The strangest competition for our choice is shadow offerings from Gillette herself. Take e.g. Gillette 3 and Gillette 5. These use Mach3 and Fusion5 compatible cartridges on different handles. In the case of Gillette5, the cartridges are significantly cheaper (about $ 2 each or half the price of Fusion5, while the Gillette3 blades are about 30 ¢ less than Mach3’s). However, our testers noticed more irritation with Gillette3 and Gillette5 cartridges than with Mach3 and Fusion5 and absolutely hated the handles that use what Gillette calls the Aqua Grip. This design consists of a similar series of straps around the handles, which in theory should give the user a firmer grip on the shaver – while we found the opposite. “Despite the name, I found that the Aqua Grip handle was perhaps the smoothest possible design,” one tester wrote. You do not need to use Aqua Grip and should not; Gillette3 wings work on Mach3 handles and Gillette5 on Fusion5 handles.
The big question is how close Gillette3 is to Mach3 and Gillette5 to Fusion5. Gillette5 does not have a trimmer blade, which we see as a good reason to buy Fusion. But you pay almost double for that accessory. The Gillette3 cartridges with three blades are much closer to Mach3 in appearance and function, but they are also much closer to the price, so we do not see a good reason to pair Gillette 3 knives with a Mach3 handle, as the Gillette3 cartridges were more annoying to our testers’ faces.
In 2019, Gillette introduced another version of the Fusion line: SkinGuard. Although it uses almost the same handle as the standard Fusion5 (no FlexBall technology), the blade – which Gillette says is designed for sensitive skin – is a radical departure. Like Fusion ProGlide Shield cartridges, SkinGuard cartridges have lubrication strips above and below the blades. But the big difference is that the SkinGuard cartridges only contain two blades. The knives have a greater distance than even the Mach3s, although they are separated by a pair of ladder-shaped plastic combs – the Fusion ProShield cartridge has a similar mechanism at the bottom, but we have never seen a razor with two of them — which is designed to guide hair gently into the blade.
What is interesting about the SkinGuard line is that Gillette promises a less close shave with them: “Due to the position of the knives”, it is stated in a press release from the company, the surface of the skin. By comparison, many multi-blade razors use each blade to gently pull the hair outside the hair follicle and trim each hair in quick succession while remaining elongated. Once the leaves have passed and the hair is pulled back, it is trimmed below the surface of the skin. This type of close shave is optimal for many men, but for others, it can contribute to skin irritation or a tendency to ingrown hairs. “SkinGuard cartridges that are compatible with all Fusion handles are worth considering if you experience folliculitis while shaving.
Introduced in 2020, Gillette’s Planet Kind is a razor with five blades on a comfortable gripping handle made of 60% recycled plastic. The packaging is also made of 85% recycled plastic and paper, and both handles and used cartridges can be recycled through TerraCycle. However, it is only available through a subscription (you can cancel at any time), and it is typically more expensive compared to our choice: $ 10 for the starter pack and $ 10 for each four-count cartridge refill.
After many years of trying, Gillette released a Heated shaver, a model designed to recreate the experience of a hot towel shave at home. With a thicker, longer handle and replaceable cartridges, the shaver heats up quickly and creates a relatively consistent experience, according to our testers. However, they were generally not impressed with it.
Gillette’s Sensor shaving line is old, even compared to Mach3, introduced in a time known as the 1980s, a time when men allowed their chest hair to stretch upward and connect, like vines covering the walls of a respected university, to their facial hair. The old-school line is just fine, even admirably simple, but did not make our final cut because it is not easy to find in stores, it is difficult to find legitimate lists online, and the knives appear to be made of chrome-plated carbon steel, not stainless, so we do not think they last that long or give a smooth shave over time.
Dollar Shave Club was the first subscription service that disrupted traditional shaving, and it got Gillette at significantly lower prices on its existing products. But we could not make it a choice for a simple reason: Although three testers named its flagship model with six blades as a favorite, an equal number described it as annoying and unpleasant. And since DSC also makes the club purchasing experience such an important part of its argued benefit, we must also say: What a mess. A visit to the DSC website – a football riot with dozens of care products with multiple subscription options and endless sales – makes it quite difficult to see how this promise can be easily fulfilled (Example: Do you buy razors on the “knives” or the “shaving” link?) . Still, the DSC’s flagship with six blades (that’s right! Six!) Shaver got three top-three votes, and several reviewers especially liked the shaver’s heavy, ergonomic handle (think: toothbrush-like). You pay $ 2.25 per. Cartridge on a weekly cartridge plan replacement (DSC also offers a cheaper plan with four blades, all DSC handles work with both six and four blade cartridges).
[Editor’s note: It’s not relevant to the razors, but Dollar Shave Club does publish the excellent online magazine MEL.]
Dollar Shave Club’s product is made by the Korean personal care giant Dorco, which also makes the almost identical six-blade razor Barbasol, producer of the famous red, white and blue can of shaving cream.
Barbasol’s club beats DSCs in two ways: simplicity and price. The handles and knives are similar but not exactly the same as DSCs, and our testers both considered them to be slightly less comfortable than the DSC equivalents. But Barbasol has a robust angle covered: It’s a title sponsor for Major League Fisheries.
DSC / Barbasol six-blade and trimmer can also be purchased directly as Dorco Pace 6, so you can simply replace the cartridge when you need it instead of as a subscription for about the same price. Dorco also offers Tempo 7with seven knives (plus a trimmer). Unfortunately, adding a seventh blade is like adding a seventh ring of hell (for the post, Dante posed nine, so razor manufacturers still have a journey ahead).
Harrys is the second major shaving club and as with our previous review, we are amazed. Instead of attaching to a pivot axis, as most modern razors do, Harry’s cartridge is secured with a flexible rubber pseudo hinge that bends when you press it against your skin. It feels completely backward, something several of our testers remarked: “Flexible,” one remarked, “but in the wrong direction.”
Harry’s has been upgrading its knives since 2015 by making them from stainless steel instead of carbon steel, and that’s good. And Harry is smooth orange Truman handle – it looks like it’s made of lovely old-school bakelite – is beautiful (it also comes in dark blue and olive). But smooth is also smooth, and we prefer Harry’s more expensive Winston handles, which are made of heavier metal and have a better grip surface. Either way, you end up with the flawed Harry’s cartridge design.
Today Schick Hydro 5 comes in three iterations with different formulations for the grease strip. Unfortunately, the strip is the worst part of the shaver: the Hydro 5 is comfortable, shaves quite tightly, and rinses well, but the strip turns into a sticky mess after a few shaves. “Snail slime,” wrote one reviewer. “Very uncomfortable.” (Hydro 5 also includes a trimmer blade, though you may not notice it as it is hidden behind a flip-back cover.)
Priced about the same as Mach3, Defender is another club/interrupt shaver that is getting a lot of online promotion right now. The primary feature is that its three-bladed cartridges are placed wider apart for greater flushability. The concept works – detritus flushes straight out – but the width along with a somewhat Harrys-like reverse flex mounting system also made the Defender the only razor that consistently left me with cuts and cuts. We liked the practical, built-in suction shower assembly of the shaver.
Bic’s Created for you, a razor with five blades, received mixed reviews from our panel. Testers with coarse or thick hair tended to dislike this razor and compared it unfavorably with both Fusion5 and Mach3. But one of our panelists, who has a lighter beard, said Made For You did better for him than our choice. We suspect that the more acute angle of the blades could provide a much closer shave for those without thick beards, but would cause more problems for people with thicker, coarser hair. Made For You’s head is less flexible compared to Fusion5’s, giving a stiffer, less comfortable shave. (Testers who used this razor to shave body hair were also not impressed.)