Eco-Friendly Shaving Supplies and Other Sustainable Alternatives
Shaving is one of those small but impactful habits we can all easily address. From shaving supplies to greener alternatives, we can decrease our waste, as well as our toxic load, all while saving money.
According to the EPA, Americans alone throw out an estimated TWO BILLION disposable razors each year. Although the actual weight will obviously vary from brand to brand, that's still around one billion pounds of waste - a lot more than you think from the small piece of plastic in your hand. But when you remember that little thing called "planned obsolescence" - the purposeful creation of stuff that is meant to not last in order to increase consumption and revenue - and how quickly these little razors dull or rust, plus the estimation that 90% of male adults alone shave at least once a day, you can tell how quickly it adds up. One razor a week, from age 14 on...it's a lot of waste. And that doesn't even include the shaving cream, after shave, water usage, and so on.
The toxicity of most shaving supplies is another concern to consider. According to the Environmental Working Group, not a single shaving cream on their list could claim there were no health or ecological concerns. Even of the "cleaner" brands, issues still arose from the use of ingredients such as sodium borate (organic toxicity, including reproductive organs), tocopherols (potentially carcinogenic) or fragrances (linked to everything from immunity and allergies to organi toxicity and ecotoxicology)...even propane shows up on the lists!
(Interested in learning about a specific brand you've been using? Click here, but don't just look at the overall rating. You can have one really bad ingredient but ten okay ingredients that bring up the average score. Be sure to read the specific details!)
And then there's the cost. With many disposable razors costing $20 for a starter kit and up to $4 or more from replacement blades, it can really add up. Even the cheap $1 razors add up when you figure how quickly they need to be replaced.
But everything we're describing below is not only safe, but effective, safe for the environment and your health, but actually more affordable - freeing up more of your budget for the things worth investing in (family, fun, organic food, etc).
Eco-Friendly Shaving Supplies
Below are a list of eco-friendly and health-friendly shaving supplies to consider instead.
An Alternative to Disposable Razors
A lot of people assume non-disposable razors equal danger but we've found that couldn't be farther from the truth. After my husband and I switched to a straight razor and safety razor, respectively, we found our shaving experiences improved. For starters, the razor was actually sharp (a surprising fact, when you compare to how dull conventional disposable razors actually are), and our results were cleaner.
Yes, it did take a little getting used to. The straight razor is more of a Sunday morning ritual, than a quick swipe on the way out the door. But the intentionality of the practice was fulfilling, giving my husband time to slow down and enjoy the process. (When he is in a hurry he grabs my safety razor, instead.)
We also found that the initial investment was nothing compared to what we would normally be spending. We paid about $35 for our safety razor, and another $10 for double edge safety razor blades on Amazon. This was our ONLY purchase for safety razor shaving and we made it over five years ago. We still haven't worked through even half of our original boxes of blades! The straight edge razor and sharpening tools was pricier, but also last an lifetime and are still going strong.
So instead of paying about $1,200 over the past five years ($20 a month on average); we instead spent about $200 and haven't even come close to they end of their usage.
It is, however, VERY important that you purchase a good brand. Many of the safety razors out there are only stainless steel plated and are liable to rust (something we found out with a cheaper safety razor we tried). Although the blades can still rust on a quality safety razor, the rust itself cleans right off the handle and head. (And properly caring for your razor, as described below, will prevent even that.) If you ever really let it sit and rust, you can still clean the razor (not the blade) with a natural rust remover.
We personally use and recommend our affiliate, West Coast Shaving, for almost all your shaving supplies. They have a great selection and some really great prices, as well as higher-end items and gift ideas. We went with a long-handled Merkur safety razor and love it.
And they even have handles that will hold disposable razor heads if you're not ready to make the full jump but would like a durable and classy handle for your regular Mach 3 blades. (Plus if you buy through our links here, you support our website!)
Shaving Cream Alternatives
Ditching conventional shaving cream and its questionable ingredients is an important step to revamping your shaving supplies for eco-frienly versions.
My first suggestion is to see how your skin does without shaving cream. Oftentimes, by using a hot towel or shaving after a hot shower, many people will find it's not even necessary and can save on the waste by using water only.
If you're skin is sensitive or you find you prefer to use something, try a shaving oil...something as simple as coconut oil (great for skin!) will often protect the skin from the razor and moisturize at the same time. Another simple, one ingredient alternative to conventional shaving supplies and creams is plain ol' aloe vera, which also assist in the razors glide, protects skin, and moisterizes.
Lastly, the internet is filled with shaving cream recipes. Check out a friend and blogger, Shalom Mama for some ideas.
The purpose of aftershave is one of those shaving supplies that has always kind of puzzled me, especially growing up watching the kid from Home Alone so badly burn himself. ;) In fact, the real purpose is to prevent cuts or nicks from becoming infected, as well as possibly moisurize as a bonus, but usually resort to alcohols to kill germs (and cause that infamous Culkin scene). Thankfully this can easily be in other, natural ways:
- Coconut oil is moisturizing and naturally antibacterial.
- Aloe vera is also naturally antibacterial and aids in healing.
- Essential oils, especially lavender, frankincense, and many others, are great for the skin irritation, minor nicks, have cleansing properties, and only require 1-2 drops.
- If you'd like the cooling affect commonly added to aftershaves, try a drop or two peppermint essential oil instead.
Be Sure to Extend the Life of Your Shaving Supplies, Too
Most razors grow dull or rust before their time. It's important to extend the life of your razor be properly cleaning the blade, then thoroughly drying it. Ladies, if you shave in the shower, don't store your razor there. (And consider not shaving in the shower, since a lot of water is wasted that way.)
In addition to proper care of your razor, you can also extend the life of your razor by using shaving after a shower when your hair is softer and still moist, making it easier to cut and not as dulling to your blade.
Eco-Friendly Shaving Alternatives
Pretty obvious, right? You can avoid the cost, the toxins, and the endless consumption of shaving supplies by simply not shaving. It doesn't have to sound as impossible as you think either:
- Men can grow a beard.
- Women can trim underarm hair instead of shaving.
- Men and women can embrace their natural body with pride (instead of conditioned disgust).
- In the wintertime, most won't even know you haven't shaved.
Save time, money, and resources used to produce shaving supplies by decreasing how much or how often you shave. For instance:
- Men with goatees only have to shave parts of their face.
- Men can have a clean shave every few days or weeks, and sport the "scruffy" look in between.
- Women can shave only from the knee down, since thigh hair is often softer, less noticeable, or hidden.
- Women can only shave on occasions where it's noticeable.
Waxing or Sugaring
Waxing or sugaring (a version of hair removal that uses sugar) might be a viable alternative to replacing many of your traditional shaving supplies, especially depending on the resources local to you. Now obviously, if you're purchasing processed sugar from conventional farms that lend a hurtful hand to deforestation and loss of biodiversity, or your just buying a package of wax from the store, your ecological footprint isn't getting much better.
But if you have the desire to make your own sugar with sugar beets, or even can access natural wax from local bee farmers, you might have a great alternative that not only costs less but might take less time as well.
Just consider that waxing can have an effect on skin elasticity over the long-term before you go this route.
Laser Hair Removal
I'm throwing this in here to help answer the questions I've received on whether it's a safe alternative. In my opinion? The jury is still out, but leaning toward "don't do it". Here's why:
For starters, it's still a pretty new procedure so we don't really know the long-term effects to either the patient or the medical professionals who perform it. But we do know that it causes a "sunburn", can cause blistering, and is strong enough to kill hair follicles. That kind of seemingly innocuous damage sounds similar to what they warm us about sun exposure, except in concentrated forms and from an unnatural source. And the fact that it kill a natural function of the body makes you wonder if it's really something to expose your cells to. In addition to that, an interesting study was done on the toxins it releases into the environment and the threat they pose for practitioners.
So if you go this route, do your research and make a well-informed decision.
Alternatives to AVOID
You most definitely want to avoid chemical hair removal products (like Nair) or products that bleach hair to lighten it and make it less noticeable. These products contain a chemical soup that are reported by the EWG Skin Deep database as being immuno-toxins, eco-toxins, irritants, damaging to the internal organs, cancer-causing, and so on. Ironically, some of the products for "sensitive skin" cause even more of a threat to your health and the environment than the original formulas, so don't be fooled by a promise on a label.