The Battle of the (Razor) Blades
A while back I saw a funny commercial for an online company that sells razor blades for a low low price; Dollar Shave Club. The commercial was hilarious and stuck in my mind. And then, inevitably I ran out of razor blades. Rather than shell out the $25 for new blades at the grocery store I pulled up their website and placed my order. The blades arrived shortly thereafter and I tried them out. They worked great.
Then I saw an online ad for a similar website, Harry's, which also provided a mail order razor blade service. While Dollar Shave Club prides themselves on being cheap, Harry’s seemingly took pride in being a more upscale, and more highly designed product. Having recently launched in Canada, and despite having a stock of Dollar Shave Club blades, I decided to take Harry’s for a test spin and thought I might share the results.
Let’s be clear of one thing off the top; I don’t really like shaving. It’s kind of a pain in the butt, especially if I have to do it in the morning. I’ve taken to doing it before bed as much as possible since it’s less rushed and yields the same results. I’m also not a particularly hirsute young man; I can generally get away with shaving every 2-3 days. I mention this not to brag, but merely to put my regimen into context. So, bearing all this in mind onto the blades.
Within days of ordering my new Harry's razor had arrived. My first impressions were great; it was an overall beautifully designed package and first experience. Everything came in a nice custom designed box, and included a humours instruction booklet on how to use everything. Their attention to detail really clicked with my love of design. It was a major step up from the cardboard sleeve Dollar Shave Club sent.
To celebrate their launch in Canada Harry’s had a special limited edition handle, which is what I ordered. The handle looks and feels great, but when I finally lathered up to get ready to shave I was surprised at how flimsy the blade head felt on the handle; it was as if it might fall off. It's hard to describe the sensation but there was this slight rattle to it that made it feel like it was never fully connected to the handle.
The shaving cream was nice, and left a nice refreshing tingle. However I noticed as I began to shave that my razor was becoming rather clogged; both with hair and cream (this was similar to my experiences using a similar Kiehl’s shaving cream previously, and why I switched back to foam). This clogging took a vast amount of vigorous hitting, shaking, and rinsing to de-clog, but eventually I managed to get things clean. Again, this is not exclusive to Harry's shave cream, but I felt it worth mentioning. I also must admit that I find the cream makes for a much less smooth/painless shaving experience; while I never cut myself I did feel as though I was scraping the hairs out of my face. Perhaps it’s designed to be used on a daily basis rather than waiting for a slight amount of growth. I also noticed that the Harrys’ set lacked a precision trimmer, not something I use a lot but do find myself using at the base of the nose usually.
Overall though I was quite impressed with the finished shave. My face felt very smooth, and the cream my face feeling refreshed.
Remarkably though, I found that within a day and a half my face was starting to get rather bristly; it was time to shave again. For most people that may not seem like a big deal, but as someone who doesn’t shave everyday I was somewhat surprised.
Over the next week I alternated between the Harry’s razor and the Dollar Shave Club Razor and wanted to compare my results. I opted to use my traditional foam each time, which did away with the clogging issues on the Harry’s razor (a nice bonus). While it seemed as if both razors performed almost equally the Harry’s razors did leave my face feeling slicker to the touch, perhaps due to a higher quality moisture strip on the razor itself. However, I did notice that, once again, the shave with Harry’s razor didn’t seem to last as long as the shave with the Dollar Shave Club razor. This is by no means a scientific experiment, and there's probably plenty of factors, but it did seem to be a consistent enough observation for me. While I cannot say with any deal of certainty it would seem as though Dollar Shave Club’s razors were giving me a closer shave; and since I don’t particularly like shaving that much the fact that I can go slightly longer without shaving is nice.
So, while Harry’s is a much more elegant pre-shave experience, Dollar Shave Club still has the edge (no pun intended, though it’s a nice bonus) in terms of experience during the shave, after the shave, and in terms of cost.
In terms of price both companies are way better than what I used to be paying. Harry’s price of $15 US wasn’t un-reasonable (it came to a total of $23.73 Canadian with taxes), especially considering you got a handle, three blades, and the shaving cream. I placed my order on the 17th, received a shipping notice on the 19th, and had received the blades that same day. That turn around time was genuinely surprising.
That said, the top of the line blades at Dollar Shave Club only cost me $10.74 Canadian, while the mid-range blades (which so far I kind of prefer) cost a total of $7.35 CAD. There’s no shaving cream, but you do get 4 blades, and truthfully as fancy as the Harry's cream was I probably won’t be using it much (mostly due to personal preference and the previously mentioned clogging issues). A 4 pack of blades from Harry’s will run you $8.00 US, but that doesn’t include tax or shipping (you need to spend $10 or more to get free shipping). Of course if you subscribe to their auto-renewel plan (similar to what Dollar Shave Club offers) you get 8 blades and 2 creams for $31 US, and you can choose the frequency - every 2, 4, or 6 months (shakes out to be about $15.50 USD/month). This is a pretty good deal, but my plan with Dollar Shave Club gets me 4 blades, every 2 months for a total of $7.35 (to be clear, the default is 4 blades/month but as I mentioned before I don’t shave as much so I can get by with 4 blades every other month). Yes, for a few bucks more I could be getting cream as well, but since I don’t love the cream, I might as well save the couple of bucks.
Ultimately though it’s going to be a matter of personal preference. I would love to be able to use my Dollar Shave Club blades on my Harry’s handle, but alas, that isn’t going to happen. For someone like me who doesn’t have to shave constantly Dollar Shave Club is probably your best bet. If you’re a classy gentleman and want everything to look as nice as possible Harry’s cannot be beat. But if you’re someone looking to spend the least amount possible, while still getting a great shave Dollar Shave Club is most definitely the way to go. In all honesty you could buy both to try for yourself and you’d still be spending less than the refills for one of the “top of the line” Gillette razors, and you’re supporting cool independent companies.
So for me it’s Dollar Shave Club that wins, just by a hair (okay that one was on purpose).
Update - July 6th: I felt it important to revisit this post. Over the past month or so I had been using the mid-level Dollar Shave Club blades exclusively and had been noticing a lot of irritation after shaving, as well as more and more frequent nicks and cuts. Granted perhaps I wasn't changing my blades enough, but I was changing them with the same frequency as before. As such, to give my face a break I switched to Harry's for the past couple weeks. Much less irritation, and far fewer cuts/nicks.
I've also gone ahead and upgrade my Dollar Shave Club account to the top tier, the tier I had been using the most when I first wrote this review. At $5 cheaper than Harry's it's still the best value, though I must say after using Harry's more frequently I'm starting to like their product more and more.
I also received my first free pack of blades from Harry's through my referral link. So thanks for that!