Some things in life are intimidating when you first attempt them – like jumping out of an airplane, getting Botox injections, or using a safety razor.
Backstory: I started using a cartridge razor (the kind with the disposable heads [cartridges] but permanent handle) decades ago. I was thoroughly, completely, and in every other way satisfied with my razor. And then disaster struck.
I dropped my razor one time too many, and a tiny plastic piece broke off – a piece which, it turns out, was critical to keeping the cartridge heads in place. I tried to keep using my trusty razor, but the head kept coming off while I was shaving – not ideal, to say the least.
Since I had a significant cache of cartridges (bought on sale at the BX/PX), and I had always been happy with my razor, my first thought was to buy a replacement handle. No joy.
It turns out that those handles are no longer being manufactured. Furthermore, I could not find one on Amazon, eBay, or anywhere else on the internet. In fact, I discovered that replacing that particular handle was a Holy Grail quest.
My search led me to shaving forums – oh, yes, there are multiple forums online, on which shaving enthusiasts debate the relative merits of cartridge razors vs. safety razors, various shaving brushes, shaving soaps/foams, and even razor blades. It turns out, my cartridge razor, unbeknownst to me, is considered one of the last good ones, before the handles became all plastic, and the cartridges kept sprouting more and more and more blades.
People from all over the world were searching for replacement handles for my razor, but the lucky few who had found them were not parting with them. Even individuals who nearly exclusively shave with safety razors or even straight razors clung to their [brand name] cartridge razors for travel, or just nostalgia.
Having failed to procure a replacement handle for the world’s best cartridge razor, I turned to Plan B. Although cartridge razors generate less garbage than plastic disposable razors, the cartridges are still thrown away after use. But safety razors only generate used steel razor blades, which can be recycled (please use a blade bank or a tin can to safely house the blades when you recycle them – don’t cut some poor unsuspecting person or animal who encounters your used blades to shreds!)
I had long been thinking that if anything ever happened to the world’s best cartridge razor, I would switch to a safety razor. Many people who are trying to reduce the amount of garbage they generate and the impact they have on the planet have switched to them – safety razors are typically all metal, and generate no plastic waste at all.
The process of selecting a safety razor to purchase was arduous – I read blog posts, search engine results, and many, many, shaving forum discussions. I did not find a safety razor with the same handle length as the best cartridge razor in the world. My cartridge razor is 5 inches from the top of the cartridge head to the end of the handle, and has always felt very good in my hand. I could not find any safety razor this long. The best I could find was 4 1/8 inches from the top to the end of the handle.
Having selected the razor, I then needed to select blades. I learned that quality razor blades are made in many countries: Sweden, Germany, Egypt, Russia, Israel – even the U.S. According to the forums, some brands of razor blade are “more aggressive” than others. This is important if you have sensitive skin or if you are a beginner.
One of the significant differences between cartridge razors and safety razors is that the head of a cartridge razor swivels to maintain a fairly constant angle between the blade(s) and your skin. Safety razors, on the other hand, hold the blade in a fixed position, and the human must adjust the blade angle manually in response to the changing contours of the surface being shaved. Fortunately, since humans have wrists, this is fairly easy to do.
However, there can be a bit of a learning curve during the transition from cartridge razors to safety razors. Therefore, the forums recommended beginning with a “milder” or “less aggressive” blade. I narrowed my list of possible blades down to two, and ultimately ordered the brand that could be delivered to me on the same day as the new razor.
The initial shave: It is a bit intimidating to unwrap the double-edged razor blade and place it in the razor. Especially if, like me, you only saw videos of safety razors with butterfly clasps, but the razor you purchased doesn’t open that way.
Unable to “open” my razor to insert the razor blade, despite my best efforts, I turned to Google, and eventually discovered how to work my razor (the entire head screws off, then it comes apart in two pieces, you insert the blade between the two places, sandwich them together, and screw it back on the handle – carefully).
Having watched several tutorials, I gave it a go, using the same old soap I always use. I was pleasantly surprised to discover how easy it was. The intimidation was for nothing – the hair disappeared easily, with fewer strokes than I was used to making, and I didn’t nick myself at all. Although I started out slowly, I soon was shaving with my normal speed.
Although there were a few moments when I missed the handle length of my old trusty cartridge razor, overall I was very pleased with my new safety razor. I’d call it a successful experiment that will lead to a lifestyle change and less plastic in the landfill (and everywhere else plastic migrates).
Why is this a health hack? 1. No plastic. 2. No garbage. 3. Many people report less razor burn and fewer ingrown hairs with the use of a safety razor. 4. Less expensive – so you can spend your money on quality food, exercise, or other healthy things (or invest it in a retirement fund).
Intimidated by the thought of trying a safety razor? Here’s a tutorial for men:
And here’s one for women. (There’s an article and an imbedded video at this link.)
Have you tried a safety razor? Why or why not?