Razor Blades: Is Less More? (and other insights into the science of shaving)

Are five and six blade razors nothing more than a money-making device concocted by the big shaving companies? That's the belief of many straight-razor aficionados. But whether you’re a multi-blade shaver or favor a classic straight razor shave, there’s no question that shaving is a gigantic business. According to Forbes, Gillette’s 35 percent profit margin is the highest of any Procter and Gamble Brand. In an interesting article out today, writer Brian Palmer takes a look at the science of shaving in an attempt to discover if high-tech, multi-blade razors are really that effective. At Pacific Shaving Company, we believe that less is more – that running more than two blades across your face isn’t a requirement for a close shave – and in fact, may lead to razor burn and ingrown hairs. Palmer turned to the early days of shaving studies to see what the grooming ritual looked like before millions of dollars were spent on disposable razor market research. He located the “first comprehensive academic paper” on shaving that he could find: a document written by two Pittsburgh scientists and  published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1937. Among the findings revealed in the paper:

  • Freshly cut hairs grow very quickly at first, before slowing to a rate of just under half an inch per month.
  • Hairs almost never grow perpendicular to the face, but rather at an angle of 31 to 59 degrees – a very real obstacle to achieving a close shave.
  • Shaving removes almost as much skin, by volume, as hair. And scraping away the outer layer of skin likely accounts for much of the discomfort of shaving, with the scientists arguing that stiffer shaving lather and shaving no more than once every two days ameliorated the effect.
The experiments included in the paper were based solely on the straight or safety razor – disposable cartridge razors didn’t come fully onto the scene until the 70s. When questioned about the efficacy of their disposable razors, a research and development scientist for Gillette responded, simply, “We have seen no circumstantial evidence that multi-blade razors lead to ingrown hairs.” Seems to me, the results are in the shave. Do you use a multi-blade razor? Do you struggle with ingrown hairs or razor burn? We’d love to hear from you! - Marisa

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