Answering my own questions since 2001

How Many Razor Blades Do I Really Need?

There are two kinds of fools: One says, “This is old therefore it is good.” The other one says, “This is new therefore it is better.” — William R. Inge

In recent years, the average razor blade has gotten a lot bigger. First we had the Mach 3, then four and now 5 blades on a razor (here’s a little history of Gillette’s product introductions). A man gets to wondering…

How many razor blades do I really need?

CAUTION: Unflattering photos of my face follow. You can click them for larger, even more unpleasant versions.

I decided to get scientific. I visited my local drug store, and purchased a five-blade Gillette Fusion (hilarious flashtasticness ahead, with our highly-suggestive hostess Cassandra) razor. The calculation is based on replacement blade pricing:

Gillette Fusion razor

Some features of the Fusion (thanks, Cassandra!):

  • Flexible comfort guard carefully follows the contours of the face
  • Enhanced indicator Lubrastrip signals when it’s time to change the blade
  • Backside of the cartridge features a Precision Trimmer for side-burns and hard-to-reach areas
  • Features an ergonomic, superbly engineered razor handle with elastomer coating
  • Breakthrough five-blade shaving surface on the front of the cartridge

Then I looked for the cheapest razor I could find. I eventually went with the Bic Twin Select, which has two blades and feels very dainty in my hand (sorry about the white balance there):

Bic Twin Select

The selling features from the Bic website:

  • Twin-blade for a close and comfortable shave
  • A slim head to help shave those “hard-to-reach” areas
  • Longer handle for better maneuverability and control

Here’s my receipt. As it turns out, I got a buck off each razor. I also needed antiperspirant:

Receipt

And here are the contenders:

The contenders

Here is my pre-shave face:

Darren, pre-shave

I didn’t shave yesterday so I built up a good scruffy stubble. It’s first thing in the morning, so I look a little grumpy.

I followed my normal routine, and shaved in the shower (sorry ladies and gents, no photos there). I divided my face in half, using the five blade razor on one side, and the two-blade number on the other. I was careful to use the same number of strokes on each area, and tried to apply the same amount of pressure.

Here’s my post-shave face. I’m happier because I’m clean:

Darren, post-shave

Let’s see those side by side:

Side by side

Here’s a close-up of the area around my mouth:

My big mouth

Here are a couple more photos of my right and left sideburns.What do you think? As far as I can tell, there’s very little difference visually. They both seem to have done a decent job.

It’s difficult to judge, but both cheeks feel equally unirritated. This, of course, may be down to the very excellent Body Shop Mostly Men shaving cream I use.

Photo evidence wasn’t sufficient, though. I went out in the world and asked five people to feel my face and tell me they thought one side was smoother than the other. Only one of them identified the right side of my face as the five-blade side. Like me, most couldn’t tell the difference.

Conclusions? After one shave, there’s little reason to use five blades. Maybe, over time, the cheap two-blade razor would irritate your skin more? Regardless, I think I’ll just stick with my three blades.

41 Responses to “How Many Razor Blades Do I Really Need?”

  1. Kerry Anne

    I’ve always been a low-maintenance .60 cent razor girl, myself. I’ll usually buy the store brand at either Shoppers or Save-On. A few weeks ago, I purchased a package of cheap Bic (LadyBic that is), and it came with 3 bonus Bic razors of higher quality. I didn’t think it would make much of a difference, but I did get smoother legs from the pricier razor, and it didn’t even have a LubraStrip!
    I don’t think it will be enough to convert me into a luxury brand razor buying girl, but it was nice while it lasted.
    Interesting experiment.

  2. -j.

    I personally use a three-bladed razor, and it works perfectly well as far as I’m concerned. Any additional blades are purely marketing, much like the utterly useless lubricating strip.

  3. Mi

    Interesting color difference between the early morning scruffy look and the post-shave look.

  4. Jeff

    I’ve been using the same Gilette Sensor Two blade since I was 16 (half my life now – holy crap!)
    Thankfully, replacement cartridges are still available.

  5. Carlos

    I don’t know about the five-blade Fusion, but I swear by the three-blade Mach 3, and definitely notice the difference between it and disposables or two-blade razors. For one, the Mach 3 lasts a lot longer; I can generally get a couple of weeks’ worth of shaves out of it (shaving every couple of days), but generally only a couple of shaves from the cheapos. And I don’t know if the end result is better, but it’s definitely more comfortable shaving with three blades.

  6. Carlos

    Once again, The Onion was only slightly a href=”http://www.theonion.com/content/node/33930 “ahead of the curve. Like the man said, “Hey, shaving with anything less than five blades is like scraping your beard off with a dull hatchet.”

  7. Daniel Grice

    I’ve done a similar test before..unintentionally due to forgetting my razor on a trip and having only twins available at the nearest convenience market, and I can give you this.. you can shave without shaving cream using the three or five blade razors, but don’t expect to go unscathed with a twin!!

  8. jo

    At the beginning of last semester there was a Schick promotion at UBC: the Quattro-Power with 4 vibrating blades.

    Lemme tell ya, that thing is awesome. I’m female so have no experience with facial shaving (I’ve been meaning to give one of these to a guy friend to see what the reaction) but I LOVE mine. I’m not a ‘jump-on the latest bandwagon’ type of person when it somes to the innovation of simple things like a razor, but I’m feeling like this is the greatest thing since sliced bread!

    I have yet to price out replacement heads, I’m hoping it’s not prohibitive.

  9. Derek K. Miller

    I’ve always been an electric razor user (I’m shocked to be the first one to comment), and on the rare occasions I’ve used a blade, I just borrowed my wife’s pink “bag-o-razors” drug store brand. They worked fine.

    I do prefer a rotary shaver over a foil for electrics, but my current Braun electric is fine.

  10. harp

    I think more blades are better if you’re a hairy bastard. I’m BRUTALLY hairy on the face and need more blades. If I use 2 blades I have to go against the grain and that irritates my skin. Whoever thought of 5 blades must’ve been Italian or Indian or something.

    And bless his heart.

  11. joke

    I can’t believe you guys missed this article, comparing the proliferating number of blades with Moore’s law:

    http://www.economist.com/displaystory.cfm?story_id=5624861

    Personally, I tried the Mach 3 and found it didn’t do as good a job as the Sensor Excel I’ve been using for years, so I haven’t tried a new razor since.

  12. Rosie

    I tried doing something similar but with 3 vs. 4 blade women’s razors. The difference was not very obvious, unfortunately!

  13. droo

    love the test. i bought this razor on vaction when i left my mach 3 at home.

    my intial reaction was that i liked it, it felt good to shave with. i’m harry bastard and i shave against the grain and the fusion just feels good to shave with…i can’t explain it.

    however, after using it for a while i found it more irritating when the blades had dulled. so in the end i went back to the mach 3, the old gilette two blade wasn’t bad either.

    as for disposibles…maybe when i’m poor and living in the gutter, but until then. i friggin hate those things.

  14. Body shave

    You certainly look better clean shaved.I use a twin blade razor in my work.As a Beauty Therapist I set up a website to assist people with “How to” information at http://www.fullbodyshave.com it saved me explaining what to do and how it was done.Julie

  15. Karman Loke

    Recently I shaved with the traditional double edged razor. I noticed those razor blades last much much longer than the twin, three, or five blades razor because I can take the blades out and washed them. The multi-bladed razors work very well only when they are brand new. After couple of shaves, they started to gum up by hair and grease. The traditional razor blades work like new all the time after I took them off and washed them.

  16. Walt Durford

    As a Mach3 user I have felt great unease knowing that there was another brand out there with four blades. Loyalty to my brand and pig headed ignorance prevented me from trying that brand. Of course.

    Now with GF’s 5 blades can sleep soundly at night without fearing that the next morning I’ll run into some bastard at the office who might have enjoyed a closer shave. Thank you, people at Gilette.

    I will put your dreadful test result, insinuating that the new 5 bladed GF shaves no better then an ancient two-blader, aside as anti globalist propaganda. Or so.

  17. Jim Aerni

    I’m cheap, hairy, and usually bloodied by any blade (finesse? I ain’t got it)
    Now what can be cheaper than to get a free razor in my Sunday L.A. Times? Nothing brothers. BUT…..This Fusion
    is the best razor I’ve ever used. I’ve got 5 shaves with it so far and am on my way for refills. Heck, I got a dollar off coupon with the thing. It’s the smoothest shave I’ve ever got. Sure, I have to back-shave a couple of times but I’m SMOOOOOOOOOOOOTH MAN.
    My wife’s always asking me now, “What’s on your mind Jim?” And that’s because I’m seen feeling my chin as if I were in “deep thought”. Is it Fusion Delusion?

  18. Caitlyn

    i usually use razor blades to cut my wrists. i never use them for anything else. i know its bad but its the only way i can get my anger out . by hurting myself i feel better.

    jack Reply:

    Caitlyn,
    You must be using crappy blades if you are able to do this more than once :)

    superbobby Reply:

    Jack,
    May she found one, It’s has been almost a year……

  19. Bob

    Interesting article. After being a sheep for many years and buying into all the advertising hype I recently got myself a Merkur 38C and started traditional DE ‘safety razor’ shaving (check out the many You-Tube videos).

    I’m now enjoying the best and closest shaves that I have ever had along with the least amount of irritation.

    In other words you only need a single edge and the correct tools and technique. It is almost a lost art.

  20. Chris

    I bought the 5 blade razor because I shave my head, and i was getting shave bumps along the back of my head and on the sides. The vibrating Fusion.. its ok, but I still got shave bumps. So I started looking at shave creams, I figured edge sensitive skin would do the trick, no. I have finally settled on Barbarsol with baby oil. Smells horrible, but I get a smooth shave with almost no irritation.

  21. alan

    Schick Quattro disposables are great for shaving your pubes!

  22. Karl

    I use an old fashion double edge razor. I had to pay more for the handle but the blades are only 10¢. Also it doesn’t use any plastic for a cartridge.

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  24. Jimmy

    You people are all fucktards. All of you. I’m almost glad you don’t use a DE razor, I hope you all get skin disorders.

  25. jojobunny

    I used the good ole Schick SlimTwin ( the ladies pink ) to shave my balls. It really does do the best job. never a nic or irriation. People have given me lots of comments about how smooth and big my ballsac looks when its freshly shaved. Maybe my secret is I also use Suave Lilac and Lavender Conditioner to shave my junk. Guess they are soothing to the skin.
    So yeah, the Slim Twin..great on balls. Shoot me a mail if you want pics.
    thanks Dudes.

  26. Butch

    Am I the only one old enough to remember the Saturday Night Live spoof ad with the “three bladed razor” that was HILARIOUSLY funny in the 1970s? The first twin bladed razors had just come out, and SNL ramped it up to a ridiculously unneeded triple blade. Who would have ever thought we’d see a three bladed razor being thought of as passe, and a FIVE bladed razor being a “must have”? Gotta love Madison Avenue.

    Wonder where I put grandpa’s old straight razor and strap anyway?

    :)

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