How Much Should You Really Spend on a Razor?
By: Richard Baguley
What do you get for your money? That’s the question everyone looking to buy a piece of tech asks themselves. It also happens to be the question this recurring feature will try to answer. Is it worth spending extra on high-end gear, or do you get what you need with cheaper models? Every month, we’ll look at some of the cheapest and most expensive products in a given category, testing each to see what their limits are and help you figure out when you can cheap it out, and when to plunk down some extra cash to get what you need.
Watch any post-apocalyptic film and you’ll notice a pattern: nobody shaves. From “The Road” to “World War Z,” as things fall apart, people get hairy. Shaving is probably one of the first things to get shoved aside when the niceties of civilization are torn away. Remove that façade of decency, it seems, and a scruffy, screaming face is staring back at you. Because who wants to live without disposable razors?
Like most daily rituals, the act of shaving one’s facial hair with a non-electrical, old-school razor has been impacted by technology. Some of the pricier varieties are miracles of engineering, with more blades than a flotilla of sea pirates. The bigger impact modern manufacturing has had on the lowly razor, however, has been on the price. They’re so cheap to produce, they have become disposable. But are these throwaway, mostly plastic hair-slicers really better than the heavier, long-lasting blades our low-tech ancestors used? I decided to find out by trying three razors: the cheapest modern disposable razor I could find, a classic safety razor, and a straight razor. I stayed away from motorized electrical shavers, as I wanted to make this test purely about the experience of guiding a blade slowly across the skin.
Although I was unable to engineer the downfall of civilization, I did try each type of razor for several weeks, giving myself enough time to adjust to each type, and work out the best way of using it. I discovered that this might be a case where modern and cheap is not better than old and more expensive.
THE DISPOSABLE RAZOR
The cheapest disposable razor I could find was from my local drugstore: $6.49 for a pack of 12 dual-blade, tilting head razors. That means each razor costs about 54 cents. That’s pretty cheap, but there is a reason: I found that these razors didn’t last for more than a single shave. After that, the blades started to drag and skip on the skin, leading to cuts and nicks. I wasn’t able to use these razors for more than a single shave without discomfort. So, realistically, that puts the cost here at about $0.54 a shave, and I ended up going through a pack of 12 razors in under a month.
Of course, there are more expensive options that last a little longer. When I used something like a Gilette Fusion razor, I could usually get 3 or 4 shaves per replacement head. But, with a pack of 4 replacement heads costing $16.79, it’s no cheaper, as that works out at about $1 a shave.
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THE SAFETY RAZOR
If you aren’t familiar with this type of razor, ask your grandfather. Patented in 1904by King Gillette, founder of the eponymous modern company, the safety razor is a razor “where the necessity of honing or stropping the blade is done away with, thus saving the annoyance and expense involved therein”, according to the original patent. This is the classic razor, with a rectangular metal head that holds a removable double-edged blade. It’s called a safety razor because the blade is held between two pieces of metal that protect the skin: you can’t do more than nick the flesh with it. Plus, like the modern disposable razor, the head holds the blade at the right angle to the skin, so it is easy to use. The blade is the disposable part: rather than throw the whole thing out, you remove the blade, which is just a thin sheet of metal.