Are five and six blade razors nothing more than a money-making device concocted by the big shaving companies? That’s the belief of many straight-razor aficionados. But whether you’re a multi-blade shaver or favor a classic straight razor shave, there’s no question that shaving is a gigantic business. According to Forbes, Gillette’s 35 percent profit margin is the highest of any Procter and Gamble Brand.
In an interesting article out today, writer Brian Palmer takes a look at the science of shaving in an attempt to discover if high-tech, multi-blade razors are really that effective. At Pacific Shaving Company, we believe that less is more – that running more than two blades across your face isn’t a requirement for a close shave – and in fact, may lead to razor burn and ingrown hairs.
Palmer turned to the early days of shaving studies to see what the grooming ritual looked like before millions of dollars were spent on disposable razor market research. He located the “first comprehensive academic paper” on shaving that he could find: a document written by two Pittsburgh scientists and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1937.
Among the findings revealed in the paper:
- Freshly cut hairs grow very quickly at first, before slowing to a rate of just under half an inch per month.
- Hairs almost never grow perpendicular to the face, but rather at an angle of 31 to 59 degrees – a very real obstacle to achieving a close shave.
- Shaving removes almost as much skin, by volume, as hair. And scraping away the outer layer of skin likely accounts for much of the discomfort of shaving, with the scientists arguing that stiffer shaving lather and shaving no more than once every two days ameliorated the effect.
The experiments included in the paper were based solely on the straight or safety razor – disposable cartridge razors didn’t come fully onto the scene until the 70s.
When questioned about the efficacy of their disposable razors, a research and development scientist for Gillette responded, simply, “We have seen no circumstantial evidence that multi-blade razors lead to ingrown hairs.”
Seems to me, the results are in the shave.
Do you use a multi-blade razor? Do you struggle with ingrown hairs or razor burn?
We’d love to hear from you!
April 24, 2012
I’m heading to an event to help educate northeast Whole Foods retailers on all things Pacific Shaving Company. As a result, I needed to check a couple bags on my Virgin America flight this morning from SFO to BOS.
One look at my luggage tag with PSC on it got the agent asking about the company and in an instant we launched into a conversation (for several minutes, at 6am) about shaving cream brands, retail shopping experiences, razors and even grooming preferences. It was a totally enjoyable conversation and I kicked myself for not having had a sample in my briefcase to share with the agent before I proceeded to the gate.
Yesterday, I found myself talking shaving as well. I was contacted by someone doing research on all things shaving and before I knew it, we had spoken for 45 minutes on grooming practices.
Last week it happened as well – twice! Conversations naturally made their way to “what do you do” and before I knew it people who were complete strangers moments earlier are telling me about products they love and intimate ingrown hair troubles. I can only imagine what it would be like if I was a proctologist instead.
But the truth is, it’s actually fun to talk about and it is impressive how easy it appears for anyone (men or women) to talk about it. Next cocktail party give it a try. (See earlier Monkey Tail post if you need help getting started.)
January 1, 2012
About a year ago, I read an Article by Ellen Byron in the Wall Street Journal about Gillette’s newest shaving system, just then being introduced into the Indian market. It wasn’t the multi-bladed tool (is that a razor or a lawnmower?) that we’ve come to expect with each new product launch from the big razor manufacturers. In fact, it was just the opposite: a single blade razor that costs just $0.11 (now just $0.09 at today’s exchange rate).
According to the article, the move was part of P&G’s “push into emerging markets for new customers and growth…forcing P&G to be more modest on scale and more flexible on price. Gillette commands about 70% of the world’s razor and blade sales, but it lags behind rivals in India and other developing markets, mainly because those consumers can’t afford to buy its flagship products.” (They aren’t alone!)
So the company reverse-engineered the product for the market. It determined what the Indian market could afford to pay and then adjusted the product features to meet an acceptable COGs and necessary margin.
How did they do it?
Again, according to the article, “To cut costs, P&G eliminated the lubrication strip and colorful handle designs Indian men weren’t willing to pay for. Though most men in the U.S. and Western Europe prefer a heavy razor handle, P&G found Indian men prefer a lighter weight, which also cut costs.”
I had to wonder – if Gillette could manufacture a razor blade that sold for 9-cents, how could they justify a five blade razor blade selling for $5 here in the U.S. (instead of a more reasonable $0.45)? How different could the blades themselves actually be?
The curiosity was too much for me. I had to see for myself. Thanks to eBay member vishalmarketonline, it only took a few clicks (and about two weeks delivery time) until I had my chance. When the package finally arrived, I had a few days of stubble – perfect timing. I tore the razor open and went right to task. It was definitely a cheap-looking razor handle – maybe $0.02 of material – but the single blade looked legitimate as far as I could tell and I was willing to give it a shot.
Taking my time, I found that that the blade performed surprisingly well on the first pass. As a shaver who is prone to ingrown hair, particularly around my neck, I had already changed my shaving regimen to include fewer blades which helped tremendously. Given that, I pushed for a second pass directly against the grain – something I never do. In the end, I have to concede that it gave me a great shave.
The cheap handle aside, for 9-cents, it was about the best price-performer razor with which I’ve shaved. [Full disclosure, the price came closer to $0.48 by the time it got shipped to me, but still way ahead of this.] A little post-shave moisturizer and I was out the door. No nicks, no burn, no bumps. 2012 is already off to a good start! Namaste.
Whoa! Now I think I know why they are 9-cent blades. I stand by my the earlier post above wrt shave #1. That said, shave #2 with the same blade was bru-tal! My neck has never burned more and even three days later still looks like I was dragged neck first across a gravel driveway. These are one-shave blades for sure.
October 11, 2011
We are really proud to be part of Project Green Challenge, an incredible initiative empowering young people to shift the way they live their lives — in just 30 days.
Each day, PGC presents participants with a challenge — to change the way they use precious resources or to reconsider a habitual way of doing something.
We challenge people everywhere to reconsider the way they shave: to think about the life of their razor blades; to consider the ingredients used in their shaving products and to look at the packaging used to house those products. It’s easier than ever to green your daily shave.
We can help.
July 18, 2011
Tory politician Roger Helmer has angered animal activists after saying he supported a cull of badgers because it would “bring down the exorbitant price of shaving brushes.”
British animal protectors found this statement particularly insenstive as today may mark the first badger cull since they became part of the protected elite in 1973.
Helmer had a retort at the ready –though he clearly could have given a bit more thought to it –saying, “I was bleary-eyed and shaving in Brussels. With badger brush in hand I thought I’d tell people why a badger cull would be a good idea. It was meant to be amusing. But, of course, the manic bunny-huggers have gone all po-faced.”