Want a Cheap, Disposable Razor?

Strapped for cash? Environmentally conscious?

Reports like this amuse me more than perhaps they should:

WSJ (“Schick Designs a Disposable Razor to Appeal to Environmentally Conscious Consumers“):

Edgewell Personal Care Co. shaving brand Schick’s new disposable razor for men and women is made and packaged to appeal to its sustainability conscious customers.

The razor’s handle is made of 70% renewable bamboo and 30% other materials, according to Schick. The packaging is partly recyclable, with the paper used in its design certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, the company said.

The product is Schick’s first effort at giving consumers an environmentally friendly option for a disposable razor, said Anthony Pietrini, head of marketing at Schick Shaving.

“It is a matter of recognizing trends and taking the time to develop the product in a way that we feel consumers are likely to adopt,” Mr. Pietrini said, explaining why the company released the product now.

Edgewell has set a series of goals to become more sustainable by 2030, with targets including making 100% of its plastic packaging recyclable, compostable or reusable.

They’re of a piece with the various ads I see for various “clubs” appealing to those tired of spending a lot of money on cheap razors by shipping slightly cheaper ones—some of them even made in Germany!—right to your door.

The thing is that King Camp Gillette invented and successfully marketed just such a device 121 years ago. I personally use a Merkur model that I paid $27 for about eight years ago (it’s currently $35 on Amazon) and get 100 blades for around $10. I get a better shave than I ever got with the million or so 2-, 3-, and 5-blade razors I bought over the preceding three decades.

I go through maybe two blades a week but even if your beard is so coarse that you need a new one daily, it’s 10 cents a shave. If my math is correct, that’s way less than a dollar.

And talk about environmentally friendly! The razor handle will almost certainly outlive me.

FILED UNDER: Economics and Business
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Mu Yixiao says:

    I’ve found that the Mach 3 is the best for shaving my head (the little that still has hair). It’s not about the number of blades, it’s that the back of the cartridge is open, so the shaved stubble doesn’t clog up inside, and it’s easy to rinse out. It also has nice flex and pivot for the rounded surface.

    A pack of 8 blades is about $28, but I get a blade to last a month (shaving my face & neck around my beard every day, and my head twice a week). It’s a bit of sticker shock at initial purchase, but comes to about 25 cents a day. And I’ve had the handle for probably 10 years (I think I bought it before I went to China).

    So… cheaper, better shave, less waste.

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  2. Kathy says:

    I read somewhere that Gillette was advised by a bottle cap manufacturer to develop a disposable product that’s used daily or at least several times per week, like bottle caps. Ergo the disposable blades for the safety razor.

    IMO, that product succeeded because people no longer needed to sharpen a razor, just replace it.

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  3. James Joyner says:

    @Kathy: Planned obsolescence certainly helps generate sales. But Gillette was responding to a real consumer need: straight razors remain unsurpassed for getting a clean shave but, unless you’re a skilled professional, cuts are damned near inevitable. And sharpening can be tedious. Old-time safety razors make shaving safer and easier. Multiple blades, on the other hand, actually make shaving worse and more expensive.

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  4. Mikey says:

    Pretty interesting. I’ve almost always used an electric razor, although since I’ve grown a beard it’s just for my neck. But my son is now at the age he needs to shave semi-regularly and he prefers a wet shave, so I’ll pass this on to him.

  5. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @James Joyner: I went to Dollar Shave Club a while back. Handle and blades apparently (from an article I saw somewhere) from Dorco in Korea (another Asian knockoff product.) I stopped getting blade deliveries about 3 years ago and am just now about to start using my last blade, but I don’t shave every day anymore and use an electric (preferred by my doctor because I use blood thinners) sometimes.

    Had an old-school Gillette when I was young. The number of nicks and cuts contributed to my decision to grow a beard. But in general, no, modern razors do not give closer shaves than older ones. (Then again, no one not named Cracker has cared about the closeness of my shave for years. Make of that what you will.)

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  6. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Kathy: In the early days of safety razors, there were razor blade hones and stropping machines, though. My dad used one until he switched to stainless steel blades. The device added about two or three days to the life of a blade.

  7. Scott says:

    I use disposables for my shaving needs. But the real good shave comes from using an old fashioned mug and brush. I find the canned shaving cream or gel just doesn’t cut it when it comes to softening up the beard. I started it back when I was a teenager when my Dad suggested using the shaving brush as a way of helping with the acne (they didn’t have as many treatment options as today).

  8. Sleeping Dog says:

    Once the manufactures of bathroom medicine chests provided a small slit in the back, so one could dispose of the razor blade into the wall cavity and not worry about inadvertently cutting ones self if it is thrown in the trash. I’ve torn out two bathroom walls and needed to get rid of hundreds of rusty blades. I’m sure OzarkHillbilly has needed to deal with dozens of such caches.

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  9. CSK says:

    @Sleeping Dog:
    I never heard of that. Fascinating.

  10. becca says:

    Mr. becca has had a beard for most of our 40+ yrs together.
    When our daughter was about 3, he decided to shave it off.
    When she saw him, she looked horrified and wanted him to “shave it back on!”

  11. Kathy says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    I recall slits for blade disposal in hotels, and in airplane lavatories.

  12. gVOR08 says:

    @Sleeping Dog: Before retirement we lived in a house built in the 1920s. Had a razor slot. Always wondered how many rusty blades were down behind the joists.

    I used to shave with a blade, but I developed a bit of a rash, so I switched to electric. Haven’t had a rash problem since. Also haven’t felt clean shaven since.

  13. Woody says:

    Also a Merkur user. I’ve had my 34c for over a decade, and it’s just as good as when I got it. I use Feather blades, which are on the expensive side ($0.50 each, or so), but they shave incredibly well, and have given me the fewest problems with rashes.

    Also, safety razors, when you do inevitably nick yourself, create such clean edges to the cut that it heals quickly and without issue. The worst nick I’ve gotten is from a Mach3, which removed a 1mm wide chunk of skin.

    But the real secret is wet shaving with shave soap and a brush, and following up with the right routine for your skin (mine is alum to help close up the pores, and then an after-shave-balm).

  14. MarkedMan says:

    @gVOR08: I shave almost every morning with an electric razor (while perched on the seat where we all do our best thinking), but every week or two I pull out the five blade razor, gel and aftershave and get a real shave, but that takes time and I can’t double-task doing the crossword.

  15. James Joyner says:

    @Scott: Yes, I use a badger brush and shaving soap (usually Colonel Conk).

  16. Rick DeMent says:

    I dry shave with anything on sale. Never could tell the difference in closeness or quality. I have had a beard for many years so it just neck and cheeks.

  17. inhumans99 says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    I am also a Mach 3 guy, any more blades and I am likely to slice my face open and end up looking like a victim from a slasher film. The Mach 3 is wonderful. I do not shave all that often (even pre-Covid work from home) so the blades last a decent amount of time. You are right that the blades for the classic Mach 3 are expensive little buggers, but I have tried other brands, and as mentioned Gillettes’ other fancier multi-blade razers and have not been comfortable using them.

  18. Flat Earth Luddite says:

    After chemo*, when my hair sort of grew back, I rediscovered my trusty safety razor. Since I kept the beard/mustache combo, shaving the sides/neck**, blade changes a couple of times a month. For me, a decent shave, few nicks, and cheap = WINNER!

    *FYI, I never appreciated the importance of eyebrows and eyelashes until I didn’t have any for a couple of years.

    ** I’m also shaving the outside of my nose and ears now, which I don’t remember as a problem in my youth. YMMV

    BTW, does anyone besides me remember the Mad TV skit for the Mach 20 razor?

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  19. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Flat Earth Luddite: No, but I do remember the SNL satire for the Trac 5. As I recall, the tag line was “for people who will buy believe anything.” And the last time I was in Korea, the “premium” razor at the Daiso (which is a Dollar Store-type enterprise) was the Dorco-7.

    And put me down as another soap and brush person (ETA: I use a boar bristle brush, but I would have liked to have found a badger brush). I use Williams because my grocery store stocks it. I looked up Colonel Cork, though. It looked like a good product, but I don’t buy soap with fragrance in it. Makes the eczema flare up.

  20. Beth says:

    @James Joyner:

    Multiple blades, on the other hand, actually make shaving worse and more expensive.

    Oddly enough, I had the opposite experience, well, they were expensive. Whatever the absurd number of blades I got up to before I electrocuted all that crap out of my face worked way better for me. I would go to stupid lengths to shave at times and, for me and my stupid skin, it hurt less the more blades there were. I have no idea why.

  21. Chip Daniels says:

    Agree with James, Ive been using the same traditional double edge Gillette style razor for about 25 years now.

    Disposable and environmentally conscious really don’t belong in the same sentence.

  22. Liberal Capitalist says:

    Braun Electric Series Seven. A decade and still going … that’s about 6 cents a day.

    https://braun.factoryoutletstore.com/details/451986/7865cc.html?category_id=1574

    Bought it to replace my previous Braun that was around for about 20.

    When it finally dies, battery goes to recycling, and what’s left will likely take up less room in a landfill than all those disposables.

    Your milage may vary.

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