When it comes to men’s shaving, one debate rules them all: Safety razor vs. Cartridge razor.
Which is better?
The truth is, most men asking this questions are men who are still using cartridge razors. Because everyone who gives safety razor shaving a proper try will come to the same conclusion.
Safety razors are better because they give you a closer shave, are cheaper to use, and are less prone to leave you with nasty razor bumps. The only advantage cartridge razors have is their ease of use, but you can quickly overcome that with a little practice.
This article will tell you in the detail why you should choose safety razors over cartridge razors.
Note: This article may contain affiliate links. That means if you click a link and purchase something, I earn a small commission, at no additional cost to you. All opinions are my own.
Safety Razors VS. Cartridge Razors: Pros and Cons
Each type of razor comes with its own pros and cons. So which razor is truly best for you depends on whether you value early convenience over shave quality and costs.
These are the pros and cons of safety razor shaving vs. cartridge razors:
Pros of Safety Razors
- Closer shave
- Less irritable for skin
- Razor blades last longer
- Razor blades are less expensive
Cons of Safety Razors
- Bigger learning curve
- Higher initial cost
- Might nick yourself more at first
Pros of Cartridge Razors
- Very easy to use
- Causes few cuts
- Low initial cost
Cons of Cartridge Razors
- Cartridges have to be replaced more often
- Cartridges are more expensive
- More irritable for skin
- Doesn’t shave as closely
As you can see, safety razors may require a higher initial investment, both in learning curve and cost. However, the cost is quickly offset by the money you’ll save on replacement blades. And while safety razor shaving may require some getting used to at first — especially if you’re used to the ease of cartridge razors — the learning curve isn’t that steep.
You may nick yourself a few times at first, but if you follow instructions closely, you’ll get used to them quickly enough. (And we’ll include instruction on how to use them later in this article.)
Recommended Shaving Products:
Why Cartridge Razors Are Inferior
At some point, big razor companies — most notably Gillette who started a trend upon releasing their Mach 3 — have convinced us that a regular single-bladed razor is no longer enough. They’ll have us believe that we need five-bladed razors with lubrication strips, vibrating handles and “Flexball Technology.” (What?!)
Even Q from the James Bond movies couldn’t make this shit up.
The truth is, this is all a bunch of baloney. The only reason you need a lubrication strip is because the multiple blades are overkill and cause the irritation. The multiple blades, the vibrating handle and the Flexball BS is all just marketing trying to make their product look like “more than just a razor.”
The Gillette Fusion is the most popular cartridge razor on the market today. The chief reason it’s most popular is because of great marketing — and hey, I fell for it in my early twenties.
What Gillette doesn’t want you to know is that the old-fashioned, single-bladed safety razor is a much better investment.
Why Safety Razors Are Better
Safety razors not only give you a close shave than multi-blade razors, but they do so without irritating your skin (if you use them properly).
And frankly, wielding a proper blade instead of a boy’s toy just makes you feel more manly. Even applying shaving cream the proper way makes you feel more like a grown-up.
On top of that, you’ll also save some money on shaving products and won’t have to think about replacing them as often either.
Know what? Lets compare.
Cost of Cartridge Razor VS. Safety Razors
The Gillette Fusion (pictured left) is the most popular disposable razor, so let’s see how it holds up to the Merkur 23C (pictured right) which is one of the most popular safety razors.
First, let’s compare prices:
Huh? Wait… What? Didn’t I say the safety razor would be less expensive?
No, I told you that shaving with one will be less expensive. First, because the stainless steel Merkur will last a lifetime, but most of all, because the razor blades are dirt cheap and have to be replaced less often.
See, Gillette’s business model relies on giving you the Fusion for cheap but then charging you ridiculous prices for the razor blades.
So let’s go ahead and compare those as well…
Cost of Refill Cartridges VS Safety Razor Blades
Again, let’s compare prices first:
- In the left corner: 12-pack of Gillette blades = $34
- In the right corner: 100-Pack of Derby blades = $9
That’s quite a difference, isn’t it?
With Gillette, you get 12 blades for $34 and with Derby you get 100 for $9.
That means after replacing only 12 Derby blades, you already made up the difference of what your Merkur razor cost!
And that doesn’t even take into account durability
Durability of Safety Razor Blades VS Cartridge Blades
Gillette would have you believe that their blades will last five weeks. The truth is, how long razor blades last depends on your beard growth. Some guys are luckier than others. The only way to truly tell when it’s time to replace your blade is when you feel the razor pulling on your beard. When I was still using them, I had to replace them at least every 1-2 weeks.
(Note: Gillette’s packaging suggest that you change the blade as soon as the lubrication strip has disappeared, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that the blade has dulled.)
I saw no difference in durability with Derby blades. They lasted the same period of time. I’ve seen some others online suggest that double-edged razor blades last longer than disposable ones, but this wasn’t the case for me. (Admittedly, I’m quite prone to razor bumps, so I will replace my blade as soon as I feel the slightest tug.)
Anyway, after I bought my safety razor, I bought a pack of 100 blades, which lasted a little less than two years. I didn’t have to think about getting new razors for two friggin’ years, guys. This might not seem like much, but it’s quite a load off your mind.
Why You Should Use a Shaving Brush
If you’re going to invest in a safety razor, you should also invest in a shaving brush. (Honestly, they are helpful even if you stick to cartridges.)
If you desire a clean shave, a shaving brush is an absolute must-have.
See, the typical way most men apply shaving gel, foam or cream, is they use their fingers. But by doing this, you essentially press your facial hair against your skin.
When you use a shaving brush, you do the exact opposite. You raise your whiskers rather than push them against the skin. You make them stand for attention so your razor blade can’t miss them.
On top of that, it’s a much more effective way to apply an even lather while using less of your shaving foam, gel, or cream.
Speaking of which…
Shaving Foams and Gels VS. Shaving Creams
Most men use shaving gels or foams that come out of aerosol cans, like one of these:
The truth is, these cans are designed to spray their gel or foam at rapid-speed, which leads to men almost always using much more foam to lather up than they need.
When you use a shaving brush with a shaving cream or soap, you only need a tiny amount to achieve a full lather.
Shaving creams come in containers that allow you to open the lid and dab the tip of your brush in, giving you much more control than if you were using a pressure can.
Most of the time, you’ll find that dipping your brush just once will be enough.
What keeps many men from using shaving creams instead of their canned counterparts is the price. Shaving creams are often more expensive, but that’s only when you don’t take into account how much use you get out of them.
So again, let’s compare:
This Gillette Fusion Shaving Gel pictured above costs $6.40 on Amazon for 6 ounces (or about 177ml).
This Maca Root based shaving cream from The Body Shop is the one I’ve been using (and it’s amazing). It costs $16 for 6.7 ounces (or 200ml):
Typically, a can of Gillette shaving gel would last you for a bit over a month. But for fairness’ sake, let’s say you apply it extremely sparingly and it lasts two whole months.
That pales in comparison to the Maca Root shaving cream, which lasted me at least a year (when using it along with my shaving brush).
In other words, you’d spend around $38 of shaving gel per year vs. only $16 on shaving cream.
Again, seems like an easy choice, doesn’t it?
What Aftershave Should You Use with a Safety Razor?
After shaving, you want to apply some aftershave to your skin to soothe, moisturize and close your pores so you don’t get any dirt trapped inside. Whether you use cartridge or safety razors makes no difference in what aftershave you should use, so you can keep using whatever you like.
With that said, I recommend against using alcohol-based ones.
Because most men are still using alcohol-based aftershaves that make you go like this:
Now, despite the sting, these aftershaves actually have something refreshing to them. But most guys use them just because they feel like the sting is telling them it’s doing its job.
In fact, many believe the alcohol in this aftershave helps close any nicks and cuts and that it helps prevent razor bumps. It does neither. In fact, the alcohol is unnecessary, and for some men can cause irritation or drying of the skin.
These aftershaves also tend to have strong odors, which can cause interference in case you want to apply some nice cologne.
So what’s the solution?
Balm contains no alcohol, which means it doesn’t sting. It barely has any scent to it, which means you’re free to wear any cologne you like. And it will often provide a more soothing and moisturizing effect on your freshly shaven skin.
And you don’t have to get anything fancy. This balm from Nivea works like a charm:
How to Shave Like with a Safety Razor: A Step-By-Step Guide
Now, let’s explain how to use these products. Because if you’re transitioning from a cartridge razor to a safety razor, it can take some getting used to.
Not knowing the proper way to wield a real man’s shaving blade can cause you to nick yourself more than you normally would. (In fact, you may experience a few more nicks than usual on your first few tries, but don’t give up if you do.)
So here’s a guide that tells you step by step how to shave with a safety razor:
Shaving with a safety razor isn’t the same as shaving with a cartridge razor like Gillette Fusion, and wielding the blade the wrong way will actually cause more nicks and cuts.
For the optimal shave, follow these steps:
- Make a towel wet with hot water and apply it to your beard and neck area. Keep it there for about 30 seconds.
- Make your shaving brush wet with warm water.
- Dip the tip of your shaving brush into the shaving cream.
- Use the brush to apply the shaving cream to your beard and neck area in a circular motion. Make sure you have a good, even lather, and leave it on for 30 seconds.
- Warm up you razor with hot water. The razor should feel warm, not so hot that it’s painful.
- Hold your razor gently at the base of the handle between the tips of your fingers.
- Hold the razor against your face at a 30 degree angle. Avoid applying pressure and let the weight of the razor do the work. (Applying pressure is a big mistake many men make when they switch from cartidge razors to safety razors. You will cut yourself when you do this.)
- Move your razor along your beard, shaving in the direction of your hair growth. Keep your passes short and rinse with warm water after every pass.
- Optional: If you still see stubble on your face, relather and shave again.
- Optional: If you want an even closer shave, you can lather up again and now shave across the direction of your hair growth. Never go against the direction of your hair growth. (You should only do this after you’ve practiced with the safety razor and feel confident wielding it.)
- Rinse your face with cold water.
- Pat your face dry with a towel.
- Apply aftershave balm.
Let’s End the Debate: Shaving with Safety Razors Is Better
The debate of safety razors vs cartridge razors has been going on for decades, but we have a clear winner here in terms of which is better. The only minor downside of safety razors is a brief learning curve, but that’s easy to overcome. Only if you truly value short-term convenience over a better quality shave and lower costs should you consider cartridge razors.
Did You Find That Useful? Then Check This Out…
I wrote a men’s style guide that simplifies the art of dressing well, focuses on what matters, and takes you through it one step at a time. Enter your e-mail below and you’ll receive three free chapters, which will show you: