You may have heard that conventional straight razor use is illegal in professional barbershops and salons, or that they are somehow unsafe for you or your clients, or that only single-use blades are permitted. This is a MYTH perpetuated by decades of misinformation, and we’d like to set the record straight.
State Board has the answer
Each state’s health authority lays out specific requirements for clean and safe practices in barbershops. We have checked rules & regs in many states including OR, CA, WA, CO, UT, PA, FL, TN, NY, NJ… In fact, the only state we have confirmed explicitly prohibits use of conventional straight razors is Rhode Island!
Now, obviously we are not lawyers, we are just advocates for a better world with a more sustainable culture. As such, give your local health authority a call. We have phoned different states and most often the response to, "Are reusable straight razors illegal to use in the shop?" is, "Who told you that? Of course it's fine to use those..."
Nevertheless, you may carry this myth with you as a barber or stylist. I think we create barriers like this because we are afraid of what the answer will be. The answer might restrict us further or reveal an answer for which we weren't prepared to digest. We are taught that striking out on our own is to pursue a freedom we couldn't find in a "regular" job, so we avoid rules and avoid authority so that we don't have to be on the hook for knowing the answer. I completely understand this and I could dedicate a full series of posts to the fear and doubt we are taught to expect in daring to be different. Maybe I will get around to that post at some point, but not today. In the meantime, call the board! They have the answers!
AND before we get too far off track, I want to show you the rules as they are written today in Oregon!
Oregon's rules & Our Sanitization Process
The Oregon Health Licensing Office names razors specifically in its definition of sharp implements:
817-005-0005 Definitions. (30) ”Sharp edged or pointed, non-electrical tools and implements” means those items which may on occasion pierce or cut the skin and draw blood, including razors, cuticle nippers, cuticle pushers, nail clippers, tweezers, comedone extractors, shears, and metal nail files.
Oregon also makes an important distinction between grades of disinfectant:
(20) “High-level disinfectant” means a chemical agent, which has demonstrated tuberculocidal activity and is registered with the EPA.
Finally, they give instructions for proper sanitation:
817-010-0068 Disinfecting Non-Electrical Tools and Implements (3) For all tools and implements with sharp edges or points completely immerse in a high-level disinfectant used according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
In short, conventional straight razors are perfectly safe for you to use as long as they are properly sanitized between each client. We developed the following process to meet these requirements and guarantee that our razors are sharp and safe for each client. Every step should be performed before each use:
- Carefully rinse and dry the entire straight razor with a clean towel.
- Strop the razor.
- Immerse the razor and scales (closed) in an approved high-level disinfectant such as Barbicide Plus* for manufacturer’s recommended duration.
- Rinse and dry the razor with a clean towel, and place in a sealed, clean container for storage prior to use.
- Upon completion of the shave, repeat steps 1-4 to prepare for the next client.
- Because a strop is porous and cannot be sanitized, NEVER strop the razor without then completing the entire sanitation process. The same is true if the razor comes in contact with any other unsanitary surface.
- NEVER use the razor on multiple clients. For the safety of your clients, sanitize the razor before using it on your next client.
where did this myth come from?
This brings us to an important point which may explain why conventional straight razors fell out of fashion in the first place. As our understanding of blood-born disease and sanitary practices expanded, health authorities updated code to keep clients and pracitioners safe in the 1980s and 1990s. Unfortunately, straight razor manufacturers had been on the decline since the early 1900s with the introduction of disposable razors to the market and never updated the straight razor's materials to withstand the disinfectants required by the new rules:
- Vintage Blades made of high carbon steel do not hold an edge in high-level disinfectant.
- Vintage Scales made of organic materials such as bone or horn or low-quality plastics also do not fare well in the high-level.
In this way, conventional razors were made impractical through legislation while still leaving the door open if improvements were made to the materials. When developing our Professional Line, we approached these rules and regulations to guide our material choices and were able to hatch a straight razor that was classic, non-disposable, and fully sanitizable!
If you have any doubts of the legality of using a conventional straight razor in your shop, we urge you to take a quick look through your local health authority's documentation. It is all available online and should clear things up!
P.S. If you feel your barber would benefit by implementing conventional straight razors in their practice, we hope you will share this article with them!
*All Portland Razor Co Professional Razors are made with non-reactive scales and are stable in Barbicide Plus.