How I fell in love with my Merkur safety razor

I’m sure I’m not alone when I confess that I bought my first double-edge safety razor (after extensive online research on the best safety razor for ladies, of course!), ooh-ed and aah-ed at its beauty and then posted a photo on Instagram, received lots of comments and admiration about how eco-friendly I am, and then proceeded to leave it on the shelf for a few months while I eeked out as many last-shaves with my disposable plastic Bic razor… Why? Well, in spite of its undeniably attractive design and understated elegance in my mostly unplastic bathroom, it was a very intimidating little object. The blades are so blooming sharp and they just glisten in the light to accentuate the fact that they could draw blood in less than an instant of bad razor handling by me. I watched some YouTube videos of women demonstrating how to shave one’s legs with a DE safety razor and although they were trying to demonstrate how easy it is to shave with one, instead it came across as very fussy and risky indeed! Apparently one needs to proceed very slowly, preferably in the bathtub (of which I have none), with shaving foam/cream applied generously (which I don’t use), rinsing the blade after each stroke (how tedious!). Most of the time I am shaving under extreme time constraints, because for some mysterious reason the kids often find themselves needing my urgent and immediate assistance whenever I’m in the shower and I’ve spontaneously decided I’m going to attend to my hairy legs…

Well eventually the Bic razor got to the point where my legs were just as hairy after a shave as they were before, so there was no avoiding the fact that either I needed to let my armpits and legs go au naturel (my husband wasn’t keen) or it was time for me to suck it up, put my money where my mouth is, and give the scary safety razor a go. I shaved in the shower, using conditioner on my skin first, and making sure I was very gentle, letting the weight of the razor do the work. The first time I only did my legs, but I had no nicks or cuts and boy oh boy, my skin was soooo smooth! Like a baby’s bum 😊. So the next time I plucked up the courage to shave my bony, scrawny armpits, and again – no nicks or cuts! I’ve been shaving with my Merkur for about 6 months now, and it hasn’t nicked me once! In fact, my relationship with Merkur has been so uneventful that my husband became intrigued and snuck a go with it on his face and neck. In one close shave, he too was converted. I bought a pack of 100 Astra razor blades (I chose this brand because they have a good reputation but also they are packaged plastic-free) for less than $30 and I reckon it will last both of us for a couple of years at the rate we’re going. He hates how expensive the cartridges are for the disposable razors – sometimes it’s cheaper to buy a whole new razor than it is to buy a pack of cartridges. So he thought it was a great idea for me to sell the Merkur in my Mrs Goodness shop, and spread the word of its awesomeness.

Unfortunately, finding a supplier in New Zealand wasn’t the easiest thing to do, and just to complicate things, the supplier of the Astra blades doesn’t stock the Merkur brand. However, they do stock Mühle, which is also a highly regarded German brand of razors, and their products are manufactured in the same city as Merkur. I decided in the name of research to buy and try the best-selling Mühle R89 myself – it’s the most popular safety razor in the world apparently! I thought I had better try it myself before promoting it in my shop as the next best thing, especially as these razors are expensive enough that you wouldn’t want to buy a dud.

So the beautiful rose gold Mühle arrived the next day and I quickly hopped in the shower and shaved my legs and armpits with it. The rose gold handle looked very beautiful on my shower shelf, although its shorter handle made it a little more awkward to hold. The shave was OK (as in, not amazing, just acceptable). I went out for the morning, running errands and such, and then on the drive home my shin started to feel itchy… So I itched it a bit, which of course made it itchier, and by the time I arrived home both shins were covered in horribly itchy welts!!! aaarrgghh!!! I assume that was razor burn, yowzers! I wet my hands and rubbed salt on my skin, which you can imagine was very painful, but I’m of the opinion that a bit of searing pain is better than unbearable itchiness haha. The salt actually calmed my skin down fairly quickly but oh man, I was cured of ever wanting to use that razor again. Oh, did I mention I shaved my armpits too? 😫😫😫 Ah, but I figured it could’ve been my bad technique – perhaps I rushed it, put too much pressure on, perhaps it just doesn’t work for legs? – and so I urged my husband to give it a go on his chin/neck. Poor thing. He had little bloody nicks all over his neck – I felt bad, so I advised him to use salt to calm the skin down… 🙄 he he.

So it is that my husband and I are both convinced that the Merkur 23-C is a BRILLIANT double edge safety razor for anyone who is switching from disposable plastic razors and/or who has big hands and/or is planning to shave their legs/underarms/bikini line with it. And this is why:

  • it’s a VERY mild DE safety razor (= low risk of nicks and cuts),
  • it has a long handle which makes it easy to hold,
  • it’s lightweight because it has a hollow handle,
  • it’s a three-piece design, which I like because it means I can take it apart completely after every shave and clean and dry all the parts to keep it in tip-top condition.
The three pieces of a 3-piece safety razor (plus the blade).
The handle screws into the top plate – notice how I’m holding the SIDES of the razor head!

Although it involves an initial investment, I am sure that this razor can last me till the end of my shaving days and maybe even be used by the next generation! It’s almost 100% plastic-free (darn that little plastic window in the box!). It’s super cheap to maintain, has a timeless design, and has replaceable parts. In fact, it ticks so many boxes that I found myself wondering how I got to the age of 40 without ever seeing anything other than a plastic razor…? Until recently, I had always assumed that the plastic razors were ubiquitous because of their superiority – superior shave, superior affordability, superior convenience… etc. But no, I don’t now find that to be the case at all. So I’m a bit baffled, and I can only assume that plastic razors have come to dominate the shaving world due to one quality, and one quality alone: disposability. Indeed, many of us are now getting really sick and tired of junk, waste, and obsolescence being planned into a design. But in the 70s and 80s, disposability was a THING. A very cool thing. Not having to expend energy on maintaining something was a very desirable quality in a design. We weren’t aware back then of the pay-offs – millions of plastic razors scattered over the earth or in the oceans for an eternity being one of them…

I guess the most sustainable answer is actually to let one’s hair grow, but in lieu of that option I really do recommend (a good) safety razor! Here are some of my tips and tricks, as a novice user who has had one unfortunate experience:

  • do use something on your skin when shaving, whether it be body wash, conditioner, or shaving cream
  • don’t apply pressure to the razor – just direct it where you want it to go and let the weight of the razor do the work
  • don’t shave in a hurry until you’ve had a few goes and you kinda know what you’re doing
  • change the blade every few shaves
  • ONLY hold the sides of the razor head when taking the razor apart/changing blades/screwing it back together
  • do your research before you buy one, so that you have a really good chance of it working for you (it’s not eco-friendly to buy something that you don’t like using so it just sits on the shelf gathering dust while you buy something else to use instead!).

Although this is a blog post that really promotes a product I have in my little shop, I hope this doesn’t annoy you. My intention is to share my own experiences in a way that others can learn from, whether they end up buying things or not. I would hate to think that someone has bought an expensive razor with the best of environmentally-conscious intentions, only to have a horrible experience and conclude that safety razors in general are nasty, evil things that don’t work for their bony/chubby armpits! I will also emphasise that my bad experience with the Mühle razor seems to be a complete aberration – it really is the most popular DE safety razor out there and it has thousands of devoted fans (men and women alike). However, the Merkur 23-C seems to be the most popular razor for women, and I guess that is because of the long handle which makes leg shaving much more comfortable.

PS. It’s an extra and it’s plastic, but I really do recommend Mühle’s plastic blade guard (it fits the Merkur too). It makes me feel a bit easier about having a curious little boy with curious little hands in the same house as my super-sharp razor… and I guess it would make travelling with a safety razor easier too.

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  • You were wondering why you hadn’t heard of these before – because the disposables were/still are promoted as being safe and these were promoted as being incredibly dangerous. I knew about these razors but they were only for experienced men and most certainly not for a teenage girl who would definately cut herself with it. Even looking at your pictures, my immediate thought was be careful, you’ll cut yourself – and I would love love love a permanent razor but I’m really scared I will cut my fingers.

    I absolutely love the mission you are on. Keep inspiring us all, we certainly need it. Much good care to you.

    • Oh, that’s an interesting thought! I certainly have a long-held fear of CUT-THROAT razors – I would never dream of using one of those! Although my dad always said that my grandfather could use nothing else because his beard was so thick and coarse. I guess only two-three generations ago, cut throat razors were considered the best! But now that I have one of my own, I can assure you that safety razors are perfectly safe and as long as you use common sense when handling them, there’s no reason to fear them cutting your fingers haha.

  • Hi Esther,
    I too purchased a DE safety razor last year. Being in the UK I sought a UK brand and found Edwin Jagger. It came with a feather blade which was soooooo sharp that I did myself a bit of a mischief on my legs with several little nicks, although armpits & bikini line survived. The shave was amazing and even the next morning it still felt fairly bristle free. When the blade blunted I switched to Wilkinson Sword blades which don’t give such a long lasting shave but aren’t quite as dangerous as the feather blades! That said, if I don’t concentrate & take my time, I can still nick myself around my very bony knees and ankles. The actual razor I chose has a slightly longer handle, making it much easier to use. Currently I’m using up a stock of shower gel which lathers really well but I’m switching to bar soap when that runs out.
    I can agree totally with the need to take your time when using it.
    I think the DE razors went out of fashion when brands started producing razor blades with multi blade heads. I still have 2 or 3 of those left which I’ll use up on holiday in the summer when I’m shaving every day. No point throwing them away unused – not very eco conscious. It is reassuring, isn’t it, to find that so many other folks are on the same path, trying to tread a little lighter on our Mother Earth. It’s very lovely to read your blog, it supports, encourages and is positive.
    Thank you for the time and energy you put into it.
    Sarah ❤️

    • Hi Sarah,
      Thank you so much for your LOVELY comment! It made my day, you are so kind. I have heard that different blades can make a difference with nicks and cuts. Unfortunately most blades seem to be packaged in plastic! 🙁 I was relieved that the Astra blades worked well for me, and they have a good reputation. I didn’t realise that Edwin Jagger is made the in the UK; they seem to be a very popular safety razor brand. I guess then that people in the UK, US, and Germany get to have a choice about buying locally made when it comes to safety razors! Not so in New Zealand, they are all equally far away from here… haha.