I’m sick and tired of the razor cartridge ripoff and I’m doing something about it.
Content note: body/skin care, shaving, sharp blades
I’ve been shaving basically my whole body from the ears down ever since I was 17 or so. Long before realizing how it was a part of my dysphoria, I just hated the feeling of body hair and I still do even though there never was much of it and now there’s far less even. (Yay, hormones!)
So, razors are an every-day-use personal grooming item for me and while I’m not an expert, like a barber maybe, I think I know a thing or two from decades of experience. For most of the time I shaved I’ve relied on wet shaving. I’ve tried dry electric shaving but it’s not even close in terms of results and with some practice in wet shaving it’s also not significantly faster. For most of the time I’ve been using the usual cartridge razors that are commonly marketed today. You know, those things where you buy a handle and then click a plastic head onto it that usually holds several thin blades in a row, probably also some kind of soft strip that’s soaked with … something that supposedly reduces skin irritations but never lasts more than one or two uses and actually does nothing.
The thing with cartridges is, they’re ridiculously expensive. For decent ones that actually last for a bit I pay about 10€ for four of them and if I really stretch it, I can get maybe two weeks of use out of one for full-body shaving with thin and sparse hair. People with more hair to shave probably use a lot more than that. They’ll often advertise a month of use but that’s simply not true, regardless of whether they’re marketed as “women’s” or “men’s” razors, I tried several brands of both. The only really difference there anyway is that “women’s” razors are more expensive and get shittier handles, and they’re all pastel pink. Thanks, sexism.
They also generate a huge amount of waste with the plastic heads and often individual packaging per cartridge. Not to mention the way they’re locked away at stores, requiring you to bother a staff member which is extra fun as a trans woman because each time you ask a cis stranger for “razor blades” you get to roll the misgendering dice.
(In Dungeons & Dragons terms it’s something like a DC 15 and you can apply a +3 bonus at best.)
Fuck all that.
I decided to go low tech and try a safety razor, those things that use old-school single razor blades. I was always a bit confused by the term “safety razor” because coming from cartridges they are definitely less safe. After all, you do need to handle an unprotected razor blade at some point, at least when changing blades. And when in use it’s definitely easier to cut yourself with it. But don’t worry. With a little practice and patience it’s fine, really.
The name “safety razor” comes from comparing them to straight razors, which are just very, very sharp knives. So it makes sense how they got their name. When in regular use with the blade held in the razor, you can cut yourself but the maximum depth of a cut you can do is less than a millimeter while a straight razor is seriously dangerous when not handled very carefully.
But it’s definitely a bit scary. That’s why it took me so long to try. I remember when I started using razors I even manged to cut myself with cartridges. Mostly because I rushed it and used the cartridges for way too long, something that was encouraged by these things being so damn expensive. So using a razor that had fewer safety protections seemed like a bad idea.
Recently I had enough though. Cartridges have gotten even more expensive per pack with inflation and each pack contains fewer units now. It has always been a ripoff but now it has gotten to a point where I’m just completely fed up with it.
So I got myself this:
I like using nice tools. And I mean, just look at this thing. It’s fucking cool. This is a starship captain’s skin care device.
It’s a razor made in Germany by a company that’s been doing this since the late 19th century. You can often find safety razors made by a local company or at least one that hasn’t outsourced its production to wherever labor is cheapest. It’s a nice touch to have something that’s actually been manufactured rather than produced on a global industrial scale. This is not a product review so I’m not linking to it. Feel free to ask me for details if you like though.
It’s now been a week of regular use now and I can definitely say: this is better. It does take more care but after some practice it’s not meaningfully slower. And I would even say the shave is better, especially in places like legs where my hair is very thin and the cartridge blades often just squash it down so I have to give it multiple passes which irritates the skin. With a safety razor it’s one pass and the result is perfect. I also have fewer itchy or burning sensations afterwards.
In terms of cost, of course the razor itself is an upfront expense but it’ll safe me money within a few months. And given this is a very well made metal tool it’ll probably last the rest of my life, probably longer.
Another neat thing is that you can get so many different blades that all fit the standard razor head. And since a lot of manufacturers sell them in packs as small as five, it’s easy and affordable to try different ones and see which work best for my skin. And when I have found the right ones, I can get them in bulk packs of up to 100.
And as an added bonus: standard safety razor blades aren’t marketed by gender.
I’m very happy with this and if you have a little bit of patience for practice and careful shaving, I’d definitely recommend safety razors. I can however also imagine that it’s not for everyone. Cartridges are easier to use overall. Also, if you do use safety razor blades, please to not just throw them in the trash. They’re dangerously sharp and someone who is handling or sorting the trash could get injured. Collect them in a safe container and drop them off at a recycling facility when it’s full, which will probably take you a very long time.