New York Times Article: Shaving with 5 Blades When 2 Will Do
I came across this interesting article on razors when I was researching the difference between 5 blades and 3 blades. In trying to understand why Gillette and Schick increased their blades as opposed to making better quality 2 or 3 bladed razors, it was good to know that dermatologists have asked the very same thing, and actually oppose the 5 blade systems. Check out the entire article below and let me know your thoughts.
Lars Klove for The New York Times
Some dermatologists say only two blades are necessary.
But that was 30 years ago. Three-blade razors are now as common as contoured toothbrushes and deodorant body spray. Schick’s four-blade Quattro has been selling well for more than two years. And with Gillette preparing to begin selling its five-blade Fusion next month, razor manufacturers seem to be trying for the last laugh.
Still, men who are about to witness the multimillion-dollar advertising campaign for Fusion may wonder: Is the fifth blade really a sharp turn in shaving technology? Or is blade inflation only a marketing gimmick?
Some are already skeptical. “I would run and hide if it’s anything like my experience with the three-blade,” said Richard Stapler, 31, a political aide in Sacramento, Calif. He has used the double-blade Gillette Trac II for 10 years, and said that when he tested the company’s three-blade Mach 3 Turbo a few years ago, he was not impressed.
“It felt like a cheese grater,” Mr. Stapler said. “I had terrible razor burn, discomfort and pimples. I swore off trying anything new.”
Some dermatologists say the five-blade design smacks of overkill, because more blades mean more friction, and friction irritates the skin. “When you add more blades, there’s a greater chance of nicks and razor burn,” said Dr. Ezra Kest, a dermatologist in Beverly Hills. “I always tell my patients not to use more than two blades.”
But some early testers of the new razor say they like it. And given how many consumers have come to accept three-blade razors – Gillette’s M3Power is the No. 1 selling razor in the United States, according to Information Resources Inc., a market research firm, and the Quattro is No. 2 – it may turn out that for some men five blades is not too many.
Selling the new razor will mean persuading men to spend $9.99 on the model; $1.50 more than the Quattro and $2 more than the Mach 3 and the two-bladed Gillette Sensor Excel. A four-pack of replacement cartridges will cost $12 to $13.
For the Fusion Power, a battery-operated model that vibrates – to “improve the shaving experience,” said Michele Szynal, a Gillette spokeswoman – customers will be charged $11.99, and $13 to $14 for four new cartridges.
(Exactly how vibration improves the shaving experience is in question. Last May a federal judge in Connecticut, acting on a lawsuit brought by Schick, issued an injunction prohibiting Gillette from claiming that the vibration feature of its M3Power lifts hair “up and away from skin” to allow for a better shave. The judge ruled there was not enough scientific evidence to prove the claim.)
The idea behind the five blades is what Ms. Szynal calls the “hysteresis effect,” which is a razor maker’s way of saying that the blades work in concert to pull whiskers out from the skin as they slice into them.
“The second and subsequent blades engage the hair further down the hair shaft,” Ms. Szynal said, so that each passing blade cuts closer than the one before. By the time the fifth blade comes along, she said, “the hair is actually cut a little below the skin’s surface.” Ms. Szynal acknowledged the common wisdom that more blades mean more irritation but said the new razor has features that minimize that problem. For one thing, she said, the distance between the blades is 30 percent narrower than the Mach 3, so that the blades flatten the skin before slicing the hair. Also, the blades are coated in a Teflon-like polymer that reduces friction. And a rubberlike “flexible comfort guard” in front of the blades is meant to help smooth the skin during shaving.
Thanks in part to the comfort guard, the Fusion’s cartridge is larger than those on any other men’s razors. That may make the razor difficult to maneuver, Dr. Kest said. “Anything more than two blades is like trying to drive a big rig truck,” he said. “It’s a control issue. It’s difficult to use larger razors under the nose and chin.”
But Harry Trantham, a project manager for a magazine publishing company in New York City who tried the Fusion at a reporter’s request, found reason to praise the many blades.
A 36-year-old with a thick, black beard, Mr. Trantham has enthusiastically kept up with blade inflation, recently switching from the Mach 3 to the Quattro in order to get longest-lasting possible shave. He found that after shaving with the Fusion, his 5 o’clock shadow did not show up until hours past 5 o’clock. And he experienced no irritation.
“It was unbelievable how close of a shave I experienced,” he said.
Mr. Trantham’s only problem was the cost.
“It’s about 20 percent more than I’m paying now, and I go through cartridges about every five shaves,” he said. “I don’t know if the benefits will outweigh the cost.”