An Introduction to Traditional Wet Shaving: Good for the Earth, Great for Skin!
Throughout the month of April, we’ve discussed eliminating toxins in the home. We all know that less toxicity equals better health for our bodies. When you add in the the happy by-product of better health for the earth, it’s hard to resist the appeal of eliminating toxicity from the routines of every day life.
Here at Simple Organic, we’ve discussed natural care for babies, for our skin, and even our nails, but I can’t help but to notice that we are neglecting a major demographic in the movement for more natural families. We need to be careful not to leave men out of the discussion! So ladies, I think it’s time to talk about a topic that affects almost every one of the men in our lives: shaving.
About four and a half years ago, my husband was desperate to find a solution to a problem that had plagued him since adolescence. He had tried every brand of razor and shaving cream on the market, but he could not seem to find a shaving routine that didn’t leave his skin raw, sensitive, and riddled with ingrown hair. While most men looked forward to weekends for a break from the office, he looked forward to the weekends because it meant he wouldn’t have to shave.
Discovering the practice of traditional wet shaving was revolutionary for him. Gone are the ingrown hair problems, and the raw, irritated skin is a thing of the past as well. Today I want to share some of what we have learned in the past few years about what traditional wet shaving is, why it is better for skin, and why it is more friendly for the environment than mainstream shaving practices.
What is traditional wet shaving?
Traditional wet shaving relies on a simple tools, skills, and techniques to remove hair, as opposed to mainstream shaving items that are often propellant-driven and require the use of disposable (and non-recyclable) devices.
How does traditional wet shaving differ from mainstream shaving techniques?
Human hair is elastic in nature. Mainstream shaving practices – also known as “goo-in-a-can” – remove hair by first relying on a chemical reaction to weaken the hair, followed by a cartridge razor system which stretches the hair before cutting it. When hair is stretched and then cut, it’s elastic nature causes the hair to spring back which is the culprit of the pervasive problem of ingrown hair.
Traditional wet shaving differs in that it relies on an alkali solution (soap) to weaken the hair’s protective covering (the cuticle). When the cuticle cells are weakened, they swell and lift which allows water and chemicals easy passage to the inner layers of the hair. When a hair blade is swollen, it is much easier to cut. (Think about the difference between cutting a dried-out, overcooked steak and cutting into a moist, juicy steak. It’s a similar concept!)
Because traditional wet shaving encourages the hair to be cut easily, there is no need for the stretch-and-cut technique employed by cartridge shaving. Hair can be easily cut with the single blade of a double-edge razor or straight razor.
How is wet shaving better for skin?
Nearly every shaving cream and soap designed to be whipped into a lather with a shaving brush contains glycerin. Glycerin is great for skin, and many traditional wet shavers find that the addition of glycerin in shaving products greatly reduces problems with dry skin. Very few mainstream shaving products contain glycerin.
Additionally, traditional wet shaving allows for frequent exfoliation because of the way the brush is used to spread lather across the face. Ladies, we all know the importance of frequent exfoliation for optimal skin health, but the men in our lives may not be familiar with the practice. Shave brushes are an incredibly manly tool to use for exfoliation!
How is traditional wet shaving a more eco-friendly choice?
Mainstream shaving products result in an accumulation of waste.
My husband often went through a can of shaving cream a month before he converted to traditional wet shaving. That’s quite a bit of packaging for not very much actual product. In some areas, pressurized cans will not be accepted for recycling. Disposable razors and disposable razors are also not recyclable.
Once you have invested in the primary tools of traditional wet shaving, purchases will be few and far between. Fewer purchases result in waste reduction. A double-edge razor (or straight razor for the more daring) will last a lifetime. A good quality shaving brush will last fifteen to twenty years. A puck of shave soap will last anywhere from nine to eighteen months.
Razor blades for a double-edge razor are packaged with far less waste than mainstream razor cartridges. The packaging for razor blades is often recyclable, and the blades themselves can be collected in a blade bank to be taken to the recycling bin when filled.
More reading to inspire the pursuit of traditional wet shaving:
- Zen Habits – The Zen of Shaving: How a Double-Edge Razor Can Change Your Life
- Life Hacker – Introduction to Traditional Wet Shaving
- Badger & Blade – Forums. (Comprehensive, interactive site discussing all things traditional wet shaving.)
(Special thanks to Jim of the Badger & Blade community who gave permission for the use of the photos in this post.)
Do any of the men in your life practice the art of traditional wet shaving? What questions do you have on the specifics of this practice?
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