Remember when a Gillette razor blade used to cost just a dollar or two? Now a two-pack of Gillette Fusion blades costs $8 on Amazon and $11 at CVS. And Gillette’s latest version, the ProGlide blade, introduced in June, intended to replace the Fusion as their top of the line blade, costs more than $5.50 each!
The pricing follows a strategy Gillette has used for decades that’s worked pretty well: Create a new blade with some subtle benefits, such as adding another edge, and raise the price.
That approach is quite different from consumer tech products, where more features are added and the cost stays the same or drops. But Gillette has had pretty much of a monopoly on high-quality blades and razors, their products have performed well, and there was little competition.
But with razor blades costing $200 to $300 per year, it’s finally created sticker shock for many, and has led to some new competition.
One of the strongest challengers to Gillette has been the Dollar Shave Club that sells razors and blades over the Internet at a fraction of the price of Gillette products. Customers sign up for $1, $6, or $9 per month and receive 4 or 5 blades each month, postage free. Blades range from a basic model with 2 edges to their top of the line blade with 6 edges. There’s no minimum commitment and subscriptions can be cancelled anytime. They’ve been so successful that the company was recently bought by Unilever for $1 billion. It’s estimated they’ve taken about 10% of Gillette’s business in the past year.
Another Internet seller, Harry’s, offers a similar arrangement, as well as selling their razors and blades on a one-time basis. Blades cost $2 or less.
I’ve not tried Dollar, but have been using Harry’s for the past year, and I’ve found their blades and razor to perform comparable to Gillette’s Fusion razor and blades, at least in my case, with a heavy growth and sensitive skin. Both shave equally close, equally fast, and the blades seem to last about the same length, about a week. Both Dollar and Harry’s offer a free trial, so you can see how well the blades work and compare them to what you’re now using.
But there’s also another alternative that’s undergoing quite a resurgence, the old-fashioned double-edge razor, much like what our fathers used to use. The interest stems from, not only the low cost of blades, about 10 to 25 cents apiece, but the attraction of an authentic low-tech solution that works well and requires a little more skill to master.
You need to buy a razor, which ranges from under $10 to $50 or more, depending on the materials and construction. There are even some from the UK that claim to be made with the same materials and care as a Rolls Royce hood ornament.
One surprise I encountered were the large number of websites that are frequented by hundreds of thousands of people each month that discuss the merits of the blades, razors, and even brushes and soaps if you choose to go all out and avoid using the aerosol shaving creams. They include discussions about which products are the best and offer good tips and videos on the best way to shave. Two popular sites are BadgerandBlade.com and Shavenook.com.
As part of my research for this article I bought an Edwin Jagger Chrome Plated Double Edge Safety Razor ($32) made in the UK and a package of Feather stainless double edge razor blades made in Japan (100 for $25), both from Amazon after checking out the reviews.
The razor is nicely crafted of polished chrome-plated steel, while the blades are rated to be among the best for beginners who want a close shave with a minimal effort.
After a month of use, I’ve found this shaving system to be enjoyable and to provide an equally close shave and at times an even closer than the alternatives. It takes a little more time and care to shave, because the blades don’t pivot on the razor and you need to shave with the handle at the correct angle to maximize the closeness and to avoid cutting yourself. I nicked myself once the first week while learning, but haven’t since. Clearly it’s less convenient, but it’s also more enjoyable if you take shaving seriously. And, once you buy the razor, the cost is only about $12 per year for the blades.