Gillette Fusion Conspiracy Theory

James Lileks thinks he may have to apologize for his earlier recommendation of the Gillette Fusion razor.

I gave it happy praise when it was first released, but then it let me down. Daily. It left stubble. I have a heavy beard, but for heaven’s sake, five blades should be able to cut the stubble. But every pass left bristly residue. Some say the first blade is always better than every other blade; you’re hooked on that first smooth shave. By the time your disappointment is complete they’ve introduced a new razor. The man is out to screw you, dude. (Think how different things would seem if The Man was called The Dude; you couldn’t quite take any conspiracy theory seriously.) I don’t like that sort of thinking, but I thought of it every time I used the razor. Every time. On vacation I brought some cheap disposables, and they not only worked better, they were, well, cheap. The five-blade cartridges are hideously dear. What if I shaved once, threw the blade away, and had a fresh one each morning? The earth would weep, of course, but I’d have a smooth cheek. And the earth is always weeping about something.

It’s been years since I last tried a disposable razor. Quite possibly, they’re better now but, considering that the bleeding has barely stopped from my last experiment, I’m exceedingly reluctant to give them another go.

Lileks is right, though, about the first shave with a new razor always seems best. Many think it’s a conspiracy wherein a magically superior blade accompanies the razor but the inordinately expensive refills (a 12 pack of which costs roughly the same as a DVD player) are mediocre so as to create demand for the X+1 bladed razor the company is set to introduce.

Given that I invariably wind up buying a second handle, whether to have a battery operated version or to have one for my Dopp kit, and find it unaccompanied by the magic blade, I can confirm this isn’t in fact true. That, plus the fact that it would surely cost more to manufacture magic blades plus inferior blades rather than simply putting out nothing but the good ones.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Patrick T. McGuire says:

    A problem I don’t have with my electric shaver. I got tired of cutting off the two moles on my face so I switched to electric. It takes me a bit longer to shave but I don’t have any cuts or razor burn in the end. And I don’t spend a fortune on plastics that end up in the land fill.

  2. DC Loser says:

    I love my Panasonic wet/dry electic razor. I can wash the whole thing in the sink after using. Had it over 6 years and still going strong on the original blades.

  3. John Burgess says:

    I’m agreeing with James. I see no difference between ‘first’ blade and later blades. I’ve a battery powered handle for home and a non-powered one for travel. I don’t bother with buying the blades specified for one or the other, just using whichever is on sale at the time I need new blades.

    The price of blades, though, is pretty outrageous. But that was always the Gillette business plan. I know it and can avoid it if I choose.

  4. just me says:

    My husband can’t use an electric shaver-they tend to irritate his skin.

    He gets some brand that has three blades, he has no complaints, although a blade doesn’t last him very long.

    I seriously doubt they make the packaged blad better and the refills worse, but it is an interesting theory.

  5. Dave Schuler says:

    Just a brief word on my own experience in getting a good shave. I’ve been shaving daily for nearly 50 years and I’m currently getting the best shaves of my life, largely on the basis of using a really good shaving cream, a good brush for the first time in my life, and a different shaving strategy. I think those are a lot more important than minor improvements in blades on safety razors.

    I remember the enormous difference between the shave I used to get with the old replaceable blades I used to use and the new cartridge-style blades. Subsequent improvements in the cartridges haven’t been nearly as dramatic.

  6. Alex Knapp says:

    I normally use a Mach 3, but tried the Fusion when I got a free handle in the mail. And to be honest, my old Mach 3 does give me a far superior shave to the Fusion–I experienced most of the problems that Lileks did.

    And the nice thing is that Mach 3 cartridges seem to keep dropping in price. But then, I buy them in bulk at Costco.

  7. Kent says:

    I have a fairly heavy beard but tender skin. I get razor burn from an electric razor. I avoid manual razors so as not to frighten small children with my bloodsoaked visage, at least away from Halloween.

  8. legion says:

    I don’t think I have a particularly harsh (or soft) set of facial hair, and I’ve been happily using the old 2-bladed Sensor 2 for ages. I tried the Mach 3 some time back, and it confirmed all my guesses about the stupidity of the ever-escalating “blade wars” – I got a very smooth shave out of it, but it was a) noticeably, but not vastly, superior to the double-blade, b) significantly more expensive per blade, and c) significantly more expensive per shave, since I can get weeks of use out of the old cartiges, but the greater # and thinner construction of the fancier blades makes them wear out much faster.

    I suppose people with particularly sensitive skin might find it worthwhile, but for my money it’s just not worth it…

  9. Michael says:

    I’ve used both the Mach 3 and the Fusion sample I got in the mail, and the Mach 3 gave me a better shave. I have thick facial hair, and the Fusion’s blades are so close together, that the cut hair got stuck between the blades. I was constantly wiping them off with my thumb, after every pass.

    I’ve given up on those expensive razors, and now I use the disposable Bic three-blade razors with the pivoting head. I can get 6 of them for less than a 4-blade refill for the Mach 3, and the blades are spaced far enough apart that a simple swish in the sink cleans them off. I get a much smoother shave from them, and at a fraction of the cost.

  10. Harold Ogle says:

    When the Fusion first hit the stores, it was almost impossible to find Mach3 blades for my razor. I bought the Fusion out of desperation.

    Now I hear that Gillette is about to introduce a new razor, and I can’t find blades for my Fusion.

    I’m going back to the Mach3…Blades are available again.

  11. carpeicthus says:

    … which is why I use a Bowie knife.

  12. Lokki says:

    I’m reminded of the old Saturday Night Live joke commercial for a 5-bladed cartridge razor, which came out when two blades had just appeared. The slogan for the commercial was,

    “Because you’ll believe anything”

    I’ve taken to using whatever they send me in the mail until it’s gone and then reverting to the lower cost 3-bladed razors. I don’t buy replacement cartridges, because it’s usually cheaper to buy a package of 8 – 10 throw-away razors on sale. Since each razor lasts about a month, it’s pretty economical.

    As for 5 blades vs. 3 – here is my thinking – there’s a limit to have much any razor can do. When I shave at 6 in the morning, I cross-shave and generally remove ALL of my beard statistically speaking.

    After that, it’s up to the rate at which it grows back. 5 bladed razors still can’t prevent the 5 0’clock shadow I have…. because even 5 blades can’t prevent it from growing back.

    Now, I think the electric manual razor is a gimmick that will vanish – as soon as Gillette can think of something else.