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The Science Behind The Vibrating Blade?

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Reader Larry sent me this link about the science behind vibrating razors: Mad Physics. According to the article its a combination of physics (the vibrations) and biology (the arrector pili, which is responsible for raising hairs on the skin, like “goose bumps”). It sounds plausible I suppose, but I have not been able to find other references to the connection. In fact, I found a number of references (here’s the NY Times reference which is an interesting article in itself) to a lawsuit that forced Gillette to drop its claim that the Mach3 Power “lifted the hair for a better shave.” The most common explaination I’ve read basically says the vibrations really just numb the tissue under the skin making it “feel” like you’re getting a more comfortable shave. Any scientists out there reading me?

By the way, the Gillette “power” razors are not the first to use vibrating technology. Check out the Stahly Live Blade.


Shave tutor and co-founder of sharpologist. I have been advocating old-school shaving for over 20 years and have been featured in major media outlets including The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and Lifehacker. Also check out my content on Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest!View Author posts

6 thoughts on “The Science Behind The Vibrating Blade?”

  1. I really don’t care what the "scientists" or any other guru's have to say.

    Once I started to shave the old fashioned way I saw a major improvement. I feel healthier and now everyday shaving is relaxing and fun.

    Mantic59 shaving is happy time!!!! 🙂

  2. Scientist-in-training here, albeit my lab isn't equipped to do this sort of experimenting.

    Going on personal experience, I suspect it actually has more to do with skin properties than with closeness of shave, and it's highly technique-dependent. (To place the following in context, I have a dense, thick beard that grows rather rapidly, though it isn't especially wiry.)

    While I was hunting down the equipment for DE-blade shaving (surprisingly difficult for a city of over a million people; the only store that sold men's shaving gear hadn't even heard of a safety razor!), I kept using my last Fusion cartridge for well more than I would have thought possible (something like a solid month), using it to practice some of the techniques I'd learned from here. After I acclimated to the improvement (yes, a month-old Fusion cartridge with proper technique outperformed the fresh ones I'd been using since it came out, even with pressurized lather), I got curious and tried it both steady and with vibration – and didn't notice much of a difference in closeness or comfort.

    However, before finding this blog, all I'd do was run warm water over a dry beard (briefly), use some pressurized lather, do a WTG with a steady razor, and then (without re-lathering!) an ATG with vibration, pressing down firmly and repeating over rough spots. (I'd also tried this sequence with steady razors, so the difference between the two was pretty easy to notice over time.) Under this situation, the vibration didn't make the shave closer, but it certainly helped make it more comfortable and (to some extent) reduced razor burn. I also noticed (from earlier experimentation) that a vibrating shave produced shadow later in the day (though it wasn't noticeably smoother immediately post-shave), although I usually just used this as an excuse to shave less often. (My DE stuff came in before I had enough time to rigorously test this with proper technique.)

    I suspect part of its success lies in compensating for poor technique on the comfort front. (In fact, if you're assuming poor technique, the vibration would seem to be a huge improvement.) If the shave is particularly unpleasant, having a decent shave last longer is more important than having a close shave.

    Of course, part of me just thinks it's all disposable marketing, too. Probably the best explanation. (Of course, I'll go back and test again some time – right now I'm having too much fun learning the ins and outs of the DE, and getting better shaves than ever.)

  3. Gillette formed the company on that axiom. "Give away the razor and charge for the blades".
    I bought a Fusion Power JUST because it was $2 cheaper. I tried it but didn't like it. I just use it without power. Today I'm moving (up?) to a DE safety razor.

  4. I heard of another explanation: Gillette's business model is to sell stuff that people need to throw away after use and buy again. That's why Gillette bought Duracell, the battery company a couple years back.

    Now, they have the perfect throw away combination: buy the razor, buy the blade, buy the battery. Use them. Throw away the blade and battery and buy news ones.

    That's how you make a lot of money.

    Here's Gillette story:

    Here's the razor and blades business model:

  5. I heard of another explanation (I don't know, if it's true…):

    because the blades of the Mach3 and Fusion are very small, they begin to swing and don't cut the hairs effectively. These vibrations can, perhaps, be compensated by the vibration of the whole head and the blades can cut the hair.

  6. About the "it just makes you feel like it did better" part: I can honestly say this can't be true. When I switched to a vibrating razor 3 years (really? wow) ago it had the most profound impact on my shaving results of any changes I made to my shaving procedure in the past. I'm now actually getting a close shave, if I want to. This just wasn't possible for me before, I have very sturdy hair. Even now I still have to shave against the grow :/ Not only did it produce a much closer shave but it also reduced skin problems, although they are still there.

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