Ending the Great Debate: safety razor vs cartridgeRazor
One of the biggest topics of debate in the world of shaving has to be Safety razor vs. Cartridge razor.
Any avid reader or repeat visitor to our site should probably already be aware of my personal opinion on cartridge razors and the multi-billion dollar business that they have created.
However, in the hopes of convincing those of you who are still on the fence, trying to make the ultimate decision of safety razor vs. cartridge, I’ll try to keep my personal opinion out of this one.
Instead, let’s focus on the science behind the two to convince you once and for all that cartridge razors are the devil…err, I mean, that cartridge razors are inferior to safety razors.
In this picture is a Muhle R41 (check Amazon reviews) and Gillette Mach 3 (check user reviews).
After reading all of the facts, I hope that you’ll be the next in an increasingly long line of men who have finally been convinced to give up those expensive, ineffective cartridge razors in favor of something that gets the job done better for a fraction of the price.
Safety Razor vs Straight Razor Infographic
Here is a helpful infographic that summarizes the differences between safety razors and cartridge razors.
Also, be sure to read the information below the infographic, as it provides far more detail.
Feel free to share! (but please be sure to reference the entire article as it has much more information)
Safety Razor vs. Cartridge: Breaking it Down
Before we get into the reasons why safety razors are so much better than cartridge razors, it’s first necessary to look at exactly what each type of razor is for those of you who are as of yet uninitiated.
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When we say cartridge razor, we’re referring to those multiple blade disposable razors that have become so popular in the last few decades—beginning with the release of the Gillette Mach 3.
Most of these razors tend to have a reusable razor handle that takes replacement multiple blade cartridges, which simply snap into place on the hand.
On the other hand, a safety razor, also called a double edge razor, is something much more old school.
While this type of razor uses a disposable double-edge blade, the entire rest of the razor is typically constructed from metal and is meant to be used time and time again.
Still, using a safety razor can present a bit of a learning curve, especially if you’ve never used one before.
Not to worry, though, it is not rocket science, and it’s way easier than learning to use straight shavers.
The wet shaving system requires that you lather your face well to ensure that your facial hair is moist enough for the safety razor to avoid irritation.
To get a better shave, use a shaving brush for uniform application of the shaving cream and get a good shave with a single pass of a safety razor.
Though not found in your everyday barbershop, causing a safety razor means you don’t have to worry about clogging up and build-up of landfills as you may experience with cartridges.
Safety Razor vs. Cartridge & How They’re Related, aka In The Beginning
Once upon a time, there was no such thing as a disposable razor, if you can believe that.
In fact, it wasn’t but a little over a hundred years ago that King Camp Gillette began his search for a disposable razor.
Before then, men used the same blade over and over again before taking them in to have them sharpened.
Then Gillette made the brilliant realization that there was more money to be made by making a product that was meant to be thrown away after so many uses, and thus, both safety razors and cartridge razors were slowly introduced to the world.
This realization led to the development of both the disposable razor and the modern safety razor, but nowadays, there are really no similarities left between the two.
In this picture is the Merkur 180 long handle (Check user reviews) and the Gillette Fusion (check user reviews).
Safety Razor vs. Cartridge Razors: Judging the Quality of the Shave
One unfortunate myth that has been perpetrated by Gillette’s marketing machine is that the more blades a razor has, the smoother shave it will provide.
However, science has repeatedly shown that this is simply not true.
In fact, the opposite is true, as the more blades a razor has, the more skin irritation you will experience as a result.
In the most basic terms, it only takes one sharp blade and good shaving soap/cream to give you a close shave.
Moreover, the more times you go over your face with a razor blade, the more irritation you are likely to experience.
Therefore, it only makes sense that taking one pass with a 5 blade razor is the same as taking 5 passes with a single-blade razor, and thus will cause 5 times as much irritation.
This multi-blade approach of the cartridge razors can result in razor bumps and ingrown hairs for those of us with sensitive skin.
However, it’s not just the amount of irritation that separates safety razors from their inferior counterparts.
The quality of the steel used in the razors also plays a major role in how sharp they end up and thus how well they shave without causing razor burns.
While cartridge razors tend to use cheap, inferior quality steel, many double-edged safety razor blades use medical-grade stainless or carbon steel, which can be sharpened to a much finer, thinner edge without degrading.
This means that these superior antique safety razor de razor blades can also provide a much closer shave, without the need to go over the same spot many times.
Moving back to the irritation factor, the fact that you can get a closer shave with lesser passes when using a safety razor means that really, you’re likely to reduce the amount of irritation by a factor of 10.
Think about it, one or two passes with a single blade compared to four or five passes with a 5-blade razor.
We’re taking 10 to 25 times less irritation here!
The quality of the shave that the two provisions are also related to the angle at which the blade is to the face.
Whereas a cartridge razor allows you to shave at one angle only, a safety razor allows you to slightly adjust the angle, and thus increase the quality of the shave.
Breaking Down the Costs: Safety Razors Win Again!
While the vastly differing shave qualities that the two products can provide should be enough to convince any real man why Gillette safety razor, king c Gillette safety razor, micro touch safety razor, and more are so much better, some men are still too cheap to choose quality over price.
However, in this case, the vintage safety razor definitely wins again.
Though the safety razor itself may cost anywhere between twenty and several hundred dollars, this is really a one-time cost, as the all-metal razors should last for a lifetime.
The upfront initial investment made on Gillette mach3 cartridge, Gillette ProGlide cartridge, Viking blades safety razor, Henson safety razor, japan safety razor, and more will guarantee you a comfortable shave over a long time when combined with good shaving cream.
So don’t think about the cost of the razor itself, instead, focus on the cost of the replacement blades (like Astra or Schick).
The price of safety razor blade disposal cartridges (like Gillette or Bic) just keeps rising, with some of the newer ones costing as much as $10 per cartridge.
Since you’ll probably only get three to four shaves out of a cartridge at most, this could easily end up costing you well over several hundred dollars a year.
On the other hand, even the best double edge razor blades generally sell for less than $1 per blade, which could quickly add up to some serious savings in the long run.
So even if you’re not concerned with doing your face and skin a favor, at least do your wallet a favor and choose the smarter, sharper, more sensible option.
Safety Razor vs Cartridge Razors: The Final Judgment
Safety razors are not only cheaper and provide a better quality shave, but they also look a heck of a lot cooler and make you feel much more like a man.
So ignore all of the marketing tactics that try to convince you that the newest six or seven-blade razor is the answer to all of your problems, as an old-school safety razor is really all you need to get the best shave of your life.
We have thoroughly tested virtually all the safety razors, so be sure to check out our list of the best safety razors segmented by price range.
Here is a shortlist of PNP’s favorite safety razors.
For many more, check out the link above about the best safety razors!
- The Edwin Jagger DE89lbl – My review/amazon reviews!
- The Merkur 34c – My review/amazon reviews!
- The Merkur futur –My review/amazon reviews!
- The Feather all stainless – My review/amazon reviews!
If you do go for a cartridge razor, we suggest either the Mach 3 or fusion…although we highly recommend a safety razor instead!
The only real advantage cartridge razors have, is in terms of convenience.
If that is your only factor, then you should stick to the cartridge razor.
In that case, be sure to check out our article on Mach 3 vs Fusion to make sure you at least get the best cartridge razor on the market.
That being said, once you get the hang of it, you’ll find that it only takes you a few minutes more to shave with a safety razor, and after seeing just how much better the results are, you will quickly realize that it is time well spent.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. How good are Merkur razors?
Merkur blades are made of high-quality materials and have an excellent design, making them extremely durable. They appear to last slightly longer than the average de blade.
2. Is Merkur a reputable brand?
Overall, the best safety razor. Merkur, a German razor company, was mentioned more than any other brand, praised for its long history, low price point, and reputation for quality manufacturing.
3. How long will a Merkur blade last?
Lasts 3-7 shaves.
Merkur is a well-known brand. They are appealing because they can provide a very close shave without being as aggressive as other brands. They are rust-resistant due to their platinum coating, and one blade can typically last between 3-7 shaves.
4. Where are Merkur razors manufactured?
MERKUR safety razors are made in Germany and provide complete corrosion protection as well as exceptional durability due to the zinc die casting process.
39 thoughts on “Safety Razor vs Cartridge Razor (with Infographic)”
Over the years I’ve tried DE shaving multiple times for several months. I have been unable to get a close shave without several passes that leave my face raw and hurting. I also can’t get a close shave without going against the grain. Fusions are, for me, a far more comfortable and closer shave. I wish that I knew if it was technique or a combination of my skin and beard type.
It may most definitely be a technique issue as well as possibly your using the wrong razor for your type of facial hair. I would suggest you take a look at our article on how to shave with a safety razor and our you tube channel for instructions.
In terms of the safety razor, you may be using a razor that is not aggressive enough or too aggressive. Take a look at our article on safety razor aggressiveness. It is also possible you are using a cruddy razor or razor blades. You can take a look at our approved lists of the best safety razors and best safety razor blades for some guidance.
I hope this helps. Please let me know how it goes.
Try an ‘Injector’ razor. They’re far closer to a cartridge razor in terms of the angle you use.
I love how the cartridge razor user in the infographic is some hipster, whereas the gentleman in the suit is paired with the safety razor. And, being a cartridge user for a while now, I have finally decided to be a man, invest in a high-quality safety razor and a badger brush, and learn how to actually shave properly.
What Sebastian says above also sounds great: my beard’s thick and tough, and “unclogging” the damn cartridges takes up half of my shaving time.
Thanks for putting me on the correct path, Gilette! You can shove my “toxic masculinity” right up where the sun don’t shine.
Thanks for the wonderful article, Mr. Rose!
Hahahaha. I love it Jimbo! Thanks for sharing and I’m glad you made the switch over to the safety razor! You won’t regret it!
As a woman I love my safety razor for shaving my legs but easily cut myself and so I use a cartridge razor for the more delicate areas and tough ups. I found the initial investment of a safety razor to be less than a disposable/cartridge. Pros and cons to both
Thanks for sharing Tierra! It’s awesome to hear about women enjoying the benefits of shaving with a safety razor as well. 🙂
I agree that safety razors have many advantages. I tried several times to use on, and nearly cut my head off! Guess I need more practice. Right now, I use a genuine Gillette Trac II from the 70’s, only two blades, and wicked sharp.
Hey Michael, there is a bit of a learning curve. You do need to make sure you get the right quality safety razor for you and watch one or two YouTube videos on how to do it
In my opinion the single biggest reason guys have switched overwhelming to multiblade razors, at least in the developed world where cost matters less, is convenience. It’s why everyone switched to canned foam even though anyone who tries a brush and soap/cream can see how much better the shave and results are.
Closer, smoother matters less than quickness and convenience.
By the way, I’m a devoted safety razor using wet shaver
After been convinced by a colleague I swapped my Cartridge Razor for a DE razor, I remember my first time; my hands were shaky and I was very slow and careful. Now I got my routine and my face feels so much smoother than it ever did with with a CS razor. Actually it has become a way of living and I am looking forward to every next shave. My next step ? To convince my brother to try give up his electric shaving, a world will be opened for him. Sorry for my crap English (Dutch) .
lol. it is faster to shave with safety razor than with cartridge.
Sure. Faster does not equal better. DE shaving gives you a much better shave with less irritation.
Or you can have a lousy shave and shaving rash, faster. Your choice.
Great point about multiple razors causing more irritation to the face. I never thought of that. I haven’t yet tried a safety razor but this article is making me feel like I should!
With subscription services like the Dollar Shave Club and Harry’s out there, the cartridge razor is still in style and giving members of those services high quality shaves and at reasonable prices. A full 12-month membership with the DSC’s top tier plan will cost around $108.00 and that’s if you get the blades shipped to your home each month and choose to not have your shipments slowed or stopped. You could probably get a full years shaving in with the DSC for around 80 bucks if you choose the 2 month plan. Plus, with the assortment of products offered by the DSC, it’s easy to get a high quality shave and still at a very reasonable price. The pre-shave oils are 6 dollars and the shave butter is 8, so if you factor those products in, still one full year of monthly blade shipments will cost you around $115.00 at most. Which still beats the heck out of paying 20 bucks for a 4 pack of blades at the store. Cartridge razors aren’t for everyone, but I don’t think safety razors are either. Both offer very good shaves and both come at reasonable costs, though for the 1st year, I think that purchasing a DE razor starter kit plus a brush and a lathering bowl will probably cost close to the $115.00 that a full year membership with the Executive razor will cost at the Dollar Shave Club, so choose whichever you like, but choose wisely and good shaving!
I personally prefer my Merkur Razor with Persona blades, but cartridge razors do have their -uses. For instance they can be brought onto a plane flight on carry-on where as DE blades can’t be – and I travel lightly and keep everything in a carry-on because I hate waiting for luggage to come through that motarized thing (or having it all get lost and going to the wrong place.).
My spouse is complaining that it costs too much to buy his Schick cartridges – just try my Merkur with my blades, I’ll show you how to use it. – “No I don’t want to get nicked and go to work looking all cut up.” – that’s what steptic pencils are for and it’s not that hard, first time I used it I didn’t get nicked at all. – no one listens to me haha.
I switched to the safety razor about two months ago and will never go back to a cartridge razor.
The blades are 10 to 15 cents apiece and last a week. The shave closer.
I have two tips
Watch the video on how to use safety razor and I always shower first to soften the beard.
I recently switched from using a cartridge razor to using a safety razor. I get a much closer shave with a safety razor and I don’t need to make so many passes. With the cartridge razor I had to shave in many directions to try to get a close shave, and suffer nicks from shaving in many directions. And a nick with a multi blade razor is quite painful with multiple cuts.
On the other hand each pass with the safety razor is more effective so I have the time to be more careful. I have yet to get a nick with my safety razor.
As far as cost is concerned I can buy 400 Astra platinum edge blades from Amazon for less than $33.00 .
Hey John, I’m so glad you have joined the we shaving community! Better quality shave for much less money; doesn’t get much better than that! 🙂
I have started wet shaving with Wilkinson classic razor and Gillette 7’O Clock blades. I hate the idea of shower than shave. I do hot towel and pre-shave oil before lathering up. Now I own an Edwin Jagger de89 and qshave adjustable. I will never go back to cartridge shaving again.
DE for face. Cartridge for head. Best of both worlds.
Switched to a safety about a month ago, every shave feels like the best home shave of my life, only thing better is when my barber goes at it with his straight razor. Only time I’ll use a cartridge razor now is if I’m traveling. Make the switch to the safety razor and I promise you won’t regret it
That’s great to hear Trevor! Welcome to the club!
I switched to a safety razor years ago and it has never worked well for me. I’m sitting here right now waiting for my wounds to heal. Just about done with the damn things, I can pull a Mach 3 off the shelf with a cartridge I’ve used a hundred times and get a better shave.
I’m sorry to hear that. Well to each there own. Nothing is for everybody. I commend you for giving it a try!
My partner bought me a safety razor on a whim a few months back since I have always hated disposable razors. My facial hair is very coarse, so I go through many disposable cartridges since the blades get dull so quickly, and even worse, two blade cartridges give a horrible shave, and three or more blade cartridges get clogged quickly due to the thickness of my hair, so I keep having to run my fingers with the grain of the blades to try to get the hair to dislodge.
Anyways, the safety razor? Amazing. I get a much closer shave, no irritation, the blades are insanely cheap, and it never gets clogged. It took me from hating to shave to actually enjoying it.
I think more people need to be made aware of how much better, environmentally responsible, and cheaper safety razors are. I doubt it even occurs to most people to think of them due to aggressive marketing campaigns by Gillette and other razor companies.
Thanks so much for sharing Sebastian! I am so glad you have had such a positive experience and I completely agree that more people need to be made aware of the numerous benefits of safety razors. That is one of the reasons I started this site!
DE razors are to overhyped, if you prep your face properly there are no nicks or burns, if you like DE so be it, your choice but some talk as if it’s so so much better, i uses both and and i don’t find much differences between cartridge razors or DE although i gets a faster shave with my mach 3 razor, yes it’s expensive but i don’t care about that because a pack of 4 cartridges can last me over a year or more without getting dull
Thanks for your input. The Mach 3 is definitely not a bad razor by any means, but I still find I get a more irritation free shave with the DE razors myself. But not everyone is the same and that is why the best razor for me, may not be the best razor for you.
I am shocked you are able to get a single cartridge to last 3+ months of shaving!!! That has to be close to a record! What is your secret?
She grows no beard! 🤣 4 cartridges a year? That’s only gonna happen if you have 4 hair that you shave daily. That doesn’t qualify as beard!
Hate to bust your bubble about “ineffective” cartridge shaves, but…
…as someone who has collected 100+ DE, SE, and injector (which, btw, comes in a “multiple-blade” type), I’ve a pretty good idea how good (or bad) safety razor shaves can be. I recently started in with the “vintage” cart razors (Atra and Trac II) and found the Trac II with a P II blade to be as close as that of my ’41 Ranger Tech. It’s technique, you know, that trumps the tool. (Oh, and if you can find them, try the “2002” double-edge *twin* blade.
Thanks for your input and what a collection! I agree that technique is more important than anything. Never tried the vintage cartridge razors. So you think cartridge razors were of better quality in the past and they have gone downhill?
Though I don’t use any razor whether Safety, Cartridge or Straight. I’m a lover of Electric Shavers especially (Rotary Shavers) but I found this piece very interesting, educating and resourceful.
Hey Samson, I’m glad you found this article informative!
Multiblade razors don’t cause more irritation. Quite the opposite. Safety razors usually cause more soreness and nicks.
I use a DE but more for price of blades and reduxing waste, but cartridges are quicker, easier and generally better.
I can’t say I agree, but I appreciate you sharing your opinion and personal experience. I wonder how many others that have tried both would agree with your perspective?
I have had issues with multi blade razors for years, the more blades to worse it was. Lots of irritation. Switched last week to safety razor and will never go back. Several people at my firm mentioned my redneck was gone. We are in Texas so that was sort of a joke, I am still a redneck, it just isn’t from shaving!
I’ve tried a slew of safety razors, from parkers, merkur and currently the rockwell model T with feather blades + some Swedish blades.
I’m pretty gentle and cautious with my prep, shave, and technique (I think)…
I have course, thick and curly hair.
But my face feels raw and irritated after shaving with safety razors.
Downward pass always seems to be OK, but whenever I do across the grain, or against the grain, I just get all sorts of irritation and bumps.
I’ve never gotten a baby smooth, irritations free shave with safety blades (even though I’m using the sharpest blades – Feathers).
I’m thinking, perhaps I’ll try a “slant” safety razor with the Gillette blues..or even opt to try the expensive feather safety razor…..
– at this point I might go back to my disposables and skips the DE razors 🙁
I’m sorry to hear you have been struggling with razor bumps and irritation.
Do you not have the same problem when going across and against the grain with the disposable razors?
If not, I would say probably to stick to the disposables to be honest. If you have given it your best shot in terms of perfecting your technique and tried different types of safety razors and razor blades with no success, its possible DE razors aren’t for you.
Ultimately, you should do what works best for you.
Hey guys, take the time to learn to pamper yourself. When you get married and have kids it’s easy to lose YOURSELF!! Get a good brush and some soap and learn to make shaving an enjoyable experience instead of a chore. Learning to shave with a safety razor or even better a straight razor can become a Zen like experience that only you own. Not to mention the finished product is far superior.
Been trying to get the hang of a DE razor for years, and in some cases I get an acceptable shave but usually it’s a bloody nightmare. Shaved this morning, and ended up having to delay leaving the house for over an hour to let my wounds heal and pick the scabs off. If I really, really try on a good day I can get a shave that approaches the quality I get with my cartridge system, but more often than not it’s far, far worse taking much more time.
DE razors are hype. I’m sure for some guys they’re great but not all faces are the same, and it’s rather conceited to suggest otherwise. Cartridge razors were invented for a reason, just because they’re DE razors “traditional” doesn’t make them better. For myself, and a lot of guys, going to a three blade cart from a DE is like going from a 79 Honda to a brand new Tesla. I can’t tell you what a stress-free joy it is to shave with the cart after using a DE for a while. Faster, smoother, and just all around easier. I can get a better shave with a cart on skin that has only been whetted with water than I can with a DE on skin that has had a pre-shave oil plus hand mixed lather. Just no comparison. My DE razors and blades will soon be at the bottom of a landfill.
And I couldn’t be happier.
I switched from 5 blade cartridge to DE shaving around 3 months ago. What a revelation! Yes, it takes some time to get used to it, but newbies really should watch some of the excellent YouTube videos out there. Not only will they show you how to shave, they also take you through the best razors, blades and overall process. I really do enjoy shaving again after it being a chore for so many years, and will never go back. As with others, get a Merkur 34C to start with. Although I’ve got 4 other razors (already!!), This and the Edwin Jagger DE89 are perfect for a great shave when matched with the right blade for you.
Haha. “…I’ll try to keep my biases out of this article” better luck next time…lol…anyway… well I only have my experience to go from as do you. I really wish someone would work on this properly and actually develop a better razor. Leaf have at least tried. In my experience (I’m 54) trying a few different safety razors and cartrige razors, and different types of electric razors, the three and 4 blade cartridges have less irrritation, cut closer, faster and are the only ones to not cut me…yes electric razors cut me. I really dislike that the cartiges are not able to be recycled but a safety razor is not the answer yet for me.
I’ve been planning to buy a safety razor for a long time now and gonna do that once the finances allow me, but, I have to disagree on one thing – cartridges don’t last only for 3 or 4 shavings. I had to do a little research and see that men use them for way longer than that. Now, I don’t know for how long do they actually stay sharp. And, the initial price difference doesn’t seem to be that much different after all. But maybe that depends on the part of the world. 🙂
But, I’m definitely pro safety razors, mostly because they’re eco-friendly, and at the same time not supporting that multi-billion dollar industry you’ve mentioned. Plus, those industries test on animals where required, so I’m avoiding them.
I’ve been thinking about Merkur 34C or maybe 23C because of the longer handle (although, my hands are small so I don’t think I would have much problems with 34C), but I’ll see when the time comes.
I use a Merkur 23c and it is easy, perfect for me, never nicks, Astra blades are .07 each. Goodbye cartridges.
Bic metal works best for me . i do only one pass with the grain . I have used for over 10 yeard modern DE safety razors with many different razor blades and i couldnt find the right combination ,that will give me the quality shave im looking for. On the other hand bic metal gives me always a superior shave.