Razors & Shavers

In this guide we investigate, score and rank the ethical and environmental record of 13 brands of Razors & Shavers

We also look at conflict minerals, toxic chemicals, shine a spotlight on the ethics of Gillette and give our recommended buys.

About Ethical Consumer

This is a product guide from Ethical Consumer, the UK's leading alternative consumer organisation. Since 1989 we've been researching and recording the social and environmental records of companies, and making the results available to you in a simple format.

What to buy

What to look for when buying a razor or shaver:

  • Is it recycled plastic? Look for a razor that is made from recycled plastic if you want cut down on waste and the petroleum used in plastic production.

  • Is it metal? A traditional steel-handled razor will save plastic waste altogether, and can be recycled if at any stage you need to replace it.

  • Is it electric? This is a bit of a weird one, as we generally wouldn’t recommend using more power. But electric razors cut down on plastic and don’t require any foams or gels, which come with environmental and animal rights problems of their own.

Best Buys

No brands are eligible for our best buy label

Recommended buys

Razors

We recommend the Preserve razor, with its handle made of 100% recycled plastic and which itself can be recycled at the end of its life. Merkur is also recommended as a brand of reusable, traditional, safety razors.

Electric Shavers

Wahl is the recommended brand for electric shavers.

Electric Epilators

We recommend the Emjoi brand which comes out top of the score table.

What not to buy

What to avoid when buying a razor or shaver:

  • Is the razor disposable and non-recyclable? Buy a razor that can be reused rather than just single use, or is at least made from recycled plastic

  • Does it contain conflict minerals? If it’s an electric shaver, it probably will. These minerals have helped to fund conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and are often extracted using child labour. Choose one made by a company with our best rating for its conflict minerals policy.

Companies to avoid

We suggest avoiding these brands who received a worst rating for likely use of tax avoidance and supply chain management:

  • Gillette
  • Boots
  • Remington
  • Pansonic
  • Braun
  • Wilkinson Sword

Score table

Updated live from our research database

← Swipe left / right to view table contents →
Brand Score(out of 20)

Preserve Recycled Razor [S]

Company Profile: Recycline
14

BIC original razor

Company Profile: Société BIC SA
12

Merkur razor

Company Profile: Merkur of Solingen
11

King of Shaves razor

Company Profile: The King of Shaves Company Limited
10

Emjoi epilator

Company Profile: Emjoi Inc.
9.5

Philips Shaver

Company Profile: Koninklijke Philips Electronics NV
9.5

Philips epilator

Company Profile: Koninklijke Philips Electronics NV
9.5

Wahl Shaver

Company Profile: Wahl Clipper Corporation
7

Bulldog bamboo razor

Company Profile: Bulldog Skincare Limited
6

Wilkinson Sword razors

Company Profile: Schick-Wilkinson Sword
6

Braun Epilator

Company Profile: Procter & Gamble Company
5.5

Braun Shaver

Company Profile: Procter & Gamble Company
5.5

Panasonic Shaver

Company Profile: Panasonic Corporation
5.5

Pansonic epilator

Company Profile: Panasonic Corporation
5.5

Gillette Shaver

Company Profile: Procter & Gamble Company
5

Gillette razors

Company Profile: Procter & Gamble Company
5

Remington Shaver

Company Profile: Remington Consumer Products
5

Boots epilator

Company Profile: Boots UK Ltd
2

Boots razors

Company Profile: Boots UK Ltd
2

Boots shaver

Company Profile: Boots UK Ltd
2

What is most important to you?

Animals
Environment
People
Politics
Product sustainability

Our Analysis

The rise of the hipster and the fashionability of facial hair hit the shaving sector hard, with sales down in 2013 after many years of growth. Reports the following year of ‘peak beard’ having been reached may indeed have been accurate, as the pendulum appears to have swung back in favour of shaving and the market is on the rise again.

Image: Razors

Wet shaving

In the UK, nearly £350 million is spent on razors every year. That’s an increase of nearly £100 million since the last time Ethical Consumer covered them in 2009. The market is dominated by Gillette brands, whose Fusion and Mach 3 brands for men and its Venus brand for women together rake in £245 million, which is around 70% of all UK razor sales. In a not-so-close second place is Wilkinson Sword with 19% and, thirdly, Bic, the king of the disposable razor, with 4%.[1]

The majority of these razors come in two parts: the reusable plastic handle and the disposable blade cartridges. The former is usually cheap but is enough to lock consumers into a product line that enables companies to charge much higher prices for the cartridges. Worse than that, the whole operation is fantastically wasteful: blades are discarded after only a handful of uses and handles may be periodically rendered obsolete as newer models are brought in. 

There are currently no programmes for recycling blade cartridges. You can, however, extend the life of your razor cartridges by caring for the blades between uses. According to Wiki How, you can get more out of disposable razor cartridges by properly cleaning and drying your razor after use, storing it in a dry environment or soaking it in oil.

Luckily, there are some better options. The Preserve brand has a handle made from recycled yoghurt pots which you can send back to the company to be recycled at the end of its life. Or you could buy a traditional, double-edged safety razor from Merkur, or the cheaper Wilkinson Sword Classic or Bulldog's bamboo-handle razor. They have handles that are built to last and because the steel blades don’t come in a plastic cartridge, they can be recycled. See also our guide to Shaving Gels & Foams.

Electric options

If you can’t stomach the waste associated with disposable razors, an electric shaver or epilator may be a good option. Although they use mains charge, either to run directly or to charge an internal battery, these items are covered by the European Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive, which means that when they reach the end of their life you can return them to the company for recycling.

Although some epilators can be used in wet conditions, most electric shavers and epilators are designed to be used dry, which means reduced use of the creams, foams and gels that often accompany razor shaving. Avoiding such products not only cuts down on packaging, it also avoids shaving foams and gels which are potentially tested on animals or containing parabens, phthalates and palm oil derivatives.

Score table highlights

Corporate social responsibility reporting in the razors and shavers market is patchy at best. 

  • Environmental Reporting is substandard across the board, with only Preserve and Bic receiving our best rating and four others receiving a middle rating (Braun, Gillette, Panasonic, Boots). 
  • The picture for Supply Chain Management is even bleaker: not a single company scored best and only two (Bic and Philips) did enough to gain a middle rating. 
  • Anti-Social Finance and Political Activities are prevalent across the big corporations (Procter & Gamble, Edgewell, Philips, Panasonic, Remington/Spectrum Brands, Walgreens Boots Alliance).
  • Many companies also lost marks under the Animal Testing and Pollution & Toxics categories because they manufacture shaving-related products without having policies against using animals to test ingredients and against the use of parabens and phthalates, or having specific dates for phasing these out.
  • Socially and environmentally responsible options are few and far between. Preserve was left as the only company to have a positive Company Ethos rating for its use of recycled plastic and its own recycling programmes.
Image: Razors
  • Companies did slightly better in the area of conflict minerals, where regulations require that they produce some kind of reporting. This category only applies to the eight companies making electric shavers and epilators, not companies like Preserve and Bic that just make razors. Five companies scored either best or middle and three scored worst

Company behind the brand

With 70% of the razor market dominated by its Gillette brand, Procter and Gamble (P&G) is the most important company in this sector. The company received our best rating for palm oil and was praised by the Union of Concern Scientists (UCS) in 2015 for its strong commitment to sourcing palm oil sustainably.

However, campaign organisation SumOfUs have an ongoing action against Procter and Gamble over its relationship with Felda Global Ventures, a Malaysian company that is the world’s largest palm oil plantation operator.

According to SumOfUs“Felda deals in the human trafficking of its plantation workers, confiscating close to 30,000 passports, and still works with labor contractors and recruiters who charge enormous fees to traffick foreign workers. Plantation workers are trapped in modern day slavery, all to produce palm oil that ends up in P&G products.” 

Want to know more?

If you want to find out detailed information about a company and more about its ethical rating, then click on a brand name in the Score table. 

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References

  1. 1 Mintel Shaving and Hair Removal - UK - October 2016