Should the cost of blades dictate how you shave?
The cost of multi-blade cartridges can seem outrageously high when you run out of blades and try to purchase refills. This is in part because you don’t buy refills that often. If you select a package of 8 Gillette Fusion cartridges and use each one for the maximum recommended number of shaves, they will last eight months. Who can remember what you paid for the same package size eight months ago?
Non-cartridge razor makers and wet shave enthusiasts often talk about how much money you will save if you use a double-edged or single-edged razor. I will tell you here, and now they are correct—mostly—depending on the specifics of your razor, blades, and shaving habits. However, unless your finances are in terrible shape, ignore the cost arguments. The question you need to answer is, are you getting a good shave?
Comparing the cost of razor blades among types, the key factor is not how much a package of blades cost or even what that works out to be on a per-blade basis. The most important amount to know is how much you will spend per year.
For example, an 8-cartridge package of Gillette Fusion 5 refill blades can currently be purchased for about $28 on Amazon. The cost per cartridge is $3.50. Gillette claims you can get 30 shaves from a Fusion 5 cartridge which makes the cost per shave, if you use each refill 30 times, 11-2/3 cents per shave. You can hunt for the best price from different retailers and different package sizes, but because Gillette Fusion handles only accept Gillette proprietary products, you won’t find a lot of price variation.
Single-edged injector razor blades are not proprietary. I assume Schick once had a patent, but it expired long ago, and anyone can make compatible injector blades. That doesn’t mean all injector blades are identical. As with any blade, some will be sharper or longer-lasting or have other differences. But looking at cost alone, I can find Schick brand injector blades for $0.77 per blade and Parker’s brand for $0.40 per blade. The maximum number of shaves per injector blade is said to be ten by most sources. Thus, the cost per shave is about 4 to 8 cents.
We can calculate that Fusion blades are between 4 and 7 times more expensive than SE-injector blades. Are you going to save a ton of money using SE blades? My opinion—NO.
In order to calculate the cost of blades over a year, you have to know how often you change blades. I’ll assume for now that you use your blade the maximum number of times recommended by the manufacturer. If you shave three times a week (taking the weekend off), then the cost of Parker injector blades will cost you just under $7 for a year, while Gillette Fusion refills will cost you just over $18. Is saving less than a dollar a month what motivates you to stop using cartridge razors? It shouldn’t be.
I am not arguing in favor of cartridge razors. I think you will get a better shave with DE or SE razors and the non-proprietary blades they use. I just think that saving a dollar a month is a feeble argument for switching.
|Razor Blade||Max shaves per blade||Cost/yr @ max|
|Astra DE Platinum||5||$2.85|
The above table assumes using each blade for the maximum recommended number of shaves and shaving three times per week. Although the cost per year for a double-edged razor is nearly a tenth that of the Gillette Mach3, the Mach 3 is under $22 a year. Frugality is a good trait, but saving $19 a year shouldn’t be the reason to switch shaving habits.
Should you use a razor blade or cartridge the maximum number of times the manufacturer recommends? No. A sharp blade gives the best shave and waiting until the blade tugs as you shave means you’ve waited too long to replace the blade. Also, the maximum number of recommended uses varies among manufacturers of the same type of blades but doesn’t take into account your habits or beard.
Every face is different, and your beard conditions might cause a blade to dull faster than average thus, thus you would want to change blades more frequently.
Another reason to change blades more frequently concerns memory and habits. If you use a DE-razor and blade (5 shaves max) and shave three times a week, I would recommend you pick a convenient day of the week and always replace your blade that day, e.g., every Monday morning. This becomes more of a problem with cartridge razors which are allegedly good for 15 to 30 shaves. If you change your Mach3 cartridge after every 15th shave and shave three times a week, you will be changing cartridges every five weeks. This is not an easily remembered interval. On the other hand, if you change cartridges weekly, the costs really are much more than other blade options. A Fusion blade would be changed every ten weeks on the same schedule. Who can keep track of this?
If you insist on this schedule, I recommend putting the changes on your calendar app or setting up a smart assistant like Alexa to remind you when it is time to change blades.
The following are the calculations for cost per year for current Amazon prices, assuming you change blades or cartridges every 1, 2, or 4 weeks and shave three times a week. The NA cells are because three times a week times 2 or 4 weeks exceeds the maximum recommended number of shaves for that blade.
|Razor Blade||every 1 week||2 weeks||4 weeks|
|Astra DE Platinum||$4.76||NA||NA|
The cost per year if you change a cartridge every week is significant. But if you change your cartridge every four weeks, still less than the maximum recommended usage, the price differential over a year won’t be a big deal to most people.
If you are currently using a cartridge razor, I urge you to try a double-edged safety razor or a single-edged razor. I believe you will get a better shave. The razors are designed to last a lifetime, and the non-proprietary blades do not use plastic and are better for the environment. You will probably save some money, too but look at the above calculations again. You are not going to save enough to make a big difference.