Q:What's the most environmentally friendly way to remove unwanted hair? Waxing, electric shavers or reusable blades?
A:If you believe the stereotype, every good green boy and girl rejects our cultural obsession with being follicle-free, and has the grizzly beard or hairy legs to prove it. But just because you shave your face or sugar your legs doesn't mean you don't care about the planet. Of course, if you lather up with chemically laden shaving foams and reach for a new disposable blade every other day, then it's time to take stock of your actions.
According to the largest supplier of disposable and reusable razor blades, Gillette, over 1.7 billion men over the age of 15 regularly remove hair. Since about 80 per cent of them use throwaway blades, that's a hell of a lot of waste (about 15 million blades a year in Toronto alone!). And that doesn't even factor in the women!
The practice of shaving is hardly new. Copper razors dating back to about 3000 BC have been found in India and Egypt. But they didn't have plastic disposables, and neither should you.
If you're hooked on razors, at least go for the reusable kind. And skip the mega-brands with excess packaging and a history of animal testing. (Woody Harrelson grew a beard to protest Gillette's testing practices in the late 90s.) Preserve Razors ($9.99/ four-pack at Big Carrot on Danforth) are recyclable in towns with #5 recycling (that means Mississauga, but not Toronto). You can mail them back to the company for recycling, and the handles are made of plastic from old yogurt cups!
Electric razors are another great alternative. The downside is that they're filled with way more potentially toxic hardware than a simple plastic razor, but they last for years on end. (Mine's from the 70s!) Speaking of which, make sure to bring broken shavers to one of the city's Enviro Days for recycling (see www.city. toronto.on.ca/environment_days/ for dates). Do get the rechargeable type that comes with a charging stand. Department stores like Sears carry all kinds, starting at $34.99 for a rechargeable wet/dry bikini trimmer.
According to Energy Probe, less energy is required to power your electronic shaver than to pump fresh water from the nearest reservoir to your bathroom sink to wet your razor blade. Warm-water shaving is even worse. Throw in some highly synthetic foaming gel and you're an eco mess!
Luckily, there are all kinds of all-natural, chem-free shaving creams out there for men and women, like Weleda's biodynamic goat-and-almond-milk-based shaving cream or Avalon Organics Cream Shave (both from $7.39 at Noah's on Yonge, Bloor and Bathurst, and Big Carrot on Danforth). Many companies make healing aftershave balms and tonics, like Aubrey Organics ginseng mint aftershave (from $9.99 at Noah's). For old-fashioned types, Herban Cowboy (love the pun) offers sweatshop-free ceramic shaving cups (made with non-toxic glazes) and unbleached wooden shaving brushes ($15.99 and $7.99 at Big Carrot).
But many women (and men) prefer to skip surface trimming altogether and get to the root of the problem. Keep in mind that old-school hard waxes are often petroleum-based. Look for natural waxes like beeswax or tree-resin-derived products (like Parissa, found everywhere from Loblaws, Shoppers Drug Marts and Zellers to health shops like Big Carrot). But because of the nature of the resin, strips used to yank off hair are not reusable.
The ancient Egyptian art of sugaring , on the other hand, rinses away with water, making strips usable for years. BC-based Moom products are made of sugar, camomile, lemon and tea tree oil and come with reusable cotton strips (from $7.89 at Noah's, Baldwin Naturals on Baldwin, and Big Carrot). Or make your own (see recipe at www.pioneerthinking.com/bodysugaring.html).
If you'd rather get someone else to do your yanking for you, Elixir Spa and Manicure Bar on King West uses organic tree resin in its waxing services. Pure and Simple on Yonge and Bellair uses pine resin. Arsenic on Queen West uses a honey-camomile-based wax.
Depilatory creams containing frightful ingredients like arsenic also date back to ancient times. Today these freaky shaft dissolvers are loaded with harsh chemicals, including suspected hormone disrupters, possible carcinogens and substances like PPG-15 stearyl ether that are "very toxic to aquatic organisms," according to UN reports. These depilatories can even cause second-degree burns.
Perhaps the least product-heavy option of them all is threading . A plain cotton thread (albeit not organic) is wrapped around individual hairs in this process. It's a bit time consuming for legs but perfect for eyebrows.
Then there are the more permanent options, like lasers and electrolysis . Both require electricity (and plenty of money) to power the process and several visits, but if all goes well, you shouldn't have to pick up another razor or howl through another waxing session.
Of course, we couldn't conclude the column without noting the obvious: your greenest option involves embracing your furry side.
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