How the shaving industry let you down

Man discouraged after years of issues with multiblade razors.

It's 2024, two-thirds of men expect irritation when they shave, they don't know how fix it, all while having the highest cost of ownership in decades.

There are very few products that are as ubiquitous in people’s homes but poorly understood as the common razor.  If you showed 10 razors of all makes and designs to someone and told them to pick the razor that would work the best, they wouldn’t know what to look for. Are more blades better? Do lubricating strips work? Is a disposable just as good as the expensive stuff?

Ultimately they’d probably lean on whatever they already use or whatever commercial they’ve recently seen touting some new feature set.

Obviously marketing has been a powerful force of persuasion in consumer goods for decades now. But generally speaking, consumer understanding of products has increased with time. We’re much more savvy about nutrition, skincare, and electronics than ever before. A lot of the heavy lifting on that education is driven by the brands themselves. In order to make you interested in a product

Just take a look how detailed this video for Dyson’s new supersonic hair dryer is.

As consumers we understand that virtually all hair dryers will dry your hair. Check. But Dyson are augmenting their offering by delivering a product that drys your hair AND protects your scalp’s health.*

Similarly, but using a different approach, Humane leverage real-life experiences to explain the functionality of their new AI pin.

Both of those products know that they are not following the status quo, and as such they have a bit more convincing they need to do. Even if, as a consumer, you don’t ultimately buy those products, by consuming the content you’ve elevated your awareness and understanding of new offerings. For a subset of people, that will be at play each time you use the status quo, and it will make you (consciously or subconsciously) re-evaluate those products as you use them. Maybe you’d be more aware of your mindless scrolling on your smartphone as an example. Simply being aware of the alternative is an important part of the cycle of consumer behaviour. Generally speaking, consumers benefit from this cycle of innovation.

This innovation cycle hasn’t happened in the shaving industry for over 50 years. Most of the ‘disruptors’ that have come along, simply offered a different purchasing mechanism (subscriptions) or created a more appealing brand than the incumbents — all while selling essentially the same products. One could argue the last meaningful product innovation was the introduction of the first double-blade razor.

Twin blade razors addressed 2 category concerns at the time: namely, getting a very close shave, and reducing nicks and cuts. Pre 1970, virtually everyone used a safety razor, either double-edge or injector style. In order to encourage people to try a net-new style, shaving companies had to educate customers about the functional differences. Just saying it would work wasn’t sufficient. There was too much inertia around the dominate products of the time.


Now something is only better until it isn’t. While twin blade razors (and their multi-bladed successors) were successful in their objectives, the introduction of additional blades has lead to an increase in razor burn, irritation and in-grown hairs. But 50 years on, the industry (for the most part) continues to advocate for the multi-blade system.

In 2024, attitudes around facial hair (and body hair) are much more relaxed than they were in the 1970s. The pain point of the typical shaver in 2024 is irritation, bumps and in-grown hairs. When we started to research shaving irritation, we were genuinely shocked at just how little information exists. Recent data suggests two-thirds of men expect some irritation when they shave. Two out of three! That’s hundreds of millions of people with a problem that remains unsolved.

Because most people have almost no understanding on the mechanics of shaving, they are more susceptible to marketing saying one way or the other is best. And unlike Dyson or Humane, there are very few champions of knowledge in the razor industry.

A further consequence to the dearth of information, is that multiple generations of men and women have now grown up using cartridge razors, without much of an instruction manual to work with. As such, people press too hard, shave against the grain, don’t wet their hair, or any number of other mistakes. But it’s hard to blame them as the list of ‘best practices’ when it comes to shaving, is mostly relegated to certain wet shaving communities sprinkled across the internet.

A secondary result of the cartridge style razor is the razor and razor-blade business model. With the innovation coming in the form of the blades (and the cartridge that holds them), it allowed brands to turn the proprietary part of the offering away from the handle and onto the blades, which is the consumable part. This had a dramatic effect on profit, and brands quickly realized they could more or less ‘give away’ the handle. Customers, enticed by the innovation, unknowingly not only swapped handles, but economics. Specifically, a much higher cost of ownership.

We’ve discussed some of the psychology that’s at play that leads consumers to sometimes make poor economic choices before.

Interestingly, Dyson actually initially took his canister design to the big vacuum cleaner manufacturers, but they were resistant as they saw it as a threat to their vacuum bag revenue stream. (Remember vacuum bags?)

Vacuum bags are not the only example of a powerful business model leading to a stagnation of innovation. Why change when what you’re doing is so profitable?

Ok, so in the 50 years since multi-blade razors were introduced, the average shaver pays more to shave, understands it less, and likely still gets irritation from it. Well, shoot.

That’s crazy. C-R-A-Z-Y. Are we all ok with this?

Our CEO Daniel Jantzi has remarked that “it almost feels like the razor industry is intentionally broken.”

At Henson, we don’t have all the answers. But we’re going to get them. We’re embarking on a groundbreaking research project to establish a baseline data set around shaving irritation (facial erythema) in an effort to demystify shaving and give everyone the tools and know-how they need to get an irritation-free shave.


Dr. Mary Peirson is the CEO and Medical Director of ArtMed Skin Clinic and she agrees there is very little publicly available information on the topic of shaving and it’s impact on the skin. “Considering that this (shaving) is worldwide, you know, half the population is doing this; it’s shocking to me how little information there is in the medical literature. So I think it’s interesting that a company like yours is trying to add to that data set. To understand: ‘what are we dealing with here?’” She continues on to say “Best practices is really what you’re talking about. You’re trying to bring a scientific idea into the day-to-day world.”

We’ll be sharing results from our research along the way on our website and social channels. You can also learn about our initial proof-of-concept study.

Want to read more? This article is a great summary of the state of the razor industry, even thought it’s a few years old now.

*Henson has no affiliation with Dyson, Kodak or Humane nor has any comment on their product claims. This example was used merely to be illustrative.


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