Beards, Razors and Marketing

Maybe a weird kind of topics for a writer’s blog, but bear with me. This could raise a bit of controversy in a $13 Billion a year industry. You see, I think the whole thing about shaving is overdone.


It’s a matter of personal taste and grooming, isn’t it? To shave or not to shave. Most guys know the cleanest shave comes from a barber with a single edge blade that is sharp as hell. The barber prepares the client with a hot towel to soften the tiny facial hair follicles while he hones the blade with a letter sharpening strap. This was how it was done for decades. And I dare to say it is still the best way to get a truly close shave.


So the personal shaving business came about because men’s grooming requirements for business in our modern age dictates daily shaves. Maintaining facial hair took a back seat. Most businesses allow for mustaches and some might allow well maintained bears, meaning something like that worn by a British man’s man not the standard Duck Dynasty or Z Z Top kind of monumental feature. You see, in the past men did not go to a barber daily for a shave and a haircut. They took periodic trips (weekly, bi-weekly, etc) depending on their personal standards. With the advent of the personal razor and shaving cream, men had the option to scrape the tiny hairs off their cheeks, chins and throats every morning – and for some men in the evening before going out.

Now, some of you may know I have sported a mustache and/or a beard for certain spans over the years. At present my part-time employer requires a neatly tripped mustache but does not allow a beard. Being a little tired of how I look with a mustache alone, I shaved it off earlier this year, around my birthday, actually. A couple of months prior to that, when I was still diligently looking for a job to supplement my income as a writer, I shaved off a beard I had worn for well over seven years – at varying lengths.

Razor Burn

I’ve had to get used to shaving regularly. It causes some problems. It irritates sensitive skin, especially after wearing a beard for so long. Also, those of us who have naturally curly hair, and especially men with nappy roots, can develop a condition called
pseudofolliculitis barbae, also known as barber’s itch. This happens when the sharp ends of recently cut hair follicles curve back into the skin and embed themselves producing a small pimple-like pustule. It is not something you want to have and the only real cure for it is letting your beard grow enough. But for those who must shave you can let the beard grow for the few days necessary for the sharp hairs to pull themselves out of the skin. The time interval also allows for the attendant skin rash to heal.

Now there are a plethora of shaving products out there and many treat irritated skin. Many contain alcohol which not only produces a cool kind of burning of the recently scraped skin but also toughens the skin to the daily abuse men must endure to have the clean shaven look.


Now, lets enter the marketing realm and take a look at the crass business side of things along with the development of electric and multi-blade razors. First off electric razors are a ;poor substitute for a wet shave, in my opinion. I’ve owned one and like most men who received one as a gift at one or more points in life it wound up stuffed in a drawer after a period of less than satisfying use. Do they work at all? Yes, they remove beard from sight. Pretreating the skin and beard aids in creating the feel of a close shave but I think most men prefer lathering up and shaving – if they need to shave at all.

I occurs to me that electric roars, including the more recent wet electric roars – are mainly marketing gimmicks. They work well enough to be used with some modicum of overall satisfaction from the general public and a lot of time, effort and expense has gone into researching and development of improved products over the years. But nothing compared to the barber’s shave as the standard of excellence.

1956 Pal InjectoMatic Injector Razor (2)Injector

Double Edgewilkinson


In the quest for a personally substitute for a trip to the barber we’ve seen straight razors evolve into injector blade roars, doubled edged razors (that allowed one to flip it over to continue shaving before ring off the accumulated amalgam of beard and saving cream) and multiple blade razors.

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I am old enough to recall the first wave of double blade products and the initial pitches – usually during televised sporting events. There was one commercial in particular that simple amazed me and prompted me to replicate the ‘test’ in a mocking way using the edge of one of my first credit cards. The commercial purported to demonstrate how much closer the see of a man;s face way when it was shaved with a double blade roar as opposed to a single edged one. What a marketing coup! The problem is that the less than scientific evidence was easily faked as I demonstrated many times by applying more pressure to the credit card when running it over the stubble of my face.

The principle behind the double blade roars was that the first blade pulled the hair out slightly and the second blade comes along quickly, before the beard hair has time to recover and it lops it off a second time, supposedly below the skin’s surface. After wards the shaven hair is naturally tugged back into the skin, just below the surface. Of course, I would be concerned that this would promote the aforementioned irritated skin condition,if, in fact, what was really happening was that the beard was being trimmed twice, at different levels. Personally, I doubt that the second blade is actually cutting the hair off before it has time to revert to its rest state int he skin. I’m pretty sure the beard snaps back faster than any number of blades could come along and lop it off again. So the whole multi blade roar phenomenon is a mostly marketing gimmick.


If two blades are better than one, what about three? Four? Five?  Look at the genius of this. The blade manufacturers can sell you five blades at a time and five or more time the cost of a single blade and…imagine this, you will be forced to use it fewer times because of the close proximity of the blade and the difficulty cleaning away the debris that gums up the gap between the blades. The more blades and the closer they are spaced together the worse the situation. So, you are getting two, three, four or five blades and paying two, three, four or five times what you would pay for a single blade. They are made in a process that bonds thin metal foil to a flexible strip of mylar The sharpness outlasts the utility of the blade unless you figure out how to clear away the debris with an old toothbrush or some precision dental instrument. Even so, the blades have often been decided to limit the amount if flow through from the front to the back, enhancing the likelihood that a clog of hair and cream will render the device useless.

So, I’m pretty sure that by design these multiple blade razors were a means of getting men to pay more some something that by design they will be able to use less before replacing. That’s how an industry grows.

All razors work well enough. There is probably some minor increase in closeness of a shave from multiple blade razors because, after all, two blades would, in theory, reduce the number of stroked the shaver must be pulled across the face, regardless of whether it actually cuts the beard below the skin’s surface. But the downside is the increased expense of the blades and the diminished longevity of utility. So more blades me more money and fewer shaves per dollar spent.

#shaving #razors #barbers #marketing #beards #RazorBurn


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