As a child, I loved watching my dad whip up a lather using a traditional shaving brush, shave soap, and mug, and I was in awe of that shiny safety razor. There was a lovely ritual to it all; a ritual that was entirely lost with the use of an electric razor or plastic disposable razors. The mindfulness of traditional wet shaving isn’t the only thing that’s lost with a switch to quick and dirty disposables or electric shavers. While shaving is one of those small daily things most people do through necessity and without much thought, it can have a big impact in surprising ways.
Unless you’ve already read a few of the articles in this series on shaving for Leaf Score, it might surprise you to learn that shaving creams, gels, oils, and aftershaves are often riddled with toxins. What’s more, your choice of shaving products can take a serious toll on the environment over the course of your lifetime.
The good news is that by switching to eco-friendly shaving products, this small daily ritual could help decrease your toxic load and environmental impact. And it could also save you money!
Many companies claim to make eco-friendly products for shaving but while some of their products may sound good, it’s important to note the provenance, certifications, and company history. For instance, many of the same companies that promote toxic household and personal care products (say, Gillette) have either acquired smaller, previously independent companies making eco-friendly products or now offer greenwashed period products under the own brand, albeit half-heartedly.
Top Companies for Eco-Friendly Shaving Products
So, who are the companies to seek out when looking for eco-friendly and body-friendly shaving products? Here are a few of my favorites for razors:
- Merkur (View on Walmart)
- Edwin Jagger (View on Walmart)
- Preserve (for more eco-friendly disposable razors) (View on Walmart)
As for shaving creams, foams, gels, and oils, these companies do a pretty fantastic job of making non-toxic and environmentally friendly products:
- Dr. Bronner’s – Gel (View on Walmart)
- Burt’s Bees – Cream (View on Walmart)
- Kiss My Face – Cream (View on Walmart)
- Pacific Shaving Company – Cream (View on Walmart)
- Lavera – Foam
- Badger – Soap
- Qet Botanicals – Oil
As for brushes, you’ll often see brushes with a wooden handle and animal hair touted as the best option, but I’d bristle at that, given the cruelty likely involved in producing such brushes and the likely presence of toxic lacquers, varnishes, stains, and resins used in the handles. In some cases, the animal hair is sourced ethically, but in most cases, it’s not. As such, you’re better off going with a vintage brush (even if it has a plastic handle), and getting the knot (the bristles) replaced with synthetic bristles.
Synthetic bristles may seem anathema to those wanting a traditional wet shave, but they aren’t always a bad idea, even in terms of eco-friendliness. That’s because one synthetic fiber brush could easily last you many years, if not a lifetime, while animal hair brushes tend to deteriorate over time and need replacing.
Companies that make decent cruelty-free shaving brushes with a high quality wooden or metal handle include:
Watch Out for Hidden Chemicals in Shaving Products
Interestingly, men’s grooming products don’t seem to be an area where much mind is paid to eco-friendliness or potential toxicity of products. However, you’ll still find some instances of greenwashing. For instance, if you’ve been looking around for eco-friendly shaving brushes, you may have encountered Pakkawood, which is touted as being made with recycled wood and Earth-Friendly. The reality is that Pakkawood is a composite wood treated with resin. This almost certainly means it is laced with toxic chemicals, including formaldehyde, toluene, benzene, and other volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
VOCs are known to cause serious health effects, so I hesitate to recommend a shaving brush with a resin handle, composite wood handle, or any wooden handle with anything but natural oil as a finish. I do include some of these in my list of companies to consider and in product reviews but, as you’ll see, these companies get a Leaf Score no higher than 3.
In fact, most of the recommended products only achieve a maximum Leaf Score rating of 4/5 because all of the products contain plastic fibers and in some cases may have undisclosed glues, varnishes, lacquers, and stains used in their construction. For example, some companies use Danish Oil as a finish on their wooden handles. While this sounds good, being made with linseed or tung oil, the reality is that this product is a mixture of around one-third varnish to two-thirds vegetable oil, meaning it likely off-gases some serious VOCs.
Sadly, regulators in the US don’t much care if there are VOCs or other toxic chemicals in the composite wood products we use every day, with the exception of children’s products. (See my discussion about Consumer Safety Regulations and Why They Matter.) As such, you’ll need to take matters into your own hands and find out what’s in these brushes by asking companies direct questions. I’ve done that for the companies listed but am still awaiting answers or further clarification in many cases.
While I tried hard to find a truly non-toxic shaving brush, it appears that nobody is making them. This makes me question consumer demand for these items and seems like a perfect opportunity for men (and others) who are looking to begin wet shaving to create a movement in the grooming industry for non-toxic, eco-friendly goods. Instead of caring about toxic chemicals going into making these brushes, razors, shaving gels, creams, soaps, and foams, the focus is almost always on being hyper-masculine.
So, if you’re a person who shaves and you’d like companies to start making products that don’t ruin your skin and/or the Earth, step it up and demand better.