How long does a razor blade last? Google this, but it’s hard to come up with an answer. First, I got dumped into a bunch of Reddit forums about a gaming computer called Razer Blade. It seems Razer Blades have a reputation for frequent breakdowns. After five minutes of reading about Razer Blade’s short shelf life, I noticed I misspelled razor. Once I fixed my google search, I found a bunch of articles talking about razor blade lifespans. But none of them answered my question.
After another search modification I got one of those Google “People also ask” windows in my search results. The top question was “How many shaves does a Gillette razor last?” Perfect, because my exact question was really “How many uses can I get out of a Gillette MACH3 Turbo razor blade cartridge?” The answer? Five to seven shaves.
Why am I thinking about this on Christmas morning? As is usually the case with me, it’s a long story.
The men in my family, my father, my brothers and I, we have tough beards. I left for college with one of those electric razors that minced my beard and left whisker confetti in the sink. This caused long arguments with my mother when I was still in high school, but in college, nobody seemed to care. Every day, sometime after we all left for morning classes, someone came in and cleaned the bathroom. Electric razors are a better fit for college than for home. But by the end of my sophomore year, the razor motor bogged down on my typical five-day growth. I switched to plastic disposable razors.
The following year, a new kid on my dormitory hall came to school with a crate of razors. His father worked as an executive for Bic. Besides making cheap ballpoint pens, Bic manufactures cheap razors, as well. My friends and I had an endless supply. Even though Bic razors—the only single blade razor on the market—had a tendency to chew up our faces, we were still excited about free razors for a year.
Fast forward forty years. Things have changed since that single-blade Bic. Now my razor has three blades, each a millimeter apart. As I pass it over my face, the first blade pulls on the hair follicle as it cuts it. The second blade grabs the follicle a little closer to my face and repeats the process. By the time the third blade has done its part, I’m actually cutting my beard below the level of my skin. At least if you believe the commercials.
The problem is these things are expensive. MACH3 Turbo razors are like twenty-five bucks for a ten-blade pack. If I’m going through a blade cartridge a week like Google suggests, I’ll be spending $130 each year on razor blades. This is the annual cost of a moderate drug addiction.
When I switched to MACH3 Turbo razors ten years ago, I bought a razor with two complementary blades for $7.99. A fair price, something I could afford. But when I tried to buy a pack of replacement blades, sticker shock stopped me in my tracks. I couldn’t bring myself to spend twenty-five dollars on razor blades.
Luckily, Christmas was right around the corner. Susan bought me a twelve-pack of blades and stuck them in my stocking. And so, a tradition was born. Each year, she buys me a twelve-pack, and I push each of those blades for a full month, four times longer than recommended. I make my Christmas gift last a whole year.
There’s a new trend in consumer goods. Instead of continually raising the prices for the products we frequently buy, companies have started reducing the quantity in the pack. Starting last year, my twelve-pack was discontinued. Now they sell a ten-pack. Just as they planned, I didn’t initially notice. It wasn’t until August that I recognized my shortage of blades. On November 9th, I popped in my last blade cartridge of the year. For six weeks, I’ve been shaving with the same tired razor blade, willing Christmas to hurry up and arrive.
New this year, Sophie and Eli took charge of stocking stuffers for Susan and me. Now that Sophie drives, they have more autonomy, more independence. They thought it would be fun to surprise us with stocking stuffers of their choosing. I reluctantly agreed, providing they understood the MACH3 Turbos are not optional. I let them know I can’t possibly shave another day more without a fresh supply of razor blades.
Question of the week from Sophie: “Hey Dad, why did they name your razor blade after a car?”