What Is The Best Gillette Fusion Proglide Alternative?

cartridge throne

7 Challengers To The Throne: Harry’s, 800Razors, MyShavingClub, Manpacks, ShaveMOB, Dorco & Dollar Shave Club, and Schick Hydro

Anyone who reads Sharpologist knows we’re all about the single blade razor.  Classic double-edge, single-edge (Injector, GEM), straight razor…it’s all good to us.  But even we will admit–grudgingly–that modern cartridge razors have their place.  Cartridges are convenient.  They’re widely available.  The blade pivot can provide a quicker, more consistant shave in some cases.

 

Numero Uno?

And sitting on the cartridge throne is the Gillette Fusion Proglide.  For better or worse this five-blade (!) razor dominates the market.  But the price of replacement cartridges has given rise to upstarts who think they can provide the same shave more cheaply.  Sharpologist, with a little help from our friends over at Razorpedia, takes a look at seven competitors.

(For our purposes we’re taking a look at razors primarily targeted to the US.  Yes, we know there are some good cartridge razors in other parts of the world–we’re looking at you, Raz*War and King Of Shaves–but this article will concentrate on the US market.)

The Cartridge Razor Baseline: Fusion Proglide

The Gillette Fusion is a five-bladed razor released in 2006. The Fusion cartridge has five blades on the front, and a sixth blade on the rear for trimming.  There are a number of variations (with some handles incompatable with each other) but the latest incarnation is the Fusion Proglide.  The Proglide features a lower-resistance coating on thinner blades.  It is generally acknowledged that the Proglide design improves on previous Fusion models.  And for most of us the Proglide does provide very good shaves–better than the previous versions of the Fusion–and by most accounts they have a respectable cartridge life that degrades gracefully, which lowers the per-shave cost (we do think that a cartridge lasting an entire month, as their marketing campaign claims, is a stretch.  But two weeks seemed to be easily achievable).

Cartridge prices are easily the highest in the industry: $5 per cartridge (in a four cartridge pack) down to a slightly-more-manageable $3 range for a bulk pack (14-16 cartridges) from a warehouse like Sams or Costco.  You may be tempted to try the steeply-discounted cartridges found on various internet auction sites but be aware there are counterfeits on the market.

Schick Hydro

Schick, the perrenial number 2 of the razor wars in the US, released their Hydro line in 2010.  They have both a three blade cartridge and a five blade cartridge: we’ll stick to the five blade for this article.  They distinguish themselves by having a “lubrication reservoir” on the cartridge and “skin guards” between the blades to reduce friction.  Our testing suggests that the shave is better than their previous Quattro four blade razor (which had a notorious reputation of an overly-aggressive blade angle), though not as good as the Fusion.  It has a very good cartridge life–maybe better than the Proglide’s–with most of us getting a solid two weeks per cartridge (and a couple of us managed three weeks).  However, many reported an unpleasant “gooy-ness” of the lubrication system when using certain types of gels and creams, and particularly traditional lathering soaps or creams.

Cartridge prices ranged from $3.37 per cartridge in small quantities at retail outlets to $1.87 per cartridge in bulk (15 carts).

Harry’s

Harry’s is going for style. One of the co-founders of the trendy Warby Parker eyeglass retailer, Jeff Raider, wants to do for razors what Warby Parker does for glasses: make a razor for a “more discerning” consumer with both style and a lower price than the dominant players, Gillette and Schick.  THIS article at Wired.com goes into more detail.  And we think their handles (initially two, “Truman” and “Winston“) are certainly more stylish than the typical handle–they look more like a custom pen than a razor.  Both handles take the same kind of 5 blade cartridge.  The cartridges can be purchased in packs of four, eight, twelve, and sixteen (with a cost-per-cartridge ranging between $2 plus shipping and $1.56 with shipping).

Our testers got a fine shave, though perhaps not quite as close as some others on this list.  And the cartridges had a durability that could only be described as average–a week or so.

800 Razors

800razors.com differentiates themselves from other competitors by offering a “burn free” guarantee: “no skin burn, wallet burn, or American job-loss burn” or they will provide a full refund.  They offer both three blade and five blade cartridges (as well as a woman’s razor): the five blade cartridges come in four, eight, sixteen, and twenty cartridge packs, with a cost-per-cartridge ranging from $2.50 to $1.95 with shipping.

Our testers thought the 800razors cartridges were set to an extremely mild blade angle (perhaps this is part of the “burn free” motto?).  Reactions tended to be on the opposite sides of the spectrum: those with light beards or very sensitive skin thought it was a comfortable shave, while others thought the razor was too mild and the shave not nearly close enough.  Cartridge life was about average, a week or so.

My Shaving Club

My Shaving Club offers a razor with 5 blade cartridges via subscription.  You can get two cartridges per month or per alternating month for $5.99; or three cartridges per month or alternating month for $8.49. That amounts to a range of $3 to $2.83 per cartridge with shipping.

Our testers thought the shaves from My Shaving Club razors were excellent: close and comfortable, with a graceful blade degradation and a very good cartridge life (most testers got at least 10 days out of a cartridge).

Manpacks

Manpacks is another subscription service, offering a razor with a set of four, five-blade cartridges for $9/mo ($2.25 per cartridge) including shipping.  We assume that they assume that the typical shaver will go through one cartridge per week.  Our testers were able to consistantly get more than a week, and excellent shaves to boot.  Some testers did note that cartridge degradation did drop off a little more quickly than other razor cartridges.

Shave MOB

ShaveMOB boasts “save 70% on premium shaving razors.”  No membership, no subscription.  They offer three, four, or six-bladed cartridges.  The six blade cartridges have a version with a trimmer on the back and one that doesn’t.  If we look at the most expensive version (six blade with trimmer) the cartridge prices range from $3.25 to $1.67 depending on quantity (all include shipping).  Of course, different cartridges in their line will be lower cost.

Once again our testers got excellent shaves out of the ShaveMOB razor, and the cartridges lasted over a week and degraded gracefully.

Interestingly, ShaveMOB and Manpack razors share the same cartridge connector on the razor handle.  But the cartridge designs appear to be slightly different so they may or may-not be interchangeable!

Dorco (Dollar Shave Club)

Dorco’s 6 blade cartridge have trimmer and no trimmer versions: the trimmer version is slightly more expensive.  Per-cartridge prices range from about $1.69 to $1.22 depending on quantity.

Dorco razors are also used by Dollar Shave Club (HERE is our review of DSC).  Of course, DSC works on the subscription model and will send you four, six-blade cartridges per month for $9 (including shipping).  That works about to $2.25 per cartridge.

Our testers found the Dorco shaves to be very comfortable but just adequately close.  A cartridge typically lasted 7-8 shaves but then degraded quickly.

We suspect that Dorco is the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) of some of the other razors on our list.

So Which Is Best?

Well…that depends. :) If you’re looking for bottom-dollar,  Dorco has the lowest cartridge price (in quantity), with Harry’s and ShaveMOB coming in not too far behind.  But remember that the number (and quality!) of shaves you get from each cartrige effects the per-shave cost so don’t judge by price alone.  The razor from 800razors.com is something to consider if you have fine hair or very sensitive skin; however you may not get as close a shave as another alternative.  If you want to buy your razor cartridges under a “set it and forget it” subscription, myshavingclub.com offers flexible terms.

The bottom line here is we think the shave quality of all these alternatives will get very close to that of the Proglide–close enough that you probably won’t have a problem trading shave for cartridge price.

Extending Razor Cartridge Life

There are also some strategies you can take to extend the life of a razor blade cartridge.  Here is a video Mantic59 made a couple years ago:

Products mentioned:

RazorPit

Pacific Shaving Blade Oil

Of course, you wouldn’t have to worry much about price at all if you shaved with a double edge razor:)

 

Sharpologist Staff (17 Posts)


Comments

  1. Props to you for saying out loud that cartridges have their place!

    Not as cool or close as a double edge, but you cannot argue with the convenience.

    • “you cannot argue with the convenience”….. but you certainly can argue with the extra damage such ‘multi-blade’ systems cause to the skin! Always remember the lowest common denominator when shaving with ANY blade: you are scraping a sharpened piece of steel across your skin – you WILL cause damage. Therefore, what damage are you inflicting when scraping 3, 4, 5 or 6 ‘sharpened pieces of steel’ across your skin?!

      • I’m with Iain. I have no problem with cartridge razors, I just wish there were more single blade cartridge systems. I use the Gillette Guard to shave my head with great results.

  2. Sam Siegel says:

    I am a head shaver. Best cartridge razor is the Gillette Guard from India.
    Number one it is cheap. Number two it shaves close at least for me. Extra
    Cartridges are .50 each. You can get the razor with cartridge around 2.00
    to 3.00 bucks. The handle and head are all plastic but I have used the orginial
    Handle for over three months now with no problem. Great shave and great razor.
    Gillette does not sell it here in the us because everyone would buy it and
    that would be the end of the expensive stuff.

  3. Nice write up on cartridge razors. I must admit that I got a close shave with much less time/effort from a cartridge than I do with my DE razor (I’ve been using the Muhle R41 for the past several months now), however, the price per shave is what lead me back to the DE world (as well as the classic bad-ass’ness of it). Cartridge prices in my part of the world (San Diego, CA) are insane, the only semi-reasonable place to buy them out here is Costco and I have not tried any of the subscription places mentioned here yet.

    I find that I get a close enough shave in about 20-25 minutes with the Muhle R41 and either Dorco or Feather blades to satisfy my needs. As far as blade life goes, we have very hard water here so it’s tough on the blade edge, still I shave about 2 times a week and can still get 2-3 weeks out of a blade (this amounts to about 4-6 shaves per blade).

  4. Thanks for the great review on the overall space! It’s clear there are some worthy alternatives coming to the market in the razor space. For anyone interested in giving ShaveMOB.com a try, use the code INTHEMOB to save $1 at checkout – and let us know what you think of our blades.

  5. This is one time that I can say I have not been there and done that. For the past 50+ years it has been either DE, Injector, or Straights for me and I do not plan on switching anytime soon. I agree with VillageBarberUK.

  6. Thanks for the article. I too agree that cartridges have their place. However, I think that even the alternatives to the Fusion ProGlide presented here are still too expensive.

    Here’s my alternative: Target’s Up&Up brand twin-blade disposable razors with a pivot head. A 12 pack of these cost $2.74 at my local Target. At approx. 23 cents a razor, that’s cheaper than a lot of DE blades! The package says they’re made in the USA and based on how they look I’m 99% sure they’re re-branded Personna disposables. Now, before I got into DE shaving I would have dismissed these little guys as rubbish. But, in the hands of someone with experience with the DE shaving techniques that folks like Mantic have taught us, these razors can really be quite effective. For me it’s a win-win; the cost is similar to DE blades and the convenience is similar to cartridges. I personally, don’t have the time for a proper DE shave every day so I shave with these in the shower during the week. Give em a try. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

    • Dan, I definitely agree there are plenty of additional alternatives in cartridge razors. But we did want to make this post an “apples to apples” comparison to the Fusion. I’m planning a follow-up article about cartridge razors with fewer blades and even lower cost than what we’ve presented here.

  7. Sam Fritts says:

    Who needs 3, 4, and 5 blade razors. Sometimes I use my Fatip Grande or my Edwin Jagger DE 86 when I have the time for a traditional wet shave. For my everyday shaving needs, I prefer the Gillette Trac II— 1970′s-tech. I could buy Personna replacement cartridges (They’re just good as Gillette’s blades for over half the price cheaper.) in allotments of fifty for 20-25 bucks online, which last me a whole year if I got about a week per blade. By the way, I have coarse whiskers that are stubborn to shave off. The Trac II with Personna blades on it mows through my wiry stubble with ease in a very timely and efficient manner. Peace.

  8. The main problem that I have with cartridge is that the get clogged. This is a problem for me because the stubble goes back into my skin clogging my acne prone skin. I usually shave with a straight but when I am in a hurry I grab my merkur futur and do 2-3 passes on 5-6 setting with a feather out astra blade.

  9. Just what I was looking for. I have tried Harrys, Dollar shave and gave a my shaving club a shot, was impressed to say the least. Shave is as close as a gillette fusion. But still cant beat DE for the price though.

  10. James Cornell says:

    I tried going back to a DE razor for a while (about a month). Every time was pretty much of a adventure. Where will I have scabs today from nicking myself? I like the lesser cost of DEs. But I get a comfortable, painless, and bloodless shave using the Gillette Fusion razor. They last two weeks for me. I would be glad if I could successfully use DE razors instead. But it just was not a good thing for me.

  11. mark bevan says:

    Thanks for the article. I too agree that cartridges have their place. Our Classic Shave Cream is so smooth and luxurious it doesn’t require a shaving brush. With an extremely moisturising formula we created the best non lathering shave cream available.

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