If you don’t know what a styptic pencil is, you’re probably under 30 years old and never watched your grandfather shave. For decades, a styptic pencil was a staple of the medicine cabinet, used to stop the bleeding from minor nicks and cuts associated with shaving. They are still in use today, but hard to find.
A styptic is an anti-hemorragic agent that contracts and seals injured blood vessels, and a styptic Sharpening pencil is a medicated stick made of aluminum sulfate. There was a styptic pencil in just about every shaving kit; those who didn’t own a styptic pencil could be identified by the flurry of tiny pieces of tissue spotting their faces. Styptic pencils work well, and you can find one online for a few bucks that will last for a year’s worth of shaving nicks. So why aren’t styptic pencils popular anymore?
Some people say styptic pencils were replaced by bandaids, but that’s not the case. Bandaids were invented to replace the bulky gauze-and-tape bandages of yesteryear, but styptic pencils were designed to stop the bleeding, not protect the wound. Perhaps styptic pencils started disappearing because they worked so well for so long that manufacturers weren’t making a killing off a 59-cent product consumers bought every couple of years. More likely, improvements made to shaving equipment, such as safety razors, stainless steel blades and moisturizing shaving creams, make today’s shavers less prone to nicks and cuts.
For Minor Cuts Only
Although it stops bleeding on the spot , and it takes the itch out of insect bite like a charm, a styptic pencil is only effective for minor cuts and skin abrasions. Major cuts require cleaning and sterile bandaging. Also, the slight sting of a styptic pencil would be too uncomfortable for larger lacerations or wounds. For a tiny shaving cut, a styptic pencil stops the bleeding and seals the skin with only a negligible and momentary sting, equal to a pain rating of “2” on a standard hospital pain scale of 1 to 10.
As mentioned, there are many different styptic pencils available online and in some specialty stores. You might think that a styptic pencil is the perfect solution for children, who are prone to many minor cuts and scrapes. Perhaps that would be true in a perfect world, but there are two reasons kids don’t want to heal their boo-boos with a styptic pencil: it burns their skin, and it doesn’t leave them with a colorful sticker of honor like a SpongeBob bandaid.
Next read this great article on prismacolor colored pencils.