If you haven't heard of Leaf Shave, you haven't stepped into the luxurious world of neater, safer, and smoother shaving. With a perfectly balanced design that is engineered to last, rinses clean, and looks great on any shelf, the Leaf Ravor is a must-have for all genders. Along with the razor, the brand features multiple other complimentary products to take your shaving routine to a whole new level. We spoke with one of the Founders, Adam Simone, about beginnings, design, and the ultimate Leaf shaving routine.
When and how did the idea to start Leaf come about?
My business partner (also named Adam) started thinking about ways to develop a new razor back in 2012. We were working at a start-up in Pittsburgh making surgical robotics. So it was a total “nights and weekends” type of endeavor. We pursued a few different potential ideas for a new type of razor for a year or two before landing on the eureka moment of merging traditional safety razor blades with modern features like multiple-blades and pivoting heads. The concept was to take these really high quality and very inexpensive blades, but make them way easier to use than they’d ever been before. And make sure that every body could use them, from head to toe.
Our heads were down developing this for a couple years before we were in a place we felt confident to bring something to market. We ran a Kickstarter campaign in late 2016 to take pre-orders to help fund the initial production run. It took us another year to figure out how to manufacture The Leaf razor at scale. We officially launched, after fulfilling our Kickstarter campaign pre-orders, in March, 2018. So we just had our 5 year birthday!
Our goal from the start was to build a better razor. It turned out that a better razor could also be better for the environment by helping users completely eliminate plastic from their shaving routines. Early on, we realized this and hard-coded sustainability practices into our company’s DNA. And to this day we do our best to walk our own talk. Just like our users who care about the way they consume things and create waste, we’re not perfect but each day we try to do our best.
What challenges did you run into while building the Leaf brand?
One of the most challenging things about Leaf Shave is also one of the best things. We fully embrace a desire to tread lightly on this Earth and help our users do the same. This creates a good deal more constraints around the things we make, do and talk about – more so than other businesses of our size and scope.
This is a good thing though! I’ll give an example. We have a product currently in development that is probably the most commonly requested accessory. A shower-wall holder / hanger for the razors.
Developing the shower holder in and of itself isn’t challenging, we have a viable design that works across our lineup and looks nice. But hanging it on the wall is a challenge. The easy thing to do would be to use a traditional adhesive or other common attaching technologies. The issue is that these are all either plastic (suction cups… nano tape etc.), or petroleum-based (adhesives).
So instead of doing the easy thing, we set out to do the harder thing and try to find a way to adhere the shower holder tile, glass, fiberglass and other common surfaces while remaining all-natural, plastic-free, petroleum-free etc.
It took a little bit, but we developed an adhesive that is all those things. All natural, plastic and petroleum-free, reusable and really honestly kind of cool. We’re still learning about this adhesive and will be launching the Leaf eco-adhesive to a small audience to continue learning about it in the hands of real people.
So, the challenge is that we tend to move slower, and we may need to develop new technologies or approaches in order to adhere to our least-waste philosophy. But it gives us several competitive edges. Namely, we’re hard to copy because we’re authentic. This makes for more interesting stories to tell on social, email, in our marketing. And it seems to build strong bonds with our core community of supporters. It’s totally reasonable to buy a Leaf Shave product and never think of us again. That’s great! But there are also a whole host of folks who follow us closely, stay close and check in on things. And they seem to really connect with the things that we care most about. I love that.
What was the design process like? How did you end up with such a modern and stylish product?
My partner and I came from medical technology development, we’re used to making small, complicated things work. I think you can see a little bit of that heritage in the things we design. Probably one of our weakest areas is in consumer ergonomics with the wide variety of situations people put- or find-themselves in. We’re still learning, and wetry to make sure when we develop new things, or second / third generation products that we keep kicking the ball forward and improving with each step.
We typically start with “what’s the innovation” if there’s a new one in a product we’re developing (there usually is). And we start there. For example, with the Leaf Dermaplaner – the innovation was “how do we make a tool that can turn a standard bare safety razor blade into a dermaplaning blade?” An at-home tool for dermaplaning is most typically “guarded” by a steel piece that is integrated into the blade itself. This either wraps the blade in wires, or scalloped openings, in order to prevent full blade contact with skin. This renders the blades safe for at-home use.
We knew that we couldn’t weld something to the blades, the blades we use in our tools are non-proprietary and widely available globally. So we developed our Leaf blade-guard to solve this problem.
Once we knew we could achieve the technical innovation (there is nothing else like it available), we start to wrap the product around it. What does the handle look like? How are people going to load it? What could possibly “go wrong” and how do we design around that to either prevent mistakes or present a situation that makes it obvious that it is not correct. There are all sorts of safety and user considerations that must be accounted for, since we’re talking about shaving blades.
Importantly: something has to work. Secondly, it must adhere to our eco-principles. And thirdly, it’s gotta look nice!
In terms of consumer demographics, it seems like you guys have been able to grasp men and women equally. Is this true, and how did you ensure this?
Yes, our users are pretty well split down the middle… possibly a slight favor towards women.
We don’t actively court one side or the other, rather it’s ingrained in our approach that shaving doesn’t need to be a gendered activity so we simply don’t do that. Our focus is on ‘shave areas’ rather than whose hand it’s in. There are plenty of men who body shave; and women who shave their face. So our lineup is tuned to the task at hand – and that seems to work in helping to find a pretty well balanced audience.
Walk me through the ideal Leaf shave day process.
Importantly, there is no one way to shave! We’re definitely not shaving snobs. I’ll never say for example that you need to spend five minutes whipping up your own shave soap lather with a brush and bowl, fine tuning the water and air until it’s a beautifully luxurious shaving lather. No. I mean… do that if that’s your jam! But also if you’d rather just squirt some conditioner in our hands while balancing in the shower on one leg then do that too.
The most important principles to remember, regardless of what products or process you use, are:
Make sure your skin is prepared. Shaving can be shocking to skin if it’s not ready. The best way to prepare it is with warm / hot water to open up your pores and soften your hair to be easier to shave. This can really help reduce irritation if someone is prone to it.
Make sure your skin is protected. Blades should be gliding, not stuttering, over your skin. So some sort of lubrication – however you get it – is the way. This is the way. If you want to go above and beyond, after step 1 above try rubbing in Leaf Shave Oil. This will lock moisture into your hair, slowing down evaporation, which can make sure that your hair and skin are good to go for a longer time while you shave.
Make sure to care for your skin afterward. Sure, you can slap on some alcohol-based after shave if you crave that Home Alone Sting. Personally, I simply use a little bit of our shave oil, or some lotion, or even some witch hazel toner to finish, depending on how my skin is feeling and balanced on any given day.
Oh, and using fresh blades goes a long way. Sure, keep your blades in your razor for months… I guess… but especially with Leaf where blades are basically pennies – don’t be too stingy with them. Fresh blades are best for your hair and skin.
If someone were only to purchase two Leaf products, which do you recommend?
That depends where they’re shaving. I’d recommend The Leaf (our triple-blade) razor if they shave their body / legs / underarm or their head. I’d recommend our single-edge Thorn razor if they shave their face. I’d pair that with our Shave Oil. It’s really a lovely blend that can do a lot of double / triple duty work as a pre-shave or post-shave oil… a beard oil… or just moisture for your skin on in between days.
What was your initial reaction when Doja Cat publicly shaved her eyebrows with her Leaf Ravor?
That was so fun! We’ve had a handful of celebrities use our products when we had no clue that they had it. Always fun to see it and we’re grateful for any exposure that might lead to. We’re a small team and we can jump up and down and go “holy cow” together which is a fun moment to have.
How do you want your customers to feel when using Leaf Shave products?
First, they should feel like they made the right decision to take a little leafy leap of faith with us. I want to make sure there is not a hint of regret, because the product is that good… or because our service is the best… or because they weren’t sure what to expect but we exceeded those expectations.
Second, I want them to feel that our values align. And that while no individual can ever consume our way out of climate change, we can make those individual decisions that cut down on waste and feel good about them. There’s no shame in that.
Finally, I want users of Leaf to feel trust. Trust that we’re doing the right thing, for the right reasons. That while we’re not perfect in everything we do, we work together as a small team to move forward each day with the best decisions we can.