In the last few months, I’ve been gradually switching to more natural household products. My main motivation was health: I wanted to see if I could reduce my toxic load and heal my chronic fatigue. But I was also interested in developing a more eco-friendly lifestyle.
So I decided to try out a safety razor.
Safety razors are a zero-waste alternative to plastic razors. They’re usually made of stainless steel and contain a thin blade that can be changed out and recycled. Basically, it’s your great-grandpa’s razor. But better.
The Benefits of Safety Razors
Safety razors are a little trendy right now. Hipsters and bloggers love to gush about them on Instagram. But there are actually some very practical reasons to switch to a safety razor.
Safety razors cost a little more up front, but will save you a ton of money over time. The handles can be used indefinitely, and the blades are insanely cheap. Amazon’s top razor cartridge refills cost $2.83/count, while it’s top safety razor blades only cost $.09/count. Assuming you replace your blades once a month, and your handle once every two years, you could save about $40 per year using a safety razor. Multiply that for all the shaving people in your household, and it really adds up.
The EPA estimates that 2 billion razors are thrown away every year. Plastic razors and cartridges take centuries to break down in landfills and produce harmful greenhouse gasses in the process. By contrast, a safety razor creates no landfill waste. When the blade needs to be replaced, it can be easily recycled with other metals. You could even recycle the handle, though you probably won’t need to.
You’ll Get a Cleaner Shave
Safety razor aficionados claim that they give a closer shave and reduce skin irritation. Safety razor blades are usually sharper than their cartridge counterparts. This allows for a close shave, even when shaving with the grain. A single-blade safety razor is also less likely to get clogged than a cartridge razor. Because a safety razor blade can be taken out, cleaned, and put back in, it’s less likely to harbor dead skin and bacteria. This means a cleaner shave—literally.
Also, while most cartridge razors force you to buy only their brand of blades, safety razors blades are interchangeable among handles. This means you can buy the blades that best suit your needs, no matter what brand they are.
My Experience with Safety Razors
My husband decided to join my experiment and try a safety razor for his face. We ended up trying two different brands. Here’s what we thought.
I chose this razor because it was a great price ($12.66) and had stellar reviews on Amazon. I also liked that it had a longer handle, which seemed more suited to leg-shaving. It also has a butterfly opening that makes changing the blades super easy.
The first time I used the razor, I tried shaving with the grain of my hair as the package directed. It missed a lot of hair that way, so I switched to my usual against-the-grain method. That worked much better. I didn’t cut myself much, and I did get a really close shave. Over the next few uses, I experimented with pressure and angle. Using it for my legs was pretty easy, but my underarms were a little tricky. The razor head wasn’t flexible, so it was hard to shave on a concave surface without scraping the edges. I eventually discovered that I could shave diagonally and mostly avoid this issue.
Now, I’ve been using the razor for several months. I really like how economical and eco-friendly it is, but I have to admit that it isn’t the easiest razor I’ve ever used. If I’m paying attention and get the angle right, it does give me a good, close shave. But if I’m daydreaming in the shower—which usually I am—I often open the angle too much and cut myself. It’s an operator error, not a problem with the razor. And the cuts aren’t deep. But I do wish that I didn’t have to think about it. Maybe with time it’ll become more second nature.
I’m also still using the blades that came with the razor, which are probably not the best quality (judging by their inability to shave with the grain). I can’t complain—this is one of the least expensive razor and blade sets out there. But I’ll probably try some higher-quality blades when I run out.
My husband Sam chose this razor, which is a little heavier and shorter than my pick—and more suited for face shaving. At $16.99, it was still cheaper than most safety razors, but it seemed really well crafted (it’s made in Germany). It also has a butterfly opening for easy cleaning and blade changes.
Sam had a similar experience to mine. He’s had to use trial-and-error to find the best way to shave. Because his skin is sensitive, he finds it more comfortable to use the safety razor in the shower, rather than over a sink. He also finds that the razor works better when he’s shaving every day—something he doesn’t always do as a blonde stay-at-home dad.
Altogether, Sam is happy with the razor. He likes the weight and feel of it. He really likes how much money we’re saving. And with endless options for blades, he’ll probably find something more comfortable than the Van Der Hagen ones he’s been using.
Bottom line: there’s a learning curve to safety razors. They aren’t the perfect razor (or at least the cheaper ones we tried weren’t). But if you want to save money and help the environment, a safety razor is a really good choice. And at the end of the day, it gets the job done.
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Photo: Matt Thompson, Creative Commons