The Best Shave Club (And Why You Should Avoid It)


(Sam Solomon) #1

What makes the best shave club? If you’re looking to ditch the high prices of traditional razor blades and are looking for a subscription service, look no further than Dollar Shave Club’s 4x. It’s cheap and provides a great shave. If you’re willing to pay slightly more and want a razor with a trimmer blade, Harry’s 5-blade Truman is a better value than the DSC Executive.

And then again, maybe you shouldn’t join one. If you don’t mind ditching the shave club, Dollar Shave Club’s unbranded razors and cartridges can be found on Amazon for even less. For example is the 4x razor is the same as the Dorco Pace 4 with replacement cartridges. The Executive goes by the Pace 6 Pus and also has replacement cartridges.

In my weeks of testing I’ve discovered that this is the best and most economical solution.


The Best Shave Club: Dollar Shave Club

I’ve been a long-time member of Dollar Shave Club. I’ve been a fan since their hit commercial back in 2012.

DSC has quality blades at a reasonable price. Although I like the quality of The Executive, the 4x Razor is easily the best value.

I was also suprised at the quality of the Dr. Carvers line of shave products. Two products, the Prep Scrub and Shave Butter, definitely improved the quality of my shave.

If you’re looking for the best shave club, the answer for most is Dollar Shave Club.

If You Need a Trimmer Blade: Harry’s Will Do

While Harry’s might not meet the premium expectations that it’s brand sets, I do think it is a decent value if you need a rear trimmer blade. It is much more affordable than upgrading to the DSC Executive.

If you do decide to go with Harry’s, maybe give the Winston handle a look. I was disappointed by the quality and performance of the Truman.

My Recommendation: Ditch Shave Clubs and Buy DSC Blades on Amazon

I didn’t realize this until pretty far along in this review, but you can by the exact same Dollar Shave Club razor cartridges and handles on Amazon for much cheaper. All of Dollar Shave Clubs razors appear under the Dorco brand.

Here are the razors reviewed here along with their replacement cartridges. Other than the labels on the handle, they are identical.

It’s really a great deal if you consider that you receive an additional 5 percent discount by signing up for Amazon’s Subscribe and Save option.

You may want to stick with shave clubs for other offerings they provide such as tooth brushes, body wash or facial care products. However, if you’re only interested in shaving money, pick up your blades on Amazon.


Table of contents

Testing

How did I test for the best shave club?

Starting with trial kits from each site, I dedicated six weeks to testing both Dollar Shave Club and Harry’s blades. I spent two weeks with Dollar Shave Club’s Executive razor and two weeks with their 4-blade razor. Then I spent the final two weeks with Harry’s Truman razor.

The trial kits are not free. I purchased them with my own money. However, I think the pricing is fair. Harry’s cost $3 with one razor. DSC cost $5 and included 4 razors. Both kits get free shipping.

I decided to test two of Dollar Shave Club’s razors, because I was skeptical about the 6-blaze Executive and wasn’t sure if that was going to be a better competitor than Dollar Shave Club’s 4x.

Criteria for this review

This could easily be a post about the best razor blade—or at least the best value razor blade. It is partly that, but I wanted to consider other things that make up membership to shave clubs.

Both Harry’s and Dollar Shave Club bundle other products with their subscription. I’ll talk about those along with first impressions, how their shaving gels stack up. Since this is a subscription I’m also going to talk about the difficulty of making changes or canceling subscriptions.

With that said, here’s a more detailed summary of what I am looking for:

First Impressions

Maybe first impressions aren’t everything, but I’m a designer and pay keen attention to details. I’m always curious about the expectations brands set and whether or not their products deliver. This review is exciting because both the Harry’s and Dollar Shave club brands are so unique.

How do each of the shave club’s trial kits stack up against once another? How is the branding? Did the products meet or exceed my expectations? What are the little details that stuck out?

Blade Handle

While not as important as the blade itself, the handle is an important part of the razor. After all, after you’ve discarded the cartridge the handle will stay with you. A good razor handle should be attractive. It should provide a good grip to prevent slipping while shaving. It should hold the cartridge tightly and have an easy ejection mechanism for when you’re done shaving.

Razor Quality

OK, this is a heavily weighted item in this list. Mainly, because this is what you’re really purchasing when you sign up for a shave club.

What makes a good razor blade? A good razor provides a very close shave. Often smaller cartridges provide more maneuverability, while making it more difficult to clean—and often at the expense of extra blades within the cartridge. Some cartridges come with a trimmer blade on the back. This provides a better shave for difficult places, like directly under your nose.

Shaving Cream and Additional Products

Both of the trial kits I ordered came with additional products. Are they worth buying?

Best Value

A BMW or Mercedes is better than a Honda in almost every way, but at the end of the day the Honda is much more practical. I’m going to be comparing my notes and making a recommendation based on the value of the shaving clubs.


Harry’s First Impressions


Harry’s website, harrys.com.

I put a lot of faith in products if their marketing team has excellent creative and brand design. Companies that invest in those areas tend to also invest heavily in the product.

This was my initial perception of Harry’s. There is incredible attention to detail everywhere. I love the brand colors and logo and the simplicity of their packaging design. I like the perfectly set pictures of razor blades and the use of Brandon Grotesque on Harry’s website—and I generally hate that typeface.


The package inside of my Harry’s box.

One other thing I generally look for is how focused a company is. Instead of several different blades, there is only a single 5-blade razor. If you look closely, the about page goes into detail about the German factory that produces the blades.

Harry’s has two types of handles. The Truman is plastic and comes in a variety of colors. Then there is the fancier Winston which is die-cast zinc and polished chrome. Better yet, look how simple they are? Compare that with every other razor, which looks like an amped-up toothbrush.


Five O’Clock, a men’s magazine by Harry’s.

Then there is Five O’Clock, a men’s magazine. The shaving club, has a magazine! Well, a blog that is branded as a magazine. This is exactly the type of bourgeois brand I want to buy my razors from.

The brand is cultured, attentive to detail and has a drawing of a mammoth for their logo. What’s not to love?


The first thing you see when opening a Harry’s shipment is this cute box being air dropped.

First impressions do not disappoint. The packaging design is exceptional. Hell, there is an adorable little package with a parachute illustration on the inside of the box I received. Someone thought about the experience of opening this kit.

How can this not be the shaving club for me?


The contents of Harry’s trial kit.

What’s included?

  • Harry’s Truman handle
  • One 5-blade cartridge
  • One blade protector
  • 2oz Harry’s shaving gel
  • Getting started booklet

This is what I got for $3. I wish my trial included more blades. However, this should still be fine for the two weeks I’ll be using it.

Although now it appears you can do a trial for $8 and get a 4-cartridge shipment. I suppose customers must have asked for additional time to test the blades.

Dollar Shave Club First Impressions


Dollar Shave Club’s website, dollarshaveclub.com.

The contrast in branding between Dollar Shave Club and Harry’s is interesting. Harry’s has positioned itself as the premium brand (while still being cheaper than many Gillette products). On the other hand DSC is going for the masculine, almost-blue-collar choice. This is the razor for real men! Not models or athletes or stars.

I love the Dollar Shave Club website. It is exactly what I would expect from this brand. Front and center is a video of normal-looking guys shaving, brushing their teeth, washing their hair. There’s one guy in the mix playing video games on the toilet and another drinking a beer in the bathtub.

These clips in this video are so relatable. Nothing being glossed over or polished here.

Honestly, my first impression is that this is a carefully curated brand that delivers. While I don’t find it as attractive as Harry’s, the brand is exactly what it needs to be. Also, I’m a sucker for exceptional copywriting and DSC clearly wins in that bracket.


Everything that’s included in Dollar Shave Club’s trial kit.

What does DSC put in their trial kit?

  • One Executive (or 4x razor, if you went with that option)
  • Four 6-blade cartridges
  • One Dr. Carvers Prep Scrub sample
  • One Dr. Carvers Shave Butter sample
  • One Dr. Carvers Post Shave Dew sample
  • A welcome handbook
  • DSC’s famous bathroom minutes

For $5 this kit seems like a really great value. There’s probably 1 or 2 months of use here depending on how often you shave.

Interesting enough, Dollar Shave Club also has a magazine of sorts. Instead of a super-sleek, online magazine it’s this quirky pamphlet with a few sheets of paper folded called Bathroom Minutes. It’s about 16 pages of general commentary, opinions, How-to articles and several puzzles. I am super-impressed by the writing. This isn’t a second thought that they just handed off to interns. It’s quirky, on-brand and I love it.

Honestly, my first impression is that this is a carefully curated brand that delivers. While I don’t find it as attractive as Harry’s, the brand is exactly what it needs to be. Also, I’m a sucker for exceptional copywriting and DSC clearly wins in that bracket.

Harry’s: Truman Handle


A closer look at the Truman in orange.

The first thing I felt disappointed about was the handle of the razor. I knew it was going to a rubber-coated plastic, but I was expecting better-quality. Once the rubber-coated section ends the plastic connector both looks and feels cheap. It’s not what you would expect from a premium product.

Another thing that surprised me was the weight of the handle. It does weigh a bit more than the plastic disposable razor’s you’d pick up at the grocery store, but not as heavy as it looks. I was hoping it would have more of a heft to it.

For as much as I love the simple design of the Truman, it becomes difficult to grip when shaving. Often the aesthetics of a product aren’t practical. This is the case with this razor. When shaving with the Truman the handle became slippery and a bit difficult to hold.

For all my jokes about the ridiculous look of most razor handles, the amped-up toothbrush look is definitely more practical. At least it is easier to hold.

Perhaps paying $20 or so for the Winston handle would solve the above issues? I think it would, but didn’t test it. Certainly a die-cast zinc handle is going to be more weighty. It also has a rubber section with a more rigid surface, which would likely fix the grip issue.

My biggest issue with this handle is that the connection mechanism doesn’t feel great. There’s two parts to that the look and feel, as well as the connection mechanism. The Truman and Winston take the same cartridges. You still get the cheap-looking, plastic connector. The cartridge fit a bit loose in my trial kit.

When you’re ready to eject and replace the cartridge you move the plastic on the handle up. It was a little awkward and required me to use two hands. One for the handle and one to fiddle with the ejection. I was able to do it with one, but it could be easier.

Comparatively most other razors have a satisfying spring where the cartridge almost shoots out. With the Harry’s handle it really just kind of falls where it is. Or, if it isn’t downward facing enough, you have to remove the blade yourself.

I love the marketing and aesthetic, but the quality here is disappointing.

DSC: The Executive and 4x Handle


Dollar Shave Club’s flagship razor, The Executive.

The Executive is Dollar Shave Club’s best and most expensive razor. I had not used it before this review and am very impressed.

The handle is heavy. The shiny part you see in the picture above is metal and it it noticeable the second you pick it up.

While I don’t like how it looks as much as I like the Truman or Winston, it could be worse. That bright blue color is a hard plastic that separates the rubber grip from the metal. If they would have made that gray, it would have huge improvements on the look of this razor.

And as for that rubber grip—it is exceptional. It’s a bit soft and when combined with the grip texture, it provided the least slippery surface of all the razors reviewed here.


Of all the razors I reviewed The Executive had the best connection mechanism.

The Executive has an excellent cartridge connection mechanism. When you add them the cartridges satisfyingly click into place. To remove them your press a rubber-coated button towards the top of the handle. It’s easy to do with one hand and the cartridge goes flying. It’s perfect.


The slightly cheaper 4x.

There’s also the 4x, Dollar Shave Club’s mid-tier option. This has been the razor I’ve been using before this review and decided to throw it in here for comparison.

Build quality of the handle is very similar to The Executive. However, I think it is much worse looking. There is this odd black and white stripe pattern used for the grip along the side. It’s not my tase, but it is functional.

The shiny part in the photo is metal, but it is less exposed. Also, while there is more rubber, it isn’t as soft or grippy as The Executive.

From what I can tell the connection and ejection mechanism follows the same, solid design of The Executive. Everything I said above also applies here.

Harry’s razor quality


A close-up of Harry’s 5-blade system.

As much as I harped on Harry’s handle quality I do think the razors themselves are rather good.

Harry’s razors use a 5-blade system. A single cartridge works for both the Truman and Winston handles. Generally, I think anything beyond four blades becomes a bit overkill (or fluff for marketing), but I have no complaints about it. It provides a solid shave.

The distance between the blades is a little tight. I found required a little bit of effort to clean, but I think it’s a good size for a 5-blade razor. If it was much larger, it would make it a tad difficult to maneuver.


A trimmer blade can be found on the back of each cartridge.

It also has an additional trimmer blade on the rear. Larger-blade systems work well over the majority of areas you’d shave, but they often have trouble getting the mustache whiskers under your nose. If you go for a clean shave, it will make a world of difference.

Dollar Shave Club’s razor quality


The tightly-packed, 6-blade system in DSC’s Executive.

There are three separate system’s in Dollar Shave Club’s lineup:

  • The Executive 6-Blade System (Plus trimmer blade)
  • The 4x 4-Blade System
  • The Humble Twin 2-Blade System

For this review I’m looking at The Executive and 4x systems. If you want a 2-blade system, you’re just as well off with disposable blades.

Note: Interestingly, it looks like dollar shave club has recently removed the Humble Twin from it’s lineup. That was the blade that cost $1 (plus $2 shipping), but made the name. I suppose other customers came to the same conclusion.

As I mentioned earlier, anything beyond four blades starts to get silly. And here we are with the six-blade Executive. Also, the six blades are placed pretty tightly into the cartridge. Like Harry’s system, I found it a bit difficult to clean.

My perception is that this provides a fine shave. I am not sure that it is any better than a four-or-five blade system. Here the size of the cartridge begins to become an issue and makes it a bit more difficult to maneuver.


Rear trimmer blade on the DSC Executive.

The good news is that the Executive does have a trimmer blade, which makes the large cartridge a bit more forgiving. All-in all, I think this is a rather good, although more expensive system.


Detail of the 4x, my favorite of all the razors.

Of all the blades tested, my favorite was Dollar Shave Club’s 4x. As the name insinuates, it is a 4-blade system. There are a couple things that make the 4x stand apart from the other options in this review.

The cartridge is the smallest of the others I tested. This provides more maneuverability and makes it easier to shave under your nose.

More importantly, this cartridge was the easiest to clean. If you look closely at the picture, you can see between the blades. Even though this cartridge is on the smaller side. it has more room for water to run through when washing. I’ll take an easily cleanable 4-blade system over a tight five or six.

The one mark against this design is that the 4x is the only one in this review that does lack a rear trimmer blade.

Harry’s Shave Gel


Harry’s trial kit comes with 2oz of it’s shaving gel.

The two products that Harry’s trial kit came with were a cover thingy and this shave gel.

I’ve never been much of a fan of shave gels and Harry’s version didn’t change my opinion. It’s compact—perahps good for travel. It provides an adequite shave, but I prefer my boring $1 Barbasol foam.

If I stayed a Harry’s subscriber, I would not add shave gel into my subscription.

DSC Shave Butter and Additional Products


The trio of Dr. Carver’s branded products that shipped with the Dollar Shave Club trial kit.

On the other hand I was pleasantly surprised by the Dr. Carver’s products included in the DSC kit.

Mandatory Prep Scrub is an exfoliating pre-shave scrub. It’s unscented and has a lot of micro-beads or whatever provides the rough texture. It’s actually much more than any other exfoliating scrub I’ve used. I really like it. If you’re a DSC subscriber, I’d say this is a must-add.

Easy Shave Butter is not what I was expecting. I expected some sort of gel, but the shave butter never foams—even as you rub it in. It’s actually more like a lotion and becomes transparent. In either case it works rather well. Also probably worth adding to the subscription.

Also, more excellent copywriting on the product detail page.

  • Tested on interns (not animals)

Disappearing Post Shave Dew is an after shave lotion with a subtle lemongrass scent. It’s not greasy, and does a good job moisturizing post-shave. I’d probably only add this if there was a bundle deal with the above options.

Overall, I’m impressed with Dollar Shave Club’s additional products.

What is the best value shave club?


DSC 4x Razor, DSC Executive, Harry’s Truman.

When comparing the shave clubs and everything together. I have to say that Dollar Shave Clubs offerings are rather impressive. But how does this look when you’re looking for the best value razor?

Of all the blades I’ve tested, here’s how they stack up.

Razor Cartridges/Shipment Blades/Razor Cost/Order Cost/Cartridge
DSC 4x 4 4-blade $6.00 $1.50
Harry’s Truman 8 5-blade $15.00 $1.88
DSC Executive 4 6-blade $9.00 $2.25

When it comes to recurring costs there’s about 28 cents between the DSC 4x and Harry’s cartridges. Although the minimum order costs only $6.00 as opposed to $15.00 for Harry’s. The move to The Executive at $2.25 per cartridge gets close to traditional razor prices that people try and avoid when joining a shave club.

When looking for overall value, the Dollar Shave Club and the 4x razor is the clear winner. For most people looking to join a shave club, that would be my recommendation.

If you do need a rear trimmer blade, I think that Harry’s will do. I don’t like the handle quality as much—perhaps upgrading to the Winston handle will help. As good of a razor as the executive is, I don’t think the cost per cartridge increase is a good value.

Is Dollar Shave Club or Harry’s worth it?

The title of this review is The Best Shave Club (And Why You Should Avoid It). That may be taking things a bit far. I was very impressed with the DSC product line.

However, if you are simply looking for cheap, quality razors. The exact same handles and blades distributed by Dollar Shave Club can be purchased for much less. The manufacturer is Dorco and both razors are under their Pace brand.

I didn’t figure this out until well into this review. After looking through reddit and other forums for opinions on shave clubs, I saw the Dorco name appear several times.

They are identical. If you’re already a Dollar Shave Club subscriber, you can purchase the respective cartridges above and they will fit your 4x or Executive handle. You’ll find that cartridges are consistently 20 to 30 cents cheaper when buying them on Amazon.

You can shave another 5 percent off those low prices by subscribing on Amazon. Even if you only shave occasionally, you can subscribe and have one order sent every six months. I think that’s a solid deal.


Sources and further reading

  1. Sue Byrne, Which Shave Club Has the Best Razor?, Consumer Reports, 4/25/2016
  2. Brady Dale, We Tried Dollar Shave Club, Harry’s and Gillette—One Was Clearly the Best, Observer.com, 8/30/16
  3. Dan Koeppel, The Best Manual Razor for Most Faces, The Wirecutter, 11/27/2017

Originally Published March 25, 2018


(Geeze) #2

Received a Harry’s starter set as a gift and it seemed OK. Wasn’t impressed enough to stick with it.

I just felt like the blades were too expensive to continue purchasing. It was cheaper to go back to BIC disposable blades from Kroger. They might not be quite as good, but they work well enough for me.

Is there a particular reason you decided not to review Gillette Shave Club? It seems like that would be the other major player in this space.


#3

This review was thorough, but I found it a bit difficult to read.

I think you could have organized this a bit better. Instead of breaking it up into so many sections you could have simply said Harry’s is the best shave club because of X or This is what makes dollar shave club better. Going back and fourth between features is a bit confusing.

As far as your conclusions goes—I also just buy my blades on Amazon. The cost of the blades is what makes shave clubs attractive in the first place. I did dsc for a while but they sent me too many. I don’t need to shave that often and built up a pile of razors that it took me a year to go through.


(Sam Solomon) #4

I did not review Gillette’s shave club at the time because it barely discounted any of their products. Fusion and Mach 3 blades were almost the same price as retail.

Then there were a ton of complaints about Gillette’s service. This came from the linked Observer article. I also found a couple posts with cancellation issues on reddit—I can’t seem to find those right now.

I also can’t figure out how to cancel my subscription. I have cancelled so many shipments that my next one is scheduled for August of next year, but there’s nothing on here that says anything about turning it off.

I gave up and emailed them to cancel. That worked.

Maybe I should give them a try and incorporate into this review? It appears Gillette Shave Club has been rebranded to Gillette On Demand.

It does look like they have learned from their mistakes. Their FAQ shows that you can cancel your Gillette subscription from the My Profile page—no need to call or send an email.

From the website it is difficult to tell the price per blade. Mach 3 refills cost $10 and it looks like each box comes with 4 blades. Every 4th box is free. That’s like $1.87 per blade which is much better than before, but I think the better option here is still to purchase blades from Amazon.


(Sam Solomon) #5

I appreciate the feedback @IanReese!

The review did turn out a bit messier than I originally intended and agree it could be organized better. If this get’s updated to include Gillette On Demand, I’ll reorganize it how you suggested.