In a perfect world, I would have gotten laser hair removal at age 13 and never worried about shaving again. A nice dream! Last year, I did seriously consider saving up to have laser hair removal done on my legs. But I learned that major hormonal changes in women (i.e. pregnancy or menopause) can cause the hair to grow back. Eeeh, too risky for the cost. So for the time being, I’ll save my money and stick with good ol’ fashioned shaving. Some people say, “Just don’t shave at all!” but au naturale is just not for me. The end.
Above: Did you know that leaving water on a blade after shaving causes the blade to go dull faster?
To keep your blade sharp: take the razor apart after each use, wipe down the blade + handle, air dry.
I gave up disposable razors last year to reduce the amount of trash I was creating. Over 2 billion disposable razors and blades are thrown away in the U.S. each year. And for me, in a single year I was throwing away 24 disposable razor cartridges. Not to mention the plastic packaging waste and lost or broken razor handles. So if you’ve decided to ditch your disposable razor, laser isn’t in your budget, and waxing is not your preferred method of torture..er.. hair removal, then you will probably be stepping back in time to find an effective, sustainable alternative: enter the safety razor.
Now, I am not an expert in the art of shaving. But after more than a year of using a safety razor, I have come up with a list of my personal tips and tricks. I hope they will help you with the transition to a safety razor or improve your existing routine!
A safety razor is two parts: a durable, metal handle that screws or clamps together and a thin, double-sided steel blade. The handle itself can last a lifetime if cared for properly. After a lot of research and recommendations from friends + followers, I settled on the long-handled safety razor from Merkur. When I bought the razor in March of 2016, it came packaged in a paper box with an unexpected plastic insert (womp womp) that held the handle and razor blade. Aside from the plastic packaging, I am extremely happy with this handle and I’ve had no issues with it rusting or tarnishing in the last year.
Don’t: I did not like the Merkur brand razor blade that came with the handle. I have coarse body hair and I never felt like the blade gave me a close shave. So don’t be discouraged if you aren’t happy with the first blade you try. There are countless other brands of blades on the market. The great thing about a safety razor is that blades are universal. You can put any brand of blade into almost any handle and the blade will fit. If you don’t like a particular brand, you don’t have to go back to a disposable razor just yet.
Do: Not all blades are created equal. Take the time to do research about various blades to find what you are looking for in a razor. There are lots of reviews and YouTube videos comparing blades. I wanted a blade that was incredible sharp. For me, sharp means a closer shave and shaving less often. The packaging of the blades was also a priority to me. I wanted to buy a brand that wrapped the blades in paper and was plastic free. I settled on a box of Shark razor blades. Each blade is wrapped in recyclable paper and the blades are packaged inside of a cardboard box. Blade #2 was a winner, I am a huge fan of Shark. Another brand of blades that comes packaged in paper is Astra. I haven’t tried these blades but they are rated and I know a handful of other bloggers who use them.
The Merkur handle ($21 in 2016) and a box of 100 Shark blades ($11 in 2016) cost me a total of $32 dollars + free shipping. The handle will last my entirely life unless I lose it. A single blade lasts me 2-4 weeks, depending on the time of year and how often I am shaving (winter vs. summer). If I use an average of 2 blades per month/24 per blades a year, then I will have this same box for over 4 years. If I use 1 blade per month/ 12 blades per year, then I will have this same box for over 8 years. An $11 box of blades used over 4 – 8 years is seriously cheap. I’ll spend somewhere between $1.35 – $2.75 per year on razor blades. That’s less than gallon of gas cheap. In 2015, I spend $36 a year on disposable razor blades from Dollar Shave Club. By switching to a safety razor, I will save over $1,600 in blades (if I shave until I’m 70..that seems unlikely) and, best of all, I am preventing thousands of disposable razors from going to a landfill. (Crowd goes wild.)
Yes, expect a learning curve. I got my safety razor in March of 2016. I was scared to use it (I envisioned a lot of blood and gore) so I didn’t try shaving with it for 2 months. But I can assure you that my fear of shaving with a safety razor was unfounded. So don’t be like me and postpone shaving for the first time or delay your purchase because the switch seems daunting. A safety razor may look scarier and sharper than a disposable razor, but I’ve noticed a few things since making the switch:
After the first shave or two, it’s nice to realize that you definitely aren’t going to lose any body parts. You probably wont cut yourself, even the most, ahem, sensitive areas. Shaving will take longer at first and you’ll have to get a hang of applying the right amount of pressure and holding the razor at the perfect angle– 30° –in order to get the closest shave. There are lots of great, online tutorials about shaving with a safety razor; the internet is your friend. Unfortunately, for the first month or so, my shave routine took a lot longer than normal because I was so cautious. Now I feel really comfortable and shave just as quickly as I used to. In the interest of honesty, one weird thing that I do miss about disposable blades is the built-in shaving strips that helped the razor glide easier. But with a good shave soap, this inconvenience is negligible.
Don’t: I do not like shaving my legs in the tub, it takes me so much longer and it feels gross. This might be the easiest and fastest way to shave for some people. But not for me, and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. Whenever I have shaved in the bath, my blade constantly gets clogged, there’s hair in the water, and the hair sticks to the walls of the tub after the water has drained. HARD Pass.
Do: Shaving in the shower is the way to go. For me, it is the fastest, most convenient method. The streams of water from the shower clear the blade of hair as I shave, so the razor doesn’t clog up. Plus, all the hair conveniently collects in a drain trap, which makes for easy cleanup. Shaving in the shower a couple times a week doesn’t add a lot of time to my routine so I’m not wasting a lot of water. I have a good system: shampoo, shave, rinse, condition, shave, rinse, done.
If you are switching to a safety razor for environmental reasons then there’s a good chance you’ve already ditched your can of shaving cream. This works out well because it is not recommended to use a safety razor with compressed shaving cream. So what’s the alternative? Traditionally, people use a foam or a bar of lathering soap and a shave brush to apply soap to the body before shaving. This is especially helpful for shaving your face or head. Personally, I didn’t feel the need to invest in a shave brush or foam, so I just apply bar soap by hand and go.
Don’t: I know that a lot of people use coconut oil in place of shaving cream and they have great success. But I do not recommend coconut oil for two reasons:
Do: A great alternative to coconut oil is a bar of soap that contains a blend of oils such as coconut, avocado, and/or shea. A bar of soap full of rich oils will give you a nice, close shave while protecting and moisturizing skin. And bar soap doesn’t clog your drain! There are bar soaps specifically designed for shaving, these are especially good for sensitive skin. Look for soap vendors at your local farmers markets, grocery stores, or health food stores. I recently discovered The Soap Engineers, a local Virginia soap company; they sell vegan, palm oil free, package free soaps at my grocery store! Their soaps aren’t designed for shaving but they work well.
If you want to buy a bar of soap specifically designed for shaving, check out Tiny Yellow Bungalow or Chagrin Valley Soaps. I am always excited to share companies with you that are invested in sustainability and offer zero waste shipping. Both of these companies sell vegan soaps and Tiny Yellow Bungalow’s shave soap is both vegan and palm oil free.
Don’t: Unless your city/ town clearly advertises that they collect scrap metal through your curbside recycling program, you do not want to throw blades into the recycling bin. Most locations have a separate collection site for scrap metal. Look up your city’s recycling guidelines online or call Waste Management before recycling your blades.
Do: Collect used blades in a safe container like a large prescription bill bottle or a blade bank. If you like to D.I.Y., consider making your own blade bank out of an aluminum can. Check out this tutorial for instructions. Once your container or blade bank is full, drop it off at a local scrap metal collection site for recycling. Readers in the USA who don’t have easy access to scrap metal recycling have the option to mail old blades to Albatross Shave Shop in California. Albatross recycles all the steel blades they receive, it doesn’t mater what brand they are. Click here for instructions!
In short, yes! Packing your razor in a checked bag is the best way to ensure that you will have your razor + blades at your final destination…unless, of course, the bag gets lost along the way. (True story. I don’t want to talk about it.) But checking a bag isn’t always practical or necessary. I almost never check a bag because I want to avoid the needless waste it creates and to save money. And since I have a very small wardrobe, I don’t ever need to check luggage. The rules about flying with a safety razor in your carry-on are a bit fuzzy, different security agents tell people very different things. I think some of the confusion comes from the fact that safety razors are not very common and disposable razors, small scissors, metal nail files, and nail clippers are all allowed in a carry-on bag. Ultimately, it is possible to fly with a safety razor in a carry-on bag. A safety razor is made entirely of metal, so it will set off the x-ray machine each time. Because of that, some airport security agents will confiscate blades and others will let you keep them. But I’ve never had my blade taken away. So what’s my method? It’s simple: I am transparent about having a safety razor in my bag when I fly
Don’t: When I first traveled by plane with my razor, I had the handle packed inside of my carry-on with all of my toiletries. The x-ray machine went off, a security agent thoroughly searched and swabbed my bag, and if I had packed any blades with me, there’s a chance they would have thrown them away. I wasn’t even trying to hide the handle in my bag, I just didn’t think it would cause any issues. But traveling with your razor in a carry-on bag will result in your belongings being searched. I had to wait around while the agent took apart my entire bag to find the handle. But once he discovered it was a razor he said, “Oh, you’re good to go.” So don’t try to hide your razor + blades somewhere in your bag, you will spend a lot more time at security than you would like.
Do: If you decide to travel with a safety razor in your carry-on bag, remove the blade. Pack the handle in one of the outside pockets of your bag. When it is time to go through the x-ray machine, place the metal handle into a bin with your bag, shoes, jacket, etc. I find that security goes smoothly if you are upfront about having a safety razor. By taking the handle out of your bag and putting it directly on the belt, it’s like saying, “Hey, I have a safety razor. Feel free to ask me if I have a blade, it’s not hidden.” The handle will set off the x-ray machine. Usually, the security agents don’t ask any questions and send the bin with the razor handle right on through after peering at it on the x-ray machine. I pack 1 new, wrapped blade inside of my jewelry box and then I pack the jewelry box at the top of my suitcase. I only take one blade because that’s all I ever need on a trip. I pack the blade in my jewelry box because the blade slides perfectly into one of the ring slots, preventing it from floating around in my bag. This was a packing trick I used when traveling by car or train and now I use it for air travel, too. At the end of the day, my motto for flying with a safety razor is, “Always be prepared to have your blade taken away and be honest with the security agent if he/she asks you if you have any blades in your bag.” Hey, I just want to arrive at my destination with the ability to shave! If you do get your blades confiscated, many cities has a shave shop (check out the local mall). You’ll definitely be able to buy a replacement blade if need be.
I travel a lot, primarily for work. Every time I have taken a blade in my carry-on bag, I’ve packed it in my jewelry box. I’ve flown close to 40 times in the last year, including the United States, Europe, and Central America. I’ve even had conversations with security agents about why I use a safety razor instead of a disposable razor. I guess a girl with a safety razor is an unusual sight. But even then, I didn’t have my blade confiscated.
Above: A Shark blade packed safely inside my jewelry box
(7/31/17: I edited the final section of this post to clarify that it was not and is not my intention to encourage people to be sneaky / devious about carrying blades in their carry-on suitcases. If you travel with a safety razor, you run the risk of having the blades confiscated by a security agent.)