The Problem With Traditional Razors
Traditional razors might seem innocuous, but like many everyday items we use, they are very unfriendly to the environment. The bulk of the material used to make disposable razors is non-biodegradable, and ends up sitting in a landfill. It will be centuries, if not millennia, before it begins to break down.
If you use single or double use disposable razors, you’re likely to use up to 20 per year. Even slightly more environmentally friendly options with a reusable handle recommend you replace the head as often as once a month, which means twelve heads per year end up in the trash.
Given that according to a 2018 survey up to 163 million consumers use disposable razors in a given year, that’s a huge amount of them heading to the garbage dump.
Although the component parts of a disposable razor may be recyclable in themselves, they’re actually a difficult item to recycle (cost and energy intensive) because those component parts have to be separated before each part can be reused.
While some are made only from plastic and aluminum, others include rubber grips which also need to be separated. Much of the fate of your disposable razor depends on local recycling policies and rules, but more likely than not, it’s headed to the landfill.
What Is a Safety Razor?
So, given that most of us are pretty committed to our shaving regimes, what can be done to make this cosmetic practice more environmentally friendly? The best way to do it is to start using a safety razor instead of a traditional disposable one.
When most people think of a razor outside of the familiar family of disposable models, they usually find themselves thinking of the lethal looking barber-shop variety, a kind of straight razor known as a shavette—or a ‘cut-throat’ razor.
While these are also sustainable because they are a non-disposable option, they are unsafe in unpracticed hands. Instead, you can opt for a safety razor. They’re similar to barber-shop razors in that you invest in a permanent handle and simply change the old razor blade for a new one when needed.
A safety razor actually looks quite similar to the disposable model. They feature an ergonomic handle with a head like a hammer-head shark which holds the razor.
They’re called safety razors because the head provides a guard between the razor’s sharp edge and the user’s skin, reducing the possibility for cuts. Interestingly, it was the invention of the safety razor that turned shaving into a DIY business; before that, when more dangerous straight razors were the only option, it was entrusted only to barbers.
Safety blades are a much more sustainable way to shave for a couple of reasons.
Firstly, you never throw away the handle, only the blade, which means you are creating much less waste.
Secondly, since you are buying only one product which will usually be made of natural materials such as wood (which can be more or less ethical depending on where you choose to purchase them), you are no longer contributing to the demand for cheaply produced, mass manufactured disposable plastic.
Caring For a Safety Razor
A safety razor does require a little care in order to keep them in good condition, as well as to keep them hygienic. These are a couple of top tips to care for yours.
1. Don't Keep It In The Shower
It is tempting to leave it right where you’re going to be using it, but this can be damaging. If your handle is made of wood it can cause it to become damp and reduce its lifespan, but additionally exposing the metal parts to that much moisture constantly can lead to rust. This is unhygienic and will reduce the lifespan of the safety razor. So make sure you remember to store it somewhere clean and dry between uses.
2. Keep It Dry
Similar to tip no.1, letting your safety razor stay wet for long periods won’t do it any good. As you’re toweling yourself off, give your razor a little pat down too.
3. Keep It Clean
How To Recycle Safety Razor Blades
As well as reducing waste, single blade safety razors are a great option because you can recycle your used up blades. However, you can’t just throw these in the regular garbage—they have to be disposed of safely.
Collect your used blades until you’ve got a little stash. Most drug stores will be able to provide you with a safe sharps container for free, and a lot of regions in the USA have regular sharps collection locations, like drug stores or hospitals. Sharps disposed of in this way won’t necessarily be recycled, but they will be safely disposed of
Multi-blade razor heads are not widely recyclable, but they still need to be disposed of safely. You could buy with a company that offers a mail back program. Once the company has them back, they will recycle them for you. Just make sure you mail them safely!
You can also drop your used razors off at any Whole Foods, who are part of a razor recycling program called Gimme5.
7 Fantastic Safety Razors Available Now
A fantastic feature of this particular model is that it has the flexibility to move with the contours of your body, while many models are in a fixed position.
It’s also got a sleek, modern and almost industrial design which makes it a stylish fit in any bathroom. Furthermore, its smooth metal surface makes it really easy to keep clean. You can buy the razor alone or with a 50 blade starter pack, and it can hold up to three blades in its head for a close shave.
2. Well Kept
This stylish brass model with its one-tone cream finish is understated and elegant, and comes with an easy grip texture to make it practical as well. It rinses very easily, making maintenance a breeze.
Well Kept make durable razors that are easy to use, ans package all their products in fully recyclable packaging for extra eco-friendly points.
A more affordable option comes in the shape of the Preserve Shave safety razor. It’s made of entirely recycled materials, has an ergonomically designed handle and a five blade head for a close shave.
The five-blade head also comes with a moisturizing strip containing aloe to reduce irritation during your shave.
The downside is that even though they're made of recycled plastic, it's still plastic.
A slightly more exclusive option as only a limited number are available each month, ‘the single’ razor from Oui the People is perfect for anyone with sensitive skin.
Its single blade offers a close shave without too much tugging. It comes with a pack of 10 blades to start you off, and the website has a few handy instructional videos on how to get the most out of your safety-razor shave, as well as recommending the best oils and creams to use.
The brand is also committed to changing the culture of unrealistic beauty standards imposed on women, so they’re a fantastic brand to support.
Slimline and elegant as well as being a fun color, the sky blue razor is made of a brass and zinc alloy chosen for its durability and resistance to corrosion.
The sky blue razor comes with two blades to start with, and will take any generic razor blade, making it easy for you to buy replacement blades. As long as they’re cared for properly, the sky blue will last you a lifetime.
6. eco roots
Light and durable, this stylish rose gold option will make you feel a little glamorous as you shave, with its beautifully designed packaging and sparkling polished surface.
It’s made of zinc alloy and stainless steel for durability, and the ergonomically designed handle makes it easy for you to get a close shave. It also comes with 5 free stainless steel blades to get you started.
With a more pure, practical design, the Merkur has a short handle and a heavy head which creates a little pressure to allow the razor to do most of the work for you, without too much handling know how.
If you’re a little nervous about switching over to a safety razor or are looking for something a little more heavy duty, this is the one for you. A sample blade comes included, and it takes any standard blades as replacements.
There are plenty of options out there for great safety razors to suit everyone’s style, and we’ve just chosen a few of our top picks here to help you choose the right product for you and move towards a more sustainable shave.