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August 22, 2007

Plastic-Free Shaving with a Metal Safety Razor

 


Do I look like an antique to you? I must have been twelve or thirteen years old the first time I shaved my legs. I used my dad’s safety razor, just like the one in the picture. But times have changed, and you can’t buy these at the drugstore anymore. I got this one for ten dollars at a local antique store, a great way to find out how they did things in the good old pre-plastic days.

I’ve been using this razor for nearly one month. In fact, I’ve been using the same blade the whole time too. At this rate, the box of 100 safety razor blades that I bought from eBay could last me 8 years! Of course, I don’t shave every day, so your mileage may vary. But just think of all the plastic cartridges and packaging that I am not throwing away.

I waited a month before reporting on this razor because I wanted to make sure I could really use it without hurting myself. It does take a bit of getting used to if you’ve been shaving with light-weight plastic razors. It’s kinda heavy. But now that I’ve been using it for a while, I actually prefer the way it works to my Venus razor. I think it’s not the number of blades that are important but the closeness, and this baby shaves close and smooth. I’m talking legs, armpits, the works.

Well, maybe not exactly the works. I am female, after all, and don’t have facial hair to worry about. (Well, not much!) If you happen to be of the male pursuasion and would like to know how these razors work for men, point your browser to http://plasticless.com/2007/06/28/my-new-old-razor/, a blog written by a guy dealing with similar plastic issues as Fake Plastic Fish. He might be able to give you more relevant information.

If you can’t find a safety razor at a local store, antique or otherwise, you can still buy them online at Classicshaving.com. And while you can still find double-edged blades in drugstores, they generally come in plastic blister packs of 10. I found my box of 100 safety razor blades on eBay, and they come individually wrapped in paper in a small cardboard box. I am in no way associated with this guy; I just happened to buy his blades and they are working out great for me.

So,l why am I not using the Preserve razor, since I think so highly of the Preserve toothbrush? Honestly, I think the Preserve razor is a bit misguided. Only the handle is made from recycled plastic and is recyclable. How often do you get rid of a razor handle? The plastic cartridges still have to be thrown away.

As for my old Venus razor, I’m keeping it and a few of the cartridges (I gave away most of the cartridges on Freecycle) for the little bit of traveling I do. I don’t imagine I’d get very far trying to bring double-edged razor blades on a plane.

This has been Part 1 of Plastic-free Shaving. I’ll post Part 2 when I figure out the best shave soap to use. I still have half a can of shave gel left. After that’s gone, I’ll be experimenting with various plastic-free options, and I’ll let you know which works best for me.



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41 comments
Juliette
Juliette

I was recently visiting a friend in Europe and was running off to shower when I noticed her staring in disbelief at my razor. "You still shave?" she said, as if I had walked out of the stone age. Apparently, there is an alternative to shaving and waxing, called epilating.

So, since I'm on a tight student budget, I decided to fork out the amount I spend yearly on razor heads and get one of theses things. Yea, it's not as painless as shaving, though close to waxing, and the hair grows back much slower. I'm to where I can use it only once per week (a month into using it so far), and apparently after several uses, you can go as far as six weeks without hair growth. I've used it everywhere, from underarms to bikini, and though it took a little teeth-gritting and loud, distracting music the first couple of times, I won't ever go back to my razor. I only have to lightly exfoliate (with an organic material exfoliator, so no plastics) in the shower. And since I've also made the switch to the "no-'poo" method, my showers are blissfully quick.

In short... Epilate!!! The tool itself is usually made of plastic (I know) but you don't throw it away once you've bought it, so the only "waste" is your removed hair. :-) You can use it for years and years and years. I've since found it this is a rather popular method in Europe. Why do all Europeans seem to know about epilating, but in the good ol' USA it's all about razors? If you want to save on time in the shower, waste, money... really. And it also cuts out any need for shaving creams. I say it's a winner, thought I converted pretty quickly because I started to hate shaving. 

Just go look up an epilator!! At least you'll know there's an alternative to wasting money on razors.

RHMacnafe
RHMacnafe

We used to have a metal razor in the house (I think it's my dad's). Now that I think about it, I don't know where it is (must have been disposed of already). If only I've known, I should have kept it at a safe place. I can't find that type of razor anywhere here anymore and I'm not sure if I want to buy one online.

MaidMirawyn
MaidMirawyn

Very interesting. I have bony knees, and they're hard enough to shave with a disposable razor, so I don't know if I'm willing to try a safety razor. I still have disposable cartridges left; I've been delaying the decision until I get low. . .

I did switch to shaving soap instead of shaving cream about four years ago; my favorite soap is from Thistle Ridge Soap Company. It's a small mom-and-pop company that sells both online and at craft festivals. I buy from them when they're in Atlanta or North Georgia, so I've never purchased online. But both my brother and I love the soap; great on my legs and underarms and his face! (He uses a straight razor.) (http://www.thistleridgesoap.com/component/redshop/8/1/shaving-products.html)

Beach babe
Beach babe like.author.displayName 1 Like

I cldnt find the post about a guy using the old cut throat blade. Any way, what a surprise- the Detainees at the juvinile detention centre where I work- have asked permission to re- use the same razors to reduce waste!!?? This is a Very Thorny issue- as razors are kept Out of their rooms and issued each day - as a Safety Precaution. Without a New razor Each day- that wld save on 90 razors a week! And multiply that by 7.. Safety must remain first but Points to them for thinking- now we just have to convince them not to shave their legs as well???

dora_g
dora_g

What do you do with the blade when it gets dull? Can you get it sharpened? Do you throw it out? Is it recyclable?

karenwilley
karenwilley

 @dora_g Sharpening probably isn't advisable for the double edged or feather blades, since they're made from a very hard steel that is designed to hold an edge for a long time. For this reason you can milk them for quite a while, but it's pretty tough to put an edge back on them. You can however recycle them. Collect them in a blade safe like this aluminum one (www.classicshaving.com/catalog/item/1240646/799291.htm) and when it's full, you can throw the whole thing in the recycling bin. 

BethTerry
BethTerry moderator

 @karenwilley  @dora_g The safe on that page looks like plastic. Are you sure it's aluminum? Wondering how they could be recycled. Can't put them in recycle bin. Dangerous for workers.  Would have to take them to a metal recycler, I'm guessing. We have been collecting ours, but don't have many because they do last a long time.

dora_g
dora_g

 @BethTerry  beth, i was recently looking up the state law on this since it's becoming time to recycle my sharp items for the first time since moving to cali. where i lived before, as i mentioned, you can just put it in a sharps container and put that container in the recycling bin, after labelling it correctly. apparently, in california, this practice was stopped in 2008. now, in california, you have to dispose of it at specific centers. mine is, thankfully, quite close to me. you can find your local sharps recycler by going to http://www.calrecycle.ca.gov/HomeHazWaste/HealthCare/Collection/ and selecting your county. from there, you can zoom in on the map to find the one most convenient for you.

dora_g
dora_g

so, in the interest of full disclosure, i will say that my experience with sharps boxes is thus far limited to needles for diabetics and recycling those. having said that, what the sharps box does is turn the question for your recycler from "do you recycle razor blades" to "do you recycle steel?" this is because there is no longer a cutting hazard, which is the only thing that distinguishes a feather blade from any other piece of steel. and lots of recycling plants recycle steel because they make a fair bit of money on it. having lived many places, i have never had a problem using a curbside recycling bin for sharps boxes and their contents.

BethTerry
BethTerry moderator

 @dora_g Hi Dora.  I'm just wondering where I would take it.  I know it is not allowed in our recycle bin.  Would have to find out if there is a metal recycler in my area that would accept razor blades.

dora_g
dora_g

beth, the link karen provided is for what is known as a sharps box, which i thought they only made for needles, like for diabetics. the box keeps the sharp objects away from hands until the piece is melted, and it is far enough away from people that no one is touching it anymore anyway. that is the point of a sharps box (it takes away the need for you to go to a metal recycling plant yourself). you collect the blades in there, where they stay safely hidden away while you recycle them normally until nothing is sharp anymore. the sharps box is a single-use long-term storage device, like a piggy bank you have to break to use. because sorting between plastic and metal happens after the recycling leaves people's hands as well, you can use a puncture-proof plastic container (like old prescription bottles that could be repurposed since california won't let you reuse them) for the same purpose, but you have to label it "sharps."

karenwilley
karenwilley like.author.displayName 1 Like

What a great endeavor. Thank you for your commitment to the cause and thank you for the shout out about ClassicShaving.com. We really appreciate it. 

Melissa Brown
Melissa Brown like.author.displayName 1 Like

Yeah! Life without plastic is filling another void & has started selling safety razors! That's on my next list of things to try! But which one???!

Beth Terry
Beth Terry

Hi Amanda. Thanks for letting me know about the plastic packaging. I have gotten in the habit of always asking sellers ahead of time not to use plastic or styrofoam packaging. It prevents annoying surprises! Most sellers are happy to comply.

Amanda R.
Amanda R.

I bought a metal safety razor and box of blades last week - I love the razor, and think it's one of the closest shaves I've had! (though it turns out I have bony shins, which I'll have to be a bit more careful with...) But I was frustrated that the razor - from classicshaving.com - came in a plastic bag inside its box, then in a bigger box of styrofoam peanuts; the blades - from one of the sellers that comes up via the link above - came in a padded (bubblewrap) envelope. :( I've written to both vendors thanking them for the speed of delivery and the quality of product, but suggesting alternative packaging - would recommend others buying from them try first to contact them to make plastic-free (or reduced-plastic) packaging requests.

karenwilley
karenwilley like.author.displayName 1 Like

Hi! I work at ClassicShaving.com and am also passionate about environmental issues. Thank you for your business! Just wanted to let you know that although we certainly have room for improvement as far as packaging is concerned, we only use biodegradable rice peanuts when shipping. That was the first environmental initiative the owner implemented when taking over the business from her father, its originator. Her husband loves to pop a packing peanut in his mouth and eat it when he is giving someone a tour of the warehouse. 

Thanks for fighting the good fight. 

BethTerry
BethTerry moderator like.author.displayName 1 Like

 @karenwilley LOL.  My cats attack the corn-based packing peanuts and will gobble them up if I'm not careful.  I tried one once just to see what would happen.  It melted in my mouth instantly.  But I don't recommend this.  We don't know what other additives might be mixed in with the corn or rice, do we?  :-)

Brandy
Brandy

Oh thank you! I have been wondering how to replace my plastic razors, I have ordered a metal safety razor today. Thanks for solving a problem for me!

Jessica | Cloth Diapering Mama
Jessica | Cloth Diapering Mama

I think there is one of these at my grandmother's house that use to be my grandfather's....I'm grabbing it if I see it!

Nikki
Nikki

I know this is a super old post, but I had to share! I haven't made the switch from my plastic razor set yet, but I have been using olive oil to shave for many months now! it works better than any soap or gel I've used. And I like my silky legs. It's a great moisturizer. it does clog up the razor a bit...just have to rinse it out a couple of times. (I buy EVOO in glass bottles and refill them at our co-cop.)

Kayla
Kayla

I'm actually considering a straight razor, as I find the idea of having to buy the double edged blades inconvenient and I have used the reusable venus for years and yet have never thrown out any of the dull heads because of my guilty conscience.

Pat Winter
Pat Winter

I have found a great way to get rid of unwanted hair and never have to worry about cutting myself, something I can do without any effort, and not have plastic and not be expensive. I go to the local hardware and purchase one sheet of finest wet/dry sandpaper. It will last a very long time so don't bother with any more than one sheet. I cut the sheet into four strips, you now have four "razors", and even these do not need to be disposed of after one use, more like 10. Wrap the sandpaper around three fingers (index, middle, and ring) and then move in circles on the hair, with only slight pressure. The sandpaper removes the hair painlessly and exfoliates your skin. I have found that it does not matter when you do this, before or after bathing, but I do like to put a luscious ecofriendly moisturizer on after doing this. If you are looking for a good shave gel, try using hair conditioner, it is inexpensive, you can buy it in bulk and it works fantabulously. Many thanks for an awesome website.

Andy Crump
Andy Crump

My boyfriend ordered a Safety Razor from http://www.classicshavingformen.com and loves it!! I may just give it a try on my legs! Thanks for the blog post! .-= Andy Crump´s last blog ..Wild Rice with Dried Cranberries and Walnuts =-.

Brock
Brock

Sadly, I received a box full of styrofoam peanuts along with my razor from Classic Shaving - even after requesting no plastic or styrofoam in the comment box.

Amanda
Amanda

How about an update... it's been a while since you originally posted this, and I'm thinking of converting. Still using it? Tips and tricks?Thanks! Amanda

SF_Meisje
SF_Meisje

I FINALLY convinced my friend to get rid of his unibrow last week and he mentioned that when he was growing up he used to watch his Mom and sister make the sugar wax to wax their legs...And his friend told me that as kids they used to eat it! :)

Boy in the Bands (Scott Wells)
Boy in the Bands (Scott Wells)

I found your blog search for something else, but I'm a cloth bag, fountain pen and safety razor user. (More for the cost savings and aesthetics than the plastic savings, though.) I blogged at length about converting to a safety razor last year, and might have some details that would help your readers. Some good comments too.Start here: "Revisiting my shaving posts"

Martin
Martin

Thanks for the mention :)I am one of those guys who sometimes forgets to shave for a week or more. The old fashioned safety razor is actually better for an 'almost a beard' face. Plastic multi-blades get irrevocably clogged and I used to go through two or more to finish one shave. With a safety razor, you carefully take the blade out, rinse and you're good to go again.

Beth in the Fake Plastic Fish Tank
Beth in the Fake Plastic Fish Tank

Hi Heather. Does sugaring hurt as much as waxing? And can you use it for underarms?It seems like a better solution than a razor for anyone who doesn't mind a little pain. But I'm kind of a wimp when it comes to waxing. Please let me know about the pain factor.

heather t
heather t

Here's another option - sugaring. Works like waxing, but all-natural ingredients. I just found this recipe at PioneerThinking.com in the Mind and Body section.I had to edit the detailed instructions because Blogger wouldn't take that long of a comment. bleh.***1 cup sugarJuice from half a lemon1/4 cup honeyA drizzle of Molasses if you have anyCornstarch (to powder with)A spreader of some sortCotton fabric stripsMix lemon, sugar, and honey in a bowl. Microwave on high for about 2-3 minutes, until it bubbles into a smooth consistency. Or simmer over low heat on the stove. Let cool until warm to the touch. If it cools too much, you can reheat in the microwave for 10-20 seconds.Make sure your skin is clean and dry. Dust area with cornstarch. Spread a thin layer on your leg. Cover with a strip of fabric, and rubbing the strip the opposite way of hair growth, about 3 times.Grab the fabric end and pull it off very quickly against the direction of the hair growth. It will hurt, but after awhile it’s a lot less painful. ***heather again:I haven't tried this recipe myself, but I have used other, commercial, "sugar" waxing products and they do work pretty well. I'm afraid I'd hack up my legs something fierce with a "real" razor!

Beth in the Fake Plastic Fish Tank
Beth in the Fake Plastic Fish Tank

Hi Debra. Are the blades from the hardware store double-edged? The only razor blades I found in a hardware store had one sharp edge and didn't have the hole in the middle for attaching to the razor. And the blades I bought for my razor are kind of thin. Are you sure that they are the same kind?Also, are they packaged in plastic? The double-edged blades I found at the drugstore came in a plastic blister pack.

Beth in the Fake Plastic Fish Tank
Beth in the Fake Plastic Fish Tank

Heather, I agree. That's why I married him. (Oh, I'm not supposed to reveal his identity.)He's also the smartest person I've ever met.As for conditioner or body lotion, I don't have a solution yet. I think that shave soap is different from regular soap. It's what people shaved with back in the day, with a brush and a cup.

Debra
Debra

You know you can find those same blades in any good hardware store.. and they are still called safety razor blades there. (they are for the razor scrapers..).

heather t
heather t

terrible person is funny.are you using hair conditioner or body lotion? either one will probably make a great shaving lotion. soap tends to dry my skin out.

terrible person
terrible person

Also, I think Beth prefers guys to shave their faces. And what about LDS missionaries? And bicyclists and swimmers who need to shave parts of their bodies? Not to mention backup dancers for Madonna? I mean, depilatories are even scarier environmentally, and wax is probably made from petroleum (and cf. "The 40-year Old Virgin".) And lasers use energy. I think human-powered razors are probably the best. As the Clash sang:"Should I shave or should I grow now?If I shave there will be stubbleIf I grow there will be doubleSo you've got to let me knowShould I shave or should I grow?"

Beth in the Fake Plastic Fish Tank
Beth in the Fake Plastic Fish Tank

Yeah, I should have said something about that. It IS an option, and a good one. I went that route back in the early 90's, but you know, I just really like having smooth legs. It feels good. Armpits... I'll admit that's more of a societal-pressure thing. It doesn't actually bother me when there's hair there. But when my legs are smooth, I just feel so much better.

Stretch Mark Mama
Stretch Mark Mama

Oooooorrrr....you can just pretend you're European and stop shaving altogether. That works for me. :) I feel a t-shirt slogan coming...Save the world; shave no more!

Martijn
Martijn

Hey now, busting a myth here... Most Europeans actually do shave. It depends on the culture, and of course personal preference. Europe is more geographically diverse than the USA, hence more variation.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] you are on a no-plastic-whatsoever mission, then you can look for other options. I read about this one on Fake Plastic Fish and am contemplating about going this route in the [...]

  2. wish list | Not An Activist says:

    [...] a plastic-free razor like this one … maybe. I am somewhat prone to careless injuries and not sure this is really a good idea for me. var a2a_config = a2a_config || {}; a2a_config.linkname="wish list"; a2a_config.linkurl="http://notanactivist.com/?p=531&quot;; *name [...]

  3. [...] perspective on plastic-free shaving with a metal safety razor, see Beth Terry’s posts at My Plastic-Free Life;  for a man’s perspective, see this article from The Art of Manliness. You can track down what [...]

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