I remember thinking for the first time, when I was around ten: “Now I’m mature enough to shave my legs!” I happily proceeded, then even more enthusiastically did one arm, before remembering my mother’s warning that the hair would grow back
thicker deeper (thanks for the correction!) and stronger than before and that I’d just screwed myself. Thereafter shaving became a chore and no longer a pleasure (damage was averted with the arm, thankfully!). I nevertheless followed the rule of at-least-once-a-week in the following decade very dutifully. Fortunately, in China obligations are a lot, lot looser for girls, so I could cut some slack on frequency.
In this heaven of laziness I still owned my old razor. It had refillable cartridges that lost more and more of their appeal as they stood there, useless and hopelessly unrecyclable. The EPA estimates that in the USA a staggering 2 billion cartridges (2 billion!) are dumped each year to the landfill, as their parts are made of several materials and are difficult if not impossible to dissassemble and recycle. Let’s not even mention disposable plastic razors.
I then started research to answer this question: why do we use cartridges which easily cost fifteen euros if not more for a mere four of them? It’s a pain for me to be neutral but I shall try.
In the beginning, there were cut-throat straight-edge razors (like those from Fleet Street). These are still used in barber shops. Then came metal safety razors with a removable head where you place the blade yourself. The latter dominated the first half of the 20th century as they could be used… well for decades. A pack of ten steel blades cost somewhere around a dollar (still does).
Disposable cartridges were developed in the 1960s by Gillette, disposable razors were the courtesy of BIC. The reasons differ as to why these companies chose this course of affairs. Some people say buying a plastic razor instead of the safety one is cheaper and that it is also quicker to shave with multiple blades. Razor cartridges manufacturers also rely a lot on the hype of having an ever growing number of blades (Mach 3! Yippie! You’re shaving like a fighter jet!), flexible angles and extremities that are covered with some hydrating gel.
I’m more inclined to believe that Gillette aimed for disposable products because its sales of lifelong safety razors and one nickel blades were plummeting. Moreover, and I personally attest to this, adding multiple blades to a razor does not improve your shaving experience. It’s actually extra scraping on your skin, which creates a lovely environment for irritations and ingrown hairs and for that extra feature you pay around twenty euros for four of them. The non-recyclable aspect is the cherry on the cake for me.
I therefore set my fate in the single blade of this fellow, a Merkur long handled safety razor (made in Germany). This one was designed for men but it doesn’t make a difference to me. It took a couple of gentle and surprisingly comfortable strokes to take care of my armpits. That is when I realized that I had been scorching my skin off for the past fifteen years.
The only problem with the razor was that Taobao (China’s Amazon) put bubble wrapper around it… don’t ask. Aside from that, it won on all sides : the steel handle cost twenty euros and the ten stainless steel blades were one. Each of these lasts around one to two months or longer depending on your shaving frequency and are easily recyclable. You extend your razor’s lifespan by leaving all the parts to dry after use and not keeping them in the shower. Finally, as mentioned before, shaving takes a little more time but it also becomes a nice experience (still can’t get around it!).
Basically, I have plenty of blades for the next twelve months and I might have to spend one euro in the following year. One. Euro.
Along with the inox bottle, it was by far my best buy of 2016, the thing that I’ve babbled about the most to anyone who’s dared to ask for an update on the waste reduction quest. Poor souls. Anyway, go for it ladies and gents!