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Cut-price razors – are replacement blades too expensive?

Nobody likes paying for new razor blades and at £13 for a pack of four, you can see why. Are replacement razor blades too expensive considering new razors appear to be on offer more often than not?

Gillette’s Fusion ProGlide Power blades are £3.25 each – if we used one of them per month that adds up to £39 a year. I begrudge paying that much for a few grams of plastic and steel and I’m sure I’m not alone.

So what can we do to get a good and cheap shave? The answer is to wait till razors are on offer and buy any blades that fit, regardless of whether they’re branded specifically for the razor handle you own.

Both powered and manual razors offer a close shave

Our latest men’s razors test shows that differences in the comfort and closeness of shaves provided by powered and manual versions of leading razors is small. And because manual blades fit on powered versions of the razors, one immediate cost-saving measure to take is to buy manual blades.

All of the Gillette Fusion family of razors fit manual and powered Fusions and Fusion ProGlides. The same is true of the Wilkinson Sword Quattro Titanium manual and powered razors.

Both manufacturers have pointed out differences between their manual and powered blades, but we found in our tests that the shaving differences are hardly noticeable so buying the cheapest blades to fit our razors is the first cost-cutting measure to take.

New razors on offer, but not the blades

It seems that the razors themselves are on offer more often than not, but the story with replacement blades isn’t quite so rosy.

Our research found that in the last year alone, the Gillette Fusion ProGlide Power razor was either half price or on a two-for-one offer at Asda for 91 days, Tesco for 114 days and for 156 days at Sainsburys.

That’s great news if you’re in the market for a new razor. But since manufacturers know we’ll come back and buy their blades once we find a shave we like, it’s unsurprising that decent offers for replacement blades are very thin on the ground.

We checked the prices of three, four and six-packs of Gillette Fusion ProGlide power blades at the same supermarkets over the last 12 months and could only find half price offers at Asda and only for three weeks. So, unlike new razors, it seems that you’ll have to put up with buying full-price replacement blades.

Have you got any tips for cutting the cost of a close and comfortable shave?

Comments
Argus says:
16 July 2012

Yes, grow a beard!

I woke up to this a few years ago and now I have about 1 shave every 2 weeks as a result. I may look scruffy but I don’t care, my wife thinks that I look rugged! 🙂

I bought my last set of Gillette blades on eBay – still not cheap but better than anything the big stores were offering.

One tip I heard recently was that drying blades after use (or even dipping in alcohol to kill moisture, which seems a bit extreme) helps preserve them. I don’t think the blades lasted that much longer but I did feel that they gave a smoother shave for longer before starting to irritate.

The thinking behind this is that it’s not the razor blunting but water scum that causes the problems – living in London’s chalky water area razors do scum up quite quickly so wiping dry will stop some of the build up.

Andy says:
27 July 2012

Be careful with the wiping – it could damage the blade coatings that deliver anti corrosion, sharpness and smooth shaving attributes. Shaking off excess water and storing in a dry environment is the manufacturers advice – and honestly this is not part of the marketing fluff!

Thanks Andy for the advice.

Sounds prehistoric. A decent electric shaver is much more convenient and costs less to run.

James Cairns says:
20 July 2012

Every electric razor I’ve tried over the years have turned out to be a complete waste of money! Even the recommended ones are not capable of giving a really close shave in my experience. You can tell which men use electric razors by their poor complexions whereas wet shaving gets rid of all the muck on your face. Try it, you’ll be surprised at the scum around the basin after a good wet shave.

Edward says:
8 September 2015

I hear you on that. Even when I had naught more than bumfluff, no electric razor lifted it. Wet shaving with an old-school DE safety razor is unbeatable on my face. Expensive to start with, as you’re looking at a start-up cost of about £30 for a decent brush, razor handle, soap and some blades, but in the long run it’s so much cheaper. I’ve never found DE blades selling for more than 20p each (bulk-buys on eBay or Amazon can reduce them to a fraction of that). I find I get at least a good week of shaving every day from a single DE blade. Much closer shave than any cartridge ever gave me, and much more satisfying. I only wish it was possible to get the angles right to use it on my head (found out the hard way it’s not!), as I’m still stuck with overpriced cartridges for that, alas.

Is there such a thing as a decent electric razor with replacable batteries?
I’ve had a number of them over the years, and all of them have eventually died due to the built-in obsolescence ensured by non-replacable batteries.
Braun and Remington are some of the worst offendors.
Seriously, if Which? could lobby the EU to make this practice illegal, it would actually be something useful the EU could do.

There is absolutely no reason why rechargeable batteries should not be easy to replace. The Braun shaver I mentioned below contained two wired-in AA NiMH cells. Wiring them in helps avoid problems sure to poor connections, but is not essential. Whether it’s a shaver, mobile phone or cordless vacuum cleaner, the batteries should be replaceable without tools.

This is the sort of environmental issue that the EU could tackle and I certainly agree that a push from Which? could help.

Steve Morgan says:
16 July 2012

18 months ago, I switched back to good-old Double-Edge Safety Razors. You know, with the individual blades wrapped up in their own little paper envelopes. Like your grandad used to use. I bought a modern razor and a 1965 Gilette adjustable one, a pure Badger bristle brush and some proper shaving soap. No harsh chemicals like you get in squirty shaving foam cans. The razor shaves virtually as well as a modern multi-blade razor does when it’s got a new blade. The trouble is with multi-blade razors is that the blades are so expensive, you tend to make them last and the shave deteriorates very quickly. With a DE razor, the blades are dirt cheap, so you replace it after just 2-5 shaves and you’ve always got a good edge. There’s little more enjoyable than a pampering shave with nice warm shaving foam that you’ve just mixed yourself and it’s far less likely to leave you with a sore face. So I say, down with multi-blade technology, which is all geared towards lining the pockets of the manufacturers, not to giving you the most comfortable shaving experience.

Adew Faw says:
14 August 2013

How safe is this? I’ve heard lots of horror stories!

Edward says:
8 September 2015

It takes a little practice at first to get the right angle, but I cut myself more often with a cartridge than a DE. Bit of practice on yer leg is a good place to start til you’re sure.

Edward says:
8 September 2015

I find I get a much better shave with my DE than I ever did with a cartridge, even all other things (brush, soap, et cetera) being equal.

J.M.Parke,SR says:
22 November 2015

Steve,my man, I don’t know anybody who could say it any better than you .So I’ll just say “Thanks !

[This comment has been edited to remove personal contact details in line with our community guidelines. Thanks Mods]

I agree that double-edged razor blades give a very good shave and that the latest blades perform very little better – the difference is imperceptible, although using the older system requires much more care and takes longer so I switched to the multi-blade type several years ago and do prefer it overall. The razor is lighter and more flexible and the four blades on today’s versions give a very smooth shave in one stroke. The blades only seem to last a week, however, which is no better than the double-edged type. I tend to buy an eight-pack of Wilkinson Sword Quattro Titanium blades retailing at around £13 so that comes to around £85 a year – I had never made that calculation before and it does seem a high price to pay for a daily shave. I have a smooth face and a light beard – some people with a heavier beard must be paying a fortune. I might take up wavechange’s recommendation and invest in an electric shaver. I have only ever used a battery one on a holiday and wasn’t impressed but a modern full-power one would probably be as good as a manual razor. Nowadays I can’t be bothered with the full brush and lather palava but do agree it gives a slightly superior finish over a gel or foam-based shave. It’s worth looking out for the special offers on new razors as they often contain packs of blades and they work out cheaper than buying just the blades!

It sounds as if you are an ideal candidate for an electric shaver, John. They are easy to use at any time, so even if blades are better, using the electric shaver twice a day is more effective overall. I keep a small battery shaver in the car for use whenever necessary, though I don’t have much of a beard either.

Argus says:
17 July 2012

It’s not that simple for some people. My beard grows really quickly and thickly and electric shavers can irritate my skin.

Indeed, but they are fine for many people and save a lot of messing around.. I have always used a foil shaver but recently bought a rotary shaver. It caused a lot of irritation the first few times I used it, but this problem disappeared very quickly.

I’ve taken this off-topic, so I won’t say any more on electric shavers. 🙂

Oh that’s disappointing, wavechange . . . I thought you were going to tell us it was so good you bought the company!

Andy says:
27 July 2012

I’ve tried numerous electric razors over the years – all top end technology in their day. The recurring problem for me was in-growing hairs. I think that the fact that you cannot cut yourself with an electric means you push the razor too hard on your skin and cut the hair beneath the skin surface. When it grows back it can grow underneath the skin.

James Cairns says:
27 August 2012

Try a Razorpit – they seem to work! I was very sceptical, but I bought one anyway and after 45 shaves my blade still shaves like new. Follow the instructions though – after stropping with ordinary soap & water just rinse the blade and Razorpit in in clean water and shake both dry, then place the razor on the Razorpit and let them air-dry on the bathroom window sill.

Like Steve Morgan, I switched to double-edge safety razors, a good brush, and cream about a year ago and haven’t looked back. I’ve saved a bit of money no doubt, but I actually kind of enjoy my shave these days! When in a hurry though, I quickly grab the multi-blade as I find that I can shave quicker with that.

I use a Wilkinson razor – rarely need to replace the blade – I am using the same blade for over a year still works – Still have three of the four blades I bought when I bought the set. I do have a goatee style beard and moustache. Like others I tried an electric razor – totally useless except to trim the length of the beard and moustache hair. The wet razor gives a superior smoothness on the skin. I seem to get a set of free blades with a new style razor each time. By the time I need a new set of blades – the razor is out of fashion and blades hard to find.

Mick says:
20 July 2012

I looked long and hard at all my outgoing’s when I was made redundant three years ago. For many years I had used Gillette Blue II as they gave a good close shave but the cost of 40p is high. I tried using the much cheaper BICs but they caused cuts and often I needed more than one blade for a single shave. Then I tried Tesco’s Smooth and Close fixed head disposables and found they gave just as good a shave as the Gillettes at a mere cost of 80p for 10, yes just 8p each blade. They were not included in the which survey but are cheaper than any blade that was. Tesco’s also have a ‘value’ brand that comes in at just 2.6p per blade but for me do not work.

Zorba the Great says:
20 July 2012

I use the tesco value disposable blades and they work very well for me. 25p for a packet of 10. They are perfect for single use. I spent £2.50 and bought 100, which is enough to last me for a year. My only concern is the environmental impact of using so much plastic in a disposable razor.

Edward says:
8 September 2015

I agree. I se a DE for my face, but I’m stuck having to use cartridges for my head. I am trying to find one where the cartridges aren’t stupid-expensive…. Oddly, in my local supermarket, and everywhere else I can find too, cartridges work out significantly more expensive than a whole disposable razor of the same type. For instance, in my local Sainsburys, it is 20p more per cartridge for a pack of Mach III cartridges than a pack of the same number of disposable Mach IIIs. This is insane.

john chappell says:
20 July 2012

I have given up on buying replacement blades as they are too expensive as your research confirms. I use Bic sensitive disposables which come in packs of 3 and I find they last me around 2/3 months. I only need to shave around twice a week so am quite lucky I guess.

David Robinson says:
20 July 2012

Razor blades are a rip off for what they are, a little bit of metal surrounded by moulded plastic. None of them give what I would call a decent shave, so I use Gillette disposable types which cost about £3/£4 for a pack of 8 (it used to be ten, but they reduced the amount in a pack a while ago), the trouble is, Im lucky if a blade last for a couple of shaves, which isnt good value for money in my opinion. Isnt it about time Trading Standards or whoever, looked into the price of blades, and got the prices reduced?

Jim D says:
20 July 2012

After years of not being happy with razors, I’ve finally cracked it.

1) Do not buy any of the foams, just use ordinary soap or shampoo, they are a waste of money. I find these all create excellent foam, just make sure you use enough.

2) Gillette Fusion Pro-Glide, the blue ones not the orange ones. I’ve been using the same one for 6 months now (yes) and it’s still good to go.

Bob says:
30 June 2014

Don’t need to use foam or soap, hot shower water over natural facial oils (prior to soap washing same) is perfectly adequate. I have done this for many years and without injury.

Si P says:
20 July 2012

I found that buying the supermarket own brand razors reduces the cost over branded products by nearly half and they are offered at reduced price more often throughout the year. They tend to do the same blade types (ASDA do a 5 blade system @ £5 for 4 heads) and each lasts a week easily. I use gel rather than foam and definitely get a closer shave than with my electric shaver which is ‘Which’ best buy.

It’s surprising that Which? this month recommends using cream or lather for an effective shave, yet fails to mention shaving oil. I’ve been using this for several years now and find it far superior to cream, lather or foam, which scrape off at the first stroke and leave the face dry and unlubricated.

You know I’m right. Have you ever seen a hairy frog?!!

Alan G says:
20 July 2012

I moved from electric to wet shave about 3 years ago and worked my way down from an expensive multi blade to an old Gillette safety razor (£5 on eBay) with traditional DE blades. Each blade lasts me about a month and costs about 20p. I use a Palmolive shaving stick with a brush and that costs less than a pound and lasts 6 months… My shaving costs are now around £4/year and I get a better shave than with the electric (and only occasionally nick myself…). I do use electric for holiday travel though.

Peter Shelley says:
20 July 2012

I use FIGARO twin blade disposable razors. Cost 1 Euro for 10. I get about 15 shaves per razor. (Must have a soft beard.) Annual cost Euro 2.40. A shaving gel such as Gilette helps to obtain best possible shave. Lubricating strip usually detaches after 3rd or 4th shave.

I switched from Gillette to King of Shaves, which was initially cheaper. However, they have introduced a new three blade version and the price has gone up.

I bought a twin blade razor from Lidl with about 20 blades included. It does the job just as well as the previous options and cost far less.

Neil says:
21 July 2012

I used to replace my Gillette blades every few weeks and it was costing a bomb.
And then I saw in the Guardian an advert for their Razor Pit Stop (variously called RazorSharp and other names and costing about £15) which is simply a strip of silicone material, which with a simple wipe gets rid of all the gunk which is blocking the perfectly good blade. I use this every few weeks on my blades and each now lasts me up to a 100 shaves.
I also stopped buying Gillette or Wilkinson’s foam or gel and I now use either King Of Shaves Oil or Gel – both products only requiring a fraction of the foam the mainstream products require.
I now rarely have to replace a blade and a tube of King Of Shaves lubricant lasts months and months.
It is really nice to get away from the high street American owned market leaders and find far better results with the marginal producers. I will never go back to Gillette or Wilkinsons (except to buy a pack of new blades every year or so)…

I bought something called a ‘razorpit’ from the Guardian readers offers last year which I’m really impressed with. It cost around £18.00 and is used to ‘strop’ or clean the blade of any type of wet razor (I use the Gillette Fusion). The results are terrific – I get at least 100 decent shaves from one blade. I was getting around 10 to 12! This is the best kept secret about shaving economically and smoothly ever. Be interested to see if Which test this product out

David says:
22 July 2012

I recently bought a razor set with 3 blade blades from Aldi for a few pounds a,nd am very pleased with the shave I get – replacement blades in packs of 10 are very reasonably priced.

Alan MaC says:
22 July 2012

NEVER BUY A RAZOR BLADE AGAIN!!

Buy a Barbers Strop belt.

Hone the Gillette or whatever brand with it every time you shave. It realligns & sharpens the blades.

I havent bought a new blade for over a year nowq & my shaves are, well razor sharp! It cost me £9 delivered over the Internet.

In fact, when I did put a BRAND NEW BLADE IN, it WASNT AS SHARP AS THE STROP BELT!!

Good advice this.

Kind regards.

Alan MaC

Hi Alan, take it you can only use a strop with a cut-throat razor or have you found a way of doing it with other blades? Jonathan

Alan MaC says:
23 July 2012

Naw you can use the Gillette/Wilkinso Sword whtever brand you like really. You place the strop on a hook on the back of the Bathroom Door.

You place the blades (still on fixed to the razor) away from the grain on the SUEDE side of the strop.

Say 8 times in each direction.

Then twice in each direction on the polished leather side.

Fantastic results every time.
I paid around £10 on E Bay for one.

This is goood advice.

ATVB.

Alan MaC