Stopping the flow of red ...

Discussion in 'Articles' started by GDCarrington, Feb 17, 2012.

  1. GDCarrington

    GDCarrington Burma Shave

    We’ve all been there before. Enjoying a nice shave, when all of a sudden, you nick yourself, or you find when you’re finished that you have a few weepers. Then you ask yourself, quick how do I stop the bleeding? Well, there are many items that are available to stop the small amount of bleeding can sometimes occur with shaving.

    Lets first begin with a "free" item. Everyone likes something that is "free." This item that can be used to reduce and stop bleeding is really not a product at all. It is merely the judicious use of temperature to reduce and stop bleeding. Cold water can be used with a cloth to constrict the capillaries near the surface of the skin to allow the blood to clot.

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    Advocates of cold water shaving point to this as an additional reason to shave using only cold water. Even if you do not like cold water shaving, many times a cold water compress (ice in a cloth with cold water to allow temperature transfer), or just rinsing off the face in cold water is all you will need to seal up an occasional small nick or weeper. If cold water does not seem to be effective or fast enough, the next product available is Witch Hazel.

    When we are speaking of Witch Hazel, we are not referring to the cartoon character pictured below that gave Bugs Bunny so many problems.


    Witch Hazel (Hamamelis viginiana) is a bush or small tree that is common to North America. Hamamelis viginiana has broad, toothed oval leaves, and golden yellow flowers and brown fruit. The dried leaves, bark, and twigs of Hamamelis Viginiana are distilled to create of the solution known as Witch hazel. [1]


    The following is a description of how Witch Hazel received is English and botanical names.

    Witch hazel's name upholds mysterious connotations. In colonial America, the shrub's flexible forked branches were a favorite "witching stick" of dowsers used for searching out hidden waters or precious metals. This has nothing to do with witches, but rather originates from the old English word for pliable branches "wych." In England dowsers call an elm (Ulmus glabra) the "witch hazel tree." When early British settlers arrived in the Americas, they fancied our witch hazel as the logical replacement for dowsing chores, given its pliable, crooked branches.
    Although it's not a hazel (Corylus species) the source of hazel nuts, the leaves have a striking resemblance to those of the common American hazelnut Corylus americana.
    The generic name, Hamamelis, comes from a name that Hippocrates applied to the medlar (a small hawthorn-like fruit). The name combines two Greek word roots meaning fruit (apple) and "together," referring to the plant's habit of producing flowers at the same time the previous year's fruits mature and disperse seed. [2]

    So witch hazel is not a hazel tree nor does it have anything to do with witches. When you make a request at the local pharmacy or store, it is is easier to say, however, than an aqueous solution of distilled Hamamelis viginiana.


    Witch Hazel can be readily found in most drugstores and grocery stores and can range from the standard mixture with 14 percent alcohol to versions that are without alcohol that have a variety of added scents. Some even include Aloe Vera to aid in skin healing.


    Witch Hazel is an astringent and has many uses. One use that is important for shaving is related to its hemostatic action, or its ability to reduce or stop bleeding for small cuts or slight abrasions and weepers. Simply splash a small amount on the skin after shaving in the area that has a small cut or weeper or apply with a small clean cloth. This also has a very soothing and tighten effect to the skin. Many people use Witch Hazel instead of a specific commercial aftershave product. Some shavers also will also keep Witch Hazel in the refrigerator and bring it out when shaving to allow the cold to amplify the properties of Witch Hazel. Since Witch Hazel is a liquid, it is not always easy to travel with or it might not be strong enough to stop some cases of bleeding so another product that is available is Alum.

    Alum in a powder form (potassium alum) is also available at grocery stores and is the same material that make up alum blocks and some styptic pencils. Alum is used in a variety of products.

    The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved alum for oral health care products as an astringent, and for preparation of flour and cheese. For safety reasons it should be used in less than an ounce and only pharmacist grade alum should be used. [3]

    Alum powder is very effective when placed on a small damp cloth and applied to a small nick or weepers. Alum also has antiseptic (antibacterial) properties that will help in healing. A view of Alum powder can be seen below. [4]


    Alum blocks are usually referred to as potassium alum that is highly crystallized and cut into a small block for convenient use. Alum blocks are considered slightly stronger than Witch Hazel in terms of reducing the flow of blood so that a small cut or weepers will stop bleeding. In order to use an alum block one must simply apply some water to the block and rub the block across the affected area. This will allow a small amount of alum mixed with water to saturate the skin to constrict the capillaries and stop the bleeding. The fact that the block has some size to it allows for a rolling effect across the skin and so the alum block can be used as an overall area aftershave product to tighten and soothe the skin. After use, be sure to clean off the block with a rinse of water and let dry.


    A styptic pencil is a short stick of an alum or titanium dioxide which is used for reducing or stopping bleeding by causing blood vessels to contract at the site of the wound. It is not as heavily crystallized but is more a heavily compacted powder that is formed into a stick. The pencil can be directly applied to an area that is bleeding. The styptic pencil is used more as a pinpoint applicator of alum to the nick or weeper. The styptic pencil is a more powerful in terms of stopping the bleeding since more of the alum is applied through the pinpoint application than a larger more crystallized alum block over a larger area. After use, be sure to clean off the pencil with a rinse of water and let dry.


    In addition to the small standard styptic pencil, there is a larger styptic pencil that behaves like a cross between the standard styptic pencil and an alum block. This styptic pencil is large enough to roll across your face easily like an alum block but is able to be used on precise areas like the standard pencil. I have found this to be more effective over an area with many weepers since the Alum is more easily mixed with water than the block form. Here is a comparison of a standard and larger styptic pencil.


    Here is a picture compared in size to a standard alum block.


    You may find that a white residue remains after using the alum products. Shortly after the bleeding ceases, you may wish to gently wash the area with cold water before applying balms or aftershave products to remove any excess alum.

    In addition to the solid alum powders and crystal products, alum can be found in other forms.

    A styptic roller is a device that applies alum to the skin in a roll on form to the face just like a roll on deodorant would. This application is like the pencil but you do not have to clean like a pencil and let dry. Now if this seems odd or unusual, please know that the deodorant that is sold on store shelves is more than likely made of Alum or an Alum substitute. An alum block can be used as a deodorant due to its antibacterial properties.


    There are even styptic gels. This one from Proraso contains Aqua, Aluminium Chlorohydrate, Silicia, Propylene Glycol, Eucalyptol, Parfum, PEG-40, Hydrogenated Castor Oil.


    This works by creating combining a styptic with a sticky gel to quickly seal and disinfect the nicks and weepers. [5]

    Now with all of this being said, styptic products are designed to solve the issue of small shaving nicks and weepers. If you are also prone to bleeding issues such as recurring nose bleeds, due to the use of prescription blood thinners for circulatory issues, or bleeding from a multitude of nicks and weepers longer than a several minutes every time you shave, then you should consult with your physician.

    In conclusion if you have some issues with your technique, trying a new razor or blade, or run into a bad blade, you might get a slight nick or get a case of the weepers. Stopping the flow of red is what this is all about. Having some of these products handy and knowing which one is most effective for you, can go a long way to helping your skin to heal a lot easier, cleaner and faster.


  2. fishcrow

    fishcrow Birdman of TSD

    Great article.
    Spud, Boojum1 and GDCarrington like this.
  3. Williams Warrior

    Williams Warrior Well-Known Member

    Good information here. I didn't know that many products were available. One thing though is that most of your pics didn't come through.
    Boojum1 and GDCarrington like this.
  4. Slipperyjoe

    Slipperyjoe Rusty Metal Tetanus

    Mr Carrington I find your write up to be quite comprehensive. I never realized there were that many things to curtail unforeseen plasma release. Back in the day we'd just rely on segments of the good old "ceptic" pencil...
    Boojum1 and GDCarrington like this.
  5. Johnny

    Johnny Little Boy Blue

    Nice article sir. But you forgot the one thing that I always used, good old toilet paper. :)
    Boojum1, BamaT, vinthechin12 and 2 others like this.
  6. tomnat

    tomnat accepting applications

    Very nice article, Gary. It was quite poignant today as I had a "chunk" taken out of my chin this morning and used my styptic pencil for the first time in a long time. And it worked!
    Boojum1 and GDCarrington like this.
  7. macaronus

    macaronus Sir Nice-a-Lot Staff Member

    Nice and comprehensive article! Thanks! :signs107:
    Boojum1 and GDCarrington like this.
  8. Bird Lives

    Bird Lives Future Root Beer King of Turkey

    Glad to see someone addressing such an important issue....I'm sure many will find this more than useful....The loss of blood is one of the reasons so many are afraid of TWS in the first place....I sure many denisons haven't thought about this kind of thing in a long time, but I'm equally sure there are many who need this information....and your presentation was succinct and thorough....
    PS: And I never knew where that name came from...always wondered though....;)...Witch
    My Pop used to add some Alum powder to a bottle of WH...and each day he'd shake it up and splash after shaving....Said it would keep your skin tight...Well when he was 82, he still didn't have any loose skin under the chin....Maybe I should have listened to him....
    GDCarrington likes this.
  9. ridgerunner

    ridgerunner Active Member

    Well researched and very well written. You are a scholar and a gentleman.
    Boojum1, macaronus and GDCarrington like this.
  10. Infotech

    Infotech Active Member

    Ahh the dirty side of shaving. I don't think anyone has ever put together such a comprehensive article about the subject, it's always an after thought or discussed within the context of another thread.
    Boojum1 and GDCarrington like this.
  11. Conrad1959

    Conrad1959 Well-Known Member

    Very helpful. Thank you. I have used Walgreen's WH a few times and the scent is not at all pleasing to me. TSD's SubZero scented WH is in my future.
    Boojum1 and GDCarrington like this.
  12. Queen of Blades

    Queen of Blades Mistress of Mischief Staff Member

    Moderator Supporting Vendor
    Great article! Added to the Preshave/Aftershave Master Sticky. :happy096:
    Boojum1, swarden43 and macaronus like this.
  13. crackstar

    crackstar Israeli Ambassador to TSD

    Gary, your articles are as always, fantastic. I cannot stand the pain and discomfort, or the horrible cold sweat and nausea I experience if I cut or even just slightly nick myself. I cannot use alum. Strange, huh?
    Boojum1 and GDCarrington like this.
  14. GDCarrington

    GDCarrington Burma Shave

    Infotech, your statement was what also was concerning me when I wrote this article.
    Everyone discusses this topic in different threads and as side bars to other topics, but I never saw a complete thread providing information on the products or on some simple steps to stop small cuts. So I decided to make one.

    JoAnna, Thanks, it is appreciated! I had hoped that this would serve in that capacity.
    Boojum1 likes this.
  15. sjedwardz

    sjedwardz New Member

    Great article, you obviously put a lot of work into it.

    One thing that you can do in an emergency is use anti perspirant since as you mentioned it contains aluminium. Makes you smell nice too:D
    Boojum1 and macaronus like this.
  16. Slivovitz

    Slivovitz Well-Known Member

    Very useful article. People need to know how to handle the occasional nick, and not get panicky over it.
    Boojum1 likes this.
  17. DLP

    DLP Well-Known Member

    Panic no, Mad at my self for getting careless, usually. :angry021:
    Boojum1 likes this.
  18. D. Nettleton

    D. Nettleton Member

    Very nicely written! This is one thing above others that has prevented me from trying wetshaving before. Armed with a couple of these, I have had my confidence boosted!
    Boojum1 and GDCarrington like this.
  19. senex

    senex Member

    For a cheap Alum stick look at the crystal under arm dedorants.
    They are the only alum source I have available localy and are cheaper than ordering it in.
    Boojum1, CyanideMetal and BossManBill like this.
  20. CyanideMetal

    CyanideMetal Wild and crazy guy

    Yep, I took the alum out of the container after trying to use it as a deodorant and started using it as a post shave alum. My mug smells like my pits, but I'm happy.
    Boojum1 and BamaT like this.

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