Monday, March 17, 2014

Gillette Fusion Power - Not For People WIth Delicate Skin

I have a combination of tough facial hair and sensitive skin, which puts me at a disadvantage when shaving. Skin irritation from shaving is very easy to achieve and therefore difficult to avoid. I have always used electric shavers, with 10 last years being a Panasonic fan. The reason was I tried to use multiple-blade (2 or 3 blades) Gillette razors when I was a teenager and had to stop because of the skin irritation.

Electric shavers cured the irritation but resulted in a shave that never was as close or as quick as the Gillette's. In addition to lack of close shave (even when used in the shower and with shaving foam) and too much time spent on shaving, electric shavers were a hassle: cleaning, charging, etc.

Electric shavers had another drawback: they were pricey to buy and maintain - the blades and screens got dull and needed replacements that cost almost as much as the shaver itself: about $35 for my recent Panasonic's inner blades and outer screen combo. So every 1-2 years you have to spend as much as the shaver itself on blades, which means it is cheaper and faster to just buy a new one. Which is bad for the environment and feels plain wrong and wasteful.

After using all sorts of fancy linear-motor, nano-tech blade-equipped Panasonics (recently: Panasonic ES8101S Electric Shaver, Panasonic Pro-Curve ES7037), I decided to give Gillette another try. I bought the manual Gillette Fusion with a couple of cartridges and then, a couple of weeks later, got a free (promotion) battery-powered Gillette Fusion power razor as well. Both the regular and the power Fusions produced about the same result.

About Gillette Fusion Power

The Gillette Fusion is a razor that uses proprietary cartridges with 5 blades each. The handle can be manual or battery-powered vibrating (the power Fusion had an AAA alkaline battery included). Cartridges are slightly different as well, but all Fusion cartridges are interchangeable, so (at least in theory) you can use power cartridges with manual handles.

The handle is thicker than the one of the manual Fusion. The candle and cartridges look nice, are well built and have good weight balance and tactile feel.


I used manual Fusion first and then, after several shaves, used the power version. After I used the Fusion for the first time (using canned foam), I was immediately impressed with how much time I saved over shaving with an electric shaver and how much closer it shaved. But there was an immediate drawback apparent - skin irritation, especially on the neck. The power version did not change things dramatically and, in fact, I didn't notice much improvement over the manual version. You notice less pull, but the irritation was still there.

The razor is easy to use - no skill is required to get very close shave and the angle of the blade is pre-set and cannot be adjusted. So it is an easy-to-use, foolproof design that saves time and provides close shave. Still, the irritation I got was excessive. Now, I am sure that it doesn't happen to everybody. Again, I have a lot of very tough facial hair and delicate skin.

So no more electric shavers for me, but also the Fusion is not the best option. I only used the Fusion a handful of time before I found a better alternative. Unbelievably, an old-school double-edge (DE) razor and good blades were all that was required to give me a perfect balance of shaving time, closeness, low irritation and cost.

Old-School Double-Edge Safety Razor To The Rescue

Gillette and Schick keep increasing the number of blades in their razors and the result is not necessarily better. At least not for me. I was fortunate that I decided to give old-school shaving a try. I bought a Parker double-edge butterfly-type razor and Shark blades. Learning to shave with it took a little time, but almost immediately (and using canned foam) I got a close shave with almost no irritation. Later, I got a badger-hair brush and some shaving soap (so that I don't have to use aerosol cans and be more earth-friendly).

The Shark blades that cost about 10-15 cents each (vs. over $2 per Gillette Fusion cartridge). No batteries required. My Parker razor cost less than $30 (actually less than $40 with 100 Shark blades included), so an initial investment is higher, but overall costs are lower. Not that I cared about that - all I needed was a time-efficient, reasonably close shave with minimum of irritation and hassle.

To summarize, double-edge razor shaving requires practice and it does take a bit longer to shave with a DE than with Fusion. But I find the shaving process more soothing, which makes me sleepy, which in turn makes it ideal after shower and right before going to bed.

There is only very minimal skin irritation (as opposed to severe irritation with Fusion) and with 100 excellent DE blades (Shark or Derby) selling for $10-15, you can save close to a hundred of dollars per year on blades (assuming a cartridge lasts a week). Plus, it is better for the environment as only the blade itself is disposed of and not the cartridge with its surrounding plastic, packaging, etc.

Compared to Schick Hydro 5

I also tried the Schick Hydro 5 and liked it much better. See the review of Schick Hydro 5 here.

Pros: Close, fast, easy shave, solid construction, nice looks
Cons: Skin irritation (at least for me), expensive cartridges, useless trimmer blade

Bottom Line

The Gillette Fusion power is a time saver and an easy way to get a very close shave, provided you don't have issues with skin irritation. If you want to save money and have less irritation (but spend more time shaving), get an old-school double-edge safety razor (e.g. Parker or Merkur) and some decent blades. I prefer Fusion to electric shavers after using electric shavers for decades. But I prefer a DE razor to Fusion.

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