It is no secret that companies need to continuously innovate, create and sell new products to upkeep their business and increase the bottom line. Apple has been known to do incremental changes to their phones to keep customers interested and committed to buying an updated line of phones on a yearly basis. At least there is a charm and marketing genius behind Apple's products. However, when it comes to disposable razors, there is only so much innovation possible, and it's not exciting even when there are so-called innovations. Sure, it's like comparing apples to oranges, but you get the point.
There Have Been Some Multi-Blade Razor “Innovations”
When Gillette introduced it's first disposable razor in 1976, it sure felt like an innovation. The design was more compact and hassle-free, totally different from traditional wet shaving razors. After that, people slowly started to ditch their safety razors in favor of disposable razors because of convenience, even if it didn't give as good of a shave in comparison.
Gillette has made some interesting multi-blade razors over the years since, most notably the Fusion line. The Fusion5 Proshield razor contains 5 “anti-friction” blades and FlexBall technology that allows the razor to pivot in any direction to help stay flat on the skin over varying contours of the shaving area. You have to appreciate the anti-friction blade marketing scheme, though. Customers gave the Fusion5 an average of 4.4 out of 5 stars (88%, grade of B+) on Gillette’s website.
In our opinion, one of the most underrated innovative multi-blade razors is the Leaf. The inventors wanted to give people a feel and familiarity of a multi-blade experience without the long-term cost of expensive cartridges and plastic pollution.
The razor utilizes double edge razor blades broken into singles, eliminating the need for razor cartridges forever. The DE razor blades are also available in singles. With an average of 4.8 out of 5 stars (96%, grade of A) on Leaf's website, it appears to be doing well. You may give it a pause after seeing the $79 price tag, but consider it as a lifetime investment. At just 14 cents for 3 single-blades, per week, you can quickly recoup your money. We're looking forward to reviewing this razor very soon as well.
The $200 Question
Gillette—through GilletteLabs—recently introduced the $200 Heated Razor for pre-order, just in time for father's day, which they tout will allow men to "experience the comfort of a hot towel with every stroke." That is a pretty big claim for sure. Think about how a hot towel works. When the towel is placed on the face before shaving, warm vapor from the damp towel hydrates and softens skin and hair, and opens pores after a few minutes for a clean comfortable shave. How that experience can be reproduced by a razor with quick strokes sounds rather suspect.
If Gillette engineers truly have pulled off the hot towel experience to go, this innovation could be an interesting selling point for the company. However, we remain highly skeptical of its ability to deliver, because we know how relaxing a real hot towel shaving can be for the skin. Still, we wanted to review the razor available in "limited quantities" (hype much?) for ourselves, so a pre-order has been placed right away. We opted out of auto-reorder because we are not reviewing their subscription service. We should mention that addition refill costs $25.
Once Gillette delivers the Heated Razor, it will be put to the test against a real hot towel and a safety razor shave, of which results will be posted here with an update to our final review. We will be using our shaving soap to lather for both, of course. Until then, we can only speculate based on Gillette's marketing materials and patent filings, which is precisely what will be done for now.
What’s so Hot About Gillette’s Heated Razor?
We did some digging for Gillette's patent filing of the razor on Google Patents. Just by looking at the sketch, one could easily figure out how the razor works. Simply put, it's a strip of metal or heater bar (#22), as they call it on the patent, that can reach temperatures between 86° F (30° C) and 158° F (70° C). The heat may radiate to the blades as well.
Here is some additional information from Gillette's website:
- The heater bar heats in less than a second
- Actual heating settings are 110° F and 122° F
- The handle uses a FlexDisk (unlike the FlexBall, it appears to only swivel left and right)
- The batteries in the waterproof handle get charged magnetically (similar to most electric toothbrushes)
- Each charge will last for up to 6 shaves, depending on usage (this almost always disappoints in real tests)
We Have Some Concerns
Even though we can't test the Heated Razor yet, we ought to discuss a few concerns that we think are worth considering:
Battery Life and Longevity: We know in real use cases, battery life and longevity can vary from the quality of cells, degradation with use over time, and climate condition. Batteries, in general, perform poorly in cold conditions. Gillette claims the battery will last up to 6 shaves, but caveats it with depending on usage. So, it could very well last just a few shaves before needing to recharge. The more you charge, the quicker the razor's lithium-ion batteries will lose the ability to charge to full capacity, which means fewer shaves per charge as well. We agree this problem is not unique to Gillette, but if the heating feature is the main selling point, user irreplaceable dead batteries will render it useless, especially at the $200 price tag.
Electric Circuitry: The patent states, "The heater bar 22 may be operably connected to a power source (e.g., a rechargeable battery, not shown) positioned within the handle 12 to provide a warming sensation during a shaving stroke." We all know where there is water, there is potential for rust and grime that can hinder the continuity. The heater bar will not be able to serve its purpose if its connecting points don't make proper contact with the razor's connection base. The power button that enables the power to the heater bar is another point of failure potentially, as the pressing actions may cause it to become faulty over time, or worse, water to seeping through its rubber grommets that shields internal circuits and battery.
Over Heating: Gillette states the razor has builtin "Intelligent Heat Safety Control System." Why does this need a closer look, even electric toothbrushes or razors have controls, right? The difference is raising voltage only turns a motor in toothbrushes and electric razors, which is not harmful, even if it goes haywire. Heating element, on the other hand, can be dangerous to the skin if the Heated Razor's voltage regulator fails. One can never be too sure, just as we've seen with cases of exploding Samsung phones and Tesla cars.
- Razor Size: Yes, size does matter. Bigger handle and head makes the visibility of shaving areas worse. Not everyone shaves the whole face. Lack of visibility makes shaving around tight corners and shapes of our beard more difficult. A slight mistake can throw off the whole look.
Are You Concerned Our Test Could Be Bias?
First off, since I'm writing this post on behalf of Men's Soap Company, and as a partner, I'd like to share a little about my own history with learning the ropes of shaving so you have proper context for the remainder of the writeup. Up until my undergrad days, I've used whatever was affordable at the convenient store. For me, the first sign of real facial hair started to surface around age 13. My father worked around the clock so we missed out on many of the father-son moments, including learning to shave. At that time, the internet wasn't as developed and pervasive as it is today, as such, nor did anyone use it for common information. From seeing what my father did and used, I started with Gillette's Blue 2-blade disposal razors and the can stuff. Eventually, I moved on to Mach3 around 2000, having had a weekend job at Burger King and at a local computer repair shop that helped me afford "fancier" multi-blade razors.
After the first year of university, I switched to a safety razor to save money and stayed with it for the pleasure of nostalgia since. The truth is we shave because we have to, and not something we are eager to do every day either. There are some of us who love traditional wet shaving and look forward to a time to ourselves so we can groom, shave and day-dream about old barbershop days. I have just turned 35, but as a kid, I still remember being excited to make those bi-weekly trips to the barbershop and seeing a bunch of guys hanging around waiting for their seat. The smell of shaving products, the sounds of scissors and clippers are still palpable. Barbershops today do not have those feelings. Don’t get me wrong, I do appreciate the comeback of barbershops. It’s a different time and a different society, I suppose.
While I—and MSC by extension—may be partial to traditional wet shaving for many reasons, including its cost-effectiveness and eco-friendliness, we’re surprisingly curious and nervous that Gillette's Heated Razor will prove us wrong of our skepticism. To keep the test fair, I will not be doing the test on myself or anyone at MSC. Instead, it will be in the hands of a trusted friend of ours, Dustin Scott, who is a barber in training at Campbellsville University - Somerset. Needless to say, he is excited to try the new gizmo from Gillette.
Dustin's Test Cases for Gillette Heated Razor vs. Real Hot Towel
Dustin suggested conducting two shaving cases: face shaves and head shaves. The shaves will be performed on clients of his choosing. We discussed the importance of split shaving so the same client can compare the experiences in the same sitting instead of doing one shaving with Gillette's razor and waiting for the hair to grow back to do the comparison shaving with hot towel separately. This ensures no other factors play a role in the client's judgment.
Split shaving simply means doing one half of the face or head with Gillette's Heated Razor and the other half with a towel and traditional razor. You might argue that the performance of one side could affect the other side positively or negatively. Sure, but that is a marginal error factor we will need to consider, given the feedback from the shaves need to be from the same client, at the same time and setting per face or head shaving, respectively.
So What's Next?
Now we wait for Gillette's Heated Razor to arrive in our hands for this review. Gillette did not give a shipping date because it's a pre-order, and who knows if we even get it in case they see this post. Subscribe to any one of our social profiles to stay updated on this topic and other great posts related to shaving and skin care.