Shaving is one of those small daily rituals most people do through necessity and without much thought. As such, 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 have a big impact 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 have a big effect on decreasing your toxic load and environmental impact. And it may also save you money!
Our top picks for eco-friendly Shaving Products
|Product||Highlights||Leaf Score||Product Link|
Rockwell 6C RazorRead the Review
| ||Visit Site|
Merkur Long-Handled Safety RazorRead the Review
| ||View on Amazon|
Edwin Jagger Razor (Mach 3 Compatible)Read the Review
| ||Visit Site|
Preserve Products Disposable RazorsRead the Review
| ||Visit Site|
Burt’s Bees Natural Shave CreamRead the Review
| ||Visit Site|
Surya Brasil Sapien Men Shaving CreamRead the Review
| ||Visit Site|
Lavera Men Sensitive Shaving FoamRead the Review
| ||View on Amazon|
Pacific Shaving Company Shaving CreamRead the Review
| ||Visit Site|
Things to consider in Shaving Products
The Environmental Impact of Shaving Products
Just as shaving products can affect your personal health, they can also have a significant environmental impact. We’ll look in a minute at some of the toxins found in shaving creams and examine their detrimental effects on human health, aquatic animals and the wider ecosystem. First, though, let’s look at the environmental impact of disposable razors.
Disposable razors – what’s the problem and what’s the alternative?
Most disposable razors only last for 6-9 shaves, after which they’re blunt and destined for landfill. The average person who shaves daily or near-daily can go through some 40-50 disposable razors a year. This amounts to a staggering 2400 razors or more over a lifetime of shaving.
If each razor weighs around half a pound, that’s around 1200 lbs. of trash per person. Multiply that by the number of people in the US and it’s no surprise that an estimated 2 billion pounds of disposable razors and blades were thrown away each year in America in the 1990s. That estimate is now probably too low, given population increases and the number of people switching to disposable razors from more traditional shaving options.
Because disposable razors are made with both plastic and metal, which are hard to separate, they are difficult and costly to recycle. In contrast, safety razor blades can be recycled with other metals and, if allowed to rust and break down, decompose naturally over time.
Disposable razors can feel more convenient and are usually less expensive than buying cartridges, but your best bet, for your pocketbook, the environment, and for the quality of shave, is to use a safety razor. If you take good care of it, a single safety razor can last a lifetime and the blades are recyclable and inexpensive.
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 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 a good 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.
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). The 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 and are vegan-friendly (the company has 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?
Why choose eco-friendly non-toxic shaving cream?
If it only takes you a few minutes to shave every day, and you rinse off any shaving cream or oil, why bother seeking out safe, non-toxic shaving products? The reality is that the nature of shaving makes your skin more vulnerable to anything you put on it.
Before you shave, you probably apply warm water or a warm damp towel to your face to soften the hairs. This makes shaving easier, but it also opens up your pores, enabling deeper absorption of any lotions, gels, oils, and creams. Shaving also exfoliates the outer layer of dead skin cells, exposing fresh, new skin to the elements and to whatever is in those shaving products.
Like other areas of the toiletries and cosmetics industry, shaving products are not well regulated in the US. Companies don’t have to and don’t like to list what’s in their products, which makes it difficult to figure out if your favorite shaving cream contains toxic chemicals that can damage your skin, disrupt your hormones, increase your risk of miscarriage, infertility, birth defects, neurological problems, cancer, and other health issues (R).
Even shaving creams that are advertised as ‘natural’ frequently list ingredients such as triethanolamine and phthalates alongside jojoba oil and essential oils. And, where a company wants to avoid listing specific ingredients consumers might recognize as toxins, they lump these chemicals together under the handy catch-all ‘fragrance’ or ‘parfum’.
Most shaving creams comprise around 80% water mixed with lathering ingredients, emollients, humectants, emulsifiers, solvents, and other chemicals. For every synthetic chemical used in making shaving products, there’s almost always an excellent natural, non-toxic, alternative.
Choosing effective non-toxic shaving products is better for your health and the environment and can also be more affordable, both in direct costs and indirect costs from better health. So, how can you tell the good from the bad?
Toxic Shaving Cream – What to Watch out for
Shaving products are not easy to research, largely because regulators like the US Food and Drug Administration only require a bare minimum of information from manufacturers. Shaving creams and oils are not ingested (hopefully), so they don’t fall under the same regulatory guidelines as foods or medicines. This should not be taken as an indication, however, that these products are harmless.
Chances are, you’ll use shaving products every day or every week for decades of your life. Even if it takes just two or three minutes to shave every day, this amounts to around a thousand hours of exposure to whatever chemicals are in those products or more if you use aftershave.
What follows is a brief overview of some of the chemicals commonly found in shaving products. The list of potential toxins can look pretty daunting. As a good rule of thumb, then, you’ll save time and effort by simply choosing products that only contain ingredients you can recognize without needing a biochemistry degree. Also, beware companies that make a song and dance about aloe vera or other natural ingredient on the front of a product, only to list it right at the bottom on the back label. The first five or so ingredients are key; if any of these are toxins, it really doesn’t matter if aloe or other natural substance is listed below.
Without further ado, here are some nasty chemicals you’ll want to avoid when choosing safe, non-toxic shaving products:
Sulfates (sodium lauryl sulfate [SLS], sodium laureth sulfate [SLES], and ammonium lauryl sulfate [ALS])
These common surfactant ingredients are used in products intended to foam, such as shaving creams, toothpaste, shampoos, and soaps. Depending on how it is manufactured, SLES may be contaminated with ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane, a known and suspected carcinogen, respectively. Ethylene oxide has been linked to serious nerve damage and cognitive impairment (R) and is classed by California’s Prop 65 program as a developmental toxin and harmful to reproductive health (R). 1,4-dioxane, meanwhile, is a persistent compound, meaning that it doesn’t break down readily and instead builds up in the environment (R). SLS, SLES, and similar compounds can also cause eye irritation, dry skin, rashes and dermatitis, and are toxic to aquatic organisms (R). Watch out for these and for other ingredients with ‘eth’ names; these may be ethoxylates that are also contaminated with ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane (which shouldn’t be confused with dioxin, a known carcinogen).
The Environmental Working Group estimates that about 20 percent of all cosmetics (including shaving products) could be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane. They suggest avoiding any products containing any of the 56 ingredients that can contain the contaminant. These include SLES and those with “PEG,” “xynol,” “ceteareth,” and “oleth” in their name.
Triethanolamine (TEA), diethanolamine (DEA) and monoethanolamine (MEA)
These three emulsifiers are common in toiletries as they help to keep oil and water from separating, making products easier to use. DEA (diethanolamine) and DEA compounds help make cosmetics creamy and sudsy and are usually found in moisturizers and sunscreens. Soaps, cleansers, and shampoos are more likely to feature cocamide and lauramide DEA, however.
These compounds are readily absorbed by the skin and cause mild to moderate skin and eye irritation (R). That’s not the worst of it, though. TEA, DEA, and MEA have been linked to hormone disruption and an increased risk of cancer, by forming carcinogenic nitrates and nitrosamines. Lab tests have found that exposure to high levels of these compounds can cause liver cancer and precancerous changes in skin and the thyroid gland (R, R).
Unsurprisingly, DEA is restricted in use in cosmetics in the European Union (R). Health Canada has also acknowledged the risks associated with DEA and related compounds, categorizing them as “moderate human health priorities” flagged for future assessment under the government’s Chemicals Management Plan. Nitrosamines themselves are prohibited by Health Canada for inclusion in cosmetics but are not restricted when present as a result of contaminants.
Cocamide DEA has been classed by the Danish Environmental Protection Agency as hazardous to the environment because it is acutely toxic to aquatic organisms and has the potential for bioaccumulation (R).
Mineral oil (mineral oil, liquidum paraffinum, paraffin oil, paraffin wax, petrolatum, mineral oil jelly, liquid vaseline, paraffinum, liquidum, baby oil)
It sounds innocuous, and even natural, but mineral oil is a petroleum byproduct and something you want to avoid putting on your skin. Manufacturers include mineral oil in shaving products because it can lock in moisture, helping to avoid skin dryness. However, mineral oil can also block pores and is comedogenic, meaning it can cause acne and skin irritation and infection.
Petroleum products can also be contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Exposure to PAHs, including through the skin, has been associated with skin irritation, allergies, and cancer, leading the European Union to classify petrolatum as a carcinogen (R, R, R).
Phthalates (di-butyl-phthalate [DBP], di-ethylphthalate [DEP], dimethylphthalate [DMP], benzylbutylphthalate [BZBP])
Used widely in toiletries as stabilizers, phthalates help to make products smooth and extend the life of fragrances. Phthalates are endocrine disruptors and have been associated with increased risks of miscarriage, reduced sperm count and prostate enlargement, cancer, insulin resistance in men, early onset puberty in girls, and liver and kidney damage in young children, among other undesirable effects on health (R, R, R).
Dibutyl phthalate (DBP) is banned in cosmetics in the EU (it is recognized as an endocrine disruptor) and is also banned in some children’s products in Canada (R). DBP is absorbed through the skin and can enhance the adverse effects of other chemicals, including increasing the risk of genetic mutations (R, R). In the lab, DBP caused developmental defects, reduced sperm counts, and changes in the testes and prostate (R, R). DBP is also very toxic to aquatic organisms and under the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic, DBP is listed as a Chemical for Priority Action (R, R). Diethyl phthalate (DEP) is listed as a Priority and Toxic Pollutant under the U.S. Clean Water Act, because it can be toxic to wildlife and the environment (R).
In the US, companies can use the term ‘fragrance’ or ‘parfum’ to hide all manner of sins. Designed to allow companies to protect trade secrets, this term is now a convenient catch-all for almost any chemical a company would rather not specify on the label. Typically, that means something synthetic and undesirable.
‘Fragrance’ could mean any mix of around 3000 chemicals, including those known to irritate skin and cause rashes as well as respiratory problems, headaches, and allergies (R). ‘Fragrance’ has even been linked to endocrine disruption, neurotoxicity, and cancer (R, R).
If a product is naturally perfumed, with orange essential oil or coconut oil, for example, most companies will list such ingredients. So, if you see the word ‘fragrance’ on a label, it’s probably best to avoid the product. And, don’t be lulled into a false sense of security by products that declare themselves to be ‘fragrance-free’ or ‘unscented’; some of these products may actually contain fragrance with a masking agent added that stops your brain from perceiving the odor (R).
Glycols (propylene glycol, butylene glycol and ethylene glycol)
Glycols are useful chemicals for dissolving other ingredients so as to create a solution that spreads evenly. They are also humectants and may help skin to retain moisture, which is why they are included in some shaving products. Glycols have, however, been linked to skin irritation, dryness, rashes and dermatitis. If used regularly, glycols may contribute to kidney problems and blood disorders. Propylene glycol, for instance, has been shown to cause liver and kidney damage, to inhibit skin cell growth and cause dermatitis, and can cause nervous system problems and gastrointestinal issues if ingested. Propylene glycol may also be listed as 1,2-Propanediol.
Formaldehyde (formalin, formal and methyl aldehyde, DMDM hydantoin, urea-imidazolidinyl)
Formaldehyde is used in toiletries as a preservative and disinfectant. It is absorbed by the skin and is an irritant to the skin, eyes, nose, and throat even at low doses (R). It may cause respiratory difficulties and is also a carcinogen. Health Canada and Environment Canada categorized menthenamine and quaternium-15 (formaldehyde releasing chemicals) as “moderate human health priorities” and possibly persistent in the environment (R).
Isopentane is a solvent, like glycols, that helps dissolve ingredients to form an even solution. It can also cause skin problems as well as dizziness and headaches, and irritation to the membranes in the nose, throat, and respiratory tract.
It might sound bizarre, but the same chemical used to make non-stick cookware coatings such as Teflon is also found in some shaving gels. This chemical, polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) has been linked to all manner of health problems, mostly due to the toxic fumes released when PTFE is heated. Likely less harmful when applied topically, PTFE is still a cause for concern and is best avoided across the board.
Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) and Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA)
BHA and BHT are closely related synthetic antioxidants used as preservatives in cosmetics and foods. Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) is based on toluene, a chemical which, once listed at 37, is currently listed at 74 in the list of priority substances by the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (R). Rather than toluene having become less toxic, this simply means some other toxins have become a higher priority for the agency. And, unfortunately, you’ll likely find toluene in some form or other in shaving gel, nail polish and remover, perfumes, and other toiletries.
Toluene is a very volatile organic compound (VOC) and has been linked to irritation of the skin, eyes, and lungs, while both BHA and BHT can cause allergic reactions in the skin (R). BHT has also been associated with hormone disruption, cancer, birth defects, blood coagulation problems, and liver, kidney, brain, thyroid, and bone damage (R, R, R, R). And BHA is recognized by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as a possible human carcinogen (R) and by the European Commission on Endocrine Disruption as a Category 1 priority substance, based on evidence that it interferes with hormone function (R).
Benzyl alcohol is included in many toiletries as part of the ‘fragrance’ component or as a preservative and can also make creams feel lighter and help other ingredients penetrate the skin. Benzyl alcohol can also act as an anesthetic, so you might find it in shaving products that claim to relieve itching.
Ironically, then, benzyl alcohol can cause contact skin allergies in some sensitive individuals. Typically, there is not enough of this chemical in shaving products to cause harm in healthy adults, but it can be harmful to children, especially young infants, and safety assessments don’t consider the repeated exposure to this chemical, potentially from multiple products every day (R). In the European Union, benzyl alcohol is subject to restrictions, but no such restrictions exist in the US. In general, then, this one is worth avoiding.
Benzene is a solvent and a Volatile Organic Compound that is classified as a carcinogen (R). At levels in shaving products, with minimal exposure, the chance of side effects is very low. However, high levels of exposure can, in the short term, lead to nervous system problems and tremors, dizziness, breathing problems, convulsions and coma (R). Long-term exposure to high levels of benzene can affect the immune system and red blood cells and may lead to anemia and, in severe cases, leukemia (R).
Dimethiconol and dimethicone
Dimethicone (also known as polymethylsiloxane) is one of many polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) silicone polymers which are produced from D4 and contain residual amounts of D4 and D5 (siloxanes; see below). Dimethiconol is a synthetic hydroxylated silicone oil that resembles dimethicone. These chemicals act as emollients or lubricants, have an anti-foaming action, and are non-greasy. They coat the skin in a layer of silicone to enable razors to glide more easily. While this may help reduce skin irritation for some users, for others the polymer can cause skin irritation and/or eye irritation and allergic reactions.
Two of the most common siloxanes around are cyclotetrasiloxane (D4) and cylcopentasiloxane (D5). These have been recognized as being toxic and persistent, with the potential to bioaccumulate in aquatic organisms (R, R). In the European Union, D4 is classified as an endocrine disruptor and possible reproductive toxin (R). In lab studies, high levels of D5 caused uterine tumors and other reproductive and immune system problems, and D5 also affects the nervous system by altering neurotransmitter activity (R).
D6 (cyclohexasiloxane) is similar to D4 and D5 and is also persistent and has the potential to bioaccumulate. Cyclomethicone is a mixture of the siloxanes D4, D5, and D6. These two chemicals are less common in shaving products and other toiletries but also raise concerns for human and environmental health.
Methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, ethylparaben, isobutylparaben
An estimated 75-90% of cosmetics contain parabens, which are easily absorbed and are known endocrine disruptors (they mimic estrogen (R). Parabens are associated with an increased risk of breast cancer and various reproductive health issues and it is recommended that anyone trying to conceive or who is pregnant avoid products containing parabens (R). Parabens are present in some shaving products as preservatives to help prevent bacterial growth. Intriguingly, research suggests that methylparaben applied on the skin reacts with ultraviolet light, increasing skin ageing and damage to DNA (R).
On balance, it’s best to avoid products containing any of the chemicals listed above. Two other chemicals often included in discussions about toxins in toiletries, but that don’t (yet) make it into the ‘dirty dozen’ lists, include:
Pentasodium pentetate is a chemical you may find in many toiletries, but it has not been properly assessed for toxicity and safety. It is a suspected eye and skin irritant but does not seem to sensitize skin to allergic reactions (R). It is highly water-soluble and, as such, likely doesn’t penetrate the skin to any great degree (R). This chemical is included in shaving products as one of several possible chelating agents to help remove calcium and magnesium cations which would otherwise reduce foaming and could cause clear gels to look hazy. As ingredients go, this one may not be as bad as some of the others listed here. However, given the lack of safety data, it’s better to choose a product made only with ingredients shown to be safe.
When inhaled or ingested, titanium dioxide (a white pigment) is a suspected endocrine disruptor, may cause asthma, and is a known carcinogen, according to California’s Prop 65 chemical list and others. Used externally, however, it is a popular ingredient in natural sunscreens for its ability to block ultraviolet radiation. Its inclusion in shaving creams is largely for whitening purposes as these are not intended to be left on the skin. As such, there is no serious cause for concern if you spot titanium dioxide in non-aerosolized topical shaving products. Just be sure not to ingest any shaving foam and keep these products out of reach of children.
If you’re curious about other chemicals you’ve seen listed in shaving creams and gels, consider searching for it in the European Commission’s Cosmetics Database. If it falls under the banned or restricted categories (Annex II and Annex III), it’s best to avoid the product even if it’s not banned or restricted in the US.
What about aerosol shaving foam?
Compared to recent decades, shaving cream in aerosol cans is much less popular… for shaving, but much more popular for making slime! While this is good news for adults, it could be bad news for kids getting their hands covered in shaving foam and other chemicals day after day.
Shaving foam is also terrible for the environment as these products typically contain unpleasant chemicals and the cans end up in landfill. To create shaving foam in a can, manufacturers use chemicals called surfactants and propellants. Such chemicals make for a convenient product but are hard on the skin as they reduce the skin’s ability to retain moisture. Shaving foam in a can may contain propylene glycol, a chemical found in antifreeze and brake fluid, which we mentioned above as one to avoid.
Given the vast number of potential toxins lurking in shaving creams, gels, and foams, it might seem impossible to find a safe, non-toxic, effective shaving solution. Some good news: Many of the shaving products featuring the dubious chemicals discussed above aren’t terribly effective anyway, and some even make hair stiffer and make shaving harder! In contrast, a good natural, non-toxic shaving cream can help soften hair and make for an easier shave, which helps reduce the risk of razor burn, bumps, nicks, and skin infection.
Good quality, non-toxic, natural shaving creams and gels can also reduce dryness and skin irritation that may make fine lines and wrinkles more visible. In contrast, toxic products can worsen visible signs of ageing.
Looking at these concerns, it makes sense, then, when choosing shaving products, to ask the following questions:
- Does the product contain synthetic and toxic chemicals that may have adverse effects on your health and the environment?
- Does the product actively damage skin? Does it support skin health?
- Are any toxic chemicals or undesirable practices used in the manufacture of the product which could lead to contamination of the product and/or detrimental effects on the environment?
- Has a company demonstrated a good faith effort to be transparent with customers about potentially harmful chemicals in their products?
By asking these questions, we can make better informed choices for ourselves and the environment. And, if enough of us switch to eco-friendly shaving products, the impact would be significant.
What’s the Alternative? Non-toxic shaving products
You might be tempted to just opt for laser hair removal, waxing, or other hair removal products, such as Nair if all this talk of toxins in shaving cream has you feeling perturbed. There’s very little safety data on laser hair removal however, and hair removers and waxing products often contain a rather dubious chemical cocktail all of their own.
Sugaring is one good option that will work for some. Just be sure to use sustainably sourced sugar!
Sugaring for hair removal
If you’re sick of shaving, and depending on where you’re planning to remove hair, you might want to give body sugaring a shot (this is not recommended for facial hair). This ancient method of hair removal is similar to waxing but without the nasty chemicals. Instead, you mix up boiled sugar, water and lemon juice to create a tacky substance, let it cool enough to spread on skin, and then rip it off using strips of organic cotton or another natural textile. This pulls the hair out at the root, which may help make it grow back thinner and softer.
If you don’t want to make your own body sugar at home, you can buy eco-friendly, non-toxic waxing sugar. Always patch test to make sure your skin can tolerate this process.
If conventional shaving is still the order of the day, however, you do have options in the form of non-toxic, eco-friendly shaving creams, oils, gels, and aftershaves.
Shaving Creams, Oils, and Gels
If you’re looking for a safe, non-toxic shaving cream, your best bet may be to start with your favorite brand for other natural and organic toiletries. Chances are they also make non-toxic shaving cream that will nourish your skin. And, if they don’t, why not write to them to ask?
If that doesn’t work, look for products that contain natural ingredients such as jojoba, coconut, sesame, olive, and macadamia oils to give your razor some glide and to condition your skin. Quality shaving creams also often feature soothing aloe vera and essential oils like chamomile to help calm and heal skin. Marshmallow root extract is another good ingredient to look out for as this has natural anti-inflammatory properties and can help prevent razor burn and skin irritation. Similarly, calendula (marigold) extract and evening primrose oil can help ease shaving discomfort.
And, if you’re missing that tingle on your skin from the alcohol in your old shaving cream, consider adding a few drops of peppermint essential oil to your new cream or buying one where this is already included.
We should also note that using natural shaving creams may take a little adjustment. Those chemical toxins can make for a more convenient product that spreads quickly and evenly for a fast, efficient shave. If you’re shaking up your shaving routine, then, it’s best to switch to a new razor and products on the weekend or when you’re on vacation, so you can take a little more time and care while you get used to how a new product lathers and performs.
Another good option is to ditch the shaving cream entirely. Depending on your skin and hair, you might not need it and may be just fine using a hot towel to get your hair to stand up or shaving after a hot shower.
Aftershave continues to be a popular Father’s Day gift, but is a bottle full of toxins really the best way to demonstrate love?
The main purposes of aftershave are to prevent infection from nicks and cuts after shaving and to add a splash of scent. Both of these needs can be met naturally, by using antibacterial essential oils such as frankincense and tea tree mixed with a little aloe vera and/or coconut oil.
If the DIY route isn’t for you, consider a natural shaving balm, conditioning pre-shave oil and shave cream, or check out our product recommendations for eco-friendly, non-toxic aftershave.
Certifications for Shaving Products
Shaving products are not subject to particularly stringent regulation in the U.S., meaning that the onus is on individual companies to seek out certifications for safety and sustainability. Thankfully, a few companies do just that.
When looking for shaving products that are made with non-toxic, safe and natural ingredients, look for the following certifications:
USDA-certified organic – This means the ingredients used in the product have been grown without the use of herbicides, pesticides, and insecticides. If it just says ‘organic’ or ‘natural’, this is not certified organic and is more likely to contain these toxins.
The following certifications are a little more obscure, but worth looking for:
ICEA (The Ethical and Environmental Certification Institute) certification – the ICEA inspects and certifies firms respectful of the environment, workers’ dignity and collective rights. This organization is one of the most prominent inspection and certification bodies in the field of sustainable development.
The SOIL ASSOCIATION – the UK’s leading organic certification organization, the Soil Association promotes sustainable food and farming through the use of local, seasonal and organic systems.
SA 8000 (Social Accountability Certification) – SA8000 is a social accountability standard for decent working conditions, based on global workplace norms of the International Labor Organization (ILO), the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Nordic Ecolabel – promotes a more sustainable consumerism with the goal of creating a sustainable society.
Oregon Tilth Certified Organic (OTCO) – Established in 1974, this is a leading non-profit organic certifier in the U.S. They helped shape the standards for the 1990 Organic Foods Production Act, launch sustainability programs, and help promote innovation in organic standards and practices.
Certified B Corporation – B Corps are companies certified as using the power of business to solve social and environmental problems. It is to business what Fair Trade certification is to coffee or USDA Organic certification is to corn. Certification helps demonstrate an adherence to rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency, including how a company’s practices and products impact employees, community, the environment, and customers.
PETA Cruelty-free Companies are companies that join the “Caring Consumer” program of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. PETA are a leading international animal rights advocacy organization who certify of a company that, “neither they nor their ingredient suppliers conduct or commission any animal tests on ingredients, formulations or finished products, and that they pledge not to do so in the future.”
Leaping Bunny is arguably a better organization for recognizing animal welfare. Products bearing the Leaping Bunny mark are certified cruelty-free under the Humane Household Products Standard, managed in the US and Canada by the Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics. This is a coalition of eight national animal protection groups and participating companies are independently audited to check for adherence to the program throughout the supply chain.
Some reusable products sold in the US state that they are ISO-certified, which is misleading at worst and incorrect at best. There is no ISO certification as such. Rather, the ISO (International Organization for Standardization) creates standards which are then used by other organizations to confer certification. ISO management systems are recognized and practiced in over 160 countries around the world.
Relevant standards for reusable shaving products include:
ISO-10993, Biological Evaluation of Medical Devices Part-1: Evaluation and Testing (for repeat use devices–30 days or more– in contact with skin/mucosal membrane surface)
ISO 13485:2003 Certification, the Quality Standard Management System for medical devices – required by Health Canada for all medical device manufacturers worldwide.
ISO-10993 certification is not necessary for a product to get FDA approval. So, while ‘ISO-certified’ can sound good, it doesn’t always mean much, although it is nice to have.
Companies to Consider for Eco-Friendly Shaving Products
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.
The following companies offer the best options for eco-friendly and body-friendly shaving products:
- Dr. Bronner’s
- Burt’s Bees
- Be Green
- Qet Botanicals
- Amanprana Razoli
- Nurture My Body
- Kiss My Face
- Soap for Goodness Sake
- Surya Brasil Sapien
- Pacific Shaving Company.