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Say goodbye to your plastic razor!

Write By: rach Published In: Ethical and Eco Living Created Date: 2017-06-27

Are you sick of disposable plastic razors? I am. For all of my life I thought there was no better option. I was wrong! Enter the ring: Stainless Steel Safety Razors!

ONE MONTH USING A MERKUR SAFETY RAZOR: MY REVIEW

Here's what I've realised recently: no razor that you can find in a major Australian supermarket is sustainable. From the multipack of 30 super cheap plastic razors that only last a month at best, to the longer lasting razors on which you only (sigh) have to replace the detachable plastic head - these are not good solutions, and are actually costing us more money, as well as harming environmental & human health! So why do we use them? For me, someone reasonably committed to living sustainably, it was simply not knowing that there were other options. 

This is how things played out for me in the last few months:

Step 1 - Anger & frustration! (Apart from curiosity or chance discovery, this is how most of my favourite personal/lifestyle revolutions begin). I got sick of binning the plastic disposable (and non-recyclable) heads of my plastic razor, and also of having to buy more stupid replacement heads. I decided to see if there were other options, and with the help of my trusty sidekick Google, found a bunch of helpful bloggers & youtubers giving the low down on their experiments with alternatives. 

Step 2 - Finding an Australian online store which sold the razor that lots of women recommended for whole-body shaving: the German-made 'Merkur Futur Long Handle Classic Double Edge Razor 23C', and buying it. I used 'Mr Hardys' which had it at a good price ($52) & delivered it quickly, but I was a bit disappointed with their unecessary plastic packaging on delivery.

Step 3 - Testing it out. I was super scared to use the Safety Razor at first - even to touch it haha. And the instructions from other blogs & videos only made me more scared. My advice? Don't overthink it! It is actually safe (hence the name!). There were no instructions included with my razor, but I think the tips I've shared below will be helpful.

merkur stainless steel and reusable safety razor

PROS & CONS

Pros: 

- The Merkur is super solid - I imagine with good care it will last my lifetime.

- It's the closest shave I've ever had!!! Especially noticeable on my underarms.

- I'm not sure why or how, but there is no sting on my underarms when applying deodorant after shaving with the Merkur! Big, nice, unexpected pro.

- Although the initial outlay for a Safety Razor (~$40-$80) is more expensive than a $10 plastic razor, it's MUCH cheaper over a lifetime. Replacement stainless steel safety razor blades are $0.29- $1.20 each (see here for a 100 pack and a 10 pack), whereas plastic disposable razor heads are anywhere from $2-3 each (in an 8 pack of Mach 3 replacements), to $4-5 for Venus replacements (ladies' razor replacements tend to cost more than equivalent men's replacements! Just a tip for any ladies out there - tried and tested, men's Mach 3 razors work great on women's legs :D). If you compare $0.29 to $4 a pop, that's 13 times cheaper!!! Of course, it depends on how long each of these lasts you - I think this mostly comes down to personal use - but obviously the safety razor blades would need to last 13 times less long to be equal value to the plastic disposable heads. Even the $1.20 replacement steel blades are still 2-4 times cheaper than plastic disposable heads.

Plus, this is only counting direct cost savings to the consumer- when you also consider the environmental and human health cost savings, on a population scale (considering the rate of use & disposal) these are collectively massive.

- Stainless steel replacement blades (coated in platinum) are safe for human health! This is good news for you and for the environment. To compare, take a look at the list of ingredients that are manufactured and will then be exposed to your skin (and later, the environment) in the average plastic disposable razor head. For an exceptional list, here are the 38 ingredients from a Venus Spa Shaving Blade 4 Pack Refill, currently selling for $22.66 at Coles Australia. I recommend learning how to search these in EWG's Cosmetic Skin Deep Database, which explains each chemical and shows risk levels and known risks to human/environmental health:

Venus Spa Shaving Blade Ingredients:

Gel Bar: Sodium Stearate, Propylene Glycol, Glycerin, Aqua, Sorbitol, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Sodium Myristate, Persea Gratissima (Avocado) Oil, Olea Europaea (Olive) Fruit Oil, Squalane, Polybutene, Polyethylene, Paraffinum Liquidum, PEG-90M, PEG-45M, Garcinia Indica Seed Butter, Lauryl Dimethicone/Polyglycerin-3 Crosspolymer, Parfum, PEG-7M, Stearic Acid, Titanium Dioxide, Panthenol, Niacinamide, Myristic Acid, Sodium Chloride, Polyquaternium-10, Tris(Tetramethylhydroxypiperidinol) Citrate, Tetrasodium Etidronate, Pentasodium Pentetate, Ci 60730, Ci 42053 Lubrastrip: PEG-115M, PEG-7M, PEG-100, Pentaerythrityl Tetra-Di-T-Butyl Hydroxyhydrocinnamate, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Tocopheryl Acetate, Tris(Di-T-Butyl)Phosphite, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Seed Oil, Persea Gratissima (Avocado) Oil

Cons: 

- I'm scared to drop the Merkur in the shower when I'm standing, because it's pretty heavy and would almost certainly hurt my feet and maybe even chip a tile. So, as a naturally clumsy person, I take special care with how I hold it, especially under running water, and when in use I keep it on the ground instead of putting it on my hanging shower rack.

- I'm already less inclined to take the Merkur travelling, because it's pretty heavy (and valuable). I also need to figure out a safe travel case. Good news is that there are simple, light razor head covers, as well as full cases and pouches available for this. I still have my old plastic razor, so I will use that until it dies. And at the end of the day if I am considering buying another plastic razor for the sake of travelling light, I will just try to ditch something else to make up for weight of my Merkur. Or just shave beforehand on short trips. Or not even shave at all!! Wild.

- The Merkur 23C is advertised as having a comparatively "long" handle. I reckon if it were 2-3 centimetres longer it would be even easier to hold, especially when shaving your legs. 

MY TIPS

1. PUTTING IT TOGETHER: To safely assemble the razor, place the 4 parts as seen in photo above. Pick up the blade and place it to fit onto the screws of the razor head top (with the top's curved side facing down). Then place the razor head bottom over the fitted blade (with the scored sides of the razor bottom facing down towards the blade). These three parts can now be held together in place with one hand, while you screw on the handle with your other hand. Presto!

2. TAKING IT APART: To safely disassemble the razor into it's 4 parts, turn it upside down (with the razor head pressed onto the bench), press the head of the razor down with 2 fingers of one hand, and using your other hand, gently twist the handle to remove it from the razor head. Once you've removed the handle, you can take apart the three parts of the head - the blade, and the top and bottom part of the head.

3. TESTING IT OUT SAFELY: Get in the right position for your short test run. I'd recommend doing this outside of the shower, while sitting if you're testing on your legs/other parts of the body (including pubic area), and while standing if you're testing it on your underarms.

4. GETTING THE ANGLE & PRESSURE RIGHT: Finding the 30 degree angle you need to use for safest and most efficient shaving won't require whipping out a protractor, however fun that may be, but just two or three short, gentle, non-pressurised strokes to find the optimal angle & effectiveness. The instructions I read said that no pressure should need to be applied, and I've found this to be true (unlike with my plastic razors). 

5. LATHERING UP: I know people buy shaving creams and all sorts of fancy brushes and stones for this, but I just use a natural oil-based soap, quickly make a thin lather in my hands, and apply. Works perfectly. And becomes even easier when you shave with the shower turned off.

6. AVOIDING CUTS AND NICKS: The worst series of cuts I've ever had happened while I was shaving with the Merkur in the last month!! But it was because I was doing it in a hurry, which made me sloppy on technique. With one long, hard, badly angled stroke up my shin, I sustained 9 cuts (see below). This hasn't happened again since and I'm still totally sold on the Merkur Safety Razor - it is safe and awesome. Just remember: use short (10-15cm) & very gentle strokes and for tricky areas (eg. knees), it helps to pull the skin taught. 

7. UPKEEP: Once you've finished shaving, disassemble and let the razor parts air-dry.

8. SWAPPING OUT AND RECYCLING BLADES: My double-edge ('DE') razor blade is still going strong after a month, but I've only used it about 4 times. Good news is that because the blades are steel, they are fully recyclable!! (unlike plastic disposable razor heads which need to be thrown in the bin and are put in landfill, because the plastics & metal can't be separated). The best way to recycle the steel blades is to keep them in a closed, used steel can (you can differentiate between steel and aluminium cans using a magnet, which will only stick to steel). You can make your own safe & closed 'blade bank' using a discarded steel can - see here for a great DIY that prevents blades falling out during the recycling process (potentially hurting recycling-facility staff). Once the tin is full of blades, pop it in the recycling. 

It's worth checking with your local council and/or recycling company whether you are best to place this closed can in your recycling bin at home, or whether it's best to drop it off, along with any other bits of metal, at your local metals drop-off section of the recycling facility. It could also be best to double check whether the platinum-coating present on many of the steel blade brands available (including Merkur & Astra) will cause any issue in recycling.

9. NATURAL SKIN CARE POST-SHAVE: I rub coconut oil onto any skin I've shaved - it's a great natural, cheap moisturiser and smells good (and seems to reduce B.O. on underarms). I usually do this the day after shaving too. For my underarms, after the coconut oil, I then apply one of my DIY deodorants.

Please note: Neither Fairtees nor myself are receiving any form of compensation from Merkur or Mr Hardys, and there are plenty of other stores selling the Merkur and other Safety Razor brands in Australia, so look around :) 

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