Are You Wasting Money? Here’s How Long Your Razor Blade SHOULD Last

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There’s a reason why the Dollar Shave Club was just recently bought by Unilever for $1 Billion (yes with a ‘B’) dollars:

Razor blades are ungodly expensive, and no man likes paying hand over fist for cartridge replacements.

Now I will admit, when I was a bit younger and strapped for cash, I would try to extend the life out of my razor as much as possible.

But, this begs the question:

How many shaves can you really get per blade?

While this is a bit of an open-ended question due to the fact that there are many different types of razors that exist in the market place, we want to go ahead and break apart each popular shaving system…

…and we will take it a bit further.

In fact, we will also go over some secrets that men have been using for years to not only extend the life of their razor blade, but also some tips and tools that will significantly reduce your cost per blade.

By the end of this guide, I promise that you will not only save a boat load of money on razor blades, but also discover how to get a better, closer, and more comfortable shave.

So, let’s dive into the cartridge razor first:

cartridge razor pitfalls

How Many Shaves Per Cartridge Razor Head

By and far the most popular razor system in the world will be the cartridge razor.

Not to be confused with the disposable razor that is a single piece, a cartridge razor is where the razor head is ejectable (i.e. think Gillette and Schick high-end multi-blade razors).

With these systems, you keep the handle but replace the head on a regular basis.

But how many shaves should you expect to get out of a cartridge razor?

In total, most men on average get about 30 shaves of their cartridge razor for their face.

Here’s a key point to this though:

As a bald man that occasionally shaves my face, I have a much shorter lifespan with my trusty cartridge razor.

The reason being is that the surface area is simply more and therefore makes the cartridge razor do a whole lot more work (i.e. the surface area of my head is much greater than just my face).

So if you are also hair follicle derived like myself, expect to get around 20 shaves from your cartridge razor before it will need to be replaced.

How To Reduce The Cost Per Blade Of A Cartridge Razor

As we eluded to at the beginning of this guide, shave clubs have grown rapidly in recent years.

Among the most popular will be Dollar Shave Club and Harry’s.

Both of which offer introductory plans that ring in at under $5 bucks a month and often include a shave cream (or butter) in addition to the razor.

Now if you still aren’t looking to commit to a monthly contract with one of the big shave subscription services, another option is to ‘downgrade’.

Seriously, there is no reason or rule that you MUST need 5 or 6 blades on the head of a cartridge razor in order to get a close shave.

Sure, a 5 or 6 blade razor may mildly increase comfort, but there are plenty of men who still rely on their Mach 3 to get the job done.

Not only is the shave just about as close as the newer systems that exist, but also the replacement cartridges often ring up at a fraction of the cost of the latest and greatest models.

what is a double edge safety razor

How Often Should I Change My Safety Razor Blade?

Ahh, the safety razor (also known as the double edge safety razor or DE razor).

Once all the rage in the early 1900s, the safety razor had taken a backseat to its electric and cartridge counterparts for a number of years.

But just recently, the safety razor has now started to experience a renaissance of sorts.

Here’s why:

While not the easiest to learn, nor the longest lasting blades on the market, safety razors are perfect for men who want total control with their razor (for better or worse).

But there is a bigger reason why men are loving safety razors today – they are cheap.

In fact, you can expect to spend just pennies per blade.

When it comes to lifespan of the razor blades found in safety razors, they are significantly shorter than both cartridge or electric razors – in fact, you can expect (and should) change out your safety razor on a weekly basis (or about every 6 shaves).

This is assuming that you are making three passes with your safety razor blade during every shave session:

  • With the grain
  • Across the grain
  • Against the grain

While safety razor blades are just as every bit sharp as a cartridge razor, the single blade found on the head does all the cutting (as opposed to a cartridge razor that has 5 blades sharing the work).

How To Reduce The Cost Per Blade For A Safety Razor

Given that safety razor blades are already pretty cheap, you have very little in the way of wiggle room to work with.

For men looking to shave a few pennies (pun intended) off their monthly grooming budget, we would recommend that you test out other blades on the market and see if you can find a bargain blade that delivers the same results as a pricier blade.

In fact, we recently outlined all the popular safety razor blades (along with their cost per blade) in this post.

It’s important to note, that just because a blade is ‘cheap’ doesn’t necessarily mean that it will perform poorly.

The lower price point may be due to the labor costs of where the blade was manufactured (i.e. German blades tend to be pricier than India made blades).

A variety pack is great for testing out blades from different countries at an affordable price.

But as you will find out in just a minute, there are a few tricks men use to extend the life of safety razor blades…

…but first the straight razor:

straight edge razor

How Long Does A Straight Razor Last?

Straight razors come in two varieties:

Shavettes (also known as the barber straight razor) and traditional straight edge razors.

Both share the same single handle form factor, however, shavettes offer an ejectable blade (often found in barbershops due to their sanitary nature).

This ejectable blade is very similar to the safety razor blade, and you should expect about a week’s worth of shaving from this straight razor variety.

The traditional straight razor is a bit more tricky to estimate the number of shaves you can expect.  The reason being is that you are responsible for sharpening the blade yourself with a strop.

So, depending on the man, some like to sharpen their blade before every shave session while others may sharpen on a weekly basis.

Therefore, its largely up to you to decide how often to sharpen the blade.

But we would recommend at least weekly if you shave daily.

How To Reduce The Cost Of A Straight Razor

Honestly, there isn’t much you can do here, other than trading in your shavette for a straight razor.

Straight razors are designed to last a lifetime and then some.

Proper care, stropping, and honing of the blade will allow this razor variety to be passed down from one generation to the next.

electric shaver

How Long Do Electric Razor Blades Last?

Electric shavers come in two varieties: foil and rotary.

While we won’t get into the nuances of the different heads of electric shavers, if you want to learn more, check out our in-depth guide comparing rotary and foil heads here.

Within the foil and rotary categories, there are largely two manufacturers: Philips (maker of rotary electric shavers) and Braun (maker of foil electric shavers)

How Often Should You Change A Braun Foil Head?

Braun recommends that their heads are changed out every 18 months.

Going longer than the recommended time may lead to hairs being pulled and general post-shave discomfort.

While some Braun foil electric shavers can cost more than $300 bucks, the replacement blades are significantly cheaper – and ring up at about $50 dollars.

How Often Should You Change A Philips Rotary Head?

Per the Philips Norelco website, it is recommended that you change out the rotary head once every 12 months.

While a bit more frequent than the Braun foil head, replacement heads for the Philips Norelco electric shavers do tend to have slightly lower prices at around $40 a head.

Other Electric Razor Replacement Timelines

Generally, when looking at other brands like Panasonic and Wahl, you will want to check the owner’s manual for the most accurate information.

However, we found that most recommend a replacement of the blades once every year.

brushless shave cream

What Can You Do To Extend The Life Of Any Razor Blade?

To squeeze every penny out of your razor blade, men will often resort to these tested methods to extend the lifespan of their trusted blade of choice.

Pre Shave Oil (i.e. Shaving Oil)

If you aren’t aware of what shaving oil is, you should be, especially if you shave on a regular basis.

Often chalked full of natural (or in some cases, synthetic) ingredients, pre shave oils will make for a much more comfortable shave.

Providing a slick lubricated base, shaving oil makes it significantly easier for the razor blade to glide along the surface of your skin while cutting your hair.

The addition of the shaving oil will ensure that there is less friction and subsequently less stress on the razor blade and your skin.

While pre shave oil price points can vary wildly on the market, some natural solutions cost upwards of $20 while other synthetic options ring up at ~$5.

Quality Shave Creams That Will Preserve Your Razor Blades

Shave creams not only increase the comfort while you shave, but a quality cream will contain rich lubricants that will help to preserve your razor blade.

So whether you go with a brushless shave cream like a Cremo or Jack Black’s Beard Lube or with a more traditional offering from Taylor of Old Bond Street, the end result will be the same: a much better shave for both your skin and razor blade.

Related: Taylor of Old Bond Street Review

If you aren’t sure which type of shave cream is best for you, check out our in-depth comparison of all the top brands on the market.

There we go over scents, value, performance, and more.

Razor Blade Dryers Will Help Extend The Life Of A Razor Blade

One of the mean rains that razor blades perform poorly over time will be due to oxidation.

Try to make sure that you remember to dry the blades (safely of course) after each use. This can help to increase the lifespan of the razor blade and ultimately save you money.

Go With A Safety Razor For Cheapest Cost Per Shave

While we went through all the different razors and their blade lifespans in this article, we cannot stress enough the value that a safety razor delivers.

With blades only costing a few pennies as opposed to blades that cost a few dollars found in their cartridge counterpart, you really do save money hand-over-fist with this shave system.

So if you have the patience to perfect your shave technique and don’t mind the occasional nick while you are learning, buy yourself a quality safety razoryou will be glad you did.

Adopt A Good Shave Routine

High-quality products won’t mean a darn thing if your shave routine isn’t right.

The most important factor you need to do before you shave in order to extend the life of your razor blade is to shower.

Showering before shaving not only softens the hair follicles significantly, but it also will help to loosen up the sebum oil nestled in your pores.

This natural oil that your body produces will coat both your skin and hair shaft – ultimately increasing comfort and lessening the work needed by your razor blade.

If showering isn’t convenient for you, then the next best alternative is to simply apply a hot towel to your face for about 5 minutes prior to shaving.

This will achieve similar effects as a thorough shower.

Wrapping Up The Best Methods To Extend The Life Of Your Razor Blades

While every shave system is unique, some baseline rules are always going to be important.  Ample lubrication coupled with the application of a quality shave cream will help to extend the life of any razor blade.

However, instead of just trying to squeeze pennies out of a cartridge or electric shaver, we would recommend that you check out other alternatives like the double edge safety razor or simply a shave subscription service.

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About Shawn Burns

Shawn Burns is the founder and senior editor of Tools of Men. He started this site with the goal of teaching men proper grooming habits and sensible style. Shawn's expertise includes in-depth product reviews and how-to articles. Shawn was recently featured in the Wall Street Journal for his expertise.