Zero Waste Shaving
TW/CW: Sharp Edges and Blades
The misconception that only hippies with hairy legs, hemp clothing and B.O care about the environment is long dead. If the above description doesn't fit your aesthetic, and you're looking for a more sustainable way to shave you legs, face, underarms and any other areas, then keep reading, because I have a few tips and tricks you might find useful.
I think that the general misconception that you need to change everything about who you are is quite damaging for the sustainability community. Instead, we should be looking for ways to welcome everyone as they are and find what swaps and solutions work for each lifestyle. When it comes to shaving, there are lots of conveniences that we as a society have become accustomed to: disposable razors, cans of shaving foam and pink disposable heads, individually wrapped in little plastic containers. If your sustainable solution is quitting shaving cold turkey, more power to you! But, if you enjoy silky smooth legs, hope is not lost!
Before I jump into what products I recommend, I have a couple of statistics that you may find interesting.
The Environmental Cost
- It is recommended that you swap your razor blade every 5-10 shaves. If you shave daily, You could be throwing away as many as 52 razors or replacement heads (along with their packaging). If you even get a month out of a razor, that is still 12 a year.
- Razors are incredibly difficult to recycle, so they mostly go to landfill. for the plastic portion of your razor, you are talking 450-900 years for it to breakdown. As for the stainless steel blade, you're talking about a million or so years for it to decompose.
- The earliest disposable razors came about in 1963, by American entertainer and inventor Paul Winchell. Due to their convenience and no upfront investment (as with previous razors with replaceable blades) they were hugely popular.
The Financial Cost
You can buy a Gillette Venus Swivel Razor from boots on sale for €7.49 (was €14.99) Which has replaceable heads and comes with one head to get you started. The replacement hears are €15.99 for a pack of 3, so thats €5.33 each. Most girls start shaving once they hit puberty (between the ages of 10-14) and will continue to do so until they have hit menopause (approximately 51). If you replace your razor head once a month, you will spend almost €2,500 in your lifetime on shaving products, not including shaving foam.
So What Eco-Friendly Options are Available?
Look into a 'Razor-for-Life'. These can come in a variety of shapes, sizes and styles to suit your needs. I personally love my BamBaw metal safety razor which typically retails for about €20-30. It takes a single razor blade, which retail for anywhere from about €0.10 - €0.30. This means that in your first year of using this razor, you will spend about €21-€34, versus your first year with the above venus example at approx €66, so already in your first 12 months you have saved over €30. Bambaw are also plastic free, zero waste and carbon neutral. They also source their materials responsibly.
Now I know what you're probably thinking: "But Robyn! you said it only takes a single blade, whereas my disposable razor has 5 blades in it, so it can't be as good!!" But more blades does not equal a better shave, and here’s why: In order to get a clean and close shave, the blade needs to cut the hair below the surface of the skin. Even a single blade can easily achieve this. When they added a second blade to the razor, they didn’t just put it there like usual. The extra blade is a bit blunt and it hooks the hair follicle, pulling it up just a little bit so that the second one can cut it. The more blades are added, they simply repeat the actions of the primary and secondary blade. However, the more blades are added, the higher the chances of razor burn, cuts, irritation or ingrown hair. Most dermatologists recommend using just a single or a double bladed razor.
If a single blade safety razor still isn't cutting it (pun intended) for you, there are more options out there that are zero-waste, plastic free and take multiple blades, like the leaf razor. These babies are pricey though, starting at $84USD for their multi blade razor with pivoting head. If you're scared of trying a safety razor, this is much closer to disposable razors in style though
Shaving Foam, Gel and Cream.
Shaving foam and gel typically come in aerosol containers. Once completely emptied, these can be recycled, but many shaving foams and gels also contain chemicals like glycols, PEGs and, isopentane. These ingredients can have a damaging effect when they make their way into the water ecosystem. Many are insoluble in water, impacting the growth of animals and plants.
There are lots of other options out there that will keep your shaving routine easy, but are less damaging to our environment. There are plenty of shaving oils on the market that come in glass bottles, and some even have refillable options in you local bulk grocery store. There are also shaving creams and soaps. These typically come in a solid "puck" which you lather up in a dish with a shaving brush (traditionally made with badger hair, but now there are lots of vegan options too!). These come in minimal packaging, usually wrapped in paper or in a recyclable tin.
Tips for using a Safety Razor of the first time
- Use a foam or oil! I personally use a shaving soap with a vegan brush. I find it gives just enough lather that the razor glides of the skin, but not too much, so i can still see what I'm doing (a problem I previously had with aerosol shaving foams)
- hold the razor at a 30 degree angle.
- Use short, steady strokes. Treat your safety razor like you are 12 and shaving for the first time. Be careful. It's a different feeling to a disposable razor, so treat it as a new experience.
- Don't press into the skin. Allow the razor to do its thing and just glide across the skin.
- Sit down. This will help you get the angle right and really see what you're doing. Sit on the floor or the toilet seat with a small bowl of water, in the bath or on the shower floor. Whatever works for you, but 10/10 I recommend sitting while using your safety razor.
- Exfoliate before. I like to use a coffee scrub, but whatever works for you. By buffing away dead skin cells, you're helping the razor to glide over the skin.
- Moisturise after. This wont actually help with the shaving itself, but following up with a body oil or moisturiser will make your legs feel *chef's kiss*
Disposing of your Blades.
As safety razor blades are metal, they can go into your recycling bin, where they will be picked up by a magnet at the recycling facility and turned into something new*. You can also pop them into a little tin for storage like this one and bring them to the nearest recycling facility.
Other Ways to Remove Hair that are Zero/Low Waste
Still not sure the safety razor is the right choice for you? There are still more options out there that might be worth looking into.
- Electric razor/trimmers
- Sugar Waxing
- Laser Hair Removal
If you have any questions, comments or suggestions about zero-waste shaving, please share!