Why You Should Consider Switching to a Safety Razor

Shape posted "Why You Should Consider Switching to a Safety Razor", which features Visha Skincare founder, Dr. Purvisha Patel's insights on the benefits of a safety razor and how the product works to combat common shaving struggles.

Those cute pink and blue plastic razors you've been using your whole life? They're not great for the planet—and they might be behind your razor burn, too.

If you choose to remove your body hair (cause, remember, it's totally optional) there's a pretty good chance you think of it more like a chore than like a joyous self-care activity. And if you're plagued by ingrown hairs, razor burn, or just annoyingly fast-growing hair, you're probably even more bitter about every time you need to glide a razor blade over your skin. (Or, for that matter, every time you need to buy razors—at ~$13 for a single new razor handle and blade cartridge, factoring in the pink tax, those things are not cheap.)

Luckily, as the personal care industry is shifting toward more mindful beauty experiences, shaving is getting a makeover, too.

Rather than this makeover including fancy new technology (like, say, the latest in home fitness), razors are actually going backward. There's a growing interest in safety razors—an old-school method of shaving that originated in the 1880s and uses a metal razor handle and individual bare razor blades.

This resurgence is happening as more and more people explore sustainable and low-waste living, and also while people are getting super into higher-end beauty and self-care rituals (see: skin-care fridges and microneedling). Safety razors are emerging as the luxurious replacement for modern-day plastic razors that have dominated the market in recent years—and are also clogging up our landfills. Often-cited estimates from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the 1990s said that Americans throw away a ballpark 2 billion plastic razors each year. In 2019, an estimated 160 million people were using disposable razors, according to Statista, and considering you should dispose of a razor after every three to six shaves, it makes sense that so many razors or razor heads (if not more) are going into the trash.

Like so many of the latest trends, the glow-up of safety razors been partially driven by the emergence of glam new direct-to-consumer companies like Oui the People, a razor company that specializes specifically in safety razors and other shaving products that are "efficacious, healthy, transparent, and thoughtfully made." The founder, Karen Young, started the company because she suffered from debilitating razor burn and ingrown hairs starting the moment she began shaving as a teenager. She said that, as an adult, her go-to gift for men in her life was a beautifully-presented shaving kit—and at one point, it struck her: "Not only was I having a terrible experience shaving, but also the very act of shaving was far from luxurious," she says. "I wanted to create something that felt tailor-made to women and make the experience very inclusive."

The result is a product that's built to last, has a minimal environmental impact (the stainless steel razor blades are completely recyclable, unlike plastic ones), and also makes shaving a mindful self-care moment versus something you rush through. While Oui the People's razors are trendy and irresistibly branded, many safety razors have the same simple design and offer the same perks.

Interested? Here's what you should know about shaving with a safety razor, what it's like, and some of the best safety razor picks to try.

The Benefits of Shaving with a Safety Razor

Ready to try shaving with a safety razor? Consider these picks.

Bambaw Rose Gold Safety Razor

Besides the Earth benefits of reducing your personal beauty waste, there are benefits for your skin as well. Safety razors are great for everyone, but especially if you have sensitive skin.

"While plastic razors reduce the risk of cutting yourself, they're actually more irritating for your skin because they use a combination of dull and sharp blades; the first blade removes the hair and the rest cut the hairs so low they dive beneath the epidermis," says Young. "Then, as dead skin cells collect, the hair follicle gets clogged and when the hair grows back it gets trapped beneath the skin’s surface and you wind up with ingrown hairs."

They can also help minimize razor burn or other irritation. "Plastic razors also force you to use a lot of pressure to get a close shave which causes razor burn; a safety razor cuts hair evenly at the skin’s surface so you're less likely to get ingrown hairs, folliculitis (irritation of the follicle), and inflammation," she says. Plus, if you're using a sharp, fresh razor, you shouldn't need to go over an area repeatedly to get a close shave—you'll only need one or two passes, which cuts down on irritation.

This all gets a co-sign by Purvisha Patel, M.D., board-certified dermatologist and founder of Visha Skincare: "The perks of safety razors are less razor burns, cuts, and shave bumps, as the razor is physically not able to scrape the skin too hard when used...The only downside I can think of is that you may not get as close of a shave."

In addition to cutting back your consumption of single-use plastics and reducing skin irritation, switching to a safety razor can also save you money. "Because safety razors switch out the blades instead of throwing away the whole razor, and ultimately are more cost effective to use," says Dr. Patel. While there's a more substantial initial investment in a safety razor—a new handle will cost you anywhere from $15 to $75, but then you'll spend significantly less for refill razor blades (which experts recommend you use for five to seven shaves). For example, Oui the People sells their blades in a 10-pack for $11, Well Kept sells 20 for $11, and Viking sells 50 for just $15; that compares to $17 for 4 plastic blade cartridges from Venus or an 8-pack for $16 from Flamingo.

Shaving with a Safety Razor

First things first, you have to put the blade into razor. Some safety razors butterfly open at the top, but many others (including theOui the People's pretty rose gold razor that I use) twist off at the top. You slide the tiny razor in there and twist it tight to close—then you're ready to go.

I'll be honest: I was weirdly nervous to try a safety razor for the first time. Something about handling the stark naked razor blades with my own fingers and shaving with something that has pointed square edges seemed risky to me. (A lifetime of exposure to mainstream razor marketing has told me that the edges of the razor head should be rounded to match a woman's ~curves~, but it turns out that's B.S.)

Luckily, it only took a few leg swipes to totally quell my fear—and I was instantly struck by how smooth the razor felt going over my skin. I'd become accustomed to the familiar tug of a plastic razor, and naively believed that that feeling of friction meant it was "working." The first time I shaved with a safety razor, I had to keep going back and running my hand over my leg; because I could barely feel it on my skin, I almost didn't believe it was actually taking the hair off. Sure enough, the stripes behind my razor were smooth.

It easily slid over my lumpy ankles and even across that scary, tendinous section behind my knees without a problem. And even though I've recently been letting things ~grow~ in my bikini area, I wanted to really put this thing to the test: Could a sharp, square-edge razor really navigate the super sensitive and tricky pubic area? Yep, the coast is clear, folks. If anything, it was less risky because I was actually taking my time vs. relying on a thin plastic rim to protect me.

Admittedly, when I shave with a safety razor, I'm not in and out of the shower as fast as when I used plastic razors. You can blame that on the learning curve, but it's actually more intentional than that. If I know I'll be shaving, I throw on a playlist and get out my trusty, luxe-feeling shave oil and take my time. The metal razor feels weighty on my hand and looks incredible sitting in my shower. Instead of speeding through and regarding the act as a necessary evil, it feels more like doing a sheet face mask or something—a treat, a choice, and part of my beauty treatment that's half for the fun of it, and not just for the benefits it offers. And because shaving with a safety razor requires a level of consciousness and careful action, it's become its own mindfulness practice for me.

Besides, ya know, paying attention to what you're doing, here are some more pro tips for shaving with a safety razor from Young: "For most of us, hair grows in a crisscross pattern so don’t always shave up. Try shaving up, out, in, or a combination of all the above," she says. "You can also hold skin taut with one hand while you're shaving. This allows the short hairs to be exposed to the blade and results in a closer trim."

"There is some adjustment when first using one, because of the angle and pressure of a safety razor," says Dr. Patel. "Safety razors usually have one blade, so as your blade gets dull, you may need more passes for complete hair removal vs. a multi blade disposable razor."

Many safety razors are double-edge safety razors, meaning there's a blade edge on both sides of the razor. Contrary to what it might seem, this doesn't make shaving with one any riskier, but rather gives you another blade edge to shave with, further maximizing the use of the blade before you need to toss it.

On the topic of blades: I've yet to accumulate enough razor blades to need to recycle them, but when I do need to dispose of them, I plan to take them to a nearby sharps collection site. (This offering varies by state and location, so you'll need to do a little homework to find out the best way to recycle or dispose of them in your area.) Certain razor brands also offer recycling programs; zero-waste shaving brand Albatross, for example, has a blade take-back program where you send your blades to them and they even upcycle the metal into new products.

The Best Safety Razors to Try

Ready to try shaving with a safety razor? Consider these picks.

Bambaw Rose Gold Safety Razor

Want to try a safety razor while shelling out minimal cash? This pick from zero-waste brand Bambaw offers a beautiful double-edge safety razor for less than $20. If rose gold isn't your thing, they also offer it in silver and black. The razor comes with a digital shaving manual, including how to use the safety razor, extend the life of blades, recycle blades responsibly, and even recipes for homemade shaving cream.

In case you're worried this budget-friendly option won't live up to the hype, know that 165 five-star reviews sing its praises: "This is my first safety razor; I could not stand the expensive, wasteful replacement cartridges anymore. The shaving has worked well for me as a beginner. I am no expert, but I would say this is a not too 'aggressive razor, as it is quite hard to cut yourself with it. The illustrated user manual that comes with it is perfect to make sure to know how to use the razor at best. I am now slowly mastering this traditional shaving style and it is great," writes one customer.

Well Kept Safety Razor

Snag this adorable brass safety razor in cream from The Detox Market or in millennial pink from Urban Outfitters, then grab extra razor blades (Buy It, $11 for 20). Bonus: For every purchase of the cream razor, The Detox Market will plant a tree.

One review says switching to this razor has helped her eczema, too: "Overall I’m pleased, and the ease of cleaning and less itchy aftermath outweigh a single gripe. This has a nice heft and I’ve shaved my legs a few times with less eczema irritation than I’ve had with my previous razor (I love the blade it comes with)."

Albatross Flagship Safety Razor

This all-metal, stainless steel safety razor comes from Albatross, one of the leading brands in zero-waste shaving. Plus, if you buy from them you can take advantage of their take-back program to dispose of your used razor blades, which will be turned into upcycled cutlery sets.

The Art of Shaving Cross Knurl Safety Razor

Though The Art of Shaving may technically be geared towards people who shave their face, the brand has a range of safety razors for sale that can work for body hair removal, too. This one is especially sleek. The chrome plating resists rust and reviewers can attest that it holds up. One wrote that "I have owned this product for about six years and I am extremely happy with the choice! The blades are cheap and a box lasts a long time. It took some getting used to not using a three-blade disposable, but with time I learned to use short strokes and not move the blade across my skin sideways. I highly recommend this comfortable razor."

Oui the People Rose Gold Skin Sensitive Razor

This may be the most expensive on the list, but with your purchase, know that you're also supporting a Black woman-owned business. Plus, you get a pack of 10 blades with a razor purchase.

If you're still not sold, the brand's rose gold razor 400+ reviews that echo everything I gushed above. One customer writes: "I decided to purchase this razor in an effort to be kinder to the planet and to myself. Capitalizing on opportunities for self-care is a priority right now but who knew that doing good could feel soooo good. I think I might actually enjoy shaving now...If you've been thinking about making the switch to a safety razor, I can't recommend this one enough."

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