Getting Started with a Safety Razor
One of the first zero-waste swaps that I made was with my razor – and it was scary! My husband had gotten into “old fashioned shaving” a few years ago – the shaving soap dish, the brush, straight razors, fancy creams – the whole bit, really. Luckily he could explain a lot of it to me. There was hardly any information on the internet for a woman using a safety razor that I found to be really useful; everything was marketed to guys shaving their faces. Hubs could show me how to put the razor together, the angle to shave with (sort of) and all that, but I really needed more than that. I finally found a youtube video by Christina Sedona (a gal I highly recommend - she’s so funny, down to earth, and inspiring) and that helped. But seriously, even now, a year and a half later, it was tough to recruit some new razors to my store and have any sense from the pictures that were posted as to what type of razor it was, and whether it used standard blades, etc. One brand just had pictures of the razors being held by a bunch of girls in their underwear. So helpful!
So! Here’s all the details I can muster up to get ya started. There’s a few things you may want to think through to make it work for you so that this switch can stick before jumping in.
Why Switch to a Safety Razor?
Honestly, this switch has been great, once I got past the habit changes required. I wasn’t used to needing to replace a blade every so often (I'd just grab a new razor) or remembering to bring it into the shower with me when I wanted to use it (I just left the hunk of plastic in there because I really didn't care about it). I also was a very lazy shaver and using soap with shaving was a tiny bit of extra work, as well.
Obviously, I was excited about the sustainability factor here. One razor for the rest of time. Everything involved is recyclable. No plastic. Awesome.
But, I also really, really hated buying razors. It felt like a mortgage payment for what I was getting, and there was nothing out of it at the end for me – sure, I had shaven legs, but it all just went in the garbage and my hair grew back and then I had to buy again. Razor blades are out of control expensive – they are locked up at some retail shops! What?! So, the appeal of spending a few dollars a year on blades after the initial purchase of my razor was very seductive. The razors I sell cost as much as some of the packs of razor blades to last you like six months. And, these razors all come with at least 5 blades, so the cost savings catches up pretty quickly.
I didn’t realize until I started using the razor (and had pretty much committed to this swap in my mind, unless it was crazy hard to do) that it was a better shave than what I had been used to all these years. And, I didn’t actually cut as easily with this thing. That was very unexpected. But, and you’ll see this if you look it up – I also no longer had ingrown hairs and razor burn. This little buddy became essential after that – and after a year, I still haven’t had any issues with ingrown hairs or razor burn. I’ve saved the waste, and experienced a bunch of personal benefits, such as the feeling of “better not more” quality in my every day items; a better shave; no poor side effects of shaving; and more money. If there’s a switch you’re going to put the effort in to make, this is it.
Choosing a Razor
In choosing a razor, you need to basically pick between two different styles. The butterfly razor is a little less scary, because it can’t exactly fall apart in your hands when you’re opening and shutting it. The razor blade just drops down inside. The razor opens and shuts with a little twist on the handle. The other standard style involves placing your fingers on either end of the top (that houses the blade) and twisting it. The blade is sandwiched between two metal pieces, so this can get a little dicier when you’re adding or removing a blade. The first razor I shaved with was my husband’s butterfly razor, but ultimately I ended up with the standard. It’s not so tough when you’re out of the shower, installing a new blade, but if you ever need to rinse the blade off in the shower, this makes things a little trickier. You really only need to do this if you’ve allowed your legs to get pandemic-level hairy, and therefore hair build-up happens in the razor. I used to just bang my plastic razor on the shower, but I guess I’m a little more respectful of my old girl safety razor that I’m not going to do that with a hunk of metal. I’ve always been fine and not cut myself, but that’s the biggest difference that I can determine between the two styles, anyway. The standard style has a lower risk of a mechanism breaking, and therefore a replacement needed, which is why I went with the standard type. In my shop, I have an Eco Roots rose gold razor that is a standard style (something pretty for those that want this to be a bit of a ritual), and a Rockwell Razors standard buddy, and one style that is a butterfly opening (it’s called “The Rookie” – that’s telling right there for the ease and safety – usually it’s the rookie safety raz’in pals that are the most afeared of the blades!).
"The Rookie" - butterfly razor opened up all the way (above).
Stainless steel is the sensible option for a safety razor. I just love stainless steel, really – it’s right up there for me with wool and beeswax and bamboo for sustainability. It is a highly valuable recyclable material, so you can actually recycle this thing if you ever broke it or needed to be done with it (which really, the idea is to keep it for the rest of your life). Stainless steel can be scratched and not have rust pour out of the scratch, because it is purely stainless steel underneath, not a mixed metal cheaper alloy with a coating that would allow for rust to come through if the surface were scratched. This is helpful in the wet environment of your shower; more on that to come.
When I started out, I tried out a variety pack of razors from Fendrihan (a great Canadian company that I highly recommend!). My husband also had a bunch of blades leftover. The thought is that they are all different, and you can figure out which is best for you. This idea might apply to some people that are a little more detail-oriented than I am, I'm thinking. I honestly just found them all to be pretty great. This may not be the case if you’re shaving your face and you’re more particular, but they’ve all worked out well for me.
Now, in terms of packaging, they are not all the same. Some include exterior plastic wrap, like the wrapping on gum or cigarettes, which is really very unnecessary. Some have a plastic case, which is useful afterward for nothing and probably just ends up as microplastic waste. The ones that just come wrapped in paper and cardboard were Rockwell Razor blades, Shark blades and Astra blades. I’m into keeping the unnecessary waste away, so I won’t be rebuying the others, like Wilkinson Sword, that were good razors, but had a lot of unnecessary packaging.
My last little note on blades is to steer away from certain companies that have 'specific' blades required for their razors. This is a clever scheme on the company to have you only buy from them. Safety razors have a standard blade, and in my opinion, putting all of your eggs in one basket long term with one company means that some day you could end up with a razor that you can’t get a blade to.
One thing to keep in mind with safety razors is that they don’t have a ‘built in’ moisturizing or lubricating strip that many disposable razors have. Shaving soap is pretty important for the safety razor route, or you can feel pretty dried out with that close of a shave and no moisture. Shaving creams usually are housed in an aerosol container, and require the waste of dealing with that container afterwards; they need specific recycling due to the contents and composition of the packaging. A shave bar of soap can start out with no packaging (our Birch Babe bar just has a cardboard strip wrapping it) and ends up with no waste at the end. The product can go down the drain without worry or fear for the lasting effects its ingredients could have on the environment and your septic system.
There is also the option to use shaving oils, which are so lovely, but I couldn’t make the price point for the use stick for me. The bars are very reasonable and last for quite a few shaves. I lather up the bar on, say, my lower leg, and then just shave that part of my leg before starting my knee section, etc. One thing to note is that your shaved hairs do end up on this soap bar, so I keep mine in a little tin for the sake of my pretty simple shower (haha!). Keeping the bar up off of the shower surface helps it to last longer and keeps you from needing to clean the goo up that soap naturally leaves behind, if allowed to sit in water. This tin is also helpful if you travel; you can just grab the tin and your razor (add a sheath) and be on your way.
Using a Safety Razor
Here’s the thing – you’re probably going to be so scared to use this the first time that you really need to plan ahead and let yourself have the time to take it slow the first time or so. Soon you’ll feel just as comfortable as with your regular razor, and even with this comfort, I have cut myself far less than with a disposable razor.
The instructions I got were to use it on a 30 degree angle, and to do shorter strokes to start out with to figure it out. There were lots of suggestions to lather up the area with shaving soap first. This was good advice, I still do all of this.
Storage + Accessories
A safety razor takes a bit more thought for storage than a regular razor. Really, who cares about their disposable razor? It can get disgusting and left behind in the shower, because it will be gone soon, right? It's not a keeper; it's only in your life for a month, max.
I had to start the new habit of putting my razor in the shower when I was going to shave, and taking it out after. This may sound annoying. However, I was also learning to do the same thing with my facial soap bar, so it’s not really a big deal after you do it a few times. Once you forget once and have to get out of the shower, dripping, ya’ll likely not do it again, right?!
So, storing the razor out of the shower is key. It will keep her so much happier and rust-free this way. I have a lovely ceramic tray from Fendrihan that I can just pop in the dishwasher when I clean my razor, and I hope to offer you all some soon from a local potter.
Another way of storing your razor is upright in a mason jar (or other pretty cup), and add a little leather sheath to cover the top once you’ve dried it off a bit (if you worry about knocking it). The sheath is also awesome for travelling with your razor.
I also have a blade bank. I decided to get one of these because I have toddlers hanging around, touchin’ stuff. These guys safely store many, many blades so that you don’t need to worry about them being inside your bin, loose. But you can also just save them up in a paper envelope, and then recycle them after. To make your own blade bank, just use something out of your recycling - tape it shut and cut a slit in it large enough to slot the blade through.
Cleaning/Maintaining your Razor
If you make sure your razor isn't left sitting in a puddle in the shower, you don’t really have too much to do with it to keep 'er good. I don’t even physically dry mine off after a shower, I just take it out (tipping out any water in the tray) and put it on a shelf to air dry.
About twice a year, I put my razor in a bowl of rubbing alcohol for a minute. Then I rinse it off and just go ahead with life and it’s all good!
And there you go! Let me know if you have any questions, and I'll update the blog!