Thursday, July 21, 2016

Size Matters : Dollar Shave Club vs. Gillette

A few months ago, I decided to try Dollar Shave Club.  What can I say? The relentless advertising got to me. Plus, I was on my last Mach3 blade after blowing through another supply from Costco.  

One late night, after a few pints of beer, I clicked over to the Dollar Shave Club website and signed up for an order. 

First - I don't normally review hygiene or beauty products at GearThoughts.  I'm much too busy with my day job.  But the DSC experience, and subsequent let down, is worth sharing. 

You should also know that I don't just shave my face. I usually have a beard, so I shave a portion of my face.  I also regularly shave my entire head.

The Cartridges

The first cartridge I ordered was the DSC Executive.   At $9 for 4 cartridges, it comes out to $2.25/cartridge. This price includes shipping to your door but doesn't include tax.  It's marketed as DSC's premium product with 6 stainless steel blades per cartridge.

The next cartridge I tried was a step down, the DSC 4X.  It costs $6 for 4 cartridges, or $1.50/cartridge.  The 4x refers to 4 stainless steel blades.  It's marketed as DSC's mid-level product.  

I compared the DSC Executive and 4X against my old Mach3 blade, pictured above (at least a month old). At a recent trip to Costco, I paid $32.99 for 14 cartridges, or $2.36 per cartridge before tax - the most expensive of the three cartridges reviewed in this article. 

Note: I did not order or test the DSC Humble Twin, the entry level cartridge.  I also did not test the uber expensive Gillette Fusion ProGlide.  

Forget about the number of stainless steel blades.  Size matters more. 

All cartridges shaved about the same on a relatively flat surface but the experience was very different when it came to tight areas such as beneath the nose or next to the ear. Maneuverability is your friend. The smaller the cartridge, the more easily you can shave hard to reach places. 

Gillette's cartridge is 31% smaller in height (top to bottom measurement) than the DSC Executive and 17% smaller than the DSC 4X. It is far more agile.  This is a critical difference. 

After struggling with both DSC razors for some time, I gave up on shaving the tiny nook above my ear with either DSC product and resorted to using my month old Mach3 to finish the job.  The DSC cartridges are too wide. 

Ease of rinsing was the 2nd biggest factor when it came to shaving performance. Because the blades are so narrowly spaced in the DSC cartridges, hair would frequently jam between the blades.  This happened routinely with the DSC 4X and completely clogged the even tighter spaced blades on the DSC Executive. To keep clear the hair, I needed to run my thumb against the cartridge (downward motion) under running water to dislodge the stuck whiskers. On the Gillette March3, rising the blade under water alone was enough to dislodge all hair from the blade surface. 

It gets old to need to run your thumb down the blades with each and every swipe, dramatically slowing how quickly you can shave. Look carefully at the photo above and you'll see hair still stuck between the blades of the DSC cartridges.  Even a finger rubdown doesn't easily dislodge hair stuck between the blades. 

You'll save only about $20 a year if you switch to the DSC 4X.  It offers a similar shave quality to the Mach3 and you'll also get stuff in the mail, sometimes including a free sample of shave cream or lotions. That's kind of cool, but it doesn't make up for the poor rinsing performance and the difficulty in reaching hard to shave areas. For the $20, I'll gladly spend less time getting ready in the morning.  

The bottom line of this two month experiment?  Unless you enjoy primping in the bathroom, stick with the Gillette Mach3.  Despite being a decades old product, it still shaves cleanly, rinses cleanly, and the cartridges last a surprisingly long time.   If you want to extend the life of the cartridge, rinse the blades in alcohol when you're done shaving.  It's the evaporation of the water that dulls the blades faster, not your whiskers. 

As for the DSC Executive, I recommend you skip it entirely.  It offered no better shave than the 4X.  In fact, it was actually worse because of the huge size and tightly packed blades on the cartridge. 

Note:  Unlike many other product reviews you'll find online, I did not receive any free samples or products from either Dollar Shave Club or Gillette.  This is not a paid endorsement or paid review. If you liked this article, feel free to donate via the button below.