I am, perhaps, uniquely unqualified to talk about shaving with a safety razor. Being the whitest redhead, I’ve got such light hair you likely can’t tell whether I shaved yesterday or three months ago unless you’re feeling my leg. (Please don’t do that.)
Still. I am a person that occasionally shaves my legs. When I started my zero waste journey, switching away from plastic razors seemed like a simple, extremely effective way to get started. The EPA estimates that 2 billion razors are thrown away each year, so it’s critically important to move away from such an egregious waste area.
Enter the safety razor.
Safety razors are a more simple, durable type of razor. You can buy them very cheaply online while keeping quality, as it’s pretty hard to mess up stainless steel. I bought the Van der Hagen brand from Target (about $15 with five blades included) and have been very happy for over a year.
They are NOT terrifying instruments of torture that tear your skin apart or require cult-like devotion to ritual as some people like to threaten. In fact, I cut myself exactly as often on a safety razor as I did on any other razor. If you’re careful, shaving with a safety razor is just like shaving with a disposable razor. Minus all that destructive plastic waste.
How much money/trash will I save shaving with a safety razor?
I’m using myself as an example. For reference I shave once or twice every two weeks. Chances are you shave more frequently and your savings will be even greater.
100 % disposable razors | Cost per year: a pack of 5 mid-range razors is $3.69, so a year’s worth would be approximately $8.90. Trash per year: 12 full razors, all plastic and unable to be recycled. Whatever additional plastic packaging they came in.
Plastic razors with changeable head | Cost per year: a mid-range product costs $7.99 for two full razors and $17.99 for a five-pack of replacements. Per year, that would be $43.97. Trash per year: twelve disposable heads (non-recyclable) as well as at least one handle which, made of cheap plastic, typically broke after 5-7 months. Whatever additional plastic packaging they came in.
Stainless steel safety razor | Cost per year: a kit of one safety razor and five blades cost me about $15. Those blades lasted about two months each. To buy a pack of 100 blades is $9.49. Trash per year: regarding the Van Der Hagen, you’ll be able to compost or recycle the cardboard box . The only trash is a small plastic sheet and part of the razor box. The replacement blades come in 100% cardboard. The blades themselves can be recycled, but put them in a soda can so they won’t get lost or cut someone!
What products do you need for shaving with a safety razor?
Typically, a razor purchase comes along with a tall can of shaving cream. Foamy, out of a (not-always-recyclable) can goodness. But in fact, with a safety razor, that chemical mix you really ought not to put down the drain isn’t a necessity. There are plenty of zero waste or low waste options for replacing conventional shaving cream. All you really need is a good soap and some lotion for afterwards.
Bar soap: I prefer bar soap from Fresh Thyme, but you can pick up unpackaged soap from pretty much all health food or natural living stores, or even farmers markets and artisan gift shops. Experiment with what works for you, but I find a good oil-based soap works well. (I personally avoid castille soaps as they can be a little too dry for me.)
Natural oils: If you have very sensitive skin – this is my method in the winter when my skin gets uncomfortably dry – you can use olive oil to slick up your legs and shave. Olive oil is protective and moisturizing, with less of a chance of clogging up your drains than coconut oil.
DIY options: You could also make your own shaving cream made with just oil, honey, and liquid castille soap. I’d avoid recipes with coconut oil as – again – they can clog your drains pretty quickly. (Great recipe here.)
Tips for shaving with a safety razor
- Don’t press into the skin! The single blades on a safety razor are incredibly sharp, and the mechanism doesn’t provide as much of a buffer as plastic disposable razors. Let the natural weight of the razor do the work for you.
- Be VERY careful on those weird, pokey parts. Go really slow and use short, careful strokes on areas like your ankles or knees. These are the spots where a small nick could mean blood gushing all over the place. (And these safety razor cuts sting!)
- Shave towards the end of your shower. Just like regular razors, the longer your hair has had to get wet and soften the better a shave you will get. To save water, I’ll often put a bucket in the shower with me. At the end of the shower, I’ll use the water in the bucket to shave with so I don’t have the shower running and wasting water.
- Don’t feel pressured to buy an expensive safety razor. While there’s lots of beautiful, high-end safety razors, the fact is that the product is designed to be simple and functional. As I said, I bought my $15 set from a local Target and have had zero complaints. Don’t necessarily be swayed by higher prices = better product.
- Dry your razor and blade completely before storing. I store my razor outside of the shower and make sure to remove the blade and dry it carefully with a towel after use. The blades will get brown, rusty spots on it if you’re not careful. Bonus points if you let them lay in the sun for a few minutes to ensure everything’s 100% dry.