Henson AL-13 M Review
About the Henson AL-13 M
The Henson AL-13 M Safety Razor is a relatively new entry into the wet shaving market. Henson's unique selling proposition is that their razors are designed and precisely machined to limit blade exposure and provide firm support. The goal of their manufacturing process is to reduce flex of the blade, which allows it to more efficiently cut through whiskers and reducing the risk of razor burn and nicks.
The AL-13 is made from aerospace-grade aluminum, making it lightweight and durable. The handle of the razor features a unique diamond pattern for a secure grip, even when wet.
Included with the razor is a pack of 5 double-edged razor blades, which are easy to replace and can be found at some drugstores but a much wider variety can be found online. As with all double edge safety razors, The AL-13 M is also compatible with all standard double-edged razor blades, so you are not locked into buying expensive cartridges from a particular manufacturer.
All Henson razors are designed, manufactured, and packaged in Canada.
1. Discovering the Henson AL-13
My usual razor is a Merkur 23C, which I had been using for more than 10 years. I originally purchased it due to its reputation as a relatively mild razor that is good for beginners. Quite honestly I was never thrilled with it, but assumed that most of the nicks and/or cuts I suffered were due to poor technique rather than deficiencies with the hardware. That being said, I did wonder if perhaps the Merkur wasn’t the right shaver for me. I suspected that excessive blade exposure was allowing the blade to flex and was at least partially to blame.
A few months ago, I started seeing Henson’s social media ads. I'd seen a few on Facebook and Instagram, but it wasn't until I saw their TikTok videos that I started to pay a bit more attention to their design approach and unique selling proposition. What caught my attention was not so much the aircraft-grade aluminum or the light weight, but the claims regarding precise machining and reduction of blade chatter. It started to plant more doubt in my mind about the Merkur 23c, so I decided to give the Henson a try. I chose the AL-13 M ("M" for "medium" aggressiveness), as I had read in multiple reviews that the standard AL-13 is extremely mild.
2. Prep and Products Used
At the time of writing this review, I’ve been using the AL-13 M almost daily for about a month. I’ve been using the same products and technique that I’ve been using for the last year with my Merkur. The full details can be found in my post: How To Shave Sensitive Skin, but the key elements are:
Shave after a warm shower, or after applying a warm washcloth to my face and neck
Apply a facial lotion to lock in moisture and soften my whiskers.
Use a clear, non-foaming gel because I like to be able to see the direction of growth in each area of my face and neck.
Shave *only* with the direction of growth in particularly sensitive areas.
My blades of choice are Feather. They are considered by many to be the sharpest on the market. Every other blade I’ve tried feels like it’s tugging at my whiskers rather than slicing through them.
4. The Design
The design of Henson’s Al-13 is a bit of a mixed bag. While the angular shape of the head and anodized finish are quite modern, the diamond grip pattern on its handle leans a bit more traditional. It gives me the impression that Henson was apprehensive about fully committing to a modern aesthetic in a market dominated by products that look pretty old-fashioned. I doubt that the razor would feel slippery without any etching, so my preference would be for a plain handle or at least something more minimalistic to better match the head and stand. Another somewhat odd choice Henson made was to give the handle a slightly pointed rather than flat bottom. That would prevent you from standing the razor on end if you had reason to do so. If you opt to purchase Henson’s stand for an additional $30 or you have a stand of your own, then obviously this is of no concern, but something to be aware of nonetheless.
My Merkur 23C is nearly twice as heavy as the Henson, weighing in at 60 grams as opposed to the Henson’s 37 grams. Until I received the AL-13, I was unsure of whether or not I would enjoy using such a lightweight razor. That concern was gone almost as soon as I began to use the Henson for the first time. I’ve found that the light weight allows for precise control of the razor, even with a loose grip on the handle. Though it is not a heavy piece of hardware, nothing about it feels cheap. Each component fits together perfectly and feels secure. It may just be the age of my 23C, but I’ve often found myself having to tighten it midway through a shave.
4. The Performance
So...how did the AL-13 M perform? In short, extremely well. I have not switched back to my Merkur 23C since I received the Henson. Of course there is always an adjustment period when switching to a new razor, especially after more than 10 years of using another one. I’m used to holding my Merkur at nearly a 45 degree angle. Once I made the adjustment, I was able to get a smooth and comfortable shave.
The feel of the razor against my skin is much different than the Merkur. I really don’t feel the blade traveling across my skin when I use it. This is a huge difference from my Merkur, which makes me *very* aware of the blade contacting my skin. There is very little feedback/chatter from the blade because it is so tightly clamped between the razor head and base plate, and such a very small sliver of blade exposure. Henson Shaving does claim that their blade exposure is equal to the thickness of a human hair, and I'm inclined to believe them.
Some reviewers have mentioned a "suction" type feeling when using the AL-13. I haven't experienced this, so it might be dependent on your choice of soap/cream/gel/etc. I have found, however, that there is a tendency for cut whiskers to get trapped between the blade and razor head to the point that the razor must be disassembled to be rinsed clean. This can happen with any razor, but *might* be more of an issue when there is already so little blade exposed. I think this just goes with the territory of such precise machining and it's a compromise I'm willing to accept.
Overall, I’ve found the AL-13 to be much more forgiving when I’m rushing or simply not as mindful during my shave. Of course it’s certainly still possible to nick yourself or create razor burn. There will never be a safety razor that completely eliminates that risk. However, the Henson AL-13 simply makes it easier to avoid those issues, and that's exactly what I was after.
- Provides a smooth and comfortable shave
- Reasonably priced for a precision-machined safety razor
- Attractive design
- Buildup can occur between blade and razor head
- Stand is only available in one finish
- Extreme light weight may be unappealing to some