A Guide to Plastic Free Shaving (2021)

The band the beatles shaving

In recognition of the impending celebration of Fathers Day this weekend I’ve roped my husband into writing this week’s article. I hope you’re a Beatles fan because, inspired by a recent trip to Abbey Road, he’s peppered his article with song titles by the fab four! See how many you can spot. (Tip: there are 23 in the entire article!)

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Hello, Goodbye

When I was younger, so much younger than today my dad told this boy that I might as well use a butter knife or a cat’s tongue to shave.  Suffice to say, ‘I’m am the walrus’ does not apply to me and I don’t need to shave eight days a week. Nevertheless in my 20 odd years of shaving I have tested 2, 3 and 4 blade shavers, and all types of shaving gels and creams with varying results. My most recent experiment has involved trialing low-package, naturally derived shaving soap bars as an alternative to shop bought cans of big-brand shaving foam or gels. 

After a few tries I now have a shaving soap bar that’s works just as well, if not better, than any celebrity sponsored shaving foam/gel. Elaine asked me to share what I learned, in case it might be of some help to you. Like a madman I agreed so here some info on planet positive shaving.  

Shaving Soap Brands
Even though the brands of shaving soap that I tried lasted a varying amount of time they still lasted approximately 3 times longer than a can of shaving foam or gel, making them an even more sustainable option. Here are the three brands I tried, plus some other ones on the market.

Sally Miller Shaving Soap – approx €7.00 (can’t remember exact price)
This shaving soap created an excellent foam and came in a reusable / recyclable aluminium tin, which helps prevent getting foam all over the floor when lathering. On the downside it left quite an unpleasant after taste in my mouth. I’m not sure if this company is still going as I can’t find a website for them or any information on the shaving soap. I bought mine in Bomar in Kilcoole in Co Wicklow, who also sell a base for making your own shaving soap.

Clarkes Cedarwood & Seaweed Shaving Soap – €8.50 / €9.50
Clarkes is a brand that has become readily available in Ireland. Their shaving soap is made by hand in Ireland from ethical sourced ingredients and is free from oarabens, free from SLS and SLES and contain no artificial fragrances. You can buy from their own website or the many stockists around the country. This product came wrapped in some waxed paper, held closed by a paper band. I’m in love with this shaving soap as it lathers up really well, has no aftertaste and leaves your skin felling very smooth. 

Lush’s ‘Dirty’ Shaving Soap – €7.50
Although this didn’t last as long as the other shaving soap bars this was my second favourite as it gives a really smooth shave. This product is made from cruelty-free, vegetarian, natural and synthetic ingredients and comes in a plastic pot, which Lush take back to recycle in store. Unlike the other products it doesn’t need to be lathered, acting more like a moisturiser. Because it’s akin to a moisturiser it takes a while to work out just how much to use and it clogged up my razor blades. I’d suggest using less of this than you’d think and putting a drop of shampoo into your shaving cup to prevent the clogging issue.

Other Irish based shaving soap suppliers that I want to give a shout out to include;

Btw I once tried using a shampoo bar but this didn’t work a creamy lather, the foam just ended up going everywhere and the shave was just terrible. I should have know better!

An alternative to shaving soap is cruelty-free Total Shaving Oil , which is a blend of 100% natural oils and contains no dyes, salts, alcohols, perfumes, soaps, or chemicals. It costs €10 for 25 ml and comes in a plastic bottle, but it last for very long time (at least 90 shaves I’m told) leading to less waste in the long run. Personally I didn’t find it as good as the shaving soap so I ended up using it as an aftershave balm and found it great for that.

Sustainable Shaving Equipment
Razors – With the widespread backlash against plastic we’re seeing a revolution in shaving, away from disposables and towards long-lasting safety razorsAt the moment I’m using a Gillette razor with disposable heads because I bought a pack of heads a long, long, long time ago and I’m still trying to get through them. Once the pack is empty I will get back to basics with a metal safety razor that uses disposable stainless steel blades.

Although disposable these blades are entirely made of metal and so fully recyclable. It is too dangerous to put loose blades directly into the recycling bin so I’ve been advised to put the old blades into stainless steel container and then putting the tin into the recycling bin. You can buy safety razors on their own or they come together with a shaving brush and shaving stand, as part of a set.

One tip when buying razors is to look for one with a textured handled as the smooth ones can get very slippy when wet. Knights Barbers have outlined the benefits of using a safety razor on their blog.

Shaving Brushes – When using a shaving soap you need to whip it up into a lather before applying it to your face. The traditional way to do this is with a shaving brush made from badger hair (no messing). The price of these range from €25 to €90. If you’re not keen on the idea of using animal derived products you can buy brushes with plastic bristles instead and these are available to buy for less that €10. Unfortunately I can’t testify to their quality of any shaving brush brands because in an effort to avoid buying another something I trialed a wooden dish brush head that we already had – a clean one of course. Yes it is a bit rough at the start but for €1.40 its works very well. I might graduate to a proper shaving brush but for the moment I’m happy with it.

Razor Blades – These tend to be made from stainless steel and in a generic size so as to fit all safety razors, so the only real difference between them is their sharpness. Very sharp blades will give a closer shave but dull quicker, while less sharp blades last longer and give a medium-close shave. Some blades are coated with things like Teflon, which may or may not be to your liking. Personally the less chemicals the better so I’ll be opting just for pure stainless steel ones.

Or course you can order shaving equipment from the ubiquitous Amazon, Ebay, etcetera, but if you’d like to support some Irish retailers, here are a few that sell shaving equipment

General Tips for Shaving
Do you want to know a secret? Getting a good shave isn’t straightforward. There’s a real skill to it. In my life I’ve come across a few tips to make the whole process relatively painless.

Time your Shave Well – Aim to shave after a shower or bath, when the bristles are softer.

Sterilise your razor – This tip isn’t specific to shaving soap shaving but it really helps reduce the risk of infection so worth doing. I achieve this by sticking my razor in a cup of boiled water for a minute. Just be careful not to burn your self with the hot blade. 

Keep your Blade Clean – I found that my blade clogged during the shave with some shaving soap products but that this could be easily remedied by putting a drop of shampoo into the cup of boiled water holding your razor.  

Keep your Blade Sharp – To increase the longevity of all blades it is best to allow them to dry out thoroughly between uses.

Avoid aftershave on your face – Putting alcohol on your face after a shave can sting so I prefer to use the Total Shaving Oil mentioned above or, the homemade moisturiser that the wife makes.

I’ve got a feeling there’s going to be lots of shaving related items bought this weekend, let it be sustainable ones!

The end


Published by Elaine Butler

I am a circular design consultant helping manfacturers prepare for the circular economy

2 thoughts on “A Guide to Plastic Free Shaving (2021)

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