Likely the two most popular types of razor to use for shaving are the safety razor and the cartridge razor. Although not many people know the difference between the two, they both work very differently against your skin. Whilst there are benefits of both, it’s important that you know which one is better for your skin.
Essentially the main difference between the two is that whilst a safety razor works with a single blade that you insert yourself, a cartridge razor relies on a specifically designed 2-6 blade cartridge that’s used to for your shave.
This is a simplified explanation of the difference between the two, so let’s have a deeper look at the differences between a safety razor and a cartridge razor.
Safety Razor vs Cartridge Razor – What’s the Difference?
A safety razor is just another word for a double edged razor, or a DE. It’s often incorrectly referred to as a straight razor, which is a totally different thing. It’s essentially made up of a typically metal handle with a guard at the top where the user can insert a normal razor blade. It’s a much more manual shave than using a cartridge razor.
A cartridge razor is exactly as it sounds. It’s normally a metal or plastic handle which has a simple to attach cartridge at the top of the razor. Inside the cartridge is a group of blades. Typically, there are usually anywhere between 2-6 blades. In recent years, we’ve seen more blades becoming a more popular option for use for shaving.
Both cartridge razors and safety razors are designed with the same goal in mind – to shave closely down to the skin. As opposed to shavers, it’s really a testament to a good razor if you can cut skin close and not leave any form of stubble (although it might still grow back fairly quickly). There are pros and cons of each of these methods of shaving, and we’ll have a look at the benefits of each type of razor.
Benefits of Using a Safety Razor
Undoubtedly one of the biggest reasons that you should opt for a safety razor as opposed to a cartridge razor is expense. This is only proven by this website, where some shave clubs charge in excess of $2 per cartridge. If on average you pay $2 a week (based on shaving 3-4 times a week) over the year, this will easily add up to $100 just on razor blades. If you need to shave more frequently, then this can be $100s of dollar over an entire year.
With a safety razor, they all use the same blades which you can buy in bulk to help save cost. You’re unlikely to pay more than $0.10 per razor blade if you’re purchasing them online. This means that you can often get 100 razor blades for around $10, so it’s easy to see the big difference in price between the two.
I’ve used both of these methods of shaving extensively, and in all honestly I can’t say that a safety razor does get much closer to the skin for me than a cartridge razor. This may be due to the fact that you really have to concentrate with a safety razor, so I may be dubious of cutting myself – I don’t know. It does undoubtedly cut closer, but not a great deal as a cartridge razor already gets pretty close to the skin.
I do have friends that swear by using a safety razor, so there must be some benefits of using a safety razor to cut closer to the skin. It can be difficult to learn how to shave with a safety razor, however it can be worth your time.
One stroke shaving
Because a safety razor gets closer than a cartridge razor, you generally only need to go over an area once to get rid of the hair. One of my biggest pet peeves with using a cartridge razor is having to go over the same area several times to ensure all of the hair is gone. This is because cartridge razors are designed so they are difficult to cut, which also means that they’re not as effective as shaving close.
Negatives of a Safety Razor
The main issue with a safety razor is the massive learning curve that you have to go through to use it properly. I don’t care what anyone says – yes, it gets easier to use a safety razor but it undoubtedly takes longer than using a cartridge razor. This is true even if you’re an expert – with a cartridge razor, you might have to worry about irritation but not cutting yourself.
This is probably the main reason that I never decided to go with safety razors in the first place. I’m a hairy, bald guy – I need to shave. A lot. So, there’s not a day or two that I can go without shaving, otherwise I’ll end up looking like a distant relative of Sasquatch.
Razors alone are actually considered a weapon, meaning that you can’t actually fly with your razor blades. Although the likelihood of you getting stopped might not be that high if it’s in your razor, you aren’t allowed to take safety razors in your hand luggage. This is probably because it’s so easy to take them out and use them as a weapon, so I do understand.
Expensive for the handle
In the long run, the cost of cartridge razors can undoubtedly add up and a safety razor will be cheaper. But in the beginning, a good safety razor handle can actually cost you quite a bit of money. The higher quality safety razor handles can cost up to $100, but you don’t necessarily need to spend this much to get yourself a decent safety razor handle.
Benefits of Using a Cartridge Razor
Ease of Use
Using a cartridge razor is undoubtedy the easiest way to shave – this is probably the main reason that they’ve become so popular. It wasn’t until Gillette popularised them in the early 1900s that cartridge razors became so popular – nowadays, they outsell safety razors and straight razors significantly.
With a cartridge razor, they’re usually at least two bladed – though my favorite razors to use are 6 bladed razors like the Pace 6 from Dorco. This means that it’s easier to ensure that you’re cutting your hair with the razor – this can be an issue with safety razors, as they are only one blade.
It takes a lot longer to shave with a safety razor than a cartridge razor. You undoubtedly have to be more meticulous. This isn’t something that the majority of people want when they’re shaving – then want to get in the bathroom, get the job done and leave.
Cheap at first
You can pick up a half decent cartridge razor for a really good price online. You’re really just paying for the handle, so there isn’t a great deal of cost associated with this. The issue with cartridge razors comes with the blades, of which the cost can add up a lot over the course of month and years. This is especially true for shave clubs, which usually charge an extra fee for delivering the products to your door.
Negatives of a Cartridge Razor
Expensive in the long run
Unless you find a really good deal on cartridges, then the cost can add up exponentially. Although many companies claim to be competing with ‘corporate monster’ Gillette for price, many of them are as, if not more expensive. There are some ways to get razor cartridges at a good price – the best way is undoubtedly to buy them in bulk to save costs.
The Safety Razor Fan Club – not, that’s not a real thing.. yet – swear by using safety razors to help reduce the irritation that’s so commonly associated with shaving. Razor burn is no joke, and it can be one of the most annoying parts of shaving – especially when the burn lasts longer than you’d expected.
This is real problem with cartridge razors for some people – they just can’t seem to avoid getting razor burn when they use their razors. Although you can look at using different cartridge razors to avoid razor burn and learn how to shave properly – especially your neck, the worst place for razor burn – for some people, this type of razor just isn’t a viable option.
Overall, it’s very difficult to tell which type of razor will actually be better for your needs. Your best bet is to actually try each of these individually and find out which one works better for your skin – it can be difficult to know how your skin will react without physically trying it yourself.
If you have more time to invest in learning how to shave properly, then you may want to consider a safety razor. They can cut closer than a cartridge, and they’re undeniably cheaper in the grand scheme of things. Though if you’re likely the majority and just want to have an easy shave, then you’re better off going for a cartridge razor as they are much easier to use.