Shaving with water only

There’s a touch of heresy floating around the double-edge-blade shaving web: you don’t really need lather to shave. It’s relevant here because double-edge blades can be had without plastic.

Heresy because some of the cachet to double-edge shaving is the equipment — the obvious, but also brushes, mugs, soap, lotions and mirrors — that makes it something of a hobby rather than a dreary daily requisite. And a cozy, masculine indulgence. And the quality of the shave is, in my experience, better than what I used to have with plastic cartridges and canned foam. (Yes, I have a beard but I have an equal surface area that does need shaving: neck and upper cheeks.)

I used to use a (plastic) bottled shaving soap, but wanted to phase that out. Most commercial bar (disc?) shaving soaps are overperfumed or leave me feeling greasy in D.C.’s hard water. Ordinary bar soap is too drying.

Folk legend suggests — I have no reliable citation — Albert Einstein used nothing but water because that — and not the foam — softens whiskers. That’s right. I shave right out of the shower, or in a pinch after softening my face with a hot towel. I use the washcloth to keep my face wet and rinse my blade frequently. I cut myself no more than before (that is, infrequently) and clean up is, of course, much easier.

Getting the shaving brush

My male office-mates know I’m an advocate of double-edge razors: they save money, plastic and provide a superior shave.

Martin Higgins ( had a post today about safety razors — but if you see the one he notes, avoid it; I got one and it’s awful — and the subject of shaving brushes came up in the comments.

And further, what if you want a brush that’s plastic-free and animal-free? Well, tough. It’s one way or another. And given the choice, I’ll take a brush with plastic and no animal bristles. (I also wear plastic, leather-free shoes.)

Fortunately, the Body Shop has one with synthetic bristles (read: plastic) and a wooden handle, which makes up for the plastic handles they usually have.

Make your own deodorant

Next to shampoo, the Deodorant Question looms the largest in the world of the seriously plastic-free. And somewhere in my head I made the calculation and thought “that’s too far.” I can zap plastic in other parts of my life before I go there. Thus

But I’m sympathetic enough (and frugal and wary of toxins) to pass along an idea if someone else can make something of it. Queercents — a lesbian, gay etc. etc. finance blog; gave a transman article on affordable testosterone, for instance — recently ran an article by Elizabeth (no surname given) who makes her own toiletries.

Her research and experiments came to some counterintuitive conclusions, so I recommend you read the whole thing. You’ll end up with a two-fer! And it’s not a messy lotion-type concoction like your grandparents might have suffered.

DIY Experimenting: Making Deodorant

My shampoo solution

I have basically two kinds of readers here: serious plastic reduction folk, and co-workers. (Hi gang!) The later group might not understand how seriously some of the former take the issue of not using commercial shampoos, which includes the plastic bottle and for some the chemicals included. The baking-soda-and-vinegar alternative didn’t appeal, and it’s not because I’m afraid of either. (I clean my teeth with one, the mirror with the other.)

I was prepared to keep using plastic-bottled shampoo because — must I say it? — dandruff. Which, as it turns out two doctor-visits ago, is really some kind of allergic thingy and not the garden variety. Since over-the-counter zinc and selenium shampoos weren’t cutting it, I decided to change tack and that — mirabile dictu! — got me away from plastic.

I bought a bar of Grandpa’s Wonder Pine Tar Soap: a Tootsie Roll-colored cake in a cardboard box. No plastic. Now, its maker is very keen to couch any claims of treating skin ailments as folklore and with deep caveats. But I also wasn’t convinced that people buy it for the scent, which is not unlike the smell of leaves burning. Not bad, but not great. I made a lather in my hands and worked it in wet hair. It tingled just for a moment the first time, but not long and not since. And dang if the flaking came to an almost complete end after two, perhaps three days. Seriously. (And of course, your experience might be completely different.) And it doesn’t itch nearly as much.

Now, as to my hair. The soap is drying, but I find if I use it to wash my scalp and treat the cleaning of the hair as an afterthought, the dryness is lessened. Of course, the weather has been very dry, my hair was far longer than usual when I started (which probably explains some flyaways) and I’ve stopped using any product. (I should probably resume; a pomade perhaps.)  If you smelled my hair — nose on head — you’d smell the pine tar. But with my nose several inches from my scalp, I’ve never noticed it.

Sometimes the soap leaves a faint residue: a very fine mist — for lack of a better word — of resin that adds some body, and which for all I know is causing the scalp to get better. I like it and recommend it for people who want a bottled shampoo substitute and have dermatitis or eczema.  I am experimenting alternating shampooings with Vermont Soap shampoo bar, which I’m also trying out as a shaving soap. Got that one at Greater Goods in bulk.  I’ll review that when I come to an opinion.

Stocking stuffer: shoe brushes

low-plastic_brushes1 Back in September, Hubby and I vacationed in the Pennsylvania Dutch Country. Seeing a Fuller Brush shop at an outlet mall in Reading, I stopped to see what was offered. There, in addition to two brushes made mostly of plastic, I found these US-made and evidently plastic-free shoe brushes. The small one is for daubing polish, the larger for bringing up a shine. Shoe care has been one of those mainly manly domestic tasks that I thought I should be better at, and old rags have a role but when used alone leave me covered in shoe polish, so I avoid the task. Besides: care for goods is a corollary to reducing consumption, plastic included. And they’d make a nice stocking stuffer.
These brushes were sold loose, which it why I mention it here. The only other shoe brush I recall buying — somewhat rougher made than the one pictured here — I got for my father when I was visiting the West Bank, also loose.

Not much good that does you, unless you live in southeastern Pennsylvania or Bethlehem (as in “O Little Town” not the former steel center), right? Well, a few days ago, I noticed in my neighborhood market, a cardboard-packed shoe brush, under the Kiwi brand, almost identical to the one above. So they may be more widely available for sale, certainly at a shoe repair shop.

Shaving without plastic

A while back I changed my shaving routine, going from cartridge blades and canned foam first to a traditional double-edge blades in a holder. I revived the use of my shaving brush. Then I got my grandfather’s all-metal razors after my grandmother died. I moved from blades cased in plastic and sold in blister packs to those wrapped in paper. My last step is to quit using a plastic-bottled shaving soap and find something that’s plastic-free and preferably animal-free: I’ll keep you posted.

I won’t republish these steps because I blogged about it along the way on my main blog, finishing here with links to all the earlier steps there.

But I never wrote about the blades. I used to use Wilkinson Sword blades, made in Germany, but apart from the (admitedly small amount of) plastic waste, they’re not a sharp or flexible as I like. After researching my options, I bought a box of 100 Korean-made blades, wrapped in paper and boxed — 10 smaller boxes of 10 — in cardboard. Evidently a pack for shopkeepers.

These are the Dorco ST300 blades, sold in many places, including this current eBay auction with good photographs. Watch out: I believe the Dorco ST301 blades are packed in plastic. Reviews at Badger and Blade.

The downside: when I got them mailed to me they came in a bubblewrap mailing envelope, but I’m hoping to find them at a professional beauty supply shop. And a 100 blades should last me about two years or more.

Reduced-plastic toothbrush

Was at Greater Goods tonight to get a 1.2kg bag of Charlie’s Soap Powder — for laundry, packed in paper; more about that later — when I saw the German-made Fuchs Ekotec toothbrush (online retailer), which claims to be “economical, ecologically correct”. Which is good, since my toothbrush is looking ragged.

Is the claim vaild? It has plastic-covered blister pack (admittedly over recycled paper) packaging and the brush itself plastic, but is distinguished by having replacable bristles. While $4.75, it did come with a total of three heads — so cheaper than three half-decent brushes — and replacement heads are available. So less plastic overall, which I think puts it ahead of the recycled-plastic (but unrefillable) toothbrushes I’ve seen.

But isn’t there an alternative? Recall that toothbrushes were one of the first commerical products to adopt plastic — nylon specifically — when the boar hair formerly used became unavailable during wartime. And I care about plastic waste, but even if I could find one, I don’t want to brush my teeth with boar bristles.

{Quick Googling} O Lord, you can get them. I think I’m going to be ill, but don’t say I don’t offer an alternative. And it looks like it comes in a plastic case. Priceless.