Razor Comparison 2017

So, in the old days when shaving was a boring, mundane daily routine that just had to be done and not really thought about too much, scrapes, cuts and razor burn just came with the territory. No one griped about it. But now, with fancy new technology (5 blades!), comfort strips and lubrication gel strips, shaving is more like a men’s home care New Year’s Eve party. And why not? The Men’s personal care industry has exploded in the last 10 years and many of the razor & blade manufacturers, shave and after shave balm makers and skin care players are all chasing market share. Heck, Dollar Shave Club is selling butt wipes for Pete's sake, so clearly there is opportunity for the brands to solidify their loyalties with their base. Proctor & Gamble, Unilever and Edgewell are the big players, but there are upstarts like Harry's who are competing to penetrate the coveted recurring cartridge subscriber. The irony is that despite the massive upgrades in gear, blades, cartridges, shave cream and aftershave lotions, people are shaving a whole lot less. Indeed, many of today’s ad pitchmen are bearded Millennials who apparently feel the need to remind the American public that they don’t have to shave for the jobs they may or may not have. But for now we are going to attempt to break down the question of which blade is best, both from a quality and performance standpoint, and from a cost standpoint.

Our collective jaws dropped last year when we read about Dollar Shave Club being acquired for $1 Billion by Unilever. And then we all scratched our heads when Harry’s went on a PR tour about the blade factory in Germany they bought. And it is worth noting that subscription-based services, like those offered by Dollar Shave Club, Harry’s and now Gillette OnDemand, are less about a quality shave and more about having your credit card on file to charge every month. There is a good reason the Dollar Shave Club founder Michael Dubin made such entertaining commercials: because he wanted your credit card.

Methodology

I did okay in middle school and high school science, and so I know a little bit about the idea of a ‘control’ to perform a proper scientific experiment. So I realized that before I lay out my findings on the increasingly costly modern shave set-ups, that I would lay out the rating systems and methodology so that there are no gray areas of misunderstandings. And, since this article will be published and translated into 5 different languages, I don’t want to offend anyone.

First, to establish a control I decided that each razor would shave three times: 1) the first time on a 72 hour beard, 2) the second time on a 48 hour beard (same blade), and the third time on a 24 hour beard. I wanted to do it this way to see how durable the blade was and how well it held up as its performance deteriorated and to measure the all-important ‘cost-per-awesome-shave metric’ I wanted to introduce. I say this because every man in the world who is reading this has extracted an extra shave or two or three from an old dull razor. And that is usually because he is out of blades, which is likely because they cost so much damn money and he didn’t feel like trading his financial security for a decent shave (this could also could explain why so many men are wearing beards these days.)

Quick sidebar: I was speaking with my father the other day about the 70’s when men his age wore sideburns and mustaches and long hair if they had it as a means of protest and display of civil disobedience. He told me that NOT shaving was never an option back in the day, and that men demonstrated their defiance and civil disobedience via mustached and hippie mullets (see season 1 of HBO’s Vinyl for a visual representation of this). But I didn’t care (and still don’t), but I do care about figuring out the best razor/shave set-up best for you, the reader.

Okay back to the methodology. I selected Jack Black’s Beard Lube as my shave cream/lube because I have used it in the past and I felt like its eucalyptus scent and cooling feel best represented what readers wanted out of a good shave. I also have noticed in my 30 plus years of shaving that I would rather have a slightly less close shave than a painful cut on my face, and that most men (or women) reading this this will agree. Blood is bad, comfort is good. Finally, to make each blade’s performance an apples-to-apples comparison to its competitor, they need to have the same whisker length and whisker toughness.

Gillette

I thought the Mach 3 was pretty great when it came out in 1995. And shaving with it was about the coolest thing I could have imagined. I never thought they’d get three blades into a cartridge, and then when they got 5 blades into a cartridge I figured the razor blade wars were over.  But those Gillette razor cartridges are not cheap, and still aren’t. A package of 8 new Gillette Fusion replacement blade cartridges goes for between $28 and $32 on Amazon. As usual, this was a great, comfortable shave. The lubrication strip lasted longer than I expected, and the blades stayed sharp through the third shave. The Fusion cartridges also comes with a blade at the top of the cartridge, above the comfort strip, that is great for getting whisker up under your nose.  I also like the design of the head for easy cleaning. Overall, even with Gillette’s new direct subscription option, these blades are pricey.

Dollar Shave Club

Dollar Shave Club has a 6 blade cartridge that sells for $9 per month for four cartridges. I really like this shave, and the blades held up well in three times I used the cartridge. What I didn’t really like is the silly marketing and overly complex pricing and subscription tiers. In general, I don’t like having my credit card getting hit every month for something I may not need. I don’t shave as much as I used to, and I want to buy razors when I need them, not when my razor company wants to charge me. Plus, as with any subscription business, there is the ever present lead generation and free sampling that bothers me.

Harry’s

Harry’s offers a few different options as well, but we used the 5 blade option for this exercise. The packing is nice (blue, orange or green handle), but until shaving gear becomes a fashion statement, then the color of the handle doesn’t and shoudn’t matter. What should matter is how close a shave you get, how many shave you can get get from one cartridge, and what the Cost-per-Awsome- Shave (CPAS) is. I liked this shave, but I noticed the blades wore down at a slightly higher rate then the others. I also felt like the website was clunky and didn’t really boil down the all-in costs of ordering a shipment. In general, anytime there is a shipping costs involved, there is room for padding costs.

Schick

The Schick Hydro came our in 2010 and has earned some respect among face shavers. Without over spending on branding and instead focusing on value and quality, Schick has been able to hold onto precious market share in the US while the Big Three beat each other up with media dollars. The truth is, Schick offers and excellent shave at a decent price, and enjoys brand loyalty not only in the US but around the globe. The Schick Hydro 5 performed very well in our comparison, and at $15 on Amazon for a package of 5 new blades, are priced reasonably.

Bic

Ahh the old standby. One blade, one use, throw away. Easy, no gimmicks, no flash, no commercials and, sadly, not a very comfortable shave. The blade will work fine with a decent shave balm on a 1-day beard, but any real stubble and you are in trouble. This shaving experience fit squarely in the ‘you get what you pay for’ bucket, and most men with a face will want to pay a little more for comfort.

  Comfort Durability Price CPAS*
Dollar SC 3.5 3.5 5.0 3.9
Gillette 5.0 5.0 3.5 4.6
Harry's 3.5 4.0 4.0 3.8
Bic 2.0 2.0 5.0 2.8
Schick 4.0 4.0 4.0 4.0

* We discussed putting in an actual dollar amount in here but given small price fluctuations, shipping, and free shave cream samples, decide to keep it simple and give an overall grade between 1 and 5. We also overweighted 'comfort' in the calculation of CPAS by @2X

 

To summarize, Gillette, Schick, Dollar Shave Club and Harry’s are making shaving a lot less boring and a lot more exciting for most men. But in the end, most men want a good shave (when they have to shave) at a reasonable cost without too many bells and whistles. We preferred Gillette, but as with everything, to each his own.

Don't Fear the Odd Hair -- Tame It

There’s nothing quite like your girlfriend saying, “Hey, did you know you have hair growing out of your … ?” to deflate the ego. But even though she might think ear or cheekbone hair is weird (doesn’t that only happen to grandpas?), it’s not. Hello, you’re just a guy! According to Garrett Pike, a barber at Martial Vivot Salon Pour Hommes in New York City, clients are constantly asking him about hairy trouble spots. “Definitely don’t be embarrassed to talk about stray hairs with your barber,” he advises. It’s like the doctor; he’s heard it all. And what you may think is odd is actually quite normal.

But that doesn’t mean you have an excuse for not taking care of stray hairs. Here, our expert reveals the best ways to deal with common problem areas so you’ll never have a girl look at you like you’re a Neanderthal again.

Nose
Pike recommends skipping nose trimmers: “I usually do everything with the scissor just because it feels better.” Pick up a small pair of scissors with a curved tip, which will help you get into the nose better. “As long as you cut around the nostril, it looks good. A lot of people tend to go up pretty far, but what really matters is getting anything that’s hanging out.”

Toe and Finger Knuckles
Pike attacks his hand- and toe-fur with either scissors (the same ones for the nose), targeting the really long hairs, or with a hair clipper at the “1” setting. “That’s a pretty standard length, but you might want to take it shorter if you have black hair.” To do so, set the clipper to “000” or “0,” or use a beard trimmer.

Ears
According to Pike, asking your barber to take the hair out of your ears is a completely normal request. And it’s convenient: You’ll need to trim ear hair every four to six weeks, which is the average time between haircuts anyway. If you choose to take care of the strays at home, your tactic depends on how many you’ve got. Use tweezers if you have only a couple of hairs. Otherwise, a clipper that resembles a T (rather than a square) will do the job: “They have that extra corner on it to get into the weird areas of the ear.”

Cheeks
Shaving up to your eyes isn’t the answer, says Pike. On the other hand, tweezing hurts, especially if you have a lot of hair. If you’re looking for a pain-free approach, use a really tight trimmer.

Back of Neck
This is one of the harder areas to manage, simply because you can’t see it. The solution: Hold a mirror in one hand in front of you and stand with a mirror behind you. If you decide to use a trimmer, attack your neck before getting in the shower, since the machine won’t be completely efficient on slick hair. “If you’re going to use a razor, definitely do it wet after getting out of the shower,” says Pike. Trimming won’t get as close as a razor would, he adds, but it’ll do the job if you’re in a hurry.

Photo: @iStockphoto.com/peters99

Get Olympics-worthy Facial Hair

People get all sorts of inspiration from Olympic athletes -- not least when it comes to their facial hair. According to master barber Gary Clark, executive director and general manager of Manhattan barbershop BBRAXTON, athletes rank as high as actors and musicians among figures whose facial hair inspires his customers. But why wait till after the Olympic Games, when everyone will be asking their corner barber for these looks? Garrett Pike, barber at Persons of Interest in Brooklyn, N.Y., breaks down five of the styles coming soon to a TV set near you. Choose your favorite and be the first among your buddies to sport it.

FULL BEARD
Kevin Love
(Basketball, U.S.)

“He must have let his hair grow about four weeks to get this length. Trim it at about a No. 3 on your clipper. Then use a small pair of scissors to get the hairs that come over your lips, and shave your cheeks -- just the cheek line above the beard -- to make the beard look tighter. You can let the neck grow to keep things a little gruff.”

SCULPTED BEARDS/GOATEES
Teddy Riner
(Judo, France)
Pascal Gentil
(Taekwondo, France)

“The lines are really crisp and sharp, so these guys must be using T-liners -- the tightest form of a trimmer -- to outline their goatees and beards. Then they shave it out with a razor, being mindful of the lines. As with all the sculpted styles, unless you’re really handy at shaving, it’s pretty hard to do at home. I would just go to the barbershop, and then you can maintain it yourself. This style is great for guys with rounded faces that want some chiseled definition.”

Lebron James (Basketball, U.S.)
“Outline your beard with a T-liner, and shave it up. Then use a clipper with a higher guard -- at least a No. 2 -- to even out the bottom half. This is a good style for guys who can’t grow a lot of hair on their cheeks and want to disguise it.”

GOATEE
David Oliver
(Track and Field, U.S.)

“It’s a really short goatee. It’s not outlined, so that must be how his facial hair grows. He trims up his cheeks with regular clippers to take out the bulk and then leaves a natural goatee.”

OUTGROWN GOATEE
Nikola Karabatic
(Handball, France)

“I would say that it’s not just the shadows; he naturally doesn’t grow a lot of hair on his cheeks. He’s buzzing his goatee at a No. 1.5 or a No. 2, and he’s not touching the lines with anything sharp. He’s just using a clipper for his cheeks, probably lowered all the way to No. 000, and then letting it all grow out. Definitely not a high-maintenance guy.”

SCRUFF
Clemente Russo
(Boxing, Italy)
Andy Roddick
(Tennis, U.S.)
Aldo Montano
(Fencing, Italy)

“They’re keeping the clipper at a No. 0, which puts the hair a little bit above the skin and looks like a shadow. Or they’re once-a-week shavers who buzz their facial hair all the way down with trimmers, and these photos were taken after they’ve let it grow three days. With these kinds of messy beards, you don’t touch the cheeks.”

Photo: Getty Images

Best Facial Hairstyles From NBA All-stars

Some of the biggest names in the history of professional basketball have sported downright crazy mug manes to complement their cute little shorts. We pick our faves -- from today’s all-stars to the NBA’s Hall of Fame hairballs.

Facial Hairstyle All-star No. 1: Baron Davis
The Knicks’ point guard has a beard so full it gets to the basket about two steps ahead of him. It’s not that it’s not well-groomed -- it is -- but if he caught a pass in there, you’d have to call a time-out while a search posse went in after it.

Facial Hair Style All-star No. 2: Kurt Rambis
With his black-framed glasses, long blond hair and junior-high-lookin’ lip brush, the former Laker forward looked like the kid your mom wouldn’t let you hang out with in high school … who now owns a Fortune 500 company. “That kid’s going nowhere!”

Facial Hairstyle All-star No. 3: Drew Gooden
The Milwaukee Buck power forward once rocked a beard that looked like a row of hairy (and scary) stalactites. This was the goatee from hell, serving up multiple downward pinnacles, each hanging at least 1/4 inch below Drew’s chin-do.

Facial Hairstyle All-star No. 4: James Harden
The Oklahoma City Thunder guard has been making big noise with his backboard-thick Afro-beard beneath his chin. He bundles it with a matching Mohawk to complete his captivating “Invite a Road Warrior for Dinner” look.

Facial Hairstyle All-star No. 5: James Edwards
The former center for the “Bad Boy” Detroit Pistons had mutton chops that wrapped around an accompanying sneer like a couple of tire irons Velcro’d to his face. His yearbook shots were suitable for framing … for an “America’s Most Wanted” poster.

Facial Hairstyle All-star No. 6: DeShawn Stevenson
New Jersey Nets fans haven’t had much to cheer about this season (or virtually any other) except the majesty of DeShawn’s chinscape. It’s every bit as thick as Davis’s or Harden’s, but finely chiseled to a triangular point. The effect is akin to a Muslim cleric with a mean jump shot.

Facial Hairstyle All-star No. 7: Phil Jackson

The coach who has won the most NBA championships (11) couldn’t have done it (and didn’t) without his signature facial forest. A member of the Knicks’ legendary 1969-1970 World Championship team, “The Zen Master” sported a hippie-style full beard which seemed to take root and flower with each championship win.

Facial Hairstyle All-star No. 8: Scot Pollard
While never an all-star, the recently retired, 11-season journeyman Samurai Scot rocked more unique beards than an Amish wedding. His gallery included a relatively regular Grizzly Adams look; an upper-lip, brushless Abe Lincoln; and a Hall of Fame–worthy pair of pigtails beneath his chinny-chin-chin.

Want a new look? Check out our sponsor’s Library of Styles to find the perfect look for you


Photo: Getty Images

Get a Barbershop Shave at Home -- for Less

Master barbers tend to use the word “process” to describe shaving, and there’s a reason. Take the typical 30-minute shave at Manhattan barbershop BBRAXTON: Executive director, general manager and master barber Gary Clark reclines clients to a 90-degree angle, smoothes on pre-shave oil, allows it time to soak in, massages in shaving cream, lays down a hot towel (fresh from the hot towel kiln, no less), shaves the client, lays down another hot towel and tops it off with shave balm for the finishing touch. The actual shave almost gets lost amid all the other steps.

Although this might be the best way to treat your face -- resulting in a super-clean shave and protected skin, not to mention stress release -- we’re going to assume you don’t have the luxury to hire someone to do this every time you want a bare face, or have the time or money to do it yourself. But, Clark reveals, it is possible to cut the 30-minute process in half, do it at home with inexpensive products and get incredibly similar results. Here’s how.

1. Raid your kitchen cabinet.
According to Clark, olive oil or grape-seed oil are perfectly acceptable pre-shave oils. “All-natural products are great,” he says. “Shaving is pretty harsh on the skin, but they keep the moisture locked in.”

2. Shave in the shower.
“Make sure it’s a steamy hot shower,” says Adam Ramos, a master barber and owner of Virile Barber & Shop in New Jersey. “One of the key components to a quality, comfortable shave is heat and moisture.”

For men with curly hair -- in other words, those prone to razor bumps -- Clark recommends applying moist hot towels for one-and-a-half to two minutes before and after shaving, even if you’re already in a steamy shower. “The vapor brings up any impurities and toxins and softens the hair follicle tremendously for a smoother, cleaner shave.” Install a fogless mirror in the shower and you’ll be sure not to miss a spot.

3. Forget the expensive badger hair brush; your hands will do just fine.
Says Ramos: “The purpose of the brush is to lift the hairs on your face and make sure the shaving cream really gets underneath and keeps those hairs propped up. Then the blade can get under them and shave as close to the skin as possible.”

Traditionally, barbers will heat up a disk of glycerin soap, place it on a scuttle or inside a shaving mug, run the brush under warm water and mix it with the soap (or with fancy concentrated shaving cream) to concoct the lather they desire. That translates to an extra 10-15 minutes of time before you can actually shave, plus the price of all the supplies.

Luckily, says Ramos, “Your fingers are just as good, so long as you’re really massaging it in.” Rub the shaving cream in vigorously, using circular motions to make sure you get in under the hairs.

4. Apply an inexpensive aftershave balm.
According to Clark, inexpensive aftershave balms can be as effective as their pricier brethren. In a pinch, even a splash of cold water will do the trick.

Follow these four simple steps and you’ll walk out the door looking like you just left the shaving salon.

Photo: @iStockphoto.com/avdeev007