Safety Razor vs Cartridge Razor: Comparison Guide
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Let’s have a look at a safety razor vs cartridge razor comparison. If you are keen on your surroundings, you’ve noticed cartridge razor adverts all over. Over the past few years, straight cut classic razors, and electric shavers have grown in popularity. However, men’s cartridge razors are still popular shaving tools for men around the world. But they are not in the clear yet. D-E razors are right on their heels with every passing year. So much so, that the debate of which is better, a safety razor or a cartridge razor has intensified.
If you are a newcomer, it’s all too confusing. Especially when wet shaving experts seem to be on the fence about the winner, but in their defense, choosing between the two is not an easy feat. In this review, we’ll lay it all bare for you and help you understand the similarities and differences. Hopefully, you can decide which is better for your needs. Before we dive into the safety razor vs cartridge razor comparison, let’s look at what these 2 types of razors are.
What is a Safety Razor?
Safety blade razors is simply a shaving tool that has a protective cap between the skin and the blade’s edge. This improves the safety of using these blades hence the term ‘safety’. But even with the above protection, some safety razors are aggressive.
How Safety Razors Compare
Before we look at the differences, let’s start with understanding the different types of safety razors. They are generally classified into two categories: the double edge razor and the single edge razor.
Double Edge Razor
This is the most common safety razor on the market. It’s so common that when experts use DE safety razors to refer to all safety razors. With this type, the double-edge razor blade is exposed on either side of the cap. This allows you to shave from either side. This feature makes shaving more convenient. When one side is covered in shaving soap, you simply rotate it and use the other side. Aside from being convenient, their blades are cheaper since no finish is needed on one side.
Now, you’ve probably heard that DE safety razors are aggressive. This is true as we’ll see in a later section. However, different DE razors have different levels of aggressiveness. You can tell the difference by looking at the curve on the cap. The bigger the curve, the milder the blade is since it’s inclined. If the cap is straight, the blade is harsh and not ideal for sensitive skin.
Single Edge Razor
This type is rare in comparison to the DE razor. From their name, you can tell that only one side has an exposed blade. Some experts argue that this is an advantage since the cap is made with functionality in mind rather than simple symmetry.
And since these razors are rare, the few available on the market are more expensive in comparison to their DE razor cousins. Aside from the above categories, there are other types of safety razors based on their mechanism. These types include:
- Closed comb safety razor
- Open comb safety razor
- Slant razor
- Butterfly razor
- Adjustable razor
In this article, the safety razor vs cartridge razor comparison refers to a DE razor.
Now that we have that out of the way let’s get into the meat of the comparison guide.
The Cost of a Safety Razor
The best safety razor can indeed cost up to $50. But for a good shaving session, you’ll also need to invest in the good traditional shave cream, one of our recommended best shaving brushes, and aftershaves. But even with all these costs, you end up saving in the long run.
How so? Well, regardless of where you make your purchase of replacement blades, you’ll find that the blades are cheaper than purchasing a new cartridge razor. Even the best safety razor blade costs about $.35. But with such low costs, there is a catch – the lifespan of the said blades.
How Long do Safety Razor Blades Last?
Generally, any blade used for wet shaving will undergo oxidation and get dull with time (that being said, there are steps you can take to keep the safety razor blade sharp). However, for a replacement that costs about $0.35, you can only expect it to last for so long. At best, you will get a week out of the blade before replacement.
And depending on how you look at it, it can be a pro or a con. The quick replacement turnaround is great if you have sensitive skin. New replacements ensure that you always have a sharp razor gliding over your skin, cutting, and not tugging on your facial hair. The result is reduced skin irritation and a cleaner close shave.
On the flip side, it is bad because not all countries have set up processes to dispose of the safety razors. And even the few that have these systems in place, it can be tricky.
No, it’s not enough to throw the blades into your trash can. If you do, you put kids and sanitation workers at risk of getting serious cuts as they handle the trash. But wait, how about the manufacturing companies recycle the blades? This option isn’t feasible since the blades are thin and small. There are, therefore, too many risks involved in handling the recycling process.
The best option is to store the blades in a blade bank before you throw it into the trash can. This way, you can be sure the blades are safe for you and those who will handle the trash later.
Now you probably think that this is another cost you’d rather not take on. But before you freak out, note that these blade banks cost only $5. Alternatively, if you can use pill bottles of old Altoid tins and save the $5.
How to Shave With Safety Razor
Before we get into the technique and use, we need to stress this – a safety razor is not forgiving for learners. Before you get the hang of the shaving technique, you’ll experience a bunch of nicks and cuts. But this is where the alum blocks and styptic pencils come in handy. These little tools help to stop profuse bleeding when shaving.
To get the shaving with safety razor technique right, you can watch several wet shaving experts do it on YouTube. To get you started, you can watch the video below.
And as you prepare to learn how to use a safety razor, you should also learn the direction in which your facial hair grows. This is important because you will have to make the passes on your skin in the following directions: with, across and against the grain. Do the passes in the order described above to get a close and smooth shave free or irritations.
As we pointed out earlier, to have a good shaving session with a safety razor, you should use shaving creams. However, with a cartridge razor you don’t necessarily need such bases to have a good shave. Instead, a shave gel is enough.
Aside from the shaving cream, to have a good shaving session, you’ll also need to use some shaving oil. This oil will help to lubricate the skin underneath the facial hair and consequently reduce the effort you’ll use to glide the blade along the skin.
After using the shaving oil, you can apply the shaving cream. Aside from lubricating the skin, the shaving cream will also help to insulate the hair follicles. In the process, the hair will swell and soften. Ultimately, it will be like slicing through butter with a hot blade.
The Best Safety Razor
In this section, we will not go into the details of what makes the best safety razor. Instead, we shall focus on directing you to the best DE razors depending on your situation and preference. In our research and numerous reviews, we’ve noticed that the popular Merkur 23C is ideal for beginners. This is because it has a look and feels similar to that of a cartridge razor, a tool that most beginners are familiar with. The length is the same and will, therefore, feel the same in your hand.
However, if you have a little more money to spare, you can buy the Merkur 38 HD. It is a good choice for men who are not keen on purchasing a new razor in the near future. The difference between the 38 HD and the 23C is in the handle length and weight. The Merkur 38 HD has a longer handle and is heavier. As such, you will not have to exert a lot of pressure when shaving.
But if your skin is sensitive, then the Merkur 37C is perfect. It is one of the best razor for sensitive skin because it has a slanted head design. Therefore, it cuts facial hair at an angle and reduces pulling and tugging of hair. Learn more about Merkur here.
Note: if you have not done any wet shaving before, you are probably better off investing in a shaving kit.
Is Shaving with a Safety Razor Dangerous?
No, it is not. A DE safety razor with a quality blade does not irritate the skin like a cartridge razor would. We mentioned earlier that the caps are curved to reduce aggressiveness and improve the shaving experience.
Even better, when you use the safety razor with the shaving cream and shaving oil and master the art of wet shaving, you’ll not cut yourself or experience irritations.
Does a Safety Razor Give a Closer Shave?
Of course, they do. There is a lot of talk about how shaving tools with more blades are more effective than DE blades when it comes to delivering closer and smooth shaves. But this is not entirely true. What we’ve noticed is that single blades yield better results.
This is mostly because, with single blades, the number of passes equals the number of passes you’ve made. However, with multiple blade cartridge razors, you have to multiply this number with the number of blades it has.
Also, the fact that a razor safety blades is replaced often, it means that you are working with a sharp single blade and that the safety razor doesn’t accumulate bacteria and dead skin which could cause an infection. Moreover, the blade sharpness ensures you get a close shave.
At the start of this piece, we mentioned that cartridge razors are everywhere. In addition to this, they have little to no learning curve. But though they are convenient, they have their pros and cons. You should consider these before you decide to use any of them.
Most cartridge razors have pivot heads. With these heads, it means that the cutting blades will always be in the perfect position to cut your hair regardless of the inclination. So what happens if you don’t have to worry about the inclination of your razor blades?
You guessed right, your shaving speed increases. While you can spend between 10 and 15 minutes to shave with a safety razor, you can use even five minutes to shave with a cartridge razor.
Now a couple of minutes might not seem like a lot of time, but it is for men who have a lot to do in the morning. If you have to make breakfast and drop your kids off at school, the few minutes you save could make a huge difference.
Unlike most safety razors, cartridge razors have multiple blades. Now the extra blades might increase the chances of skin irritation, but that’s not why manufacturers added them. The idea behind the extra blades was to lift hair and slice through smoothly.
So basically, if the cartridge razor has about four razor blades, the first and third will lift and the hairs and the second and fourth will slice through. Because of this technology, you are bound to get a close and smooth shave with a couple of passes.
Cartridge Razors and Skin Irritation
With a double edge safety razor, you have control over the number of times the single blade comes in contact with your skin. But with a cartridge razor featuring multiple blades, a single pass translates into more skin contact. And if you have sensitive skin, you know that the skin on the neck is easily irritated. Therefore aside from monitoring the number of passes, you also need to learn your beard growth.
When using a cartridge razor or any shaving tool with multiple razors, you should always shave along the grain. When you shave against the grain you will wreak havoc on your skin. This is because the razor blade will cut the hair under the skin surface. So while you might get and super smooth shave, when the hair starts growing back, it will curl back into your skin. The result will be uncomfortable ingrown hair that creates unsightly and painful razor bumps on your skin.
To try and salvage the situation, most men usually massage away the neck pain of simply use aftershave to prevent skin infections.
Cost of Owning a Cartridge Razor
The initial cost of purchasing a cartridge razor is lower than that of a safety razor. But the long term costs do not compare. With a safety razor, you simply replace the razor blade, but with a cartridge razor, you replace the razor. According to experts, in a year, you could spend $240 purchasing cartridge replacements while you could spend only $13 on safety razor blade replacements.
As you purchase replacements for your cartridge razors, you will come across new, and potentially better cartridge razors. And while it may be tempting to spend a little more for this, the investment will not always be felt in the shaving experience you get.
Let’s take the Gillette Mach 3 as an example. This tool was introduced a couple of decades ago. Back then, it was the bomb, and every man picked it off the shelves. To date, many men still believe the Gillette Mach 3 is the only cartridge razor that can provide them with the results they need at an affordable price despite new introductions in the industry.
So is a Cartridge Razor Better Than a Safety Razor?
From our safety razor vs cartridge razor comparison above, it’s still unclear which one wins. So the best we can say is that your choice boils down to your personal preference. Sure cartridge razors are expensive in the long run in comparison to safety razors. But they do get the job done and in record time as well. So if you are short on time, shaves every day and need to look sharp for a meeting during the day, a cartridge razor is your best bet.
Also, we should point out that between the two, cartridge razors are more forgiving when it comes to shaving. By this, we mean that they are less aggressive and accommodate beginners who haven’t mastered the art of wet shaving. On the other hand, safety razors are aggressive but help in getting the job done.
And while a safety razor is cheaper in the long run, you still have to factor in the purchase of creams and aftershaves every so often. These supplies ensure that you receive a close and smooth shave free of irritations.
You can purchase the razors we’ve recommended for a great experience. And if you don’t mind the learning curve involved, a double edge safety razor will blow you away.
The bottom line; you can choose either of the above depending on your preference.
And by this our safety razor vs cartridge razor opinion has come to an end. I hope this update have been useful for your choice when picking one that fit your shaving needs.