Use a Straight Razor to Manscape Without Plastic

Ever considered trying a straight razor? Chris Reeves did and lived to send me an email about the experience. Chris is the visitor programs manager for the Seymour Marine Discovery Center in Santa Cruz, California.  In his free time he gives talks about plastic pollution in the environment and will be holding a training for other folks to do the same.  Chris says he’s also “a Gemini who likes long walks on the beach picking up trash and talking to kids about weird dead stuff.” He’s funny.  Here’s the email he sent me.


Hi Beth,

I hope this is helpful for some of your male readers.

Last week I was getting down to my last disposable razor cartridge, I had a few bucks I could spend, and I decided to stop stewing about cutting out this one futile use of plastic from my life. It seems ridiculous to be using a material that will last in the environment forever simply to remove stuff from my face that is just going to grow back in a week. I’m lucky in that I don’t have to shave everyday, however my skin isn’t tough enough to survive it more than once every four days or so. I’m not the most masculine guy, but I do have a penchant for calculated risks like riding motorcycles and SCUBA diving, so I went with the most attractive choice: a straight razor.

I have only used it two times so far. The first time resulted in a shave that had the distinct appearance of having lost a death-match with a weed-whacker. In between shaves, I finally found the most useful tool for the job. It turns out that it isn’t a razor, or strop, or shave cream. It is a thorough treatise on shaving with a straight razor for beginners, which can be downloaded for free here: The Art of The Straight Razor Shave, A Basic Guide.  Written by the very generous and informative Christopher Moss, the Guide provides complete guidance that will make the difference between a smooth comfortable shave, and something like a naked motorcycle crash.

Men have been shaving this way for a very long time, and it seems ridiculous to continue to spend money on lesser tools, to shave faster, at the expense of the environment. Realistically, a guy can expect to invest about $200 on a decent razor, strop, hone, and brush to get started. It seems like a lot, but considering the continual high expense of replaceable cartridges, it pays for itself fairly quickly. The best part is that you will only ever need one of these razors.

There are scores of blogs, videos, and online communities out there discussing straight razor shaving. My best suggestion for your male readers who are interested in this, is to simply do their research first. Understanding the basics ahead of time will help prevent them from being discouraged. If they really want a good example, they can always go get a professional shave at a barber to see the best way to do it. It is not as scary as everyone seems to think.

There is the added benefit of feeling truly independent here while providing others with the impression, however misguided, that you are kind of bad-ass. A friend of mine replied to my Facebook post about my first shaving attempt with this comment:

I like that the “un-manliest” man I know is using the “manliest” tool in the man arsenal.

After the first attempt, my wife thought I should tell people that I was scratched up by a kitten. I told her that I was perfectly comfortable explaining to folks that I got beat up trying use less plastic.

I continually ask myself about the value of tradeoffs when it comes to cutting back on plastic use. Would I pay a dollar or two extra for meat-counter meat that comes in paper if it meant helping the ocean? Yes. Would I be willing to spend a few minutes to wash and pack a set of silverware so that I am not left with plasticware as my only option? Yes. Would I invest $200 one time to save a little piece of the world and feel like a personal grooming ninja? Definitely.


Have you used a straight razor or would you be willing to try one? And my real question: Are there any females out there who use a straight razor to shave their legs? I’m just curious. I use a metal safety razor, and aside from not shaving at all, straight razor would be the truly zero waste alternative.

23 comments
revmyo
revmyo

I started using a straight razor some years ago, to get out of the trap of buying replacement blades. However, those contemplating switching to a "str8" should be warned that learning how to sharpen one properly is non-trivial and time-consuming. It's actually much trickier than learning how to shave with one. YMMD, of course...

Beach babe
Beach babe

COOL MAN!! I Love that! And Why Not? Why did it eva change? I remember my dad sharpening his razor on the large leather strap. Whole Living.

organicprogressive
organicprogressive

I already got off throwaway plastic cartridge blades. I use reel mower and can sharpen in about 5 min. and saves a TON of money over polluting gas mower so I figured why should shaving be any different?  I use shaving soap in some local made ceramic dish. I shave every day and the soap has lasted six mos.

Katie
Katie

After reading some previous blog posts I purchased a metal safety razor but cut myself quite a bit. I got a little better after a few tries on my legs, but the other female shaving areas didn't work well at all. If anyone has any general advice that would be great b/c I'd love to go back to that razor, as I've switched back to the Venus for the time being. Thanks!

judithcruzan
judithcruzan

My grandfather shaved with a straight razor and my dad inherited all his razors and now my brother has inherited them from Dad. I say 'all' because there were about 15 of them.  All with various degrees of wear and tear on the blades, many with hand made handles because the original handles had long been damaged and thrown out.  I don't know why he had so many razors, especially after you mentioned that you would only need one in a life time.  But then again he did live in the day and time when they would process their own pork and would have to 'shave' the hog as part of that process.  I doubt that I would shave my legs with a straight razor unless absolutely necessary, I 'wax' instead of shaving by using a home-made concoction of cooked down lemon juice and sugar, as is used in Brazil.

AfricaInside
AfricaInside

I am not sure why I had to sign up with livefyre. I was only trying to post my comment below. 

AfricaInside
AfricaInside

HI Beth,

I was at a breakfast this morning about getting rid of plastics and one of the presenters was Be Green Packaging who have developed non plastic packaging for razors for Proctor and Gamble (their request). How GREAT is that. We need the big players to come on board in order to see senseless uses of plastic disappear. Lori, AfricaInside.org 

Mia
Mia

Been lurking here a bit--love the blog! It's making me much more conscious of my everyday choices, and much more aware that plastic is EVERYWHERE. I started using an epilator to remove leg hair five years ago, and I've never looked back. It consists of rotating metal tweezers housed in--yes--a plastic casing, but it's a reusable one-time purchase. Using it does require electricity, but no wasted water. Waxing using a natural homemade sugar-based wax (there are many recipes online) and reusable cotton muslin strips is also an option, but one must wait for a decent amount of hair regrowth before waxing again (and washing off the wax residue and washing the muslin strips uses water). With the epilator, you can use it for very short regrowth. Epilators are easy to find online and generally cost between $50 and $100, but lots of neighborhood mom-and-pop pharmacies and even hardware stores either carry them or can order them.

Alexa
Alexa

I personally use a safety razor too, but on the discussion pages for the shaving guide that Chris mentioned, many women talk about using straight razors to shave. 

Ferris Duvall
Ferris Duvall

I cut myself with the double sided safety razor so I don't think I could ever do the straight edge.

Ferris Duvall
Ferris Duvall

I cut myself with the double sided safety razor so I don't think I could ever do the straight edge.

Justin Camp
Justin Camp

I switched to the brush and double-edge safety razor a year ago add the last step in ending plastic waste in the bathroom. With some practice its an amazing shave.

Sonja Naylor Andrews
Sonja Naylor Andrews

Back in the dark ages of my youth (70's), the only razors available to women were straight edge razors. I was soooo glad when they were replaced by the plastic razors because I could finally shave without cutting my legs to ribbons.

My Plastic-free Life
My Plastic-free Life

Wait, Sonja, where was that? I used my dad's metal safety razor in the 70's. The only straight razor I ever saw was in old Western movies.

Alyssa J Pasquale
Alyssa J Pasquale

I cut myself enough with knives, I'll stick to my metal safety razor!

AmandaChambless
AmandaChambless

My main concern in using a straight razor would be getting past airport security when taking a weekend trip with only a carry on. I was already wondering how smoothly that might go with a metal safety razor. Any experience?

Jay Sinha
Jay Sinha

We started carrying a straight razor with a bamboo handle in our store last year, but I haven't yet given one a go.  I'm still working on refining my technique with the safety razor, and I still end up with nicks almost every time.  But it's getting better - seems to be all in the angle, and of course making sure the skin is always well lubricated.  Beth, regarding the female perspective, like you, Chantal is using a safety razor for her legs and loving it.  Maybe we'll jump up to the straight razor together. Thanks so much Chris for your words of courageous wisdom. I will definitely check out the guide you mention. Happy shaving!

BethTerry
BethTerry moderator

Katie, not to get too personal, but there are several different female "areas" to shave.  Were you unable to shave under your arms without cutting yourself?  Because I use my metal razor for that purpose all the time.  As for the nether regions, um... to the extent that I do it, I haven't had a problem.  And that's all I care to say.  :-)

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BethTerry
BethTerry moderator

 @AmandaChambless I actually still have a plastic Venus razor that I ONLY use when flying and not checking baggage.  The cartridges don't wear out because I use them so infrequently.  You could not bring a safety razor in your carry on luggage.  Well, you could bring the razor but not the blades.  :-)