I hate shaving. It is one of life’s cruel twists in that I have to shave daily, but cannot grow a beard to save my life. Thus, I am stuck with the worst of all possible options in this regard. For most of my adult life, I have used Gillette products for my daily routine of pain. And I do not mean simply physical pain. Gillette products are not inexpensive. Recently, I thought I might give the lower-cost upstarts a try: Dollar Shave Club and Harry’s. They each offer an inexpensive starter kit, so I decided to experiment with each of them for a month or so and see how it goes.
Full Disclosure: Some of the links in this review are affiliate links.
Summary of the review
I have officially completed my test, comparing Dollar Shave Club to Harry’s to Gillette. The winner, hands down, is Dollar Shave Club, both for price and shave quality. If you are simply interested in my test results, you can find them in the tables below.
This table summarizes the cost per month, based on the number of blades you might use in a single month.
|Brand||Cartridges per Month||Price for 8 Cartridges||Price per Month|
|Dollar Shave Club||1||$20.00||$2.50|
|Dollar Shave Club||2||$20.00||$5.00|
|Dollar Shave Club||4||$20.00||$10.00|
As you can see, Harry’s is the least expensive, coming in at half the price of Gillette. Dollar Shave Club is slightly more expensive, by a third. Gillette is the most expensive by far. You can save money with Gillette by purchasing more blades at a time, but that does not seem as easy with the other two companies.
Price is only half of the story, of course. What value is a cheap blade if the shave quality is far worse. My results in that area are summarized in this table.
|1||DSC-1||DSC||DSC||Absolutely hated it|
|2-7||DSC-1||Gillette Fusion Gel||Gillette Aftershave||Great Combination|
|8-14||DSC-1||Target Up&Up||Gillette Aftershave||Not as close; some irritation|
|15-21||DSC-2||Target Up & Up||Gillette Aftershave||Better than last week, but only a little|
|22-31||DSC-2||Gillette Pure Shave Gel||Gillette Aftershave||Better|
|32-64||DSC-3||Gillette Pure Shave Gel||Gillette Aftershave||Wonderful**|
|65-65||Harry’s||Harry’s Shave Foam||Gillette Aftershave||Awful|
|66-71||Harry’s||Gillette Pure Shave Gel||Gillette Aftershave||Slightly less awful|
Ultimately, I found the Dollar Shave Club to be equivalent to the quality of the Gillette. It really comes down to price and convenience. For $10 every four months (including shipping and tax), I can have new blades delivered to my door, without my having to remember to buy them.
The absolute best price I was able to find on the Gillette blades works out to about $3.25 per blade, buying them 8 at a time.
If I want to set up a subscription with Gillette, I have a couple of options. I could “Subscribe and Save” at Amazon, which would cost approximately $25 for eight blades every six months. That would lower the monthly cost to about $3.16, given that I only use one blade per month.
Gillette also offers a direct subscription, where they will send you four blades for $22 every month, three months, or six months. Given my usage, I would opt for once every three months. That actually works out to $5.50 per blade, which is the most expensive option I have found. It would be cheaper to buy from Amazon, or even Target.
If the Gillette blades were dramatically superior to the DSC, I might consider paying the premium and subscribing through Amazon. However, they were practically the same to me. So I will give DSC a try for a few more months.
The Harry’s blades are the least expensive, but were so bad that I will not even consider using them going forward.
The section above lists the summary of my results. This section contains a more thorough review. This should present enough information for you to reproduce the experiment if you wish; alternatively, it may provide you with information to draw your own conclusions from mine.
The Products Being Tested
Dollar Shave Club Starter Set
I began by ordering the $5 The Ultimate Shave Starter Set, which includes the following products:
- Razor Cartridges (4 pk)
- Executive Handle (1 ct)
- Shave Butter Trial Size (1 oz)
- Prep Scrub Trial (1 oz)
- Post Shave Dew Trial Size (1 oz)
Harrys’s Starter Set
Just as with Dollar Shave Club, I ordered their Starter Set for $8, including shipping. This set is not only more expensive than the one from Dollar Shave Club, it does not include as much product:
- A single Razor Cartridge
- One handle with a rubberized grip
- Trial size of Shave Foam (2 oz)
- A plastic travel cover
Gillette Fusion Pro Shield
This is my go-to blade, the Fusion Pro Shield. I have been using it for years, essentially since it was released. Consider this my control unit. I know I like it. It provides a great, comfortable shave. Really the only drawback is the cost of the blades.
Gillette Fusion Proglide Shave Gel
I have been using the Fusion Proglide Shave Gel for longer than I can remember. It goes on as a blue gel and lubricates well. I find when I use this shave gel, I get a better shave with much less irritation than otherwise.
PURE by Gillette Shaving Cream for Men
I stumbled upon a can of PURE Shaving Cream recently and decided to add it to my overall test. It appears to be similar the Proglide gel, without the color or scent.
Target Up & Up Shave Gel
Part of my test inadvertently used a shave gel I’d never used before. At the end of my first week, I ran out of my normal shave gel and ended up with a Target Brand. As you will see, I worked it in, but the results were unsatisfactory.
Aftershave seems to be getting harder to find. Maybe I’m looking in the wrong places, but my basic go-to is this Gillette Aftershave Gel. It has a pleasant scent, is easy to apply, and a little goes a long way. I can get months out of a single 2.5 oz bottle.
The Dollar Shave Club starter set came with four blades. The box in which the blades were packaged said the for best results, use one blade per week. At that rate, not only would I not be saving any money over the Gillette, it would end up costing me more. I shave daily, and can get a month out of a Gillette ProShield blade cartridge. Somewhere during the third week, however, the quality of the shave begins to deteriorate. Given that fact, I have decided to try each blade for two weeks, without changing any other variable.
I began my experiment on July 1, 2019, and it lasted exactly one day. My initial plan was to use everything included in the DSC starter kit. That was a mistake.
The pre-shave face scrub provided has that rough texture that feels like it contains sand. I do not know whether is supposed to be trendy, or if it really is beneficial. I have never been a fan of such soaps, so jettisoned that one immediately.
Next up was their shave lotion. I can one thing for sure: it certainly contains lubricant. In fact, after applying it to my face, my fingers were still so slippery I could barely hold the razor’s handle. The morning was not off to a good start.
Once I rewashed my hands (shave lotion still on my face, mind you) and could hold the razor, the shave itself was very good. It was comfortable, close, and not at all irritating. That was not surprising, given it was a brand new blade.
When I was done, I applied the DSC post-shave lotion. Again, my first emotion was disappointment. It does not have a very pleasant scent; in fact, it may even be unscented. If that is what you like, great. It was also very creamy, and not the alcohol-based gel to which I am accustomed. Admittedly, this is a personal thing, and does not detract from what was otherwise a comfortable shave.
The good news is that I really did not need the post-shave lotion at all, as there was no irritation from the shave itself. I consider that a win. That said, I decided on the spot not to continue the test with any of the other DSC products than the razor.
The rest of this week’s test was back to my usual products, the Gillette Shave gel and aftershave gel. I experienced no or issues with a slippery razor handle, confirming that was the DSC pre-shave lotion that had been the cause. For the remainder of the week, each shave was close and comfortable, with no tugging, burning, or other issues. For the most part, I was pleasantly surprised and looking forward to the rest of the test.
My intention had been to try the razor for two weeks without changing any other variables. That effort failed after day one, but I was still hopeful that the rest of the two weeks would go smoothly. On Day 8, I ran out of my Gillette Shave Gel. Upon opening the closet to get a new can, I found that we were completely out. Apparently, the store was out when it was time to replenish it, so I ended up with an Up and Up (Target) brand. This introduced a new variable into my experiment. Now I had a week-old blade and a different shave gel. Not to be deterred, I forged ahead.
I still had enough blades to fix the situation, with only slightly changing my plans. This week would be a week-old blade and Target gel. For the next two weeks, I would simply reverse that.
It wasn’t long before I discovered that this combination would not work. By the end of the week, the razor was tugging; the shave quality was deteriorating; and my face burned more, especially toward the end of the week. But because I changed two variables, I couldn’t be sure if the blade could not last two weeks, or if the Target brand shave gel was the culprit.
Regardless, I was happy to see this week come to an end.
So now it was time to reverse the scenario from the past two weeks. For this week, I would continue to use the Target Up and Up shave gel, but with a brand new blade cartridge. The week started off well, but by the end I concluded that the problem was not with the blade, but with the shave gel. This week ended up being only slightly better than the previous week.
Keeping the same blade from last week, I returned to using Gillette shave gel. However, as I noted above, I switched to their Pure label. It seems to be the same thing, without the scent. It feels the same anyway.
This week was a dramatic improvement over last, leading me to conclude that the quality of a shave is affected by the shave cream/gel at least as much as the blade. Given that a can of Gillette shave gel is about $4 and lasts me for months, I will never again be tempted to try a cheaper alternative to save $0.50.
By the end of the week, I reached the conclusion that the DSC blade can last me at least two weeks with the Gillette gel. The shave was smooth and reasonably comfortable all week, with very little after-shave burn. In fact, I extended the test by two days, to finish the month of July.
Days 32-64 (August 2019)
Now comes the big test. With two DSC razor cartridges remaining, I am going to see whether or not I can get an entire month out of a single cartridge, as I can with the Gillette Fusion ProShield. I have plenty of Gillette Shave Gel, so should easily be able to make it the entire month without changing anything.
By the fourth week of using a single DSC blade. I can tell it is not quite as good as it was during the first week, but the comfort and quality of the shave are still acceptable. My goal (hope?) is that I can get the full month out of this one.
August 31, 2019 was the final day of this test. I am pleased to report that the DSC cartridge lasted the entire month, with very little degradation in comfort or shave quality. Given the cost of the DSC blades, unless the Harry’s experiment is better in some way, I will probably continue with a Dollar Shave Club subscription.
Having completed the DSC tests successfully, on Sept 1 I began using my Harry’s Shave starter kit.
Unlike the fully-stocked Dollar Shave Club starter kit, Harry’s starter kit included a handle and single blade cartridge. It also included a travel size sample of their shave foam.
Though I was a bit disappointed that I would only be able to test with one cartridge, that disappointment was short lived.
The first thing of note was the handle. Harry’s uses a rubberized handle, which I had ordered in a dark green. I liked the way it felt: good balance, and natural to hold in my hand. As I mentioned, I shave in the shower, and assumed the rubber handle would provide a better grip when wet. Unfortunately, I was wrong. In fact, it seemed to be more slippery than either my Gillette or Dollar Shave Club handles.
Another drawback was the razor cartridge itself. It was far too easy to come off the handle at the slightest pressure. I found myself pulling the entire cartridge off the handle when I simply wanted to remove the protective cover. I imagined lots of bloody fingers in my future. Fortunately, that did not happen during the test.
The shave foam was initially promising. It has a pleasant scent, and goes on smoothly. However, at the first stroke of the blade, I knew that either it or the blade needed to go. There was so much tugging and overall discomfort, that I almost did not continue. In fact, I ended up cutting myself, which is something I have not done in years. However, in the interest of the experiment, I persevered.
The next day, I decided to jettison the Harry’s shave foam and go back to my trusty Gillette gel. It was a little better, but the shave quality and comfort are nowhere near what I was getting from Gillette or Dollar Shave Club. Though I do believe I will be able to finish out the week and complete the experiment, I can report conclusively that I will not be using Harry’s razors any longer.
I also author courses for Pluralsight, almost exclusively about the Ionic Framework.