There was a time, not so long ago, when excess body hair represented a commitment to the environment. Choosing a hirsute look — legs, armpits, face and so on — somehow symbolized a back-to-basics simplicity that put nature first and pushed vanity to a distant second. And with about 2 billion disposable razors ending up in landfills each year (according to the EPA), those who remained hairy may have been on to something.
But today you’ve got options. You can render yourself smooth as a baby’s bottom without compromising your environmental beliefs. It’s possible to rein in your furry parts without turning to shaving creams and waxes that contain toxic chemicals and without adding a plastic razor to the billions already clogging the planet. Here’s how:
Choose the right device
Whether you’re readying your legs for short shorts or working to keep stubble off your chin, it’s important to choose a razor that will do the job without harming the earth (who knew that a simple shave could have such an impact?).
My go-to eco-friendly razor happens to be related to my favorite eco-savvy toothbrush. They’re both from the masterminds at Recycline, an innovative company that has figured out how to turn discarded plastic into shiny new grooming gear. The Preserve Triple Razor is no poor eco-substitute. The recycled plastic handle (made from Stonyfield yogurt cups, among other plastic items) is outfitted with disposable titanium-coated triple blades — complete with a lubricating strip made from vitamin E and aloe.
When you’re ready for a new razor — though in theory you could keep the handle forever and simply replace the blades — print a prepaid postage label from the company’s Web site and send your old one back to Recycline to be recycled at no charge. Those who are particularly eco-conscious and particularly daring may want to experiment with an old-fashioned straight razor that never needs to be replaced, only sharpened.
Upgrade your cream A slick surface promotes a smooth, easy shave, but have you taken a close look at what’s inside that can of foam? Many shaving creams contain potentially harmful synthetic chemicals that can bring about allergic reactions or contribute to serious conditions and diseases. And pressurized cream or gel is stored in environmentally unfriendly cans that are tough to recycle.
The alternative? To combat hairiness in our household, my husband and I use soap to shave. In practice, any organic bar of soap will do the trick — just lather and run your razor through the bubbles — but we favor Elemental Soap Works’ (elementalsoapworks.com) Herbal Shave Bar, infused with a citrus scent and bentonite clay, which helps reduce friction (and nicks). Another shaving cream alternative is Pacific Shaving Company’s Shaving Oil (pacificshaving.com), made from a variety of natural oils like sunflower, avocado and kukui nut. The tiny bottle can facilitate about 100 shaves and is easy to tuck into a toiletry kit. Alba Botanicals and Tom’s of Maine also make natural shaving creams that are stored in easy-to-recycle tubes.
Wax right Before you subject yourself to another waxing session, consider what that wax is made from. Most waxes found in home waxing kits and in salons are derived from petroleum-based ingredients. But if waxing is what works, seek out salons that used natural waxes; DIY types should check out Gigi Organic Milk and Honee Wax, which is free from mineral oil (petroleum based and an eco no-no), synthetic fragrances and irritating chemicals. And if you’re willing to ditch waxing altogether for a truly earth-friendly hair-removal experience, consider sugaring. Using nothing more than sugar, lemon juice and washable cloth strips, sugaring could very well be the waxing of 2008. You can make your own sugar concoction at home, or you can buy a sugaring kit like Shobha’s Madhu Mini (myshobha.com) with sugar gel, reusable denim strips, spatulas and instructions.
Marisa Belger is a writer and editor with more than 10 years of experience covering health and wellness. She was a founding editor of Lime.com, a multiplatform media company specializing in health, wellness and sustainable living. Marisa also collaborated with Josh Dorfman on “The Lazy Environmentalist” (Stewart, Tabori, and Chang), a comprehensive guide to easy, stylish green living.
Please note: Neither Marisa Belger nor TODAYshow.com has been compensated by the manufacturers or their representatives for her comments or selection of products reviewed in this column.