Modern shaving is a plastic laden affair. Disposable handles, plastic tubes, and a seemingly never-ending arms race to add more blades, vibration, and lubricating strips are all designed for promising a better shave. And encourage you to buy the latest handle. Here we look at the zero waste shaving alternatives, selecting the essentials you need to ditch the plastic and waste as part of your shaving routine.
Do you remember the little slot in the back of the medicine cabinet? There was a time when every house and every apartment with a built-in medicine cabinet had an innocuous-looking small slot on the bottom shelf at the back of the cabinet. What was it for? When it came time to change the blade in your safety razor, you first took out the old blade and slid it through the slot in the medicine cabinet. They intentionally made the framing behind the cabinet so that the used blades dropped into a cavity in the woodwork where they could innocently rust away.
As the years passed, medicine cabinets ceased to be constructed with the little razor slot. It wasn’t needed anymore because, by and large, no one used safety razors. Our society converted to disposable, plastic-handled razors with multiple blades. On the face of it, this may seem more responsible: no more accumulations of rusty razor blades awaiting an unsuspecting home renovator. In reality, however, the disposable razors we use today are a huge environmental waste problem.
The EPA estimates that 2 billion disposable razors each year end up in landfills. Of all the possible recycling goodies that may lie in landfills, with old plastic handled disposable razors, there is zero chance for metal recycling.
Very likely, the best solution is to join the movement for plastic-free zero waste shaving. Yes, it is possible to end the rain of disposable razors falling into our landfills. The secret lies in going back to the zero waste shaving practices of the past.
In this article, we’re going to focus primarily on reusable razors—specifically safety razors and the shaving accessories you’ll need if you decide to help save the environment by changing the way you shave.
Some folks are going back to the old straight razor—the blade barbers used to shave their customers. With quite a steep learning curve, the potential danger of cutting oneself with straight razors is what led to the birth of the double-edged safety razor—a good shave with little chance of a serious laceration.
Safety razors are eco-friendly razors, safe to use, just as safe as the ubiquitous plastic handled razors of today, and they have a straightforward learning curve. They offer zero cuts and nicks along with their zero waste shaving. Plus, unlike straight razors, safety razors are a much more comfortable alternative for shaving delicate places like armpits and the space between one’s nose and upper lip.
Crucially, when choosing a reusable razor handle, which means you only need to replace the metal blades, you’re preventing plastic waste in the first place. A scrap metal recycler can recycle metal replacement blades, and because they’re lightweight and small, you can stash a bunch away for an occasional recycling trip. They also do rust away eventually, so even if they do make it to landfills, at least they won’t be with us nearly as long as their plastic counterparts. They’re sharp, of course, and do take care of how you dispose of them, ideally placing them back into the carton they came in to avoid harm to someone later down the line.
When you care for your safety razor investment, it can literally last a lifetime. The cost of multi-blade disposable razor heads can quickly add up, with six-packs often costing over $10. For the same price, you can grab a pack of safety razor blades that’ll last up to a year.
Our rough maths suggest you could spend as little as 10% of the cost by switching to a zero-waste shave versus expensive plastic heads or plastic disposable razors. Saving you money and help prevent plastic waste at the same time just makes sense.
Here are our top picks of safety razor handles, an essential for every zero waste shave. They come in a variety of shapes, colors, and styles. We’re picked out handles to last so that you’ll never have to send one of those nasty disposable plastic types to landfill waste again.
Odin edition. Most of today’s safety razors run between $20 and $50, with the majority sitting between $30-35. The Odin edition Chieftain comes in at the top of our list because it’s a little more budget-friendly, and it just looks so cool in obsidian and rose gold. It has a built-in anti-misalignment feature that prevents you from cutting yourself if the blade isn’t sitting right.
They make the handles of these double-edged safety razors from 100% sustainable and eco-friendly bamboo. Long-lasting and durable, the price for the handle soon pays for itself as, like the other safety razors in this section, you only need to replace the blade once it has worn out. What’s more, the bamboo handles, despite coming across with a natural warm wooden glow, are non-slippery even when wet. With a five year warranty and the claim as the original bamboo razor, there’s a lot to like about this eco-friendly razor. Shipped plastic-free and carbon-neutral, this is an excellent choice for an eco-friendly zero waste shave.
A 73% 5-Star rating out of more than 10,700 reviewers says a lot about a product’s quality. Manufactured in Sheffield, England, this stainless steel razor comes with instructions for caring for the instrument and using it. A stylish number, the smart chrome handle is ridged to prevent slips and weighted for a solid feel in hand and close shave. This product comes with five blades, so you're good to start zero waste shaving straight away.
This rose gold, long-handled, stainless steel razor is elegant and perfectly designed. Budget-friendly, it puts to death the “pink prejudice” of razors that cost more simply because they market them to women.
For the adventurous soul who wants to get a little closer to the action, this highly rated, brushed chrome beauty allows you to get the closest shave possible. It’s a bit more expensive than the others on our list. It stands apart with an easy to use adjustment so you can go for the right closeness of zero waste shave to suit you.
As with the other recommended razors, this stainless steel instrument is 100% plastic-free. It has a unique bevel design that allows the blade to give the closest possible cut without danger of going below the skin level.
Ethique makes plastic-free, pH balanced, vegan, plant-based, 100% compostable, zero waste shaving soap. You don’t have to be a zero-waste shaver to use it. If you are one, however, this is the bar for you. It has over 5000 reviews, with 77% of users giving it 5-Stars.On a mission to save the planet from plastic bottles, this New Zealand based BCorp has thus far saved our planet from over 5 million plastic bottles. Tip-to-toe solid shampoo and shaving bars are, as the name suggests, great for shaving, hair, and everything down to the toes.
The guys can have a little variety as well. This kit contains four scented shaving soaps: sandalwood, cedar & pine, clary sage, and rum scents. Using these products requires a shaving mug and brush
This all-natural shaving brush is 100% biodegradable and plastic-free. Perfect for the zero waste shave. With a handle made from wood and boar bristles, this long-lasting and durable brush makes an ideal addition to your plastic-free shaving routine.
Dirty Diva Soaps makes and sells these super popular men’s shaving soap bars. With over 7000 5 star reviews on Etsy and many customers raving about the scent and lather, this zero waste shaving bar makes for another great choice. What’s more, you can choose from a large variety of scents, with everything from crisp citrus notes of Blue to the Bohemian addition that blends bergamot, amber, and teak with a hint of coffee bean and leather. With 19 different scents to choose from, there’s everything in between to suit your taste.
These are big 7oz bars crafted with care to arrive at the perfect formula over several months by a father and son team. The bars contain a blend of oils for moisturizing and cleansing and to create a rich lather. Smelling of bourbon, vanilla oak, and cedar, they promise these bars won’t disappoint.
For women, we love these shave bar soaps by Dragonfly Day. Scented with jasmine, wild rose, and sandalwood, these bars smell amazing. Packed full of lots of sustainable good stuff to moisturize and care for the skin, all ingredients are responsibly sourced, and they make these shaving bar soaps by hand in small batches. Further, this Etsy seller powers its operation with 21 solar panels and supports a range of local charities. Lots to like about this product in your switch to zero waste shaving!
For the complete package or perhaps for a gift, here are our picks of zero waste shaving kits, including razors, blades, and soaps—one unisex and one for women.
Here we have a Rockell steel single-blade razor handle that comes complete with a butterfly opening for easy blade changing. In stylish steel, this will look the part on any bathroom shelf. The kit is complete with a grapefruit shaving bar so you can lather up the next morning after delivery. A great entry point for zero waste shaving, and with over 1000 5 star reviews, you can’t go wrong.
While our women's choice comes with a rose gold safety razor, 15 replacement blades, and an organic shave soap bar scented with lavender and citrus. Plastic and cruelty-free and shipped in recyclable packaging, this pack from Eco Roots Shop on Etsy also has over 100 5 star reviews.
Finally, to round out our selection of zero waste shaving must-haves, after your shave, here’s our pick of a zero-waste moisturizer suitable for both sexes. And for the guys, a beard balm in a tin.
An all-natural moisturizer for all skin types, this lightweight, non-greasy choice is handmade in small batches for freshness. 100% organic and sustainably sourced ingredients this zero waste moisturizer comes in a recyclable tin you can reuse and available in 3 sizes. Perfect for not only keeping the skin soft but also alleviating razor burn.
They use local beeswax, natural butters, and oils to make this beard balm to help keep everything looking just as it should. With a clean and crisp forest aroma, this product has over 4000 positive reviews.
When you go for a safety razor handle above, most will come with a blade or two. However, it's a good idea to pick up some spares when you first buy, so you’re ready to carry on shaving when the original blade starts to blunt. Most people will find the blades last for about six shaves, of course somewhat depending on quite how much hair you task them with.
Here’s a selection of blade choices to get your zero waste shave started and sustained:
Here are 50 “mild” doubled edge imported blades manufactured in Sweden. This is estimated to be a 9-12 month supply. For the same money, Viking has “Cayenne semi-aggressive” blades for those with coarse beards. Each double-edged blade should last 5-7 shaves.
These replacement blades are imported from Japan and have received 5-Star reviews from over 80% of 1000 reviewers. The platinum-coated steel should last for 8-10 shaves.
Personna was the company that introduced the safety razor 135 years ago, leading the way in zero waste shaving. Through all the changes in grooming habits, they have continued to offer a good product at a reasonable price.
Whether or not our culture will embrace sustainable shaving practices, nothing prevents us individually from making that decision. Affordable, quality products are readily available to help us transition to sustainable zero waste shaving.