Safety Razor vs. Cartridge Razor, Which One Is Best?

If you are thinking about abandoning your cartridge razor for a safety razor you are not alone.  The high cost of razor blades and the seemingly unending practice of adding “yet another blade” to existing cartridge razors has grown tiresome for a lot of people.  In this article we will be pitting the two against each other in a “safety razor vs. cartridge razor”, winner take all challenge. 😉

Cost Of Ownership

Handles

In this area the safety razor and the cartridge razor take different approaches.  With most cartridge razors, the manufacturer will often give away the handle for free or at a hugely discounted price.  Also, they will occasionally offer coupons discounting the prices of the handles.  This amounts to the handle as being a type of loss leader for the cartridge razor companies.

Safety razors on the other hand require you to buy the handle.  These handles often range between $20 – $60 and oftentimes can go much higher if you are buying a really high-end handle.

Replacement Blades

The place where the two razors really differ is in the price of their replacement blades.  You can buy safety razor blades all day long for between 10 and 40 cents each. Cartridge razor blades, on the other hand, most of the time cost between $3-$4 per cartridge.  Although the manufacturers will give you a coupon for the handle, they rarely will give you a coupon for their blades, and if they do you don’t save much.

What this amounts to is that with a safety razor you’ll spend $3.00 per month in blades if you shave each day(30 blades x $0.10/blade).  With cartridge razors you’ll end up spending around $12.00 per month in blades assuming that one cartridge will last you one week( 4 cartridges x $3.00/cartridge).

The disparity in costs between the two razors only increase when you take into account that a safety razor blade will last more than one shave and in many cases can also last for a week(or longer.)  Some will argue that cartridge razors can last more than a week, which may be true in some cases, but I think a giving a cartridge a one week life span is more than fair.

You do have to pay out more cash initially for a safety razor than you do a cartridge razor.  However, the safety razor will usually pay for itself within a years time due to the lower replacement blade costs.  Over the long run, the cost savings of a safety razor can be tremendous.

Ease of Use

Regarding ease of use, the cartridge razor definitely has the upper hand over the safety razor.  A safety razor’s blade is usually positioned at more or less a right angle with respect to the handle.  This can lead to the razor being somewhat awkward to hold as you shave various curves of your face.  Also, a lot of safety razors tend to have shorter handles, which can make it more difficult to hold than a cartridge razor.

Most cartridge razors on the other hand feature a pivoting neck that allows for the razor to automatically adjust to the contour of your face.  On top of that, they also tend to have longer handles which makes them easier to hold.  To be fair, some safety razors also have longer handles to enable easier handling, but I think this is more of an exception and shorter handles are the norm for safety razors.

Occurrences Of Nicks And Cuts

In my personal experience, I would say safety and cartridge razors are neck and neck.  It’s possible to give yourself nicks and cuts with both of them if you are careless and not paying attention.  You might get a few nicks when first starting out with a safety razor, but I think this is a rare occurrence.  For this reason, I think it’s a wash with this comparison.

Closeness Of Shave

I think one of the greatest tragedies in the modern day world is the belief that only “umpteen-bladed” cartridge razors can give you a close shave.  I will agree that cartridge razors will give you a closer shave if you only do one pass with the grain.  However, this advantage of cartridge razors quickly disappears if you do a “pass against the grain” or “across the grain” with a safety razor.

Many men are only able to shave “with the grain” with cartridge razors.  This is due to the fact that there are multiple blades.  The more blades you have, the more friction you’ll have between the skin and your razor, which ultimately results in more irritation.

With safety razors there is only one blade.  This means there is a lot less friction between your face and the razor.  As a result, many men who are unable to do “against the grain” or “across the grain” passes with a cartridge razor are able to do those same passes with a safety razor.  Once you are able to shave against the grain it doesn’t matter if you have a one-bladed or fifteen-bladed razor, your shave will be the closest it can be.

Shaving Experience

This is a rather subjective category.  I think shaving with a safety razor produces a more enjoyable experience than a cartridge razor.  Most of the time with cartridge razors you are just shaving because you are forced to for work.  It’s a daily chore that you rush through with little to no thought.

Shaving with a safety razor can actually take something that was a chore and turn it into something that is enjoyable.  I believe this is because a safety razor forces you to concentrate on shaving instead of thinking about other things.  This in itself is very relaxing.  On top of that many people opt to purchase a badger hair brush and shave soap when they switch over to safety razors.  Those two things help prep your beard way better than any shave gel that comes in a can and also leads to a better shaving experience.

Final Verdict

I believe the only real advantage of cartridge razors is that their handles are usually more comfortable to hold.  I think safety razors are superior than cartridge razors in all other categories.

What do you think?  Which one is better, safety or cartridge razors?

Meet the Author

Thomas got into wet shaving in 2010 when he bought a Dovo Shavette and would go on to buy a straight razor four months later. Since then he has purchased many other types of razors including feather and safety razors. He reviews their performance on this blog.

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