My relationship with shitty, plastic disposable pink razors began when I was eleven. I had a stint or two with the slightly better Venus razor, which at least had an easier to grip handle, and didn’t nick my shins as badly. But these overly expensive, still mostly ineffective razors with their unsightly, enormous plastic cases and pricey blue replacement cartridges tried my patience. Since I began shaving my legs at such a young age, cost was the most important factor, so back to the disposables I’d go. These razors were so cheap they were basically one-use, but I’d stretch them out for at least a couple weeks, and ingrown hairs or unseen cuts at the intersection of my ankle and leg were the casualties.
Living in New York in my mid-twenties, I finally felt free enough to let my leg hair grow a bit — the winter made that an easy enough option, anyway. But then would come the long, hot stretches of summer, and I’d pick up another pack of pink disposables at CVS and begin the cycle all over again. When I moved to Los Angeles, the milennial trend of subscription-based products found an easy target in me, so though I can’t remember exactly how I found out about Billie, I signed up almost as soon as I found the brand.
The price point on their starter kit makes it an easy enough choice to click on: $9 for a razor handle, a tiny magnet that holds it up in your shower, and four initial cartridges. The language around the razor talked about the “pink tax” which they defined as women paying more for women-focused products in categories like body wash, razors, and jeans — aka the shitty pink disposable razors I’d been using for two decades. It was a concept I hadn’t really considered before, but it rang true.
Co-founder Georgina Gooley — who started the company with Jason Bravman in November 2017 — has been very vocal about wanting to disrupt the women’s razor industry, and make a product focused on actually helping women without shaming them about their body hair or overcharging us for a shitty product. “We’re here to make a daily routine a little more delightful and a lot more affordable,” trills the About section on the Billie website, another “pink tax rebate” gives you $1 per friend who clicks through and joins into the movement too. This concept isn’t well executed — $1 is a very low reward for annoying your friends with spam email about a razor — but it’s an interesting way to keep that notion at the forefront.
Luckily, the razors themselves are better. Instead of sticking blades into a stiffer cartridge made of mostly plastic, Billie’s rest in a casing of charcoal soap with rounded edges. As soon as I began to shave with the built-in soap my legs were so much smoother and shaving was way less of a pain, and less painful. The cute, bright colors and ergonomic design also works in their favor, and I love unwrapping the shiny white packaging when it gets delivered every month. Though, like Glossier, I wonder about the amount of waste that this bright packaging generates. Not that getting it in the mail isn’t half the fun, but using and emphasizing sustainable products in that mail out would be a good idea.
And even though I like the razor, the idea that they’re somehow “saving” women with the product is a little over the top at times. My life is better with this razor because my legs are smoother, and I’m paying less for a better product. I appreciate that. But I recognize it’s a very small, relatively low stakes and privileged problem to have in the first place — the company itself doesn’t seem to acknowledge that, overdoing their emphasis on disruption a bit. Still, they have definitely changed the space. While researching this article, I decided to look up my old tried and true Venus, see where that brand had gone — to a subscription-based model that reads pretty blatantly like Billie.
Personally, the messaging doesn’t really bother me, but I can see it coming off as a bit grating to others, and it’s also not very queer inclusive with the constant hammering of the terms “women” and “female.” Again, these are small critiques, but they’re also tonal ones that could easily be fixed with a little more attention to language and positioning. Given the fact that they garnered a $25 million investment via Goldman Sachs this past January, Billie clearly has the resources to pull off that kind of inclusion.
As so many other woman and queer founded business have done a bit more research and emotional labor to make their brands accessible to the full spectrum of non-straight-white-guy identities, and those moves by major companies have really made a difference in how some people see the world, Billie is a little behind on that front. It would be a simple change for a still-growing company that would open up new markets and subtly do some good at the same time.
To end on a positive note, I want to take a second to praise their lotion, maybe even more than the razor itself. The Dry Bye Lotion ($12 for 8 oz) is made with chamomile, grape seed and shea butter, and true to its name, it dries almost instantly. After recent weight gain let me with dry skin and stretch marks on my stomach, hips and thighs, I’ve been attempting to moisturize my body every day, but sitting around waiting for the lotion to soak in, or even worse feeling the residue spring up when I sweat during the day always made me loathe the practice.
Billie’s lotion is the best I found for avoiding those two things: it dries in about a minute and didn’t leave my skin feeling sticky or clogged. So now, whether or not it’s “winter” in LA and I’m letting my leg hair grow, or I’ve decided to make everything smooth and shiny, this razor and lotion have become a part of my care routine. It only took me twenty years to find something that worked! If you’re sick of using disposables and able to invest in a subscription model, this is the razor setup for you.