How to Use a Safety Razor: A Guide
A safety razor can be a little intimidating, but with a few helpful tips, they're an easy swap to make!
Zero waste is all about simplifying your life by reducing your waste, right? This is one of those switches that will take one more thing off your list of errands and save you money right off the bat.
There’s certainly a learning curve to using one of these, but I promise you they will change your life. Here’s a few of my favorite reasons to switch, followed by the answers to all your questions about safety razors.
When did razors become "disposable" anyway? For almost ten years, I bought razors, razor heads, and shaving cream on the regular, and I really don't want to know how much I spent. A safety razor is a one time purchase that will pay itself off in a year. The replacement blades are so cheap and so easy to find in drugstores, I honestly don't know why no one told me about this sooner.
Nevermind the pink tax where women's razors cost twice as much, on average, as men's - for no reason. I was beyond ready to stop buying into that reality.
When I first got into zero waste, I was surprised how much trash we were making - for instance, we had to take out our bathroom trash can every few days. So that's where I started - bath products. Whenever I would run out of something, I would replace it with a greener alternative.
It took me awhile to go through the razor heads I had on hand, but when I popped in my last one, I started looking for an alternative. I like the feel of smooth skin too much to just quit shaving. Waxing sounded expensive (although Marimar later taught me how to make my own - hollaaaa!) That's when I discovered safety razors. They're what my Dad used as a young teen, and what his Dad used his whole life, but I had never heard of them. So much of reducing waste is learning from older generations. I think it's really cool how all you have to replace is the thin metal blade, and even those can be recycled (see our product page for more tips).
Reason #3: The look
To me, a metal razor is so much more attractive. It's minimalist, simple, and sleek. It's not gendered, and it's a little old fashioned. My husband is a sucker for antique household items - he uses a straight razor, and his leather dopp kit and shaving brush complete the look.
Now, getting to the essentials! Safety razor FAQ's.
How do I use a safety razor without cutting myself?
Almost everyone I've talked to has a story about nicking themselves on the first use. It's not totally intuitive to switch to a safety razor from a disposable, but if you know a few key tips, you'll be just fine. But do read this section before you try this at home!
My first time was with Jarod's straight razor and on my bikini line (don't ask me why) and it did not go "well."
My first tip is to go slow. Don't rush, and use short strokes. Pretend like you're shaving for the very first time all over again.
My second piece of advice is don't press down. It's not like a plastic razor where you apply pressure and glide to get it to work. This is a more exposed blade and what you want to do is let the weight of the razor guide you. Hold it lightly and pull it gently across your skin without using any pressure.
Lastly, the first shave on a new blade is the sharpest. Whenever you pop a new one in, be a little extra careful, especially around knees and ankles.
If it helps, you can also wait until the end of your shower - even a 2 minute rinse will ensure your skin and hair are a little more soft and saturated meaning a smoother go at things.
Also - Whatever you do, don't shave dry! Make sure you use a super nourishing or gel based shaving gel bar. Which brings us to our next point…
What should I shave with?
You want a creamy soap or a shaving gel to ensure a smooth, close shave with less chance of cutting yourself. Our shaving bar is made of the same stuff they put in the little gel bars on disposable razor heads. It makes the razor glide so smoothly, and it smells like roses. What's not to love?
You can also use a soap that comes in bulk, like Castile Soap (find it at Ballard Market, PCC or Central Co-op in Seattle) or even hair conditioner to be extra thrifty - and silky!
How do you replace the blades?
Our razor is a three piece, so to take it apart, you hold the short ends of the top (where the razor isn't out - be careful, the long side is sharp!) and twist the handle. The blade goes in the middle between the curved top and the base (the one with three holes in it).
Here's a video in case it helps!
How long do the blades last?
Another commonly asked question is how long each blade will last. Each of our safety razors comes with a pack of 10 replacement blades and it depends how you care for your razor, but a blade can last anywhere from 10 shaves to several months. I shave my legs, underarms and bikini a few times a week and find the razors last me about 3 months.
Bea Johnson said her sons discovered that if you remove the blade after every use and let it dry, each blade lasts almost 6 months! We've also heard you can sharpen them on denim but we've never tried.
But can you travel with it?
I take mine with me all the time. I like to travel light, so I only ever bring a carry-on, and the key to bringing your razor on the airplane is to take it apart. I will disassemble the razor into its three pieces and toss it in my toiletry bag with the rest of my essentials. I store the blade in a magnetic or tin container or tuck it into the paper wraps they come with. I have been stopped by security only one time, and it was because I forgot to remove the blade.
I’ve had quite a few conversations with TSA agents and the deal is, you’re allowed to take the blade with you, but it can’t be installed in the razor. It's safer this way anyway because you won't cut yourself trying to go through your toiletry bag.
So far, I've taken mine to Hawaii, Costa Rica and Turks & Caicos without having it confiscated at TSA or customs. I have heard of it happening to others, although rarely. The good news is, they'll only take the blade and you can find those at drug stores around the world. I've even seen them on the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica which is made up of pretty remote surf towns. (Read: we drove through a river to get there.)
How do I clean a rusty razor?
Some preventative care should keep your safety razor from rusting, but it's happened to the best of us. The best thing you can do to avoid this is to take your razor apart and let it dry between uses. If you do find some rust, soak it in a jar filled with vinegar and baking soda and scrub off the rust with a toothbrush. If you find your blade has rusted, definitely go ahead and recycle that for safety reasons.
How do I recycle the blades?
Fun fact, people used to cut small holes in their drywall in the bathroom to drop old razor blades into. If you are ever in an old house, you might see this strange habit from times past!
In places that accept metal recycling, you can technically store them in a tin can with a slit cut in the top and recycle them that way, but I worry about recycling centers that are sorted manually and someone getting cut.
The best thing I know to do is to keep the paper envelope they come in, store up 10 or more at a time (the envelope will fit up to 30 or 40), stick that in a bigger envelope, and mail it to Albatross shaving who recycles them and makes new ones. They accept any brand but you have to use a double envelope! Their address is as follows:
Albatross Designs, PO Box 2254, Berkeley, CA 94702
So, that’s the low down on how to use a stainless steel safety razor! If you’ve got any questions we didn’t hit, let us know in the comments below!