SHAVE CLINIC - Stopping the flow of red ...

Discussion in 'Shave Clinic & Newbie Check-In' started by GDCarrington, Mar 28, 2012.

  1. 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.

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    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. ackvil

    ackvil Moderator Contributor

    Great post, above. Years ago I purchased some styptic powder and used it a few times. I found it worked great - but fortunately I have not had to use it in a long time.
  3. Very informative article, thanks for the work.
  4. Great write up
  5. Great article! Thank for putting the time into writing this!
  6. Well done!

    Thank you.
  7. Thanks! I hope it provides you some good information when you choose these products.
  8. You spent some time getting this together. Nice going, and thanks.
  9. Great article thank you for putting it together.
  10. Great write up. Very informative. This will help a lot of newbies out.
  11. Thanks for a great article, Lots of good information for the new wet shaver.
  12. Not only chock-full of info, but very entertaining. Thank you!
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2012
  13. Nice write-up! Witch Hazel sounds great, unfortunately it's a rare and expensive import product where I live. Lots of other useful info here though.
  14. Thanks to everyone for the nice comments!
  15. Nice article! It should be in the Wiki.
  16. Great article!
  17. Super article. Thank you for the explanations and nuances.
  18. Outstanding information.
  19. luvmysuper

    luvmysuper Moderator Emeritus Contributor

    Great Post!

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