Zero Waste Shaving - Why Safety Razors Aren't That Scary

Zero waste personal care has been the top of my consumer priorities recently. I've become aware of the amount of plastic in my daily hygiene routine and it concerned me so much that I have decided to make changes. As a student, I've been shamelessly using an old blunt razor to shave this past term (simply because I don't want to buy a new pack of plastic razors, when I could be spending that money on food.) Also, I'd been informed of plastic razors difficulty in being recycled, so I didn't want to buy them knowing they will just be sent to landfill.

After doing some research into zero waste shaving options, I ordered a safety razor online for only £15 and began my new chapter in plastic-free shaving (you can also buy them in local zero waste shops). A while ago I watched a video by one of my favourite low-impact lifestyle YouTubers Sedona Christina about using a safety razor everywhere and I was inspired to make the switch myself.

I guess some myths surrounding safety razors is that despite their name, they aren't as safe. I'm guessing this arose from controversy in women using a men's razor (I know, what a rule break.) But I can confirm that from using the safety razor to shave my legs I do not feel more at risk than I did with plastic razors before.

So how do you assemble a safety razor?
The main difference between plastic razors and safety razors is that you have to put in the razor blades yourself (maybe this is why people think they aren't as safe as it suggests). Though with some careful handling and tips on which parts of the blade are safe to hold, the process is much easier than you would think.

Razor blades come in small paper packets like an envelope. The trick is to hold the blade on each short end. The longer ends are sharp so be careful to not touch them. With butterfly style safety razors, you simply twist the bottom of the handle to open up the blade holder. There is a metal divider in the middle which fits the hole in the razor blade. Next you simply place the blade onto the holder and while keeping the razor upright, re twist the bottom of the handle to secure the holder. And... voila, you have just successfully constructed your razor.

One thing to note is that safety razors do not come with blade covers, so I suggest keeping the razor in a box (I used the one it was packaged in) to avoid any accidental cuts.

How do you shave your legs with a safety razor?
For your first time shaving your legs with a safety razor, I suggest you do so in the bath (or sitting down in the shower) and taking your time to get used to the alternate style. As always with shaving, exfoliate first to get rid of any dead skin and reduce chances of ingrown hairs. Make sure you use lots of shaving foam (I use bath foam / shower gel and lather it on my legs) to prevent any friction.
When shaving, you should hold the razor at a 30-45 degree angle in order for the blade to touch the skin. Unlike plastic razors, safety razors do not have movable heads, so you have to create the angles yourself. You do not need to apply as much pressure as you'd think with a metal razor, as it is heavier and there are less guards protecting the blade. Start gentle and work your way up to a comfortable amount of pressure to avoid cuts. 

As safety razors only have 1 blade, this means you will have to go back on your movements in case the first stroke missed any hairs. Depending on the thickness of your hair, you may ave to go over the same area a few times (shown in picture below), rather than just doing one long movement for one area. I have seen mixed opinions on whether to shave against hair growth or not. Personally I go against hair growth as I feel it gives me the closest shave (I have dark hair so this is the aim), but if you have issues with ingrown hairs, I would advise you to shave down the leg rather than up. As with plastic razors, make sure you don't move the razor sideways as this will cut the skin, maintain 1 directional movement. For me I've only slightly cut my ankles a few times, but that was typical of me when using plastic razors (I blame it on the fact I am so short sighted I cannot see that far down my leg), and ankles are less flat to shave.

How do I shave my armpits with a safety razor?
Before attempting to shave armpits (a much more difficult to reach and curvier area), master shaving your legs with the safety razor first. Once you are comfortable using the new type of razor, then you can level up. Be really gentle area the armpits as its not a flat surface, so you are more likely to be at risk of nips and cuts. Try to hold the armpit area flat, pulling the skin taut and shave as you would on your legs, just smaller gentler movements. Make sure you change the direction you shave for each small area as armpit hair grows in many directions rather than one unanimous direction like your legs.

The only area I am not confident enough to shave with a safety razor at the moment is downstairs, but after I've used this razor comfortably for a while I should grasp the courage to do so. I think it will just require a lot more concentration and patience. Let me know in the comments if you have mastered this yet!!

Post-shave advice:
MOISTURISE YO SELF! I've been using up the endless amounts of body butters I seem to have accumulated over the years. I think something people forget with zero waste is that you should use what you have already before buying alternatives. So once you have used every drop of moisturiser in your possession, I suggest you buy a jar of coconut oil from the supermarket and use that as moisturiser (an eco alternative to body butter).

Keep the razor in a dry location, so it is less likely to rust. You may also want to disassemble the razor to wipe clean the blade of any hairs or dead skin collected from your shave. This actually makes safety razors more hygienic, as you can really clean the blade between shaves. 

Safety razors will save you money!
Yes there is the initial cost of buying the razor frame (but only £15, which is equivalent to what you will have paid for 3 packs of disposable razors), but if you look after it, it should last you a lifetime! You can buy packs of 5 new razor blades for £2 (or I just found a 10 pack for £2) as opposed to a pack of 5 disposable razors for £5! Not only will you save money but you will reduce the amount of disposable plastic you send to landfill.

How to responsibly recycle the used blades:
Obviously the blades are just made of stainless steel so can be recycled. However I wouldn't just put them in the bag with your recyclables (don't want the bin collection people to cut themselves???), so instead you can collect your used blades in a jar and take them to a recycling centre, emptying your jar and disposing of them in the scrap metal skip. Alternatively, I've found a steel razor blade tin, which once full of blades can be safely put into normal recycling (no cuts for the recycle bin collector).

Let me know if you have any questions about using a safety razor, I hope you feel less intimidated by the shiny metal razor and have been inspired to make the switch!! I will be making lots more content like this, as since moving out to uni I've become more aware of my personal plastic waste. I'm still learning though, I'm making small changes one at a time 😊.

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