It’s no secret that the male grooming craze has officially arrived. Just look at the sea of hombre-themed labels at your local pharmacy: Nivea Men, Dove Men+Care, L’Oréal Men Expert, Redken for Men, and—one of our favorites—ManCave Natural Skincare. In fact, market research firm Statista estimates the global male grooming market will be worth $21.4 billion in 2016, up 24% from 2012.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that to meet this soaring dude demand, a slew of new subscription-based services—companies like Morgans, Dollar Shave Club, and Birchbox—have emerged to cut that pharmacy trip out of your life altogether. These companies all specialize in monthly delivery boxes containing cheaper-than-Mach-3 razors, better-than-average shaving gels, and higher-than-high-end moisturizers. All claim to transform your face, protect your skin, and give you a closer shave than you’ve ever experienced, and all at a fraction of the cost of your store-bought supplies. But are they worth it? If so, which one is for you?
To find out, I actually tried them all—we’re talking razors, blades, shaving creams, preshaves, balms, skin soothers, moisturizers, bar soaps, shampoos, beard oils—and sought out some very high-level expertise in the process: L.A.-based grooming and makeup artist Joanna Pensinger (whose client list includes names like DiCaprio, Statham, Gosling, and Hamm) and the astute Sharpologist blogger Mark Herro. In the end, I came up with my recommendations for the winners and runners-up in several categories, ranging from “no-nonsense” to “damn, do I love to treat myself.” Here are the ones that make the cut.
The no-bullshit guy who just wants to shave
WINNER: Harry’s ($3–$19/month, harrys.com)
The monthly box from this preppy brand is “the best all-around deal,” according to Pensinger. The shaving gel comes with a brisk, Barbasol-like whiff that’s pleasantly old-school, the razor’s handle is lightweight but firm, and the bottles look retro and classy. “It’s for the regular guy who isn’t looking to try eye creams or scents, just essentials,” Pensinger says. “It’s idiot-proof.” The skin products are also free of nasty, cheap preservatives like parabens. Instead, they contain only premium-quality ingredients such as marula oil, one of nature’s best natural moisturizers.
RUNNER-UP: DollarShaveClub ($3-$9/month; dollarshaveclub.com)
Though their blue-and-gray razor handles for their two-blade razors are flimsy and lack durability—I dropped mine on the bathroom floor and it exploded—the Dollar Shave Club’s proprietary shaving cream, Dr. Carver’s Easy Shave Butter, is a wonderful clear goo that lays on very thick and does a better job of buffering against razor burn than any other shaving cream I’ve ever tried.
The slightly higher-maintenance grooming guy
WINNER: Morgans ($4–$9/product, entire bathroom kit delivered every two months, $70; morgans.me)
This brand-new New York City start-up has higher ambitions than merely offering shaving materials—it wants to supply your entire john. The packages include everyday toiletries from moisturizers to shaving creams to toilet rolls. The high-end products are sourced stateside: The bar soap comes from Tennessee, the tube of toothpaste from Connecticut. The toilet paper is fashioned from sustainable bamboo. (Honestly—it feels the same on your ass as Charmin and doesn’t destroy a single tree to make it.) The shaving cream is a viscous paste with a cooling menthol feel that makes for a pleasantly refreshing, clean-feeling shave. But the best part of Morgans is the post-shave moisturizer. Though technically unscented, it has a wholesome, oatmeal-like smell, and it was light enough to absorb into the skin almost instantly, with minimal effort.
RUNNER-UP: DollarBeardClub ($5–$12/ month; dollarbeardclub.com)
If you’re a lumbersexual, meet the service for you. It provides bottles of beard oil plus wax or shampoo on a monthly basis. The co-founder, Chris Stoikos, proclaimed in the launch video, “I eat shaving cream for breakfast.” I wouldn’t recommend that, but if you’ve grown a beard, remember that you must maintain it.
The bathroom hog
WINNER: LuxuryBarberBox (10-sample boxes, $26–$30/month; box.luxurybarber.com)
Barely a year old, this company is all about samples: Every month you’ll receive a fistful of travel-size goodies from across the entire grooming spectrum, from shaving oils to moisturizers to eye creams. “It’s the most grooming—rather than just shaving—oriented, and it’s good for trying products conveniently,” says Sharpologist’s Herro.
It also comes with a safety razor called “the Hoff.” Frankly, these single-blade razors have always terrified me. But once I braved one (very slow) shave, I was hooked. And, yes, I felt like a total badass afterward.
RUNNER-UP: BirchboxMan ($20/month or $195/year, birchbox.com/men/shop)
For this kit, coming from the women’s beauty supplier, you get a curated monthly variety pack after you’ve filled out a profile online about what you like. In the end, however, the sample bottles were so tiny that the box actually rattled. So if you’re after quantity more than quality, “Birchbox for dudes” isn’t for you.
Guys who aren’t afraid to pamper themselves
WINNER: Bevel (three-month kit,$90; getbevel.com)
With its white, Apple-inspired packaging, Bevel is the fanciest of any monthly box. It’s also geared to men of color and the problems faced by men with coarse or curly hair, which is more prone to razor bumps or ingrowths. The primer oil helps by softening skin and hair pre-shave, while the balm soothes to prevent irritation afterward. The razor itself is a reconceived single-blade safety blade intended to glide over the surface more easily.
RUNNER-UP: Brickell (monthly boxes, $21–$46; brickellmensproducts.com)
Brickell focuses on organic and anti-aging ingredients. To be sure, they’re pricey, but provided you can afford it, this is your go-to company if you suffer from really sensitive skin. It’s your face, after all—time to take care of it.