Is that schick as Sharp as you think?

Blade Research investigates whether name brand razors are as sharp as their cheaper counterparts. 

Our Question:

Are high-end razors like the Gillette Fusion5 or Schick Hydro 5 Sense worth your money?

Compared to drug store generics and entry level Bics, name brand razors are certainly more expensive. A Schick Hydro 5 Sense cartridge will cost you four times as much as a cheap Bic and eight-and-a-half times as much as a Target generic. That top-of-the-line Gillette? Weighing in at $2.81 per cartridge, at a cartridge a week pace you’ll drop $146.12 a year for it. By comparison using a new Bic every other day will set you back $94.90.

Some of the reasons for the price difference are obvious. Look at a Gillette Fusion5 and you’ll notice the two lubricating strips, the two axes of pivoting, and the five blades (plus the sixth on the side of the cartridge for those hard to reach places). Break the cartridge apart and you’ll notice that each blade sits on its own little spring and that the blades are held in with a real strip of metal.

From left to right: Target, Bic, Schick, Gillette

Take a look at a Bic and you’ll see none of this. It’s made of cheap plastic, top to bottom. No pivoting, no lubricating strip. A single blade. Essentially what you have is a razor and a handle--the cartridge razor in its simplest form.

$2.50 MIGHT BUY YOU TWO LUBRICATING STRIPS BUT DOES IT BUY YOU A SHARPER RAZOR?

 

But what about the blades in these razors? At the end of the day lubricating strips and the other doodads are a sideshow in the shaving experience. They make the shave “smoother” but it’s the blade that does the work of cutting hair. $2.50 might buy you two lubricating strips but does it buy you a sharper razor?

Our Procedure:

 

As a company that is obsessed with shaving technology we decided to find out.

To test this, we went to our local Target and bought four razors—two top of the line systems (Gillette’s Fusion5 ProShield and Schick’s Hydro 5 Sense) and two “bottom of the barrel” razors (Bic’s Sensitive Shaver and a Target two-blade generic).

We disassembled the blades using a pair of pliers until we had six blades from each brand. We placed each blade in a rig and slowly lowered it on to a piece of wire. We then measured the amount of force that was needed to cut the wire and used it as a proxy for sharpness. We took 30 measurements for each brand for a total of 120 measurements.

 

Results:

 

All the blades were roughly as sharp as each other (for stats nerds there was no statistical difference between the Gillette, Schick, and Bic blades at 95% confidence). The Bic, one of our cheap blades, did put in the sharpest measurement, testing sharper than the Schick and Gillette. Even the lowly Target razor tested well, putting in numbers that were only about 13% duller than the Schick.

We weren’t surprised to observe that there’s really no difference between cheap and expensive razors when it comes to sharpness.

 

Big picture, we attribute this to two reasons.

 

First, steel razors have been around for a while and a lot of people know how to make them sharp. King Gillette invented the disposable razor in 1901. That’s well over a hundred years ago. Plenty of time for patents to expire, talent to switch companies, and rival corporations to experiment. While making a sharp blade isn’t necessarily easy, enough time has passed for competitors to figure it out.

Second, steel razors are already so sharp that it’s difficult to make them much sharper. Gillette, for example, usually claims in its patents a tip radius (how “sharp” the blade is) below 1000 Angstroms. To put this in perspective a hydrogen atom is about 0.5 Angstroms and visible light has wavelengths between 4000 and 7000 Angstroms. AKA these blades are really, really sharp. To the point where any company is going to have trouble pushing them much further.

 

Conclusion:

So, should you buy the more expensive razor? Not if sharpness is your main criteria.

In future posts we’ll begin taking a deeper look at the differences between these razors including longevity, skin irritation, and coating.

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about us

Blade Research started with two guys and a simple question. Why don’t razor blades last longer? After years of shaving with (and throwing away) razors on a weekly basis we knew there had to be a better way. So we created Blade Research. With a few thousand dollars and the summer off after grad school, we researched and experimented until we had an idea we felt would solve this problem: a sapphire razor with a lifetime measured in months or even years. Look for the first version of our razor to go on sale in 2019.

Copyright 2018. Bathysphere LLC DBA Blade Research