Razors, Shaving, and Pollution

History of shaving in America

People have shaved for thousands of years, initially using items such as rock, shell and other similar sharpened crude devices. These were eventually replaced by upgraded versions until eventually the straight razor, the electric razor and the disposable safety razor were invented. The current iteration of disposable safety razors with replaceable blades began with Gillette in 1901 when they created the idea was that a smaller more compact blade was cheaper to produce and thus it could then be disposable. There were likely safety and economic benefits from this change. At some point the head was made to easily detach form the handle allowing for cheaper disposal. In addition during the World War there was fear that soldiers needed to be prepared to wear gas masks. This resulted in disposable razors being issued to service men who were ordered to shave daily. This resulted in a steep rise in the popularity of shaving and ingrained the practice into a whole generation of people. Some data on statistics can be found at:http://www.statisticbrain.com/shaving-statistics/.

In order to remain on task I will not be talking about the monetary cost of shaving in much detail but if you shave you know that it costs money…sometimes quite a bit of money. Shaving cream for instance can cost $5 – $70 per bottle and blades (especially disposable blades) can be quite expensive. Electric razors are expensive and a good old straight razor can cost more than a high end electric razor and requires a lot of maintenance and it can cut you.

The current information on shaving

Based on the data linked above I calculated that women on average waste 2 hours and 10 minutes a month shaving and 1,402 hours of their lives shaving. At a $10 per hour (a dismal salary to live on in the United States) a woman could spend this time to earn an extra $14,000 and they pay $10,000 for this lost salary, this is a total economic impact of $24,000 in the red to the household budget (assuming only one woman in the house) over the life of the woman. Regarding men I couldn’t find cost or time information but 1.3 billion men using a razor to shave and 75% of men shaving daily is a lot of time and money that could be better used.

Environmental Concerns

So I guess I’m a little less concerned about how other people spend their money and their time…If the time and monetary costs of shaving provide you with a benefit as an individual then I won’t begrudge you on those aspects. I am a firm believer that individuals should be allowed to do what they wish and spend their money how they wish provided it doesn’t harm other people. Unfortunately, I think shaving falls into this category of harming other people from an environmental perspective especially when looking at the electric and disposable razor markets. These two kinds of razors are manufactured from metal and plastic both of these processes require energy input and likely this energy input comes from some form of fossil fuel burning. This produces carbon dioxide emissions which may in the near future be detrimental to our health as a species and the health of other species on the planet.

An additional concern is that at the end of the life of these products is likely the landfill and if we are lucky recycling centers. In the landfill these plastics might remain for very long periods of time and while a disposable razor may not be that large the cumulative effect of 1.3 billion men shaving daily creates a fairly sizable impact on the waste system. If we are lucky and the plastics and metals from these products makes it to a recycle center or other proper disposal facility then at least the biohazard (blood that may remain on the blade) is removed and the plastic and sharp metals are removed from the waste stream. This is the preferable end for these devices but even recycling of the plastics and metals is energy intensive (frequently this energy creates carbon emissions) and is still not great for the environment.


I would like to propose that all men and women cease the practice of shaving (except with straight razors). The preferred option would actually be for men to wear beards and for women to have hairy legs and armpits. We are designed to have hair it provides many functions and to create a false image of beauty by encouraging as a society the unnatural practice of shaving as the societal norm is not only unnatural and a skewed reality but it is also harming the environment for generations to come (and the present generations), and financially costing households money which could be spent on other things (such as improving clean water and safe food access to others). Finally it wastes time that could be spent enjoying life, enjoying time with your family, earning more money or making a difference in society and the world. The act of shaving is robbing us dry and we continue to promote it to the extent that even today many businesses has policies which deter unshaven looks.