I practically gave up shaving in recent years – my Zoom meeting game was pretty poor, if I’m being honest. But if there's a razor that could tempt me back to my clean cut look of yore, it's the new one from Gillette. And that's despite it being saddled with the descriptive but supremely unsexy name of Gillette Labs With Exfoliating Bar. This is the long-awaited – okay, two-years-awaited – follow-up to the Gillette Labs Heated Razor. Where that was a bit of a niche proposition – you can probably work out from the name what it does – this new razor, With Exfoliating Bar, is different.
Gillette intends its new little friend to be a replacement for your Fusion or ProGlide. In other words, it’s intended to be the default razor for most men who shave with a razor rather than an electric shaver. That’s a lot of men. Given that it’s a bit more expensive than their older razors, it‘s potentially a lot of money for Gillette, too.
I've been using this premium razor for the last week and I'm about as impressed as a person can be with a shaving tool. It hasn't made me love shaving, but it's made me perfectly willing to tolerate doing it. There you go, Gillette, you can put that on the packaging as my endorsement. Joking aside, it’s the best razor I’ve ever used. You could almost say it’s the best a man can get… but we don’t say that anymore.
If you haven't bought a new razor for a while, the first thing that you’ll love here is that Gillette moved over to all-paper packaging last year. This is great news for the planet as the amount of plastic wasted over the years in their old-style packs must be mind boggling. It's also good for your sense of calm, as the box can be opened by removing a couple of adhesive tabs, or simply ripping through it. The old, plastic packs appeared to have been designed to stand up to attack by anything short of an angle grinder, and made me hate Gillette‘s razors before I'd even used them.
The packaging is also quite contemporary and smart in appearance, where Gillette’s packaging has often looked cheap and nasty in the past. The mix of grey and retina-blasting fluorescent lime green is extremely eye-catching but also quite classy, or at any rate, as classy as something quite so upfront-looking can be. It's like the designers said, 'I'm loving this understated, monochrome palette and classy product photography. All it needs now is a big slab of primary colour. Quick, someone fetch my Pantone book!'
The razor itself is even better. By keeping things largely to metallic grey and silver, with the blast of colour from the packaging repeated in the titular Exfoliating Bar, Gillette has created something far more attractive than most of its razors of recent vintage. Certain Fusion and ProGlide razors resembled an explosion in a rainbow factory, with superfluous design flourishes scattered around like cup cake decorations. Here, everything is kept simple, classic and stylish.
The handle, including the exfoliator, is said to last for five years, which shows how much confidence Gillette has in its design and build quality.
The Gillette Labs With Exfoliating Bar also comes with a very pleasing, minimalist stand, which holds your razor magnetically and shows it off superbly on the bathroom shelf.
So what's the Gillette Labs With Exfoliating Bar like to shave with? In a word, wunderbar. It's got a wonder bar. The lightly scalloped exfoliating element, which is mounted on the handle, not the razor cartridge, gently scrapes away oils and impurities from your skin, clearing the road for the five blades of the razor itself. Just for good measure, there is then a lubricating strip to keep everything slickly moving.
Here's how the magic happens, with the razor's elements broken down into two informative yet attractive graphics.
Once or twice a decade, Gillette comes up with a new gimmick to add to their razors and everyone rolls their eyes and says, 'Oh great, another blade, and now it's on springs.' However, nine times out of ten, the addition or tweak really does improve the shaving experience, and that is certainly the case here.
I have a full gamut of potentially shave-ruining issues, from a variety of hair types to sensitive skin, to a neck that just doesn't wanna let its stubble coating go. The Gillette Labs With Exfoliating Bar, however, glides smoothly across every crater and fissure, leaving a trail of beautifully clean skin in its wake and keeping the overall experience mercifully brief. Moreover, the look and feel of the razor and handle is so much classier than previous Gillette razors, which also makes shaving feel more like a sophisticated ritual and less like a pain in the ass (and face). I've come away each time with very-low-to-zero skin irritation.
I should add that the new shaving gel that Gillette sent me with the razor also performs extremely well. It foams rapidly, goes on a treat, and is also enriched with Vitamin B3 and, er, sea kelp, which I expect must be useful for something.
Overall, I couldn't be happier, but you are now probably wondering what this slice of everyday luxury costs…
Gillette Labs With Exfoliating Bar: price and availability
The bad news is that Gillette Labs With Exfoliating Bar is more expensive than older, 'standard' Gillette razors. Well of course it is. However, especially when you consider how well it shaves, not to mention the handle's much improved look, design and build quality, I don't think the pricing is too bad at all.
In the UK, the handle and one blade costs £22.49 – for comparison, a Fusion with three blades is £17.99. However, we're talking RRP there and there are already deals to be had on bundles. Boots has numerous cut-price offers on Gillette Labs With Exfoliating Bar including an 'Ultimate' bundle that includes 10 blades, a travel case, and some skincare products, and saves you £30 overall.
In the USA, the new razor is available from $25 and in Australia from AU$45.
Gillette seems to have gone for a bit of a soft launch here, with product gradually appearing in selected stores. Apparently it all really kicks off from February 23 when the TV ad campaign, featuring Raheem Sterling in the UK, rolls out.
At that point, the Gillette Labs With Exfoliating Bar will become omnipresent. Gillette expects this to be the biggest selling razor of 2022; as I said, it's not a niche product like the Gillette Labs Heated Razor. So if you are not seeing many prices for it near you as yet, don't worry; you soon will.