I’m a gadget guy. Normally, I try to get my hands on the latest model of whatever I’m using. For shaving, I’ve been using the Gillette Fusion for a number of years and have been happy with the shave (as happy as I can be since I’m not one to enjoy shaving). A few weeks ago, I dropped my Fusion and broke the blade carrier, so I had to dig my old Gillette Mach 3 Power Razor out of the drawer. Guess what?
The three-blade Mach 3 gave me a shave that, for my face and beard, was just as good as the five-blade Fusion (and with less hassle). So, this got me thinking. Are more blades better? There is almost no scientific data to prove whether more blades are better, so I’m only basing this on my two-plus decades behind the chair, but in my opinion, the answer to that question is, “no.”
Why Multiple Blades?
On multi-blade razors, the first blade is designed to lift the hair up and forward, while the second blade cuts the hair and releases it so that it rests just below the surface of the skin, making for a smooth feeling face. Makes sense, right? If that hair has been cut and is no longer protruding from the surface of the skin, what do blades three through seventeen do? Not much, in my opinion, except help razor manufacturers sell more razors.
I believe the increasing number of blades added to mass-market razors is just marketing hype. “They have four blades, so now we have to add one more to compete.” I’m not seeing any evidence that more than two blades are doing you any good whatsoever — and I’ve tried almost every razor on the market.
If additional blades are not necessary for a close shave, do those additional blades increase irritation and ingrown hairs? In my opinion, the response to that question is also “no.”
The causes of most razor burn and ingrown hairs are applying too much pressure when you are shaving, poor lubrication, and dull blades.
When shaving, you should apply almost no pressure to the razor at all — pressing down too hard can remove too much skin (which results in razor burn) and cut the hair too close (which can increase ingrown hairs). Also, dull blades and bad lubrication can cause razor drag and increase irritation. To get the best shave, use proper shaving technique, apply very little pressure, use a high-quality shaving cream, and replace your blade often (by properly rinsing and drying your razor, you can prolong the life of your blade).
Some will claim that a traditional double-edge safety razor will produce a smoother shave with less irritation than mass-marketed multi-blade razors. I do agree, to a point. I’ve had very great success shaving with a DE razor, but with this type of razor, technique and blade angle are critical and shaving with one takes more time. The advantage to mass-market razors is that they are designed to be mostly fool proof so the blade hits your skin at the right angle.
The Negative Side of More Blades
I believe that having too many blades spaced too closely together can make shaving more difficult and result in a less smooth shave. When the blades are too close, the razor becomes clogged faster (and more difficult to rinse). A clogged blade does not cut the hair as efficiently as a clean blade. There are those who believe dragging multiple blades across your face can remove too much skin and cut the hair too closely which can result in razor burn and ingrown hairs.
The Bottom Line
This is my advice on deciding which razor to choose. If you are happy with your current razor and getting a clean shave, stick with it. If shaving is causing you irritation and ingrown hairs, make sure you are shaving with the best shaving cream and proper technique first. If you are still getting irritation, try backing off on the number of blades. For mass-market razors, I still believe the Mach 3 from Gillette is one of the best razors you can buy. You may also wish to explore shaving with a DE razor if you have the time and patience to use it properly.