I’d never heard of a safety razor until I started reading zero waste blogs. I’d been swept up in a cycle of shaving misery for so long—buy expensive disposable razors, curse how quickly the blades go blunt, throw them away, buy cheaper razor, curse lack of smooth shave etc—that I hadn’t thought there was an alternative. (Waxing and using an epilator aren’t an option for me, although I know some people swear by them.)
Shaving was just something you did. And while I know hair removal is a personal choice, I like the smooth, dolphin-like feeling of stubble-free legs.
However, I’ve become more aware of the wastefulness of using disposable razors in recent times. I flirted with the idea of using a recycled handle and just changing the blades, but I was still throwing the blades away fairly frequently. So when I saw several people raving about the Muhle Safety Razor, I decided to invest.
What is a safety razor?
A safety razor consists of a handle, one double-edged razor blade, and a head (which encloses the blade, leaving only the edge visible).
Once you’ve bought the handle and head, all you need to do is replace the razor blades at regular intervals.
Why choose one?
Safety razors are more eco-friendly and cost-effective than disposables. The handle and head can last a lifetime if looked after properly, which means there’s less waste, and the blades are recyclable (more on that in a minute). Although you pay more upfront, a replacement pack of blades only costs a few pounds—I buy a pack of ten for £2.50. It’s worth setting the initial payment aside if you’re able to.
They can also be better for your skin. Shaving is most effective when you have some kind of barrier for lubrication, but razors with multiple blades remove this protection as you use them, which means some of the blades tug directly against your skin. This can cause irritation. A safety razor only has one blade, so it’s more gentle, despite being sharper.
Where can I buy one?
I bought my safety razor from Content Beauty. It’s by a brand called Muhle, and there are two to choose from: traditional chrome (my pick), which costs £32.50 for the handle and head, and rose gold, which is slightly more expensive at £36.50 for the same. Safety razors are unisex.
How to use a safety razor
Start by exfoliating to remove dead skin cells and smooth your skin. I used to love PHB Ethical Beauty’s solid sugar scrubs for everyday (although I think they might have been discontinued; I can’t find them anywhere). Sister & Co. and Tropic both make lovely, natural vegan scrubs if you want to treat yourself.
Apply your shaving bar or oil to the area you want to shave. I’ve been using up a shaving oil by Fairquared, but plan to switch to a solid bar when it runs out. I’ve previously sung the praises of using conditioner for shaving. However, I prefer not to use it with a safety razor, since it can clog up the head quite easily. Instead, I find that oils or solid shaving bars have enough moisture and slip to provide that all-important barrier, but with a thinner consistency.
Hold your safety razor gently at a 30-degree angle and glide it slowly across your skin, with the grain of the hair. Short strokes are better, especially when you’re getting used to shaving in a slightly different way. Let the weight of the razor do half the work for you.
Rinse the blade every so often to get rid of any excess product or hair.
Make sure you moisturise afterwards. My all-time favourite is Dream Cream from Lush, which contains oat milk, rose water, and cocoa butter, but still feels very light on application. It soothes and hydrates the skin, calming everything from eczema to beard burn.
Disassemble your razor and leave each part to dry out. This prevents rust.
Do you have to be more careful when you use a safety razor?
Despite the name, safety razors can be dangerous due to the sharpness of the blades. Having a quick shave isn’t really an option, so yes, you do need to be more careful.
But—and this is a big but (stop it, you)—I’ve found that because I’m forced to slow down when I shave now, I’m less likely to cut myself. I can be very clumsy, and I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve emerged from the bathroom with cuts on my legs. I still have a scar near my right knee from a particularly vicious disagreement with a Venus razor in my teens. Using a safety razor means I’m more conscious of what I’m doing. And since the razor looks so good—made with care and craftsmanship, like it’s built to last—I enjoy making it part of my routine. The only time I’ve cut myself is when I was first changing the razor blade and it caught one of my fingers.
One important thing to note is that not everybody will be able to use a safety razor. One of my Instagram followers pointed out that her hands shake due to a genetic condition, so it would be unsafe for her to try. You know your body better than anyone.
How to store a safety razor
Keep it in your bathroom cabinet or bedroom, away from the damp and humidity.
How often do you change the blade?
I shave so sporadically that I can’t give you a specific answer, although I definitely know I get more uses per blade than I did when I used disposable razors. According to a Google search, using a new blade every five-to-six shaves is about average. Always hold the blades along the shorter edges when you change them.
Where can I buy the blades?
Are the blades universal?
Yes. Blades can fit into any safety razor, but since they’re made by different brands each one performs differently.
Are the blades recyclable?
Yes. Safety razor blades are made of steel, which makes them recyclable. However, you can’t just chuck them in the bin and leave it at that, and a lot of local councils ban them outright.
One way of getting past this is by creating a blade bank. You make a narrow slit in a sealed tin, just big enough for a razor blade to fit through, and make sure the blade can’t get back out. Store the tin away safely. I’ve only just made mine, so I’m not sure where I’ll be taking it when it’s finally full. Your best bet is to get in touch with your local recycling facility or council.
I hope this guide is helpful. I’m sorry I didn’t buy a safety razor sooner – whilst shaving slowly took a bit of getting used to, my skin and hair are happier for it.
Have you ever used a safety razor before? Is there anything else you’d like me to answer? Let me know in the comments.
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Beth, 25, South East England.
Lover of books, dogs, yoga, travel, gin, and the Oxford comma.
I write about cruelty-free beauty, vegan & veggie food, and trying to lead a less wasteful life. I throw the odd think piece in there, too.