Safety Razor vs. Cartridge Razor (with Infographic)

Ending the Great Debate: Safety Razor vs. Cartridge Razor

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 in an effort to convince you once and for all that cartridge razors are the devil…err, I mean, that cartridge razors are inferior to safety razors.

Safety Razor vs. Cartridge 2

In this picture there is a Muhle R41 (check Amazon reviews) and Gillette Mach 3 (check user reviews)

After reading all of the facts, my hope is 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 an helpful infographic that summarizes the differences between safety razors and straight razors but 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 Razor Infographic

 

Safety Razor vs. Cartridge: Breaking it Down

Before we get into the reasons why safety razors are so much better than cartridge razors, its first necessary to look at exactly what each type of razor is for those of you who are as of yet uninitiated.

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 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 razor blade, the entire rest of the razor is typically constructed from metal and is meant to be used time and time again.

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 that time, men used the same razor blades 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.

Fusion vs Mekur

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 better 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 irritation you will experience as a result.

In the most basic terms, it only takes one sharp blade to give you a close, smooth 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.

However, it’s not just the amount of irritation that separates safety razors from their inferior counterparts, as 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. While cartridge razors tend to use cheap, inferior quality steel, many double edge 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 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 provide is also related to the angle at which the blade is to the face. Whereas you can only shave at one angle with a cartridge razor, 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 safety razors are so much better, some men are still too cheap to choose quality over price. However, in this case, safety razors definitely win again. While the safety razor itself may cost anywhere between twenty and several hundred dollars, this is really a onetime cost, as the all metal razors should last for a lifetime.

So don’t think about the cost of the razor itself and instead focus on the cost of the blade. Cartridges just keep going up and up in price, 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.

Mach 3 vs Muhle

Safety Razors vs. Cartridge Razors: The Final Judgment

Safety razors are not only cheaper and provide a better shave, 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 short list of PNP’s favorite safety razors. For many more check out the link above about best safety razors!

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.

33 thoughts on “Safety Razor vs. Cartridge Razor (with Infographic)”

  1. 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.

    Any suggestions?

    1. 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.

    2. Try an ‘Injector’ razor. They’re far closer to a cartridge razor in terms of the angle you use.

    3. 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!

    4. 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

    5. 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

    1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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 .

    1. 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! 🙂

  5. 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.

  6. 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

    1. 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.

  7. 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.

    1. 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!

  8. 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

    1. Hey Donald,

      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?

      1. 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!

  9. 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.

    1. Hey Dave,

      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?

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

    1. Hi Nozza,

      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?

  12. 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 🙁
    Thoughts?

    1. Hey Paulo,

      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.

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