Yes, Barbers & Stylists Can Use Real Straight Razors

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.

 A Portland Razor Co. Deluxe strop hangs from a vintage barber chair strop hook.

A Portland Razor Co. Deluxe strop hangs from a vintage barber chair strop hook.

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!

 Portland Razor Co.  “Barber Special” Straight Razor  in High-Level Barbicide.

Portland Razor Co. “Barber Special” Straight Razor in High-Level Barbicide.

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:

  1. Carefully rinse and dry the entire straight razor with a clean towel.
  2. Strop the razor.
  3. Immerse the razor and scales (closed) in an approved high-level disinfectant such as Barbicide Plus* for manufacturer’s recommended duration.
  4. Rinse and dry the razor with a clean towel, and place in a sealed, clean container for storage prior to use.
  5. Upon completion of the shave, repeat steps 1-4 to prepare for the next client.
  6. 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.
  7. 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?

Barber Razor-7411.JPG

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:

  1. Vintage Blades made of high carbon steel do not hold an edge in high-level disinfectant.
  2. 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.

It's time for a good old-fashioned rant : 1 minute on an american-made soap box

Portland Razor Co. received an email from Gold Dollar this morning asking if we would like them to manufacture our straight razors for us. I followed the link they had sent and found it odd that I recognized the photos (having never looked into buying a gold dollar myself). Look familiar? They stole photos I took for our manufacturing page and are using them to market their own razors!! To Gold Dollar's credit: someone over there knows their way around photoshop and did an excellent job replacing our logo with theirs!

gold dollar straight razor stolen photos

A few thoughts on this:

  1. I'm pretty sure this isn't how they make their razors, but it IS how we make our razors!
  2. Gold Dollar claiming images of our straight razor manufacturing process as their own is intentionally misleading and co-opts the authenticity of us smaller makers who take time and care in our process. It says, "this wasn't made in a black box overseas. Look! This was made by a real person. You can trust us as much as you trust small batch manufacturers!" But the truth is, you can't!
  3. I've seen much discussion and many many examples in the past year of larger faceless corporations ripping off independent artists on Instagram. This is a massive problem in the age of the Internet and it is a fact of life that it is hard to take the bad with the good. While sometimes legal action can play out in favor of the independent artists, there is a great deal of power which lies with you, our audience and customers, to choose to support us: the originals, the artists and makers who work hard to produce quality work and push our own limits every day. I hope you see the benefit of supporting small, honest companies such as our own. I want to re-enforce that your support and contributions never ever go underappreciated.
  4. We've been meaning to update our manufacturing page, so this gives us a pretty good reason.
  5. And OF COURSE, all of our razors will always and forever be American Made.
 
stolen gold dollar straight razor photo with photo shop skills

Aaanyways, looking forward to meeting Scott's hand twin in China some day! Happy Wednesday everyone!

P.S. we won't hold it against you if you share this with people you know who also care about the integrity and quality of the goods they purchase with their hard-earned money! ;)

 

Happy Earth Day! | Out on the sandy river delta with friends of trees

Yesterday Portland Razor Co. had the great pleasure of getting the heck outside by volunteering with Friends of Trees! It has rained almost every day in Portland since OCTOBER (except for the days when it snowed or rained ice[???]), so the time spent outside in the sunshine was long overdue. As an aside to all friends in Chicago: sincerest apologies, but this winter was the worst and every arm chair therapist in Portland knows it! When the weather forecast said 70 F and sunny when I checked my weather app this morning, I’m pretty sure a single tear squeaked out.

 Scott and Robin scoop mulch into buckets

Scott and Robin scoop mulch into buckets

In choosing to make straight razors it is we at Portland Razor Co.’s sincerest hope that shavers will elect to switch from disposable razors to the straight razor at least in part to reduce their own waste. Disposable razors, especially those attached to plastic handles, are thrown into landfills by the billions each year in the United States. Knowing that our straight razors will never be thrown away with proper care makes us warm and fuzzy and we hope you feel the same! With this commitment to the environment, we often seek other opportunities to leave the world better than we found it. To put our best foot forward in observance of Earth Day, yesterday morning the Portland Razor Co. team headed out to the Sandy River Delta to help Friends of Trees and the Sandy River Basin Watershed council care for native trees and plants that had been planted last winter.

Showing up without any information besides the address and that the work had something to do with mulch, I didn’t really know what to expect. The event organizers informed the group that the Sandy River Delta had been used as cow pastures starting in the 1930s when a small dam was built to limit the East Channel of the Sandy River and increase flow to the West Channel. The entire delta was eventually unusable for agriculture and the habitat of the native plants and wildlife had been destroyed. The dam was removed 10 years ago and the area has been undergoing native wildlife restoration with quite a bit of success! Native salmon, birds, and shallow-water creatures have returned to the area with the work of many many organizations coming together to make it happen. After we learned more about the project, the organizers taught us how to mulch and other things we could do to care for the plants to ensure they have a productive spring and summer. All told, we mulched and performed basic maintenance on hundreds of native trees and plants and left with smiles on our faces.

I cannot say enough about how approachable and fun the whole event was. If you are interested in getting outdoors in the Portland Area, Friends of Trees should be at the top of your list. Here is a link to their event calendar so you can find an event in your area (they also have events in Eugene and Salem). If your group is small enough you don’t even have to sign-up beforehand, you just show up! Whether it's switching lights off when you're not using them, riding your bike to work next week, or buying yourself a reusable water vessel to cut your plastic bottle habit, I hope you find your own way to care for our earth today.

 

Happy Earth Day from all of us at Portland Razor Co.

razor makers and friends of trees 2
 

The Top 5 Reasons to Shave with a Straight Razor

Wondering if shaving with a straight is right for you?

Straight shaving can have a meaningful impact on your physical, emotional, and financial well-being while reducing your impact on the environment. By deciding to become a straight shaver, you are resolving to take back control of your shave, transforming a loathsome chore into an enjoyable, empowering ritual. Here are our top 5 reasons you should be shaving with a straight razor.

top 5 reasons to straight razor shave

Portland Razor Company’s TOP 5 REASONS TO SHAVE WITH A STRAIGHT RAZOR

1: Straight Shaving is Good For Your Skin.

Gentle exfoliation, like the kind you get from straight shaving and using a shaving brush, can be great for skin health. Exfoliation removes the topmost layer of dead skin cells and promotes new cell growth, collagen production, and improved circulation. Shaving with a straight razor and applying lather with a shaving brush are two great ways to add this kind of beneficial exfoliation to your shaving routine. The brush lifts hair and dirt off the skin while applying lather and moisture, and provides the most gentle exfoliation. The straight razor clears dead cells, dirt, and lather away in one clean stroke, and your technique can be modified to provide a more or less aggressive shave.
Straight shaving is cleaner than shaving with cartridge or electric razors, reducing the risk of common skin infections like ingrown hairs, razor burn and razor bumps. Safety bars, lubricating strips, multiple blades and motors are difficult to clean and can clog with hair, skin, soap, and dirt. This can cause the blades to rust, become dull, and grow harmful bacteria which increase the risk of these aforementioned infections. A quality straight razor made with high carbon steel and proper heat treatment will take and hold a sharper edge over cheap stainless blades, and can be cleaned between each and every pass, making for a sharper, cleaner, closer shave.

2: Straight Shaving is Good for Your Brain.

Learning new skills that use both hemispheres of your brain--this study suggests digital photography or quilting--improves cognitive function, memory, and coordination. The catch is: you have to keep learning new skills to continue receiving these benefits. You can get started with straight shaving knowing only the basics of shaving and stropping, but there are many learning opportunities within the world of straight shaving. Learn to hone your straight razor, build the perfect lather, set your razor into some primo scales. While we are happy to do some of these things for you, we think you will enjoy performing them yourself once you get your feet wet -- why should we be the ones to have all the fun?
Many use straight shaving as an opportunity to meditate, which has been shown to lower stress and boost your immune system. Folks who practice this type of meditation in the morning claim that it sets them up for a more productive day. Evening shavers benefit, too! Performing an analog task like meditating or straight shaving an hour before bed--especially as part of a routine--instead of being sedentary in front of a glowing screen makes it easier to fall asleep, and improves the quality of your sleep.

3: Straight Shaving Saves You Money.

A well-cared-for straight razor should provide a lifetime of shaves and save you hundreds of dollars each year! Some savings are pretty obvious, like never needing to buy refills, sign up for a subscription, or drive to the store for blades ever again. But straight shaving saves you money in less obvious ways, too. It reduces the amount of waste you create, which in turn decreases your waste disposal bill. Harder to measure--but even more important--is the reduced pressure on landfills, which are expensive to construct, fill, and close; never mind the cost of environmental cleanup as a consequence of poorly-constructed or improperly-sealed landfills!
You can enjoy all of these savings even after accounting for startup costs and recurring costs for sharpening services! The key to getting the most out of your straight razor is in taking care of it: keeping it dry, stropping it properly, and having it honed when necessary will reduce wear and prolong its usable life to further extend your savings, even into the next generation. Long-term costs can be reduced further by purchasing a good stone and learning to hone your straight razor on your own.

4: Straight Razors are Good for the Environment.

Straight shaving is a zero-waste solution. With nothing to buy or throw away, it’s the best shaving method for the environment and a simple way to reduce your carbon footprint. Every year, 68 million American men throw away 2 billion disposable razors, generating 34 million cubic feet of hazardous, non-recyclable waste. This adds to 250+ million tons of new trash, 13% of which is plastic. In short, making the change to straight shaving is a meaningful step for the environmentally-conscious.
You can improve the environmental impact of your other shaving and grooming goods as well. We recommend natural, sustainable products from responsible sources, like those made by our friends at Craftsman Soap Co. From the Craftsman Soap Co website:

“We use recyclable packaging, post-consumer recycled papers and soy inks, and have always made our products free of palm oil because of its reputation for destructive farming practices. Coconut oil, shea butter, and cocoa butter together create an alternative to palm oil that we believe creates a richer, fuller lather and a better bar of soap.”

5: As a Straight Shaver, You Have Control.

Straight shaving gives you total control over your shaving experience. While most razors are made one-size-fits-most, the straight razor is truly flexible. Sensitive skin? Curly hair? Kevlar growing out of your face? Your technique, angle and pressure can be modified for the ideal shave without having to change products or pay extra, and being able to take care of your own straight razor lets you know for sure that it is clean and sharp before every shave. A straight razor is a product that will treat you well if you treat it respectfully and responsibly, and taking good care of it will prolong its life and improve the quality of your shaves for years to come.

Other Sources Cited:
"Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) in the United States: Facts and Figures." EPA. Environmental Protection Agency, n.d. Web. 30 Dec. 2014.
Clarke, Arthur C. "Solid and Hazard Waste." Solid and Hazard Waste. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Dec. 2014.