The razor and blade shaving market has been hotly contested for decades. There has been billions spent on advertising and celebrity endorsements, all with a view to getting that razor handle in your hand and the blade against your skin each morning. But which is the best razor for men?
The main players, Gillette and Wilkinson Sword, have been the stalwarts of the war – with P&G acquiring Gillette, continuing with their traditional methods of marketing and sales. In fact, Gillette have used a who’s who of sporting A-listers, from Roger Federer through to Tiger Woods, alongside more localised celebrities in foreign markets.
However, forget the glitz and and fancy marketing tactics – who gives you the most comfortable, closest shave and which system represents the best value? Lately, the pricing structure of the shaving market has been disrupted by a raft of upstarts, including Dorco, Dollar Shave Club, Cornerstone and Harry’s. Each has their own USPs, whether that’s stylish design, quirky branding, seriously affordable blades or gorilla marketing tactics. But can they really challenge the status quo?
The King of Closeness
Gillette Fusion5 Proshield
When it comes to closeness of shave, the title has to go to Gillette. We visited their operation in Boston, Massachusetts in the US, as well as their R&D facility in Reading, England and it was quite incredible witnessing all these scientists working towards one product: a better blade. For that reason alone I think it’s hard to argue that any other shaving system delivers a closer shave than Gillette’s latest razor, the Fusion5 Proshield. It also handles superbly well thanks to its FlexBall Technology and has a precision trimmer on back for accurate edging or hard to reach areas such as under the nose.
Fusion5 ProShield blades retail at £15.79 for four, or £3.95 per blade. A blade should last a week, so that’s £205.40 per year.
Note: Gillette’s UK press agent informed us that their blades are designed to last one month, but we would dispute you would see the same level of effectiveness over that length of time.
- Closeness: 10/10
- Value: 4/10
- Handling: 9/10
- Comfort: 8/10
- Overall: 31/40
The King of Comfort
Wilkinson Sword Hydro 5
When it comes to sensitive skin the best razor is clear: Wilkinson Sword’s Hydro 5. This is mainly due to its Water Activated Gel Reservoir, which provides excellent comfort against the skin. The drawback of this technology is that it prevents the blade from getting as tight to the skin, so you won’t get quite a close shave as you would with the Gillette blade, but the difference is marginal.
If comfort is your priority then the Wilkinson Sword Hydro 5 is for you. It’s also worth adding that while it doesn’t have a Precision Trimmer, the “cage” on the back can be flipped up to get closer, but it’s not quite as accurate as the Gillette version.
Hydro 5 blades retail at £9.99 for four, or £2.50 per blade. A blade should last a week, so that’s £130.00 per year.
- Closeness: 8/10
- Value: 6/10
- Handling: 8/10
- Comfort: 10/10
- Overall: 32/40
The Value Proposition
Harry’s Winston Razor
When considering affordability there were plenty of contenders including the aforementioned Dorco, Dollar Shave Club (now owned by Unilever), Cornerstone and Harry’s. While they all offer much better value than the global brands, it has to be said their blade technology isn’t on the same level as Gillette or Wilkinson Sword. But that is to be expected as they don’t have anywhere near the same R&D budgets to compete.
Each offers a respectable shave, but it would be remiss of us to not point out that they don’t get as close and they aren’t quite as conformable as the household names. Each of these direct-to-consumer companies retail at a similar price point, too.
After extensive research and trials, our winner was Harry’s: they make a good blade, ideal for those who aren’t cursed with overly sensitive skin, and boast some of the finest aesthetics in the market. You could always look at the Gillette Mach3 here, too – a great razor (still) and more affordable than Gillette’s latest advanced offerings.
Harry’s Blades retails at £8.00 for four, or £2.00 per blade. A blade should last a week, so that’s £104.00 per year.
- Closeness: 6/10
- Value: 8/10
- Handling: 6/10
- Comfort: 4/10
- Overall: 24/40
The Traditional Option
MÜHLE R89 Safety Razor
You might be wondering how such a traditional offering could be considered the best razor for men. Well, this is your wild-card option: the classic double-edged (DE) safety razor. The leader in this field is undoubtedly MÜHLE, an established and widely-respected shaving company hailing from Germany.
A safety razor provides a seriously close shave but be warned: they aren’t as forgiving on the skin. That said, the closed blade R89 razor offers a much more comfortable shave whilst still being close. The razor handle itself costs £32.75 but should last a lifetime.
MÜHLE K1 double edge blades retail at £2.50 for 10, or £0.25 per blade. A blade should last a week, so that’s just £13.00 per year.
- Closeness: 10/10
- Value: 10/10
- Handling: 7/10
- Comfort: 5/10
- Overall: 31/40
Even at the higher end of the cost ladder, where Gillette sits, £205.40 per year isn’t going to break the bank. So really, it comes down to what value do you put on closeness, comfort and style? If you want closeness then Gillette or MÜHLE wins; if you want comfort or have sensitive skin then opt for the Wilkinson Sword; and if you want style and value for money, then Harry’s is the winner.
Apologies for not coming to a clear conclusion, but in truth – there isn’t one. Each brand has its positives and negatives. The key is to match the razor and blade system above to your own specific skincare and budgetary concerns. It’s also important to remember that it’s not all about hardware, your technique is just as important. Ditto using the correct pre- and post-shave products, including a quality shaving cream and aftershave balm.