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“Adapt or perish.”
H.G. Wells wasn’t referencing shaving when he wrote that, but it’s an imperative the industry has always abided nonetheless.
For decades, the Schicks and Gillettes of the world have been adding bells and whistles to their products in an effort to improve something that was never really broken in the first place: the cartridge razor. Chief among these alleged innovations has been the addition of extra blades (Gillette thinks five is the magic number), even though studies indicate that anything above three is unnecessary.
As if to illustrate that point, single-blade, double-edged safety razors have actually grown in popularity in recent years. The biggest improvement to cartridge razors, meanwhile, has had nothing to do with the product itself, but rather, how it’s sold. Dollar Shave Club (acquired by Unilever for $1 billion in 2016) and Harry’s (acquired by Edgewell for $1.37 billion last week) have wrested market share from the old guard by offering a subscription model that drastically reduces the cost of shaving.
But Gillette is worth $17 billion, and doesn’t plan on going down the proverbial sink any time soon. So adapt, they must.
Enter the brand’s shiny new Heated Razor, now available for preorder (“ships in time for Father’s Day,” the site promises). It’s the first product from the company’s fledgling GilletteLabs division, an incubator of sorts that introduced the Heated Razor via a very press-friendly Indiegogo campaign last fall.
The Heated Razor is exactly what you think it is: a rechargeable unit that radiates heat in an effort to emulate the hot shaves you’d get at an old-school barbershop. Whether it actually achieves that, though, is a different question — and one we set out to answer when we got our hands on a press sample earlier this month.
What It’s Supposed to Do
Gillette will tell you that the heated razor will let you “experience the comfort of a hot towel with every stroke.” It achieves this via “warming technology [read: a narrow bar below the blades that emanates heat when activated] that heats up in less than a second to provide continuous soothing warmth to your skin.” On a scientific level, we’re told a warm shave is superior because it opens up the pores and prevents razor burn (though the jury is actually out on that). On a sensory level, a warm shave is superior because it is fucking warm.
“Isn’t that what shaving with warm water is for?” Yes. But if you shave with a stopped sink of warm water, that water is probably tepid at best by the time you finish. And if you shave with a running faucet, shame on you.
A warm shave is superior because it is fucking warm.
What We Like About It
The first thing you’ll notice about the Heated Razor after unboxing it and getting everything plugged in is that it’s fairly nice to look at. The device sits vertically on its wireless charger (good for up to six uses) thanks to some high-powered magnets, and makes a handsome addition to any countertop or shower nook.
Once you turn it on, the device heats up in seconds; there are two temperature levels you can toggle between according to preference. The shave itself is noticeably warmer than what you’d get from running your razor under hot water, but I cannot claim that it will in any way give you a “better,” “smoother” or less irritated shave. It just kind of … feels good. In the same way that having a heated toilet in your bathroom feels good — indulgent but entirely unnecessary.
Beyond that, the biggest benefit seems to be that it affords you a comprehensively warm shave without having to keep the water running, which could be a big selling point for some.
What We Don’t Like About It
If you’ve been reading this with one eyebrow incredulously raised thinking, “OK, but what’s the damage?”, you are a very wise and savvy man.
A Gillette Fusion5 (the razor I use in my normal, non-razor-reviewing life) with two cartridges costs around $11. A four-pack of replacement blades costs around $14. Harry’s will sell you a razor for $9 and eight cartridges for $16.
The GilletteLabs Heated Razor, meanwhile, will set you back $200. A five-pack of the heated cartridges — which are requisite for the heating functionality to work — is $25. That is no small disparity.
Should You Buy It?
At my current salary and life stage, I would not buy this razor. I will happily acknowledge that the heat adds a modicum of comfort to my shave — I just don’t think that modicum is worth the difference in price I’d pay versus the fine, commendable alternatives listed above.
But if you are willing to cover that price difference in exchange for a slightly more enjoyable shaving experience, it’s not a bad purchase. I also think it would make a novel, memorable gift for fathers, grandfathers and avuncular types who get a kick out of tech’d-up versions of household items.
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