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.
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: 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.
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.
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!
- 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!
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.
Ben Rose is the founder and senior editor at Prim&Prep, the definitive guide to male grooming. He is a wet shaving expert, body grooming aficionado, and skincare guru. His work has been featured on many other prominent men’s publications including AskMen, Men’s Health, and GQ.