drier during the building of the lather and once applied to the face. Glycerin attracts moisture but if there is far more moisture in your skin than in the air the glycerin will seek to create that equilibrium and actually pull moisture from your face instead of providing more moisture. I find tallow based soaps perform better comparatively than vegan glycerin based soaps during the dead of winter when air humidity drops low because of this situation. If your bathroom is of a nature that you can seal in the moisture after a hot steamy shower this can help remedy the environmental factor and moisturizing your face is the only concern. My bathroom is not conducive to maintaining the moisture, so I must take this into consideration and prepare as much as I can to counter the dryness, but more importantly I must be aware mentally of this factor when examining a new shaving product. Far to often we trash a good product without even thinking about the environmental elements impacting its performance.
So batten down the hatches, another round of cold and snowy weather is predicted over a large part of North America in the next few days. Stock up on moisturizers and if you haven't already done so, try some Corn Huskers and Noxzema as pre or post shave products. I explain how to spruce up these products and make them smell better in my YouTube video "How to Make You Own Homemade Shaving Products".
Good Shaves, Be Happy, Be Safe