Shaving with a safety razor or cartridge razor? What’s the best razor to shave with and why would you use each one of them?

And finally, do you really have to choose between them?

All men have thought about these questions at some point. After all, shaving is a bit part of our life, even for the ones that grow a beard.

Imagine that there was a time, that a revolution in men’s shaving equipment took place. The time that the twin blade razor was manufactured and it was the hottest thing on TV (and Radio 🙂 ). Many of us weren’t even born back then.

Think about this.

Many men who used to shave with a safety razor (or even straight razor),  were introduced to the the next big thing in shaving. The cartridge razor.

And who can blame them?

These new razors were light, simple to use, safe for their face and they boasted more blades. Two blades in the 70’s, 3 in the 90’s and later on with 4,5,6 blades. And as you see on  TV, the more blades a razor has, the smoother the shave (and less irritation).

The best part? Once you’re done with them, you simply throw them away!

It just seems to good to be true, right? Let’s see…

I doubt that there’s man that hasn’t tried a cartridge razor before. Maybe a man that just became a man. This could get a bit disturbing already…

There’s a certain comfort that cartridge razors give you and you just can’t live without them. Yes, I said it…

I understand that safety razors are more beautiful, they give you a great shaving experience, they’ve got low running costs etc. What a man shouldn’t forget however, is how useful a cartridge razor can be.

So what am I jibber-jabbering about again?

Before I proceed any further let’s see what we’ll be talking about in this post. More specifically:

  • What’s the cost of ownership.
  • How safe are they.
  • How much time does it take to shave.
  • Ease of use.
  • Shaving experience.
  • Beauty is in the eyes of the razorholder.
  • Which razor is ideal to travel with.
  • Aaaand………… that’s it!

Costs of safety razor vs cartridge razor

As we discussed already on a previous article, shaving with a safety razor is much more economical than a cartridge razor.

The only substantial investment is the actual razor but again, it depends what kind of safety razor and brand you’re going to select. You can be well off with Merkur’s or Edwin Jagger’s standard razors which are both equally great, priced at around $30. And with 100 blades at a total cost of $10, you’re all set.

I understand that cartridge razors are cheaper to buy. Cartridges however, will hurt your pocket and possibly hunt your dreams. No matter which cartridge razor you select, you won’t be able to shave with less than $1 per cartridge.

If this money difference isn’t an issue for you, then you’ve got nothing to worry about.

Shaving safety

There’s no doubt that shaving with a cartridge razor is easier and safer. No wonder why we all learned how to shave with this one and not with a shavette.

Do you know why is that? Let’s take the safety razor first.

Safety razor gives you a more aggressive shaving due to the blade being more exposed. We established that already…

As you’ve probably experienced many times, the blades of the cartridge razors aren’t as exposed as safety razors and the blades can be pressed hard to your face without cutting you. I wouldn’t advise that, but it is what it is. This happens because the blades are “boxed” and there’s a little bit of space between the blade and your skin when it gets into contact.

Therefore, cartridge razor is safer than shaving with a safety razor.

There’s a but here…

Even though shaving with a cartridge razor is safer in terms of cuts, this doesn’t mean that you get less irritation.

Why does this happen?

There are three reasons that could satisfy your curiosity.

1. More blades doesn’t mean less irritation.

You’ve got a cartridge razor with, let’s say, five blades. Every blade of a cartridge razor that comes in contact with your face, it removes a small layer of skin. As you can imagine, the more blades and the more passes that you do with the razor, the more skin your remove.

And guess what! What…?

The more skin you remove the higher the possibility of getting your skin irritated. You got that right!

Now with the safety razor it’s a bit different.

Every time you shave, you have one blade on your face shaving your beard. On top of this, you don’t apply too much pressure on your face while shaving with it. You wouldn’t dare to apply a lot of pressure anyway. Please don’t do it…

2. Weight difference between the two different types of razors.

Besides the exposure of the blade, cartridge razors are much lighter than safety razors.

This is also one of the reasons why you get the feeling that you need to apply more pressure towards your face in order to get a close shave.

3. And lastly, the extra blades of a cartridge razor fills up with gunk faster than a single bladed safety razor.

The more blades a cartridge razor has, the closer they are to each other and the more they chunk with hair. When this happens, with every stroke it scratches your skin and causes irritation. Which is why you need to shorten your beard first with a trimmer, before you shave. This also why you need to change the cartridges often (one of the reasons really).

How many times have you used tweezers to take some hair out of your razor? You’ve never done it?

Pfff, that’s embarrassing… Yeah, I haven’t done it as well (gasp!).

These three things combined, can contribute to a shave with more irritation when shaving with a cartridge razor compared to safety razor. On the other hand, it’s much safer to shave compared to with a safety razor.

How long does it take to shave with each one of them

From my personal experience, shaving with a cartridge razor is the fastest way. In normal conditions, shaving time is almost half than that of a safety razor.

Let’s say that you’re in a hurry to go to work -because you overslept of course.

Due to the fact that shaving with a cartridge razor is considerably safer, in terms of nicks and cuts, this gives you an advantage over safety razor, especially if you’re about to get fired.

As previously discussed, you can apply more pressure on the cartridge razor while shaving -with speed, and get your shaving done even with one pass.

This could be rather challenging with a safety razor because if you try to do the same, there’s a great chance you’ll butcher your face. With a safety razor, you need to take your time, or at least more time to do it proper, enjoyable and safe.

Long story short, with Superman’s speed, you’re done within 54 seconds and ready to get in the car and go to work -while forgetting to wash off the lather from your face. Oh man!

What razor is easier to use

Shaving with a Safety Razor or Cartridge Razor. Gillette Fusion

Image Courtesy:

Cartridge razors are much simpler to use. It’s not necessarily a good or bad thing, it’s just different.

And I explain what I mean.

With a cartridge razor, all you have to do is place it on your face and start shaving in one direction. The shave is going to be the same, unless you apply more or less pressure on your face.

OK, you get it, using a cartridge razor is easier. But how is it with a DE razor?

Glad you asked!

Shaving with a double edged safety razor, makes things more interesting. You can get a close shave without applying pressure on your face. Moreover, you can only shave by letting the razor glide on your face just by letting gravity do its job.

One thing to keep in mind is that if you try to apply pressure on your face while shaving with a safety razor you’ll probably get cut. In a few words, this again proves the aggressiveness and how close shave one can get from shaving with a safety razor.

Since the blade is more exposed, shaving with it requires more attention. By attention, I mean that the way you hold the razor can change the aggressiveness of your shave. That being said, depending on the angle that you’re holding a safety razor you can expect to get a mild to a more aggressive shave.

And it’s not only that.

Few safety razors have safety bars that are slant. This can change things entirely from one shave to the other. A bright example is the difference in the shave between two razors from the same company, the Merkur 34C and the slant 39C. Shaving with a slant safety razor gives you a completely different shave than with a straight bar safety razor. From what you can derive from this is that even selecting the right safety razor is important.

Besides the angle and the pressure you apply, the razor blades that you use can make a big difference in the aggressiveness of the shave.

Another thing that cartridges razors differ from safety razors is the weight. For some, it’s better to have a light razor so you move it more freely and feel that you have more control over it while shaving. For me this isn’t the case since I prefer the razor to feel heavy in my hands. But anyway.

Lastly, the length of the handle in cartridge razors is longer compared to most safety razors. However, there are a lot of different versions of safety razors with longer handles that matches any man’s specs.

Shaving experience

This can’t get any more subjective.

Having shaved with all kinds of cartridge razors, none has given me any pleasure while using it. It was always about getting the job done as quickly as possible.

With a safety razor things are much different.

It’s the whole ritual that you enjoy. You take the safety razor in your hands and you hear bells ringing and see Unicorns fly over rainbows.

No but seriously now…

Maybe it’s because of the fact that when you use a safety razor you’re not supposed to be in a hurry. You need to enjoy it, otherwise the razor won’t forgive you for this.

For many men (including myself), shaving with a safety razor is a more enjoyable and relaxing experience. And you respect every part of it. From the moment you take in your hands and replace the safety razor blade until you wash it off and put it back on your shaving set’s stand. I guess that concentrating more on the shaving part because you get intimidated by the exposed blade, you leave everything that’s bothering you out of your head. At least briefly…

Someone may get similar pleasure from a regular cartridge razor but for me this isn’t the case.

Cartridge razor systems offer convenience, error tolerance and a relatively easy shave without the requisite skills. But enjoyable, I wouldn’t say so.

It’s not only about the looks. BUT IT IS!!!

This is a very subjective matter but as I’m being completely biased, I must say that a safety razor looks awesome! And it looks great as a decorative element in your bathroom as part of a shaving set together with your beautiful badger hair shaving brush.

If you take the “factory” versions, I would say that a safety razor looks way more beautiful, manly and vintage. If you prefer modern designs, then a cartridge razor might do the trick for you.

Not sure if you knew it already but a cartridge razor can look good too. All you need is a few tweaks and upgrades. You can buy a razor with different handles (e.g. wood, marble etc) and combine it with popular cartridges such as Mach 3 and Fusion from Gillette or even a more modern desing like the Ockham razor. If that’s what you’re looking for, this changes the appearance of your razor quite a bit.

Not that the appearance matters on your shave but …..

Who am I kidding? It matters to me and how I feel when I see and use it.

Travelling with your razor

For some, this wouldn’t be an issue.

I’m not sure if you’ve ever thought about it but you can’t travel by plane with your safety razor blades in a carry-on baggage.

I’m travelling quite a lot by plane and I tend to get only a small luggage with me. This means that safety razors don’t belong in my dopp kit. Instead, I get a cartridge razor.

On the other hand, if you aren’t a frequent flyer, you get with you whatever you feel like. I wouldn’t say that something is more travel friendly than the other.

Nevertheless, cartridge razor is a clear winner here.

Shaving with a safety razor or cartridge razor? The verdict

You want me to decide?


I usually say that these kind of things come down to personal preference.

I mean, I can’t decide one against the other. Personally, I’ve been using both types of razors. Either safety razor or cartridge razor, I don’t think I’ll stop using any of them anytime soon.

For example, when I’m in a hurry or travelling by plane I use cartridge razors. Otherwise, I only use safety razors because I enjoy shaving with them more.

You got to understand that one doesn’t replace the other but they rather compliment each other. Decide what’s more convenient to you and what gives you the best wet shaving experience.


Did i miss anything? What kind of razor do you prefer shaving with and why?