June 4, 2020

Disposable Razors

First published seven years ago, this post still resonates today...maybe even more so in our present situation.

This is not a post about personal grooming. It is about adjusting your viewpoint. 

This is not a post about our throwaway society. It is about being open to something new.

On one of our RV trips I brought an electric shaver. It is OK most of the time. It is convenient, holds a charge for weeks, and gets close enough for most occasions (especially a vacation). But, once every three weeks or so I like to use shaving cream and a razor to give myself a real shave. Unfortunately I forgot to pack any blades on this trip so I stopped at Walgreens to buy some.

As most of us are aware, razor companies pretty much give away the handle to make their money on the blades. With dozens of different styles, once you have committed to a handle, you have committed to a certain blade. They are not interchangeable. Just like office printers where the ink costs more than the printer after a year or so, blades are expensive. For men, Gillette keeps adding blades to each saving head; I think they are up to five per razor blade now. 

My handle is probably 15 years old and uses a two strip blade. Imagine, only 2 shaving surfaces! How primitive  As you might imagine finding that type of blade after all these years is very difficult but I persisted, until Betty offered a solution that had never occurred to me: disposable razors.

I kid you not. I knew such things existed but I think of these cheap, flimsy, handles with poor quality blades that nick and slice someone's face when disposable razors are mentioned. Guess what? Disposable razors aren't garbage anymore. Companies has figured out how to manufacture a decent, reasonably priced, disposable handle/blade. Who knew?

Betty looked at me like I had my lights on but no one was home. "You didn't know about good quality disposables?" I think she was wondering who she had married. My excitement at finding a workable solution to my shaving blade problem energized me all evening. I even shaved after dinner just to try it out. It worked! And, I smelled good! 

My point is larger than the fact than I have missed a rather common development in the world of personal grooming. It is all about being open to new ideas. 

For well over a decade I have continued to invest increasingly large sums of money in an increasingly futile search for something that has swerved me well in the past, and therefore is just fine for today....even when it isn't.

What other actions and decisions do I stick with out of loyalty, habit, or lack of perceived alternatives? What else is part of my life even when its usefulness is over? Actually, our RV trip opened my eyes to several ways I live that may need some examination:

* A simple dinner is just as satisfying as one that takes lots of prep time or dirties too many dishes. Plastic plates and cups are sometimes a great choice.

* A nap when needed is a true blessing, but when it becomes a habit there is a need to reassess. I have taken fewer post-lunch naps on this vacation and haven't missed them. In fact, I notice the "extra" time Betty and i have to do something more fun or productive.

* I need to do a better job of controlling my computer/Internet time. Is the lack of a solid WiFi signal important enough to ruin my day? Seriously?

* Habitually I have four cups of coffee a day, though I really enjoy only two of them. On this trip I have had just two cups each day. So, I just have to stop going through the motions at home.

All of this from a disposable razor! 

An added thought: what we are going through right now, in June 2020, really is another example of the need to be open to new ways of doing things, of deciding what is important. We are at that perfect historical junction when we can decide if our past actions and decisions still work. 

And, yes, I now have a stock of disposable razors under my sink for use as needed. 


  1. Yes, we are creatures of habit. This post made me think about assessing my own life and habits. Saturday is my 53rd birthday and I am going through a very tough time with mom in the ICU at the hospital for the last 75 days hooked to a ventilator. The Covid-19 scare and my mom's situation have made me think about the really important things in life and how much we waste, how much we own and what makes us happy and healthy and otherwise. I like reading your blog but, I rarely comment. These days my favorite blogs are part of my keeping myself sane regimen.

    1. Welcome to the comment section! About 97% of blog readers never comment so don't worry about leaving your thoughts unless you are motivated to do so by a particular article.

      These last 3 months have been a good time to reassess. As the demonstrations in the last few days have shown many are trying to come to grips with some of the flaws in our society that cry out for attention.

      My very best wishes for your mom and her recovery.

  2. But that was then. Now we know we use too much plastic, don't we? Disposable razors and plastic cups and plates end up floating around the Pacific Ocean. I, too, usually have four cups of coffee in the morning. Like you, I should really cut back to two.

    1. Good point about plastic. The virus has turned us all back to plastic, reversing an encouraging trend away from it. I hope we remember to go back to cloth bags and regular dishware when the time is right.

      The good news: I only use one disposable razor a month, but you are right. Any plastic-based product has the potential to harm.

  3. Life seems to be going by at a very high clip lately, and I'm adjusting as I can. As Tom said above, current wisdom is that we use too much plastic. During this pandemic though, I find myself using more paper towels than cloth, more plastic than I might want, etc., just to keep things disinfected and toss things that might be germ ridden. I received some lovely waxed cloth food savers from our kids, and I've been using them in place of plastic wrap, but when I read the fine print, it seems they aren't good for raw meat. So back to the plastic wrap for certain foods. And so it goes. We do our best. And a mental adjustment once in a while is probably good brain activity at my age. :-)

    1. We have been using washable face cloths instead of paper towels and napkins whenever possible. One roll of paper towels can last almost 3 weeks!

      DUring this time we have had to revert to some bad habits, including eating too much. I think I am doing well in that regard until I step on the scale. At least we are ramping up the number of vegetarian meals each week. When meat was sometimes hard to find last month, it was a good reminder to turn to other sources of protein.

  4. I completely agree to the "sentiment" of this post. We do need to rethink and readjust just our habits and automatic actions every now and then.

    BUT...disposable razors and anything disposable like toothbrushes or keurig pods are all part of the "disposable" mentality that is not sustainable. May I suggest Costco where you can buy a new razor and along with a supply of blades when you really need that closer shave--and maybe alternate that with an electric one....at least that's what my husband does.

    1. Rest easy, Kathy. I use an electric shaver 95% of the time. Once every 3 weeks I will use a disposable razor, which I don't dispose of for another two or three uses. So, over the course of a year I throw away maybe 4 of these, less than if I had blades that were also thrown away when they get dull, blades made from metal and encased in a plastic shell.

      I shifted to a sonic toothbrush last year. The bristles last 3 months and the handle is kept for, hopefully, years.

      But, you and Tom used this post to highlight something we must all pay attention to: how we live does effect the environment, even with something as small as a disposable raqzor.

  5. I really appreciate the spirit of your post, because this is something I am realizing I do, to my own detriment. Like all of us here, I have many years of living, including looking for the "best" products for myself. After a while, some of these products start disappearing. I often find the new products to be inferior to my favorites. But if I continue to struggle to find my old favorites, I am wasting my time. I'm trying to let some of those things go, and with my close friends sometimes they become a joke. "Yes, I am still looking for good, black, mostly cotton, seamless toe crew socks without a tight band, that stay up. It's a Quest!" And I laugh at myself. Letting go is a Quest, too.

    1. Habits are both reassuring and keep us locked into a certain way of seeing things. Your hunt for socks and mine for blades for my 20 year old razor are good examples.

      At one point I owned about 500 CDs that I spent a long time copying onto an iPod. That was just fine until streaming music made the iPod obsolete. Suddenly I had access to virtually every song ever recorded.

      The iPod sat unused for a full year before I donated it. But, getting rid of the 500 CDs took another two years. No matter that I never used them or even had a CD player anymore. But, habit told me to keep them. Finally, about two months ago I got rid of them.

      Habits die hard.

  6. There have been many instances of adjusting my viewpoint in the last decade beginning with the decision to retire. Prior to that, it was a long slow burn to changing the tape in my head from I can't/I'm not good enough to I can/I'm OK. I've reevaluated relationships and have become more purposeful in many aspects of my life. Those are personal/social examples. A few weeks ago, I had to change my viewpoint when I went to the greenhouse for bedding plants for my flowerbeds. There was very little of what I wanted. I could have thrown my hands up in defeat or gone on a quest for only what I wanted. I made choices from what was available. This challenges my creativity and introduces me to something new. I'd like to think that this is a metaphor for life.

    1. ...and what the razor story stands for: a metaphor of any change in our life that shows us a fresh way to looking at something. Your gardening experience is a perfect example. You may not like the end result, but you are trying something out of your immediate comfort zone and may be pleasantly surprised.

      All of us tend to build a box around parts of our lives. If nothing else, the last few months should have taught us that we can adjust to a rather major upheaval in our norm.

  7. Hi Bob. I don't know how I missed this post, but I'm glad I went back through and found it. This is a topic near and dear to me, as I am a bit of a shaving aficionado.

    I began shaving with electrics, then moved to the Gillette multi-blade cartridges with canned cream. Always searching for the perfect shave, I then tried Harry's shave club. Finally, my son turned me on to a blast from the past - the "double-edge", or safety razor.

    A large part of trying the DE razor was a disgust with both the waste and cost of the cartridges. I was throwing away one a week, at a cost of about $4 each. The initial investment with a DE is a bit higher, but once you have the hardware, blades cost about 12 cents each. There is pretty much no waste. The razor itself should last a lifetime, and the blades can be recycled in most locales.

    The experience is more pleasant, too. Once one learns the technique, the shave tends to be smoother and more comfortable, and the routine of lathering up a brush and working the soap onto your face is kind of calming - some call it "zen". I also like the feeling of shaving like my dad and his dad did. The results produce much less irritation than I ever had before, as well.

    Of course the cost savings can be negated if you fall into the rabbit hole like I have. I now own 5 safety razors, and the array of soaps, brushes and accessories is endless. Want your shave to smell like a walk through a pine forest? There's a soap for that. Want it to smell like you're eating an orange creamsicle? There's actually a soap for that, too.

    That's maybe a lot of enthusiasm for a pretty mundane task, but that's me. Thanks again!

    1. For a period I too did the old fashioned bit with a mug, shaving brush, cream, and a DE razor. You are right: it does slow you down and make a mundane task take on more importance - mainly because if you rush things you will need a styptic pencil (remember those?)

      After I retired, having a close shave became less important, so out came the electric shaver. About once every three weeks I use the disposable razor for a close shave, but that is as fancy as I get anymore. Actually, going two days between any type of shaving makes me feel radical and daring!

  8. Bob, in this post, you’ve put your finger on the downside of habits. Habitual ways of doing things or habitual modes of thought have some advantages. For example, think of sleep hygiene — going to bed at a regular time and getting up at a regular time can help stave off insomnia. Having a “usual” way of doing everyday things (e.g., loading the dishwasher) can help prevent decision fatigue, thereby saving cognitive space for the decisions that really matter. But habits become problematic when we start thinking of our habitual assumptions and practices as being the “best” or “only” way to conceptualizer or do something. It’s one reason I like to travel (though not now during COVID restrictions) — it helps jostle me out of tired old habits and see the world in a fresh new way.


    1. I had to laugh: Betty and I have two different ways of loading the dishwasher. Every week we switch the chore of loading and unloading. It is quite easy to tell whose week it is.

      Travel is an excellent way of shaking up routine, as long as the person doesn't expect everything to be the same as at home. If it were, why go?

      Habits are a two-edged sword. I'm afraid the older we get the less likely we are to want to experiment.