Eco-Saturday: Safety razor

About a year and a half ago, I posted some rather pointed observations concerning the hair-removal industry’s environmental impact. If you want to read it, click here, but the tl;dr version is that razor companies create a financial disincentive for people to make environmentally responsible choices, and even the best modern options use an unconscionable amount of plastic.

I wasn’t quite willing to give up smooth legs, but I decided there had to be a better way, so I bought myself an old-fashioned safety razor for $20 and learned to use it.

A year and a half later, I haven’t severed my Achilles tendon in the shower, and I can’t say my legs are any more prone to razor burn than they’ve ever been; if anything, I do less damage because using a safety razor requires me to slow down and pay attention to what I’m doing, which invariably results in fewer injuries.

The pros:

1. Minimal waste. Instead of throwing away a big plastic cartridge or an entire razor every time a blade gets dull, I’m just throwing out a single blade (which could be recycled if I could find somebody willing to take a potential biohazard), and the packaging — which consists of a small cardboard box and tiny paper envelopes like you see above — is completely recyclable.

2. Minimal expense. Instead of paying the better end of $20 for five cartridges, I can buy 100 double-edged blades for the same money. I don’t necessarily recommend this right off the bat (you’re better off buying a sampler pack from Amazon so you can try several brands first), but once you’ve found your brand, you’re looking at 20 cents to replace a blade instead of $4. That’s like getting your razor to buy you a cappuccino every time the blade gets dull.

3. Durability. Reusable plastic razors are good for about a year. Meanwhile, I’ve heard of guys using safety razors they inherited from their great-grandfathers.

The cons:

1. The term “safety” is relative. Safety razors were so named because they were substantially safer than straight razors. Slip while shaving with a straight razor, and you could sever an artery. Slip with a safety razor, and you’ll end up with a cut about a millimeter deep. You’ll bleed, but you won’t bleed out. Avoiding bloodshed altogether takes a bit more patience, skill, and attention to technique than that Venus you’ve been using, but don’t let that scare you off; I am hopelessly clumsy, and I’ve cut myself maybe a half-dozen times in the past 18 months. The trick is to read the directions, watch an instructional video or two on YouTube, and take your time.

2. Time. It takes at least five to 10 minutes longer to shave with a safety razor than with whatever you’re accustomed to using now, so plan for that.

Given all that, after 18 months, I’ve come to the conclusion that safety razors are like stick shifts: Once you get used to having one as your daily driver, it just feels awkward and uncomfortable to use anything else.