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, the Dodge Charger Daytona of razors, 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 shouldn’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-Awesome- 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.

Eat Your Way to a More Beautiful Beard

There’s not too much you can do about a receding hairline, other than curse your gene pool. But facial hair is a different story. “The condition of your facial hair directly corresponds to the health of your body,” says Jim White, registered dietitian and American Dietetic Association spokesman. Specifically, he continues, “The same nutrients that have a positive effect on our heart and other major organs also benefit our skin and hair.”

In other words, you can literally eat yourself to a shinier, smoother, more healthy-looking beard. We asked White to tell us which vitamins are an essential part of a healthy facial hair diet, what they do, and how to get them into our diet. Results of our conversation below.

VITAMIN A AND BETA CAROTENE
How they better your beard
: “Vitamin A maintains and repairs skin tissue,” says White. “And keeping your skin healthy allows for better hair growth.” Beta carotene is a nutrient that your body converts to vitamin A. Since it’s found in foods that are lower in saturated fats than those that are rich in vitamin A, you’re better off eating foods that are high in beta carotene.

Where to find them: Vitamin A is present in milk, cheese, butter and egg yolks. Beta carotene is found in yellow and orange produce (e.g., carrots, pumpkin, sweet potatoes and papayas) and leafy green veggies (e.g., spinach and kale).

VITAMINS C AND E

How they better your beard: Vitamins C and E promote the production of sebum, a natural oil that is produced by our bodies and lubricates and moisturizes hair, making it look thicker and more lush. Additionally, vitamin C assists in the growth of bodily tissues, including those that comprise our skin and hair follicles.

Where to find them: Citrus fruits, green peppers and broccoli are good sources of vitamin C. Wheat germ oil, almonds, sunflower seeds, safflower oil, peanut butter, corn oil, spinach, broccoli, mangoes and spinach all contain high amounts of vitamin E.

PROTEIN

How it betters your beard: Our skin and hair are composed primarily of keratin, a structural protein made up of amino acids. We don’t produce amino acids on our own; instead, we need to eat protein, which the body then converts to amino acids.

Where to find it: Fill up on fish, lean meats, poultry, eggs, rice, beans and milk.

VITAMINS B6, B12 AND BIOTIN
How they better your beard:
B vitamins help your body synthesize the protein you eat so it can be used to build new skin cells and hair. Getting enough B vitamins, says White, also helps reduce stress and prevent hair loss.

Where to find them: Fish, poultry, leans meats, eggs, nuts, and whole grains such as brown rice and oatmeal are chock-full of B vitamins. Foods that are rich in B12 include beef, milk, cheese and wheat germ.

OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS
How they better your beard:
Essential fatty acids are just that: essential to normal growth, including that of facial hair. They also protect cell membranes, helping to prevent your whiskers from getting dry and brittle.

Where to find them: Make sure flax seed oil, walnuts and fatty fish (e.g., salmon) find their way into your diet.

Want to make your beard even more beautiful? Of course you do! Supplementing the above foods with a multivitamin, or with any of the individual nutrients listed above, might do the trick. Just don’t overdo it: Your body will excrete any extra water-soluble vitamins (e.g., vitamin C or B12), but it’ll hold on to extra fat-soluble vitamins (e.g., vitamin A). Excessive doses of vitamin A could actually lead to hair loss. Ask your doctor to recommend a proper dosage, and you’ll soon be on your way to winning whiskers.

Know Your Skin Type

Looks are only skin-deep, you’re always told. So unless you want to wow women with your inner beauty, you’d better take good care of that skin. The trick, says Ellen Marmur -- author of the book Simple Skin Beauty and chief of dermatologic and cosmetic surgery at the Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York -- is knowing how to do it properly.

Marmur recommends what she calls a PET strategy: protect, enhance and troubleshoot. Protect means to use sunscreen. Most men don’t, even though it dramatically reduces wrinkles and other effects of aging over the years. Enhance means use the right skin and shaving products. And to do that, you need to troubleshoot, or identify your unique skin care needs. We’ve enlisted the advice of Marmur and Valentina Chistova, a renowned aesthetician and owner of ABC Day Spa in New Jersey, to aid you in this part of the process. As for the inner-beauty part, you’re on your own.

Skin type: Dry

How to identify it: Your skin feels tight after you wash it. You may notice chapped splotches in spots, and it can appear dull from excess dead layers.

How to treat it: Apply moisturizer in the morning after you shave and at night before you go to bed, Chistova recommends. “In the evening, you can use a rich moisturizer, one that is specially noted for nighttime use,” she adds. You might also want to consider using cleansing milk instead of soap, as it removes fewer natural oils. You should probably refrain from using aftershave if you’ve got this skin type, says Marmur, since it tends to close pores and further dry your cheeks, chin and neck.

Skin type: Oily

How to identify it: Within thirty minutes of washing your face, your skin is already shiny. When you touch your face, you notice oily residue on your fingers. You also have a tendency to get blackheads.

How to treat it: Use one of the many gel facial cleansers designed specifically for oily skin. Also, says Chistova, after washing your face, apply a toner -- which cleans the skin and closes pores -- with a cotton ball. You still need to moisturize, but probably only once a day, in the evening. Marmur suggests experimenting with different aftershaves to find which one complements your skin the best and slows it from getting shiny during the day.

Skin type: Combination

How to identify it: Marmur calls this the most common skin condition among men. Your cheeks and forehead may be dry, but then shiny oil may build up along the T-zone (across the brow and down the nose).

How to treat it: Cater your approach to whichever area of the face you’re treating. Use the strategies best suited for oily skin on the T-zone, and the ones for dry skin on the cheeks and forehead. And, adds Marmur, apply sunscreen everywhere to prevent aging effects.

Skin type: Sensitive

How to identify it: Your face sunburns easily and is prone to redness, hives and bumps.

How to treat it: If you have this type of skin, you should seek a dermatologist or a skin-care professional for specific advice based upon your unique needs. But Chistova provides some simple, basic tips: Wash your face a couple of times a day at most, and use the most delicate soaps and facial products possible. Some brands make a face wash for sensitive skin, which would be far superior to a bar of soap.

Photo Credit: @iStockphoto.com/atanasija

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

Coarse, Curly Facial Hair? These Beards Are For You

You know a beard can add flare to your overall look. But growing one is not without obstacles, like figuring out the right style to fit your face shape and maintaining your beard to look as fresh as it did the day you left the barbershop. If you have coarse, curly hair, you can multiply these challenges by a factor of 10.

Compared to your less curly counterparts, you’ll need a lot more skill when holding the immers. Most importantly, you’ll need to master the curl of your beard because, depending on how short it’s worn, the tightness of the curls can give the beard the appearance of looking patchy. In the beginning stages of beard-growing, patchiness can be prevented by using immers (or a beard comb or brush, when ansitioning from a short to long beard length) to smooth out your facial hair every two to three days.

Best Beard Styles for Coarse, Curly Hair

Take your cues from the stars: These beard styles are the best bets for guys with coarse, curly hair:

  • Beard scruff, which works on all face shapes:
Lenny Kravitz
  • Goatees like the Vandyke and the full goatee (where the mustache is connected to the chin hair):

Diddy (Vandyke) Will Smith (full goatee)
  • Chin strap:
Dwayne Wade

  • Light beard:
Flo Rida

Keep Your Beard Looking Fresh

The key to making these styles look good day in and day out is maintaining a desirable length. How long is too long? When the sharp lines that helped create the style become less noticeable due to the curl of the beard. And, of course, as mentioned earlier: If the beard grows to a length at which the hairs begin to create holes or patches in the beard, it’s grown too long.

The best way to keep these styles looking neat, especially for the super-curly beard crowd, is a detailed finish with a razor (keeping in mind, of course, that many men with this beard type are more prone to shaving irritation). The focus of the blade should be on the perimeter of the beard in order to accent the style; the surrounding area can be immed rather than shaved.

So what about the full beard? You’ll need patience -- and preferably a long vacation on a secluded island -- while you brush and comb your beard through the patchy period and into its full glory.

  • Full beard:
Rick Ross

 All Images: Getty Images