Thoughts on my new safety razor

safety razor

Waste-free shaving is possible with a safety razor

When my last two disposable cartridge heads bit the dust I took a leap and invested in a safety razor. I’d put off the decision for some time and stretched those last cartridges over nearly two years while I deliberated.

Safety razors looked awfully…sharp. I certainly didn’t want to invest in something I’d end up hating or that didn’t work, or worse, cut my legs to shreds. Reviews around the web seemed uniformly positive, but still I waffled.

In the end, with no other appealing hair removal Plan B, I finally went ahead and bought one. I went with the Merkur Solingen Long Handle Classic Double Edge Razor (23C). I chose the long handled version, which isn’t exactly that long.

safety razor dissassembled

It wasn’t completely waste-free purchase, as I ordered online and received a cardboard box with tape and the usual shipping paraphernalia (including a very small amount of soft plastic that came with a blade sampler pack). I was, however, pleasantly surprised by the use of water soluble packing peanuts, which can be composted. Single use is never going to be perfect, but I thought it better at least, and I recycled the small amount of soft plastic through Redcycle.

The nuts and bolts of the safety razor

The razor cost $55 (that’s AUD, and things in Australia are often dearer than in North America), but the blades themselves are cheap – roughly a buck apiece. Compare that to disposable cartridges that run $3 – $6 each! This means I’ll break even after somewhere between 10 – 20 blade refills.

The thing itself is beautiful to look at. Gleaming, retro and modern all at once, with an air of permanence. The razor comes apart into 3 pieces, minus the blade. You would only disassemble to change a blade or perhaps clean the razor.

How well does the safety razor work?

The razor works fabulously. I get a close shave with no irritation. I shave exactly the same way as I used to and it takes no more time overall. Bam.

So let’s talk details…

Shaving cream

Perhaps it’s because I don’t have particularly sensitive skin or coarse hair, but I’ve never been a careful shaver and I don’t follow all the rules. One of those implied rules is to use shaving cream. I replaced this chemical-laden and generally over-packaged drugstore purchase long ago in favour of unpackaged bar soap.

The very few Youtube videos I found about safety razors that were geared towards women’s shaving recommended methods borrowed from the men’s department i.e. a boar brush, a special shave soap and dish, lots of frothing, and a method of short strokes, light pressure, and meticulous care.

I gambled that I could continue to use my lathering soap instead of cream with my new and possibly murderous tool, and feel vindicated to be able to say yes, it works completely fine.

The blade and you

The blade is not nearly as exposed as I expected. I had trouble taking a closeup shot of the blade, but it sits between the rounded top piece and the pronged bottom piece of the razor handle.

When you shave, you drag the blade at an angle (30 degrees or so), and what you’ll feel is the top and bottom piece against your skin. The correct angle allows the blade to make contact. Angle the handle too far one way or another and the blade won’t actually touch. Very safe and simple to figure out. You’d have to press pretty hard to have a problem.

Disposing of spent razor blades

The razor blades are made of steel, which is a recyclable material. However, most recycling facilities don’t deal well with tiny pieces of material. And I state the obvious when I say that no one, at the recycling facility or elsewhere, wants a run in with loose razor blades.

To make my shaves waste-free, I’ll save my blades in a blade bank. These are small containers with a one way slot. You can buy them, or make them yourself. When full, recycle the whole thing.

For my DIY method, I will try using a steel food can.  I don’t eat much tinned food, and yes I know all about the BPA lining, but I still do eat some, and one tin is all I’ll need to safely store quite a few razor blades.

To make your blade bank, carefully slice a slit into the top with a knife you don’t love too much, or a multi-tool, puncture a small hole on the other side to relieve the pressure, and drain the liquid from the can (use the liquid). Sounds easy, right? I’ll let you know how that goes, ha!

Sidebar: this is also a good trick for recycling bitty bits like steel caps from beer bottles and the like, except instead of making a slit, you could open the can the normal way, fill, then crimp when full. Sort like with like, metal-wise. If you’re not sure if you’re dealing with steel or aluminum, use a magnet: a magnet will stick to steel, not aluminum.

A few more ways to reduce the impact of your shave: 

  • Turn off the tap when lathering up and shaving.
  • If you use a disposable head, try keeping it for longer than the ‘recommended’ number of uses.
  • You could try stropping to hone the blade so it lasts longer. I really can’t say I notice a difference.

Yes, I can safely recommend this razor.

Let this be a record that I tried, I liked, and I do recommend the safety razor. I’ve invested in something I hope to have forever and also looks pretty schmick. There’s been no difference in the time I spent shaving, and I expect a cost saving over the long run on new blades.

Say no to plastic microbeads with these alternatives


Micro plastics are hidden in a shocking number of personal care products, including face and body scrubs and toothpaste, under the names polyethylene and polypropylene. These plastic ‘beads’ are used to add exfoliant action or simply to make a product seem shiny and effective when being considered for purchase by unwitting drugstore shoppers.

These plastic beads are designed to go down the drain with the rinsewater, and since they can’t be filtered out by wastewater facilities, they end up in the rivers, lakes and eventually, the ocean. This means they end up in, among other things sharks, coralsmussels and fish. At best, microbeads are an example of terrible design, but consider them a crime against nature.

Some brands have made slow moves to remove or replace the microbeads in their formulations, emphasis on slooooow. Some countries have moved to ban the bead, and yes, it’s good news. But the whole process could take years. One single product can contain up to 360,000 pieces of microplastics!

Microbeads are completely unnecessary in your quest for great skin.

The good news – no one actually needs microplastics and there are plenty of alternatives. The other good news is that when you back out of the drugstore, you can avoid a tidal wave of over-packaging too. The other, other good news? Most of these alternatives I’m about to suggest are super cheap, which means more money in your pocket to spend on experiences.

So here you go – if you’re looking for a way to get healthy, smooth skin without the lurking stupidity of microplastics, here’s what I use or have tried, and whose effectiveness is just as good or better than anything you’ll find in a drugstore:

Try these microbead scrub alternatives

Konjac sponge
Extra light, good option for your face.
Don’t let the dried shape fool you – once wet, the konjac sponge softens and offers a delicate cleansing. Water is all you need to wash your face. It’s made from a root vegetable, so you can compost it when it’s worn out.

Baking soda
Medium, good option for your face
Baking soda – what can’t you do with it, really? I take a small amount of baking soda, mix in a few drops of water and use the paste to exfoliate my face. It’s mild, yet effective.

Medium, good option for your body
A loofah is a vine grown vegetable vaguely related to the cucumber. They are a beautiful addition to your shower -much better looking than those ubiquitous plastic poufs. If you’re feeling adventurous, you could try growing your own.
Strong, good option for your body
I mixed white sugar (any kind of sugar would do, short of confectioner’s!) with coconut oil and used it on my lizard-like limbs while road tripping around the western US. I eventually stopped having real showers on that trip, except for the salt water variety (blame the drought) and this concoction worked surprisingly well, even without water.

sugar scrub

Coconut fibre brush
Strong, good for dry brushing 
The stiff fibres of the coconut fibre brush make it an excellent option for dry brushing. When you’ve worn it out, you can compost it. They take eons to wear out, and in fact I haven’t yet worn one out.

coconut scrub brush

Save your time, your health, and the ocean by skipping microbeads

Skip the drugstore ‘beauty’ aisle and try these microbead-free alternatives for face and body. You’ll reduce your skin’s toxic load, save money, and ditch the stress of reading ingredients lists. The bonus (and it’s a big one) is that you can typically source all of the options I’ve suggested in recyclable packaging or bulk refill – which means no micro or macro plastics to contend with.