I’d never even heard of a safety razor until this year, and when I did, I pictured the monstrous soap-embedded training razor my mom bought me in the fifth grade when I first started shaving my legs.
That’s not what a safety razor is at all. Basically a safety razor is just an old-timey razor that became popular in the 1800s as an alternative to straight razors (think Sweeney Todd) which were more injury-prone. Safety razors have a barrier between the razor and the skin which make it harder to nick yourself while shaving.
While some people claim safety razors offer a cleaner shave, and they are undeniably cheaper in the long run, they have the added benefit of being environmentally friendly.
Why make this swap?
Unlike your typical razor from Gillette or Schick, with five blades and rubber and plastic and a replaceable razor cartridge you can snap on and off, safety razors are normally made of stainless steel and all you have to replace is the blade.
This means with a safety razor the only waste you’ll ever generate is the actual blade, which can be fully recycled. Not to mention, these blades are incredibly cheap. You can get 100 blades for $15. If you change your blade every three weeks, you’ll only spend about $2.50 a year on blades. Of course this doesn’t include the initial cost of the safety razor, but over time you’ll still save yourself a huge chunk of money.
Two billion disposable razors are thrown out in the U.S. every year, according to EarthBits, a zero waste outfitter. These aren’t recyclable because they’re made of a mixture of plastic and rubber. By swapping to a safety razor, you’re eliminating a portion of this waste and feeding into a cycle of resources rather than a cycle of consumption.
What I did
Looking around online, there are lots of options to pick from when buying a safety razor. There are options on EcoRoots and Zero Waste Outlet, but after messaging the seller on Etsy, I purchased mine from LoveSustainLifestyle because it came with 20 replacement blades, supported small business and I could choose whatever color I wanted.
It doesn’t really matter what part of your body you’re shaving (face, legs, armpits, whatever), there aren’t any differences for “men” or “women,” although if you’re shaving your legs, you might want a razor with a longer handle to make it a little easier.
I’ll admit the first time I set out to use my new razor, I was a little nervous it would be really sharp and that I’d end up with cuts all over my legs. To put my mind at ease, I skipped around through a thirteen-minute video with tips and pointers.
It was way easier than I thought. Just soap up your legs or your shaving area, put the razor at a 45 degree angle, and apply light pressure. I was surprised by how normal it felt, and that it gave me a really smooth shave.
When you’re finished, you should make sure you rinse the razor and store it somewhere dry (not in your shower) so it doesn’t rust.
If you’re replacing the blade, you carefully take a new blade out of its paper (carefully, because there are two sharp sides), unscrew the head of the razor until it comes off the handle, and then fit the blade onto the head, and screw it all back in.
If you’re shaving a really sensitive area, you might shave with the grain of your hair, rather than against.
What this means for you
I highly recommend making this swap, because it will save you a ton of money, not to mention a ton of waste. This is also a pretty non-invasive swap. After your initial purchase, and after you get used to the new razor, you’ll hardly notice a difference from how you used to shave.
Alternatively, not shaving at all is another zero-waste alternative. Women didn’t start shaving until the 20th century, when sleeveless tops and shorter skirts became popular and advertisers saw this as an opportunity to market razors to women. Obviously if you find hair itchy or uncomfortable, or you just don’t like it, the safety razor is a great option. But, to go without a razor at all is another great way to flip off capitalism.
Coming up next: homemade oat milk