Clean Beauty Tips & Techniques Your Guide to Sustainable Shaving With Plastic-Free Razors Learn about recycling blades, chemical-free shaving cream, and more. By Olivia Young Olivia Young Twitter Writer Ohio University Olivia Young is a writer, fact checker, and green living expert passionate about tiny living, climate advocacy, and all things nature. She holds a degree in Journalism from Ohio University. Learn about our editorial process Published September 23, 2022 Share Twitter Pinterest Email Olena Ruban / Getty Images Clean Beauty Products Tips & Techniques In This Article Expand Single-Blade vs. Multiblade Razors Plastic-Free Razors Recycling More Sustainability Tips Frequently Asked Questions In a 1990 consumer handbook, the Environmental Protection Agency estimated that the U.S. produced 2 billion disposable razors and razor blades per year. There are now 80 million additional people living in the country, and while many of them are waste-conscious enough to opt for reusable options, the plastic razor still reigns. The problem with plastic razors is that they're good for only about three to 10 shaves, then they're sent to the landfill where they could potentially spend hundreds of years decomposing. The mixed materials make them difficult if not impossible to recycle, and their sharp nature makes them hazardous to handle. Here, we discuss the alternatives—from the bamboo-handled to the multibladed to the rust-resistant—and other ways to make your shaving routine eco-friendlier. Single-Blade vs. Multiblade Razors Ekaterina Chizhevskaya / Getty Images Most conventional disposable razors have three to five blades, the first one sometimes slightly dull and used to lift hair from the skin, making it easier for the second to cut. The third could cut closer or repeat the function of the primary blade if more come after it. According to the brands that sell them, multiblade razors give you a closer shave and reduce bulging as the blades glide across the skin. Gillette, one of the leading disposable razor brands, says "more blades equal better load distribution"—but others argue that it also creates more friction and more irritation because the blades cut so close to the skin, sometimes even beneath the surface. Single-blade razors shave at the surface of the skin, which means less friction and less risk of razor burn, ingrown hairs, and general irritation. The closer shave also means you can do fewer passes over the skin, leading to a more efficient shaving experience. What's the Difference Between a Safety Razor and Straight Razor? The two types of single-blade razors are safety and straight. Straight razors are just as they sound: long, exposed blades that often fold into their banana-shaped handles. Safety razors feature built-in guards that keep them from pressing too hard against the skin. They are usually weighted, and they rely on that weight for a close shave. They do not require any additional pressure. Manual vs. Electric Razors Electric razors are another good alternative to disposable razors, but they are not as long-lasting or overall environmentally friendly as safety razors because they require power (often from a non-renewable resource) and are usually made of plastic. One good thing about electric razors is that they don't need to be used with any foams, gels, or creams. However, electrical products are notoriously tough to recycle. Choosing a Plastic-Free Razor Reusable razor handles are most often made from steel, such as stainless steel or chrome, or a mix of steel and natural materials like wood or bamboo. Steel is meant to last at least 20 years but can sometimes last longer than a century. That's much longer than bamboo and wood, especially because these materials degrade quickly in moist conditions. One challenge that comes with metal is preventing rust. Some brands are better than others at tackling this problem—even so, rust can be easily prevented and remedied with proper storage and care. Metal can often be recycled whereas bamboo and wood must be thrown away or composted (if not coated). Reusable razors come in both single-blade and multiblade formats but are usually single-blade safety razors. These are more environmentally friendly anyway because the waste accrued are only individual blades, not entire multiblade razor heads. Recycling Razors and Blades Fevziie Ryman / Getty Images Although TerraCycle has partnered with Gillette to recycle razors and razor blades (from all brands), disposable razors aren't accepted by curbside recycling because they contain more than one material. With single-blade safety razors, the only waste accrued is the blade itself, which can be removed easily just by unscrewing the base of the handle. Blades are universal, cheap, and easy to find. Most should be replaced after about five or six shaves; disposable razors are good for three to 10. Safety razor blades are steel and can be recycled through some of the brands that sell them, such as Leaf Shave and Albatross Designs, TerraCycle, or often through your curbside service if it accepts metal. You must always put blades in a safety tin or sharps container before recycling them, and it's best to contact your local recycling center before pitching them into the blue bin. More Sustainability Tips for Shaving Between the disposable nature of plastic razors and the chemicals always included in conventional shaving products, this simple grooming habit can seem like a minefield of environmental vandalism. Here are some extra tips for reducing your impact while shaving. Store reusable razors outside the shower and away from humidity to reduce the chance of it rusting. Don't throw your reusable razor away if you notice rust forming; treat the rust with a baking soda and water paste, leave the solution for an hour, then scrub the rust away with steel wool. Switch to a shaving bar to reduce your plastic use. Look for natural shaving products that do not contain harsh chemicals like triethanolamine (TEA), artificial fragrance, and propylene glycol. Search products on the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep database to see which chemicals they contain and how they rank. Go the extra mile to recycle, even if it means purchasing a TerraCycle envelope and sending recyclables through the mail. Frequently Asked Questions Are safety razors more eco-friendly? Reusable safety razors are more sustainable than conventional razors because you can replace the blade alone (which can be recycled) instead of a whole plastic razor (which can't be easily recycled because of the mixed materials). Are safety razors zero-waste? Safety razors can be zero-waste if you recycle the refillable blades, which are sometimes accepted by curbside recycling services. This way, nothing goes to the landfill. Can you make your own natural shaving cream? Yes, you can avoid plastic packaging altogether by making your own shaving cream with shea butter, coconut oil, and essential oil. The Best Plastic-Free Reusable Razors View Article Sources "The Environmental Consumer's Handbook." United States Environmental Protection Agency. "United States of America: Overview." Data Commons. "Why More Blades Matter." Gillette. "The Global Life Cycle of Stainless Steels." Team Stainless.