If the demon barber of Fleet Street has you terrified of a straight edge (cut throat) razor, it’s time to look at these razors anew, or get a safety razor. Either way, a reusable razor that might last you your whole shaving life is far better for your skin and for the environment, not to mention your wallet.

What is a safety razor though, and why might you want to use one? Are there any good disposable razors? Read on to find out.

What are safety razors?

Safety razors have been around for well over a century and are an excellent investment if you want to reduce your environmental footprint, ensure your shave is cruelty-free (unless you count the odd nick), and enjoy a closer shave.

A safety razor is made up of the durable parts, i.e. the metal handle and a head that screws or clamps together, and the thin, double-sided steel blade that the razor head contains. A quality safety razor is easy to use and if you take some simple precautions, the body will last basically forever, and the blades will last far longer than a disposable razor ever will. Go for a quality razor right from the start, rather than one that is just coated with stainless steel which will be more prone to rust. Keep your razor out of the shower and dismantle and thoroughly dry the razor after each use to avoid rust.

Safety razors are typically made from steel or a chromed zinc alloy. As such, if the body of the razor is damaged and can no longer be used, it can be disposed of in an eco-friendly way. And, happily, Rockwell and some other companies offer a free replacement if your razor breaks, because they’re that committed to minimizing plastic use. In fact, Rockwell razors come with a lifetime guarantee, and their blades are rust-proof and last for 5-7 shaves on average, depending on your skin and hair. When you need to switch blades, place the dull blade in a blade bank.

You could even make your own blade bank at home using nothing more than a tin of broth, a sharp knife, and about twenty minutes of your time. All you need to do is to cut a slit into the top of the can, in the center (Wiggle the knife slightly side to side to fold the metal under), drain the liquid and rinse the can, then pop your used blades through the slot. Once the can is full, pop it in the recycling bin with the rest of your cans or take it to a scrapyard or the recycling center for proper disposal.

Two additional advantages of safety razors are that the blades are much sharper than those in disposable razors and are double-sided. This means you’re more likely to get a good shave with no nicks or cuts and you can switch the blade around for double durability.

The Rockwell 6C Razor is our top pick for an environmentally friendly safety razor made with pure stainless steel. If you treat it well, this razor could last you the rest of your life.

You might also want to consider this long-handled safety razor from Merkur. It is durable and ergonomic, but it does come in some plastic packaging, which is unfortunate.

Before choosing a razor that could last you a lifetime, you will want to know a little about the different styles of safety razors. Everybody has their own unique way of shaving and varying degrees of skin sensitivity. For beginners, a closed comb safety razor is probably best and is the most common type available. This style has a safety bar or guard that provides protection between the blade and your skin and reduces the risk of cuts.

Open comb razors have a safety bar with small openings that expose more of your skin to the blade. This is great if you need a more aggressive shave and/or have thick hair, as it will get rid of hair faster. However, it does raise the risk of nicks and cuts.

Slant razors use torqued razor blades that slice hair at an angle. This can take some getting used to but is very efficient once you do. They are a good option if an open comb razor is irritating to your skin or not getting the job done.

Adjustable razors are those that let you customize the space (blade gap) between blade and safety bar. A larger blade gap means a more aggressive shave. This type of razor is a great option if you tend to vary how frequently you shave, or if you like to adjust the intensity of your shave part way through.

Finally, a butterfly razor is a safety razor with ‘butterfly’ doors that open from the top to let you remove and insert blades quickly and easily. They have a more traditional look and are a good option if you’re a little nervous about handling blades.

Straight edge razors

You might also want to consider a straight edge razor (also known as a cut-throat razor). Shaving with one of these is something of an art form but is a great investment if you want a seriously good shave and a durable, reusable razor. If you shave your face with one of these, you may find that you only need to shave every few days instead of every day with a disposable razor.

If you don’t have a shaving mentor to learn from, you might want to book a classic shave at a reputable barber shop to see how a straight edge shave is done. Just don’t watch Sweeney Todd before you go.

The best disposable razors

If disposable razors are a must, or if you’re traveling and don’t want to or can’t take your straight-edge or safety razor in your carry-on luggage, consider Preserve Products’ disposable razors. These are slightly more environmentally friendly than the average disposable razor because they are made entirely out of recycled plastic from yogurt cups (no. 5, polypropylene plastics).

Preserve razors are BPA-free and you can recycle the handle through the company’s Gimme 5 program (with drop-boxes at many Wholefoods locations across the US). These razors also feature disposable blades with lubricating strips that contain aloe vera and vitamin E oil, instead of the usual lanolin and glycerin in most lubricating strips. This means that the razors are also vegan-friendly (lanolin is derived from sheep’s wool and glycerin is often sourced from slaughterhouses). Gillette razors and most other disposable razors feature these chemicals. Preserve also have a strict no animal testing policy.

As far as we can tell, this is the only program of its kind in the US. In France, in 2011, BIC launched a mail-in program to collect and recycle disposable razors, turning the blades into metal parts for washing machines and other appliances. Clearly France is much smaller than the US, but with almost a decade having passed, you’d think a problem of this scale would have a solution by now.

Some companies have made efforts to trim the amount of material and resources going into making disposable razors, including using bioplastics. Still, the impact of these throwaway products with in-built obsolescence is staggering. If you do want to use disposable blades, consider getting a durable safety razor type handle such as the Edwin Jagger razor that takes Mach 3 Turbo heads. (Ignore the description saying it’s for ladies; eco-friendliness is for every gender.)

So, now you’ve got your razor figured out, how about your shaving cream and aftershave?