Another excellent question from my youngest son. I’ve heard it said that when the question begins with “Why …”, the answer generally is money and that is the reason here. My youngest is too young to shave so much of this won’t make sense to him yet but I’ll write it none the less since some day it might save him even more money than it saved me.

There are three common types of razors that men shave with:

  • cartridge
  • disposable
  • blade

I’ve only ever used cartridge and blade so I can’t talk to the underlying economics of disposable razors but I’d guess that they are between cartridge and blade on the pricing spectrum.

The leading contender is cartridge and this is commonly sold by Gillette. Blades for a top of the line Gillette like the Mach 5 Fusion tend to run about $6 to $8 per cartridge at least based on pricing at the supermarket. And, in my experience, a given cartridge is good for no more than 3 weeks. Yes I am a cheap bastard in pushing a single cartridge that long. So 52 weeks per years / 3 weeks per blade means that you will use 17 1/3 blades per year. At say $7 / blade that means a year of shaving costs you $121. I turn 49 this year and I have been shaving daily since I was 18 which puts me at 31 years of daily shaving or as I often think of it face scraping. And at the $121 per year that means I have invested $3,761 in shaving to date over my life span. And if I was to shave for another 40 years that would make the total $4,840 for the next 40 years or a lifetime total of $3,761 + $4,840 or $8,601 – for nothing more than the privilege of being clean shaven.

And these numbers aren’t even 100% accurate:

  • It doesn’t include shaving cream which would raise the total
  • It doesn’t allow for price increases which Gillette does with increasing frequency
  • Cartridge razors didn’t used to be anywhere near as expensive so my $3,721 is likely too high. On the other hand I didn’t used to be so cheap so I would would change the blade much more frequently so perhaps $3,721 is just fine.

Like most people I suspect, I’ve bought cars that were cheaper than $3,761. My first car, in fact, cost under $3,000 (some work required admittedly) and I have to admit that I’d far rather have had one of these:

than shaving my face for 31 years.

So if cartridge razors are too expensive then what is the solution and why is my face bloody? The answer is to go back to what preceded cartridge razors – blade razors. Here’s a great example that I gave to my father this past father’s day.

On November 24, 2014, I ordered from Amazon a blade razor for $29.47 and 100 blades for $47.94. I’m still using the same damn box of blades. That price gives me a per blade cost of $0.48 and a single blade lasts me at least 3 weeks. So that blade is only about 6% of the overall cost of a cartridge blade. And that changes my lifetime shaving economics to 6% of $8,601 or $516. And that feels reasonable. I’d always known that cartridge razors were ridiculously expensive but I never thought this expensive.

Oh and the reason for the bloody face? When I change the blade every three weeks, the first two or three shaves the blade is so sharp that I might nick myself a bit. But a touch of a styptic pencil and its fine.

If you care about shaving then I highly recommend the Wicked Edge subreddit.