Am I alone in having a vivid childhood recollection of my father, post shave, with his face dotted with small squares of toilet paper, held in place by dark spots of dried blood? Looking up from your morning cereal to encounter the visage of your dear dad looking like an extra in a truly low-budget splatter film?
It’s probably the leading cause of trauma related to coming of age and developing facial hair. Many a young boy has been put off allowing the pubescent stubble to start sprouting from fear of looking they’ve had a facial massage from Edward Scissorhands, or his older brother Randy Razorhands, I presume.
The toilet paper “trick” does work though. While the looks may scare and repulse, it does stem the flow of blood from razor induced cuts and nicks long enough for the blod to clot and the healing process to get underway. Yet, you sort of have the niggling feeling that by 2015 we might have put our space-age knowledge to use and come up with a better solution, right? And surely there is, though it took me long enough to find it (and stop snickering at the back of the room if you were well ahead of me on this. Please!).
There are a few options, and I’ll present them in reverse order of preparedness, starting with the one you’d prefer to have ready in your shaving cabinet, the alum block or the styptic stick.
Alum is a water soluble chemical compound with many properties and uses, in this case what interests us is that it it a blood coagulant. What this means is that if you have a small cut, you can wet your block of alum or styptic stick and apply it to the area that is bleeding. Unless the cut is bleeding heavily, it will coagulate and the crisis will be averted. Pretty clever and useful, eh?
The alum block is also a handy choice for post-shaving application, to soothe and prevent shaving burn. This is a very handy alternative to after-shave lotions, which apart from making you smell like a cab-driver also cost very much more than the humble alum block.
The styptic stick has the same function, but contains aluminium sulphate and would be less suitable for full facial application. A handy format though, and easily stored in your shaving kit for The Day when Things Happen.
Option two is either an anti-perspirant containing alcohol and or aluminium chloride (you may already have dumped your deo though, if you like to keep your white t-shirts in good order). Both of these work as astringents, i.e. chemical compounds that make body tissue shrink or constrict. This is why they also work as anti-perspirant, by closing up the pores to lessen perspiration. Or you could use aftershave, and while it while sting like crazy, the aftershave contains the same astringent scented alcohol and will help close the pores.
Option three is ice cubes or cold water. The colder the water, the faster it will cause your blood vessels to constrict and help your body clot the blood to stop the leakage.
So really, there is no excuse to scare your partner or your kids by covering your cuts with toilet paper. You can either prepare a little, and you’ve already filled up your bathroom cupboard with enough shaving remedies to give your local Hells Angels chapter a clean shave, so why not add an alum block or a styptic pen.
Or keep in mind that the after shave your old aunt gave your for Xmas 5 years ago will help. Or, and this will be controversial, why not just call for a G&T with plenty of ice cubes if disaster strikes. Dab yourself with gin-laden ice cubes and and pour out the drink when done. If you drink it the alcohol in your bloodstream will probably work against the clotting, so you’ll be no better off, plus I could hardly condone such silliness as drinking and shaving. I’m sure real men in the 50’s did though.