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Is a reusable razor or a disposable razor really cheaper in the long run?

The first safety razors could leave your face lousy with nicks. See more pictures of personal hygiene practices.
George Marks/Getty Images

Men have been shaving their faces for a long, long time. It's believed that the Neanderthals would use sharp rocks to cut their beards down, and while this doesn't exactly count as shaving, it does display an early desire to limit facial hair. Over the years, men's faces have become increasingly smooth and stubble-free, thanks to pressures from society for the average businessman to be clean shaven. Women got into the act as well, with expectations for smooth legs and armpits.

Some say that the classic straight razor is still the best bet for getting a clean, close shave. It's the most environmentally friendly way to shave and maybe the most economical, too, even though a quality straight razor can go for as much as several hundred dollars. Then you need the sharpening strap at the very least, and the genuine old-school enthusiasts will want to buy the shaving soap, cup and badger-hair brush as well, adding to the expense. But you can sharpen the blade and get much more use out of it than any kind of conventional safety razor. There are also all manner of fancy electric shavers. These are pretty expensive, but you don't have to worry about throwing out a blade. Of course they do run on electricity, so there's the environment to consider.

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When it comes to the big two, disposable and reusable razors, you've got another decision to make. Do you go with the cheap disposable models or invest in the more expensive, reusable "shaving systems"? Some claim that the shave is about the same; others say that reusable razors offer a cleaner shaving experience. It's really a matter of preference in the performance department. Disposable razors are worse for the environment, although there are models now made from recycled plastic. Americans buy more than two billion disposable razors each year, and you can bet that most of them end up in a landfill [source: Eco-action.net].

If the environment isn't your concern and money is what matters most, we can offer you some advice. Click ahead to the next page to look at the financials of disposable versus reusable razors.

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Just a little off the sides, please.
Just a little off the sides, please.
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Razors, disposable and reusable varieties, come in many styles. In order to compare which one is most economical in the long run, we need to compare apples to apples. Gillette offers its battery-powered, light-up, five-blade Fusion Chrome shaving system, but we can't exactly compare that to a double-blade disposable, especially at its $150 initial investment ($120 on sale). Gillette does claim that after the initial purchase is made, you can supply yourself with replacement blades for about one dollar per week, based on "average consumption" [source: Gillette.com].

Of course, if you're really into saving money, you can test a blade's integrity by pushing it far past its limits. It may get dull and tear your face to pieces, but you'll be saving money. And neither Gillette, Bic nor Schick, the big three of shaving, will tell you how many shaves you can expect from any of their razors. They all recommend that you change the blades or toss the disposable models when they begin to get dull.

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There are high-end disposable and reusable razors, as well as bargain basement versions. Getting back to apple to apples, we'll go with the middle-of-the-road models of each and compare the same brand. Doing a little simple math based on a usage average of three quality shaves per disposable blade or razor, we can get some ballpark numbers to work with. While prices vary from place to place, and products are marked for sale on occasion, we'll use the Amazon.com list price to supply us with our data.

A Gillette Mach 3 razor that comes with two blades costs $11.99. A 12-pack of Mach 3 cartridges runs $27.00. That makes $38.99 for 14 cartridges and the razor. The fully disposable Gillette Sensor 3 razor costs $8.33 for a pack of three razors. That brings the reusable cartridge total to about $2.80 each, including the cost of the razor. The three-pack of disposables costs about $2.77 per razor. After just a few rounds of cartridge refills, the reusable razor pays for itself and the price goes down to roughly $2.25 per cartridge, cheaper than the $2.77 for the disposables.

In the world of razors, there are myriad choices that will affect the price point. But when you compare like products from the same brand, it appears that buying a reusable razor is cheaper in the long run. Even if you have to replace the razor a couple of times a year, you still come out ahead in the long run and you help save the environment a bit while you're at it.

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Sources

  • "Bic Comfort 3 "men" Shaver." Amazon.com. 2009.http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B001UHOTYA
  • "Gillette Disposable Customplus 3." Amazon.com. 2009.http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B001F51QLQ
  • "Pollution." Eco-action.net. 2009.http://www.eco-action.net/pollution.html
  • "Power Razor." Theartofshaving.com. 2009.http://www.theartofshaving.com/taos6/fcc_collection.php?show=50000&ref=Gillette20090717
  • "Products." Gillette.com. 2009.http://www.gillette.com/en-US/products.shtml#/products/
  • "Shaving and the environment." Greenivingtips.com. April 4, 2009.http://www.greenlivingtips.com/articles/312/1/Shaving-and-the-environment.html
  • "The Disadvantages of Disposable Razor Blades." Razorblades.biz. 2009.http://www.razorblades.biz/disadvantage_disposable.html
  • Gumbel, Peter. "A Cutthroat Business." Time.com. April 20, 2003.http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,444963,00.html
  • McLaren, Warren. "Q&A. The Close Shave." Treehugger.com, July 30, 2005.http://www.treehugger.com/files/2005/07/qa_the_close_sh.php

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