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