critical shaving update

mens-shave-creamI know that all of you in the reading public have been breathlessly awaiting the latest chapter in my shaving odyssey. First, though, a recap:

I had been using an electric razor for a number of years, but late last summer I decided that a) I missed blade shaving, but b) I did not miss the price of store-bought razor cartridges. After looking at several online options, I went for Harry’s, an online startup founded by some of the same people responsible for the eyeglass company Warby Parker.

Harry’s makes a really nice razor – it feels like a quality product, yet the cartridge refills are much cheaper than the major brand sold in stores. Harry’s appears to be doing well – just since last summer, they’ve bought out the German factory that had been supplying their blades. They recently were a sponsor on Leo Laporte’s “This Week In Tech” podcast.

I’ve been very pleased with Harry’s, and I gave a starter kit to a family member whose name I drew for Christmas. For a while, I would post links to their site through their referral program, and as a result I earned four free cartridges a few months back when a friend of mine ordered something using the link. Now, though, they seem to have removed any mention of the referral program from their web site. So I don’t benefit in any way from telling you about them; I just honestly like the product.

The Harry’s starter kit includes not only the razor and cartridges but also a tube of their shaving cream. I liked the shaving cream in a tube, much better than the canned shaving cream or gel I used to use. Instead of a big fluffy layer of foam, you get a very thin, but slick, layer, which I think does a better job.

However, unlike their cartridges, Harry’s shaving cream is not any cheaper than what’s in the stores. In fact, I soon found that Neutrogena made a shaving cream in a tube that was cheaper than Harry’s. Then, I found Every Man Jack, which was even cheaper than Neutrogena.

The trouble with Every Man Jack is that the only place I could find it locally was Walmart – and then Walmart suddenly stopped carrying it. So I went back to Neutrogena, which seems to be in all of the supermarkets and drug stores.

That brings us to this week.

Monday, on a whim, I ended up buying a different brand – one which, like Harry’s, was a startup, although in this case it’s now being sold through regular retail channels. Cremo is a shaving cream in a tube which boasts of being “astonishingly superior” and “impossibly slick.” You only need an almond-sized amount to cover your face. The tube came with a little neck-hanger in which one of the co-founders, whose face and signature are prominently featured, offers a full rebate of the purchase price as an incentive for trying out the product. (“I’ll give you this tube FREE!”) So I bought the tube and sent in my receipt for the rebate.

I tried it this morning and … it’s pretty good. It’s got a citrusy smell, it lubricates well, and I got a nice close shave with it. I’d give it a good review, even compared to Harry’s, Neutrogena or Every Man Jack.

So that’s my latest review.

How are you fixed for blades, boys?

truman-set-blue-14eac32154ba192034af652bd5e55edcMany years back, I found a good deal on a Norelco electric razor and figured it would be a great alternative to the ever-rising cost of name-brand razor cartridges. It’s worked well, for the most part, but there are times I miss the ritual of blade shaving.

Electric shavers have gotten better over the years, and my beard is so light-colored that I don’t have to worry about five o’clock shadow, but even so you get a closer shave with a blade — and there are some areas, like right at the base of your nose, that an electric razor just doesn’t seem to be able to get.

Lately, several companies have tried to do an end run around Gillette and the other national brands by selling lower-priced razor blades online. The best-known is Dollar Shave Club, which has gotten a lot of attention for its cheeky (sorry about that) videos and TV ads:

DSC offers several different blade configurations through a subscription plan, where they automatically ship you new cartridges each month. Twin-blade cartridges are $1 per month, which does not include shipping. Four-blade cartridges are $6 per month, which does include shipping, and six-blade (!) cartridges are $9 per month. They will send you four cartridges per month of the four-blade or six-blade models, so they’re assuming you get a little more than seven days use per cartridge. For the twin-blade cartridges, they send you five per month, which would only be about six days per cartridge.

LifeHacker did a story indicating that Dollar Shave Club’s cartridges are made by a company called Dorco, and you can get them even for even less than DSC’s price, and without the subscription model, if you buy them in bulk directly from Dorco.

Recently, I heard about Harry’s, a company from one of the founders of Warby Parker, the Internet eyewear site.* Harry’s, too, offers blades (and shaving cream in a tube) for less than the retail brands. But Harry’s claims its blades are even better than the higher-priced national brands — “American designed, German engineered, fair price.” Unlike DSC, Harry’s is not just buying a pre-existing product but has designed its own. The company is also touting a charitable aspect — for each product sold, the company donates cash or merchandise to non-profits like The Mission Continues, a charity that places wartime veterans on six-month fellowships working for non-profit agencies as they transition back into society.

Harry’s cartridges are 4 for $8, 8 for $15, 12 for $20 or 16 for $25. Free shipping is included on the 8-pack and above. They recommend changing the cartridge every 5-7 days. The only option is a four-blade cartridge. There is an automatic re-order option, but it’s not the default (which I like — I may get more or fewer days out of a cartridge than the manufacturer expects).

The Harry’s cartridges are a little more expensive than the DSC cartridges, but still a good bit less than the retail product.

Harry’s offers two different starter kits, depending on how fancy a handle you want. Each kit includes a handle, three cartridges and a tube of the shaving cream. On a whim, I’ve ordered the $15 kit (The “Truman,” as opposed to the $25 “Winston”). If I don’t think it’s worth it, or if the blades don’t last very long, I can always go back to the Norelco.

*I may buy new glasses later in the year, and I went to the Warby Parker site to check them out, but it turns out their business model doesn’t include bifocals. Laugh while you can, Warby and/or Parker; you’ll pass 40 one of these days.

UPDATE: At the time I wrote this post, I was unaware of Harry’s referral program. I have now updated the Harry’s link above, and if you order through it, I’ll get free blades.

How are you fixed for blades, boys?

I switched to an electric shaver years ago, and I’m content with it – my beard is so light in color (lighter than the hair on top of my head) that even if the electric doesn’t shave quite as close, it doesn’t matter in my case. And I save on the recurring expense of razors and shaving cream or gel.

But I followed with interest the hubbub a short while ago about Dollar Shave Club, a company which will ship you razor blade cartridges automatically for as little as a dollar a month. That $1 per month gets you twin-blade razors; four-blade and six-blade razors are available for $6 and $9 per month respectively. The $6 and $9 prices include shipping, while the $1 does not. A handle is free with your first order. The company released a viral video promoting its service.

The initial review I read on Lifehacker noted that whether the service would be right for you depends on how often you want to change the razors. Dollar Shave Club offers a fixed schedule, and there’s no way to change it if you like to change your blades more often or make them last longer.

Well, now the SmartMoney web site, quoted by Lifehacker, has discovered that Dollar Shave Club apparently gets its razors from a company called Dorco, which sells comparable razors in bulk directly to consumers for considerably less than Dollar Shave Club is charging. You can get a 10-month supply of the six-blade razors for $29 instead of $90. The founder of Dollar Shave Club responded that his company offered the convenience of monthly delivery, but Lifehacker pointed out that it doesn’t really take up that much space to store 10 months worth of razors, and you can burn through them at your own pace, not on some imposed schedule:

My biggest frustration with DSC was that I don’t like the idea of that recurring monthly bill, especially since to me, razor blades aren’t like clockwork.

I think I’ll stick to my electric shaver for the time being, but I’ll have to remember the Dorco site if I ever want to go back to blades.