This is easily one of the biggest debates in the men’s grooming world. Men can’t seem to agree on which one is better; safety razors or cartridge razors. And with the recent technological advancements seen on both tools, picking one is more complicated than it was in years past.
We should also point out that there are lots of opinions passing for fact in these streets. It would help if you were keen to tell these apart. Luckily for you, we’ve taken it upon ourselves to create a factual comparison review of the two. Read through and make your decision at the end.
The rise of the cartridge razor
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of how they compare and which one is better than the other, it’s important we take a look at examples of each type so that we are on the same page.
Now, when we speak of cartridge razor in this comparison guide, we refer to the disposable blades with multiple blades that have soared in popularity in the past couple of decades. Their rise to the top first started with the debut of the Gillette Mach 3. Many cartridge razors have reusable handles, which means you only replace the blade cartridges when they get dull. The most popular models have between 3 and 5 individual blades but can have up to 7 individual blades on them (currently the record, at the time this article was written).
On the flip side, safety razors are what wet shaving enthusiasts refer to as double edge razors. These are a little old school, but boy do they get the job done. Though they use disposable blades, their bodies are made from solid metal. As such, they are durable and can be reused over and over.
Several decades ago, disposable razors were non-existent. Can you even imagine a world without a disposable razor? If you are like me, probably not. Well, the journey of the disposable cartridge blade started a little over a century ago when King Camp Gillette started looking for a disposable razor. Before then, men shaved with the same blade multiple times before sharpening and reusing them.
Differences in shave quality of safety razors and cartridge razors
We do not fully agree with marketing campaigns that a razor with more blades provides a better quality shave. Science disputes this fact. If anything, it proves the contrary; the more blades a razor has, the more irritation you’ll experience after the shave.
Multiple passes, even with a single blade, can cause skin irritation. Therefore, we recommend making fewer passes on your skin with a safety razor.
Going along with the same logic, if you used a cartridge razor with five blades, it means that your skin has experienced five passes, which will result in a 5x skin irritation.
But it’s not only the irritation that differentiates them. Safety razors feature high-quality blades. Usually, safety razors use medical grade stainless steel and sometimes carbon steel blades. The blades can be sharpened to finer and thinner edges without compromising their quality. The result is a closer and smoother shave with minimal effort. With such levels of sharpness, you can achieve the desired results with a single pass.
Cartridge razors on the other hand, almost always come with inferior and cheap steel. This results in irritations and ingrown hair after your shave.
The Cost of razor blades and razor cartridges
It’s quite clear that the two tools provide a different quality. And while that could be enough to base your choice off of, there is the question of cost.
Now, safety razors cost between $20 and a couple of hundred dollars depending on the quality and the technology used. However, this is a one-off cost since the razor will last a lifetime.
But don’t focus on this price. Instead, put your sights on the cost of a blade. The cost of cartridge razors is always rising. Newer cartridges cost up to $4-$5 each. However, since a cartridge razor only lasts a couple of shaves, you could easily spend a few hundred dollars a year buying razor cartridges.
On the flip side, quality razor blades cost less than $1 a blade, and they offer a longer service. So even if you want to use the blade when it’s sharp and hence replace often, a safety razor is the more logical option for the cost conscious shaver.
The initial cost of safety razors is high. However, in the long run, they are cheaper. In addition to this, they offer a good shave quality and look cooler than cartridge razors. Beware, do not fall for the ‘multiple blades are better’ gimmick. They may end up causing irritations you’re better off not dealing with.