Zero Waste

Zero waste shaving: how to use a safety razor

Zero waste shaving swaps
Zero waste shaving - It’s one of those instagrammable swaps that most people who are new to zero waste living look at in awe and trepidation.  At least, I certainly did.

You know just how much money you’ve been spending on disposable razors, and they’re so heavily packaged in plastic, but you’re quite keen on your legs and don’t fancy cutting them off accidentally. Safety razors themselves are initially more expensive than a disposable one, so it’s fair to worry about investing that money if you’re concerned you're going to end up looking like you’ve been in a fight with an angry cat.

I was so nervous before starting zero waste shaving that I actually put off starting to use it after I bought it. So I get if you’re feeling worried about it, but I personally have found it’s not worse than a normal razor.
Here's everything I think you need to know before you just go ahead and give it a try.
Buying a razor and blades
My razor was a family heirloom but there are plenty of options out there if you want to buy one. Some people have also been lucky enough to find vintage razors in charity shops and vintage shops which shows you how well they are made and that they are made to last a lifetime.
I like the simplicity of the Mutiny razors which often come in a pack with spare blades, but if you want something even more aesthetically pleasing then look at these wooden handled razors from Acala.
I like the shark razor blade refill packs as they are just cardboard and no plastic. The blades last a variable amount of time based on how often you shave and how thick your hair is. I have seen offers for packs of 100 blades but I would recommend starting out with a smaller pack as if you're only going through a few blades a year, 100 is going to take you a long time to use up and you may not want them sitting in your cupboard for 30 years.
Bear in mind a safety razor cannot be taken as hand luggage on a plane so in case you need to fly, keep an old plastic razor in the cupboard for any hand luggage situations.
Zero waste bathroom - metal reusable safety razor for Zero waste shaving
Fitting the blade
This will vary depending on the type of razor you have, but often there is a handle and two head pieces. You need to unscrew the handle from the two head pieces, which sandwich the blade.
Unwrap the blade taking care to not touch the two long sides which are sharp. The top and bottom surfaces and end edges are not sharp so these are fine to touch. Pop the blade into the razor so that the holes and screws all line up, and screw back together. You're good to go!
I still haven't figured out what to do with the blades at the end of their life in my local area - so for now I am keeping them safely in a little jar until I have enough of them that I can work out how to recycle safely without risking injury or damage at the recycling plant.
Zero waste shaving with a safety razor
Firstly turn off the shower if it’s on! The first time you shave you’ll want to go nice and slowly, and you don’t want all that water going to waste - just use a mug of water when needed instead.
Firstly, so that the razor isn’t tugging on the hairs or your skin when shaving you will need some kind of shaving lather. I simply use soap as I can get it with minimal packaging, and lather it until it’s nice and bubbly, but you can also try a shaving cream.
To shave with a safety razor you want to have the blade at 30° to your skin. Look at the side of the blade - see where the razor blade sticks out of the holder? There’s not actually much blade on show as it is a safety razor. If you go too horizontal or too vertical then that blade won’t be able to cut the hairs as it won’t touch them.
Put the razor gently on your skin at roughly a 30° angle between the blade and your skin, but don’t apply any pressure. Just rest it on your skin. The angle and the lack of pressure are the two main differences from a plastic razor.
Now slowly shave upwards against the hairs, still applying no pressure. As you need to keep the blade at about 30°, I prefer to do lots of little shaving motions than one long one up my leg as it allows me to keep adjusting the angle and my pressure. As you get more confident you can start to go faster and do longer stretches but at first take it super slow. Between shaves rinse off the razor in a mug of water and keep going. There you have it, shaving with a safety razor.

It’s not too different from a normal razor and you soon get so used to it that it’s like you never used anything different. It is possible to shave all areas, if you wish, with a safety razor, some just may need a little more flexibility or creative positioning to ensure you're shaving at about 30º. Just remember, go slowly and no pressure!

Zero waste shaving - how to use a safety razor
Zero waste bathroom - metal reusable safety razor for zero waste shaving
Taking care of your razor
Taking care of your razor is essential as these are designed to last for life. Because metal has to be mined, they will need to be used many hundreds of times for them to be more carbon efficient than plastic, but that's easy to do in a lifetime. After use make sure you rinse the razor well to remove soap residue. Some people then disassemble their razors and dry each part but I haven’t had a problem with rusting so I only do this occasionally to make sure no hair or soap is building up inside. Store somewhere dry until it’s next use to avoid rusting.

So there you have it, a run down of zero waste shaving. How to buy, use and care for a safety razor. It can seem intimidating at first but these razors are not more dangerous than plastic razors, they just have a different technique to use them. A properly cared for safety razor will last you for life and can avoid so much waste and wasted money!

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