This wonderful guide to sustainable shaving was written for Unsustainable Magazine by Jamie Skinner of Jungle Culture, a brand devoted to ethical product sourcing and sustainable supply chains.
Over the course of the last century, grooming habits have shifted from high-quality barbershop style products to single-use, throwaway items, and whilst we’d all like to push the blame squarely at the feet of Gillette and the other Goliaths of the shaving world, we’re also guilty of adopting new, wasteful habits and ditching the sustainable habits of the past!
Although facts and figures are unclear on the subject, a study in 1990, promoted by USA today estimated that over 2 billion single-use razors and blades were thrown away annually in the US alone. Whilst reliable data in 2021 is tough to come by, we can safely assume that a huge amount of waste is being created by plastic razor handles and non-recyclable razor blade cartridges.
Walk down any shaving aisle in the supermarket and you’ll be confronted with a familiar sight… Gillette, Wilkinson and other large cosmetics brands dominate shelf space with wasteful, high-margin plastic products. So how do we as consumers make a change? Where do we start? What is sustainable shaving? And most importantly, how do we become more sustainable?
What is sustainable shaving?
Sustainable shaving could effectively be rebranded as “traditional shaving”. Until very recently, if you wanted to shave, you’d need to use either a straight razor (cut throat), like the ones you see at most barber shops, or a safety razor, which is an easier method of shaving that prevents cuts. If you needed shaving foam, you’d likely grab a brush and whip up a solid shaving bar to create a creamy, natural lather.
Safety razors and solid shaving bars were the primary method of grooming as far back as the 1900s and were even used by the US military in the first world war. In fact, Gillette actually invented the safety razor and popularised it, before switching to plastic razors in the 1970s.
This all means that until the 70s, most of the world was using safety razors and shaving soap bars to get rid of hair. Ask any elderly person about how they shaved before cartridge razors and they’ll confirm this for you!
How do we start shaving sustainably?
Once you have these two items, you have everything you need to shave waste-free (and guilt-free)!
Is sustainable shaving expensive?
Shaving sustainably comes with a few upfront costs, but over time using a safety razor is much more cost effective than using disposable razors.
In general, a safety razor will cost between £14-30 and a bar of shaving soap will cost approximately £8-10.
Sustainable shaving upfront costs: £30.00
This may seem like a step up from the latest Gillette razor, which at the time of writing this article costs £22.00 with 10 blades on Amazon + a can of shaving foam £1.98.
However, when you factor in that a safety razor will last you a lifetime and a shaving bar will last up to 2 years, you can start to see the cost savings!
Disposable shaving upfront costs: £24.00
Although the upfront costs of sustainable shaving are slightly higher, the ongoing costs associated with using disposable razors paint a wildly different picture!
16 Gillette refill blades costs a staggering £22.00
100 safety razor blades on Amazon which come in at a total cost of just £5.99
So, whilst you may need to spend a little bit more upfront to use a safety razor and shaving soap, in time the ongoing costs of using disposable razors are hugely more!
Not only that, if you purchase a safety razor, you’re buying something high-quality that lasts a lifetime and creates minimal waste!
Is sustainable shaving unisex?
In the past, advertising campaigns to promote safety razors have been targeted at men and until recently most safety razors were bulky, silver and overall manly looking products!
This has led to the misconception that shaving sustainably is only for men. This is not only completely untrue, but many companies produce safety razors for women that are designed to be more lightweight and easier to grip for female users!
If you’re thinking about making the switch, check out this useful video explainer, demonstrating how to use a safety razor!
How to use shaving soap
Now that we’ve talked about the issue, let’s run through how to use sustainable shaving products!
Using a shaving soap bar is easy. Just follow these simple steps and transitioning to a solid shaving soap bar will be as easy as 1, 2, 3!
Fill your wash basin with hot water and leave your safety razor and shaving soap bar submerged for 20-30 seconds.
Splash hot water on your face or the area that you’d like to shave. If the water is too hot, use a washcloth by submerging it and then pressing it for a minute against the shaving area.
If your shaving soap is the type that requires a brush, use your brush in a circular motion to create lather. If your shaving soap does not require a brush, then rub it in a circular motion directly onto your skin until it starts to lather up!
Repeat steps 2 & 3 if you need more lather, otherwise simply place your shaving soap somewhere cool and dry when not in use to maximise the longevity of the product.
How to use a safety razor
Using a safety razor is just as easy, but there is a little bit of a learning curve. Start slow and be careful and you’ll be shaving plastic-free in no time!
Remove your razor head and place a double edged safety razor blade in between the top part of the head and the bottom part. If you have a butterfly razor, just place the blade inside the top of the razor.
Important: Make sure that when you re screw the razor head, the ridges on the head are facing upwards. This is a common mistake!
Once your razor is properly equipped, leave it to soak in hot water for a few minutes until the razor blade is hot to the touch. In the meantime, splash your face with water and apply shaving soap using the instructions in the previous section.
Tilt your razor at a 45 degree angle and shave upwards or downwards (with the grain) depending on the way that your hair grows. Do not apply any force or pressure and instead let your razor do the work for you. The weighted handle should provide enough pressure to smoothly and effortlessly remove hair
From time-to-time you may need to remove hair from the head of your safety razor. To do so, simply rinse your razor under a tap or use a pin or similarly shaped object to push the hair out from underneath of your razor head.
Why not make the switch?
Sound’s easy? That’s because it is! So what is stopping you from starting your sustainable shaving journey today?
Sustainable shaving not only reduces waste and helps support small businesses, but it also saves you money and let’s face it, it just feels more luxurious! Most solid shaving bars and safety razors are also produced cruelty-free and as a quick reminder, here’s why you should choose cruelty-free cosmetics!
Start shaving guilt-free today and let us know how it goes in the comments below! Feeling ambitious? Here are some more ways to create a sustainable bathroom.