Why you should care

Our planet deserves better. And so does your face.

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Have you ever stopped to consider how much money and waste is involved in that daily depilatory ritual we call shaving? It’s insane. In 2014, the EPA estimated that 2 billion cartridges head to landfills in the United States alone every year. Our planet deserves better.

A company in Irvine, Calif., is offering up an eco-friendly and futuristic solution: the world’s first laser razor. That’s right: a razor … that uses a frickin’ laser. Called a Skarp (the Swedish word for “sharp”), it looks like a pint-size carbon-fiber golf putter and claims that it can cut any hair on your body closer than a blade — and without the usual, sometimes painful side effects of shaving: razor burn, bumps, nicks, cuts, irritation or infection. It’s also water-resistant and can be used in the shower and with some shaving gels, though as CEO Dr. Morgan Gustavsson tells OZY, this isn’t necessary in order to get a good shave. Plus: It’s powered by a single AAA battery, disposable or rechargeable (for even greater eco-friendliness).

When the side of the fiber comes into contact with a hair, all the power from the laser is directed at that spot, cutting the hair.

It works by producing a specially tuned laser light, which is guided down a short optical fiber that runs the width of the “blade.” Ordinarily, light can’t escape the sides of an optical fiber. But in 2009, the team at Skarp Technologies found a way to make that happen. Gustavsson discovered a previously unknown “chromophore” in all hair that absorbs a specific wavelength of laser light. When the side of the fiber comes into contact with a hair, all the power from the laser is directed at that spot, cutting the hair. Using lasers this way, especially at the root, isn’t new. What’s unique about Skarp is that it uses a single beam.

But the Skarp has had a rocky start in the funding department. After an initial launch on Kickstarter, the project was suspended because the company failed to show a sufficiently polished prototype. Gustavsson believes that the crowdsourcing site “caved in to special interests” — in other words, the traditional razor industry. The Skarp is now on Indiegogo, which has different prototype rules. There are also some theoretical risks when it comes to usage, says Dr. Stanley Poulos, a Marin County plastic surgeon, including “problems with burns or potential pigmentation changes in the skin.” Which sounds a little more worrisome than razor burn. Dr. Gustavsson acknowledges these concerns but explains that the laser light is never aimed at the skin — only at the hairs. Even if it did contact the skin directly, the laser’s power level is “well below the safety limits for a Class 1 laser,” he says. More tech specs will be released after the Skarp’s official launch next year.

Also, $189 isn’t cheap for a razor, even one that sounds like having your own personal version of a light saber. And it’s set to become more expensive when it hits retail stores in 2016. But when you consider the cost of conventional blades to the planet, it doesn’t take a razor-sharp intellect to realize it’s time we took an enlightened approach to shaving.

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