Test Month #1: No More Plastic Razors

This post was the very first that I wrote for this blog, even though it was not the first that was posted online. Before officially starting this project publicly, I did a couple of test months to see how I liked this project. This post was written on Earth Day 2017, in Providence, Rhode Island.

According to every article I read on the subject, the EPA estimates that 2 billion plastic disposable razors are thrown away each year. I was not able to find the actual EPA citation for this statistic, but it would not surprise me if it were true. For the last eight years I have almost completely withheld from shaving my legs from October to February (thank you swim season for the best excuse), and even still I have gone through countless pink plastic razors. I switched to razors with replaceable heads a couple of years ago which is an improvement on the entirely disposable razor, but it is still quite expensive. I chose this challenge as my first test-run more for economic reasons than environmental ones. I didn’t want to pay another $20 for a few refills that wouldn’t last me very long.

After some research, I decided to switch to a double edge safety razor. The most environmentally-friendly option would probably be to not shave at all, but I still like having smooth legs (I’m not that much of a hippie, Mom). According to the internet, safety razors are inexpensive, easy to use and to maintain. I know that it’s possible to upcycle by purchasing a used safety razor on Craigslist or in other places since they last forever. Personally I felt gross buying a used razor even if I could sterilize it.

Earlier this month while I was in Manhattan I stopped by Pasteur Pharmacy in Murray Hill. It was amazing. I wish I had taken more photos but I was so overwhelmed by the sheer amount of products. It’s a really narrow store with only a few aisles that are completely filled floor to ceiling. I was really short on time while I was there, I definitely want to go back and peruse.

Pasteur is known for their wide selection of shaving supplies and they did not disappoint. In fact, I was so overwhelmed by the options I had to get help from the pharmacist who was extremely kind and knowledgable. He helped me pick a razor and gently suggested I not buy the sharpest blades in existence for my first go. I ultimately decided on the Merkur 23C Long Handle Safety Razor, Gillette blades, and some shaving soap for good measure. The razor cost $36, the blades cost $2 for 5, and the soap cost $5. Overall, the price was about double what I would pay to refill my Venus plastic razor for a few months. So a slightly higher fixed cost, but a much lower variable cost (I had to throw in a little bit of economics).

The whole thing was extremely easy to put together. I simply unscrewed the handle from the head, inserted the blade in between the two pieces of the head, and screwed the handle back on. My biggest fear in switching to a safety razor was that I would cut myself. For those of you who know me, I am not exactly skilled in the coordination department, and from what I had read the safety razor requires slightly more finesse than a disposable razor. I tend cut cut myself on a fairly regular basis with disposable razors so I was prepared for a challenge. It turned out to be much easier than I anticipated.

I cannot speak for facial hair, but in terms of shaving legs it worked really well. This article has great explanations for many of the questions I had about safety razors as well as some demo videos. I did a ton of research before I started and I found that there were basically three things to know before using a safety razor:

  1. Do not try to use the safety razor like a disposable razor
  2. Do not put pressure on the razor unless you want to cut yourself
  3. Hold the razor at about a 30 degree angle

I was pretty timid getting started, but it really was not as challenging as the internet made it seem and I didn’t cut myself once (which I would consider a success even for a disposable razor). I also found that it worked better if I put a little bit of pressure on the razor, but that may have more to do with the fact that I used a medium-sharp blade. All in all, the razor worked really well. I got a super smooth shave (after a couple of tries) with no irritation or cuts.

The shaving soap I was less impressed with. I think it’s intended for male shavers which is why I had a few problems with it. It comes in a little metal tin with a screw top that is extremely difficult to open in the shower. The soap itself is lumpy and hard and not at all scoop-able, so I added some warm water hoping to soften it. It didn’t soften but the water did turn into a gel-like black substance from the activated charcoal that I could sort of spread over the area I was shaving.

At first, I really didn’t like it. It very liquid and washed off right away. It also got black charcoal all over the shower, but I found that it rinsed away easily. Once I got used to the idea that it was more of a pre-shaving lubricant than a shaving cream or gel, I found that it worked pretty well. It definitely works better with longer hair so it’s not great on legs unless you haven’t shaved in a while. It was effective as a shaving soap so I will continue to use it, but once it runs out I will look for an alternative option.

Overall using the safety razor was a more positive and easier experience than I anticipated. I’m looking forward to not having to pay an exorbitant amount for refills and to stop throwing away plastic razors. My challenge now will be to maintain my razor without rusting.


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