Do you remember the way our grandparents shaved ? Yes, before marketing convinced us that aerosol shaving cream cans and multi-blade disposable cartridges were cool and the best thing to happen to the world of shaving. In many ways, the zero-waste movement is an attempt to lead lives the ways our forefathers did - reusing stuff, mending stuff and valuing our possessions rather than just throwing it away. So it isn’t surprising that the world of shaving is also going “old school”. There are tons of resources for wet shaving for men's facial hair but very few for women. So here's a guide for women looking to make the transition to zero-waste shaving with a Double Edged (DE) safety razor.
What is wet shaving ?
As the name implies, wet shaving is shaving your skin when wet (v/s dry shaving with an electric razor). Water softens the hair, lubricates the pores and preps your face for a smooth shave.
What are the benefits of wet shaving with a safety razor ?
- Environment: Disposable razors are packaged in lot of plastic,so are the replacement disposable cartridges. You use them a few times and then have to throw the cartridge away - it cannot be recycled since it is a mix of plastic and metal. In fact, the EPA estimated that 2 billion razors are thrown away each year. Yikes ! That spending a lot of money just to throw away something after a few uses. With a Safety razor, the only thing disposable is the small blade.
- Cost: Which brings me to the 2nd benefit - cost ! Yes, a good DE razor and blades are an initial investment ($25-$50) depending on your choice. For disposable razors, I remember paying around $20 for a set of 4 at the drugstore. I bought my Merkur Long handled razor for about $40 and a 100-pack of blades for about $10. (And I anticipate using the DE razor for a good 6-7 years at least based on the same one that my husband has been using for over 6 years). So in less than 6 months, the DE razor had more than paid for itself, plus I had create no plastic waste at the end of it. Win-win ! I now laugh at the Dollar Shave Club ads that I see on social media which tout them to be more economical.
- Lesser irritation and razor burn: With a DE razor, with each pass of the razor only one blade is coming in contact with the skin v/s 3 or 5 in disposable cartridges. This surely means more passes needed to get smooth skin, but it also means lesser razor burn. Of course I cannot guarantee that for everyone, since all of us have different skin types and sensitivities and are using different razor, blades, creams and soaps.
What tools do I need?
- DE Safety Razor: A double edged safety razor is a stainless steel tool made of two or three parts - the razor head holds together a stainless steel blade and is screwed on to a handle. Both sides of the blade are exposed and available for shaving - hence the term ‘double edged’. I love the Merkur one I am using because it has a longer handle which makes holding and shaving much much easier !
- Shaving Soap or cream: Although everyone may have their own preferences, I prefer using a soap v/s a cream:
- Firstly because of the lesser packaging with soaps. The shaving soap in our store is packaged in seed-paper (plus 100% handmade, vegan and palm-oil free) that you can plant to grow flowers ! Hard to find a cream that can do that.
- Secondly, shaving cream is an expensive item and most are filled with toxic chemicals (phthalates, synthetic fragrances, parabens, palm-oil, sodium lauryl sulfate, to name a few), packaged in plastic, and most often cannot be recycled.
- And finally it is important to me personally that any soaps and cosmetics I buy, do NOT contain any palm oil. So it was an arduous search to find a company that fulfils the vegan, no-palm-oil, no plastic packaging, no harmful chemicals criteria - the shave soap we have in our store meets all of these !
- Shaving brush (optional): Lots of people find they need a brush, I didn't feel the need to invest in one. I work up a great lather with the shave soap and water using my hands creating enough glide for the razor to work smoothly.
- Blade bank (optional): Depending on how coarse the hair is, I find one blade lasts 6 odd shaves for me. Once it is done, I store used blades in a blade bank which has a removable bottom and when the bank is full, I drop it off at a metal scrap collector near me. I like having peace of mind knowing that the sharp blades cannot be accessed by my dog if he's feeling naughty some days.
Is it safe ?
Yes! I admit, it did scare me a lot at first and there is a learning curve. But that’s similar to learning something new. Be extra careful at first and try not to be in a desperate rush to finish the first few times you try it. Also, if you follow the tips I outline later, it should get pretty easy pretty quickly.
Does it take more time ?
In the beginning, definitely yes. As you get used to the razor, how it feels against your skin and you figure out what works best for you.
How often do I need to change the blade?
It depends on how often you shave and how coarse your hair is - typically I find my blade needs to be changed every 6 shaves.
Can I shave all parts of my body?
Definitely ! Not just legs, you can shave difficult areas like armpits, ankles, bikini area and anywhere else. The trick is to hold the skin taut which makes it easier.
How do I take care of my Safety razor ?
Some tips to make sure your razor doesn’t rust and lasts your for years and years: Don’t store it in the shower or bathtub where it is constantly moist - more chances of catching rust. Clean off all the soap and dry it with a towel. Keep it dry between uses.
How do I properly dispose off the used blades ?
Whatever you do, do NOT throw it in the trash. It is considered hazardous waste. Unless your town recycling advertises that they accept blades, do not throw it with your recycling either. Some towns have special collections days few times a year for hazardous waste or special drop off points. If not, store used blades safely in a blade bank or a secure prescription container to keep it away from curious kids and pets. Find local scrap metal collectors near you and drop it off to them when the blade bank is full. If you’re unable to find any scrap metal collectors near you, Albatross Shaving collects all used blades (even if you didn’t buy from them) - you can find instructions here for mailing it to them.
Tips and Gotchas for DE Safety Razor Shaving:
- Whatever you do, don’t shave dry or without soap/cream lather - it’s almost a sure shot recipe for nicks.
- When you begin, go slow, like really really slow. It may be a good idea to try it on a weekend or something when you aren’t rushing to head somewhere.
- Use small strokes and shave in sections. So instead of using a long stroke over your entire leg (I'm looking at you TV commercials), concentrate on small areas.
- If possible start with the legs the very first time - you may find that the easiest before moving on to tougher areas like the bikini area.
- Make sure to lather well using a shave soap filled with all the good oils like coconut and shea butter. It will protect and moisturize your skin for a close and smooth shave.
- The biggest lesson probably for me was to let the weight of the razor to the work. Unlike a cartridge razor, don’t put downward pressure on the razor, but instead rely on the weight of the razor. Pull across your skin without pushing down. Applying pressure increases your odds of nicks and cuts
- Try to hold the razor at about 30 degrees - that is the angle when the blade can get as close to the skin as possible, and in which no pressure has to be applied.
- Traditionally, you want to do the first pass with the grain (the direction in which your hair grows). Going against the grain in areas where the skin is thin and sensitive can cause irritation and razor burn. Then depending on smooth a shave you got on the first pass and how sensitive your skin is, you can choose to go against the grain on the 2nd pass. I find i can easily go against the grain on my less since the skin there is thicker.
- If you’re going to be making a 2nd pass, make sure to quickly re-apply the soap on the area before running your razor over it again. Don’t shave without soap.
- Wait till the end of the shower to shave - that way you hair has softened already, making it easier to shave.
- Try not to use coconut oil directly instead of shave soap or cream - although it may get the job done in providing a smooth shave, I find that it easily clogs my razor making it harder to rinse off the hair and soap between strokes. Also, coconut oil is notorious for clogging your drains since it will solidify once it cools down.
So in summary, don’t let the fear of the razor hold you back from making the switch to safety razor shaving - I guarantee you, once you start you will not look back.
Do you have any other questions about wet shaving for women? Let me know in the comments below.