Which are the best: safety razors or cartridge razors?

Is a safety razor better than a cartridge razor? We thought we’d put an end to the debate, once and for all.

Rather than sitting on the fence, admiring the view, let us start by getting down and dirty.

We’re safety razor fans. Always have been, always will be.

Now, that’s not to say we’re completely against cartridge razors – we used to sell them for heaven’s sake – but there’s just something about a traditional safety razor. The weight, the feel, the shave; it’s all just a little more distinctive.

That being said, we’ll do our best (no promises) to put our allegiance aside for this article, presenting an honest comparison, with only a few snipes.

A quick history lesson: the birth of disposable blades

Believe it or not, there was a time when safety and cartridge razors didn’t exist. Instead, men – or most often their barbers – shaved with traditional straight razors. These tools featured one fixed blade that required regular sharpening and honing, keeping a straight edge for an optimal shave. That’s a lot of work for those that need to beat back stubble on a daily basis.

Soon, a few bright sparks discovered the potential for a multi-billion pound market. If they could create a throwaway culture among men, encouraging them to maintain the sharpness of their blade by replacing it all together, there were fat cheques to be cashed for all involved.

The introduction of safety razors

It worked, of course, and safety razors became the dominant force for shavers around the globe. Men started to invest their hard-earned money in shiny razors, made with strong metal handles and heads with protective guards. Unlike their barber’s straight razor, these gadgets didn’t need honing or sharpening. Instead, they fitted double-edged blades that stayed sharp for a handful of shaves, before being replaced.

These innovations allowed men to (confidently) shave in the mirror at home – much to the dismay of barbers. Double-edged safety razors and blades quickly took the world by storm and billions of pounds were made in the process.


But the bright sparks weren’t content. As the safety razor market reached saturation, they felt their moment in the limelight was starting to fade. “What’s next?” was the question on their lips. “What’s better than one blade?”

Along came cartridge razors

Cartridge razors are to shaving what The Phantom Menace is to Star Wars. Actually, that might be a little harsh – cartridge razors aren’t that bad. In fact, their introduction did solve a few shaving niggles – more on this later.

The main difference between a safety and cartridge razor can be seen in the tool’s head. Just like a double-edged safety razor, the handles are designed to be kept. But the head (or cartridge) is detachable.

These newly constructed cartridges require men to replace the entire head, not just the blade. In an attempt to innovate, they also feature more blades too. So, rather than shaving with one blade, men are able to shave with two, three, four or even five! That can only be a good thing, right?

Wrong. In fact, you’re much better off shaving with just one blade. And here’s why…

Which provides the best shave: a safety razor or a cartridge razor?

Think about it: when you shave, you’re basically dragging a sharpened piece of steel across your skin. No matter how tough your hide might be, the more times you do this during a single shave, the more your skin’s going to react.

Now imagine the stress your skin’s under when you’ve got five blades stacked on top of one another? This is one of the problems with cartridge razors – our constant obsession with innovation and ‘newness’ has actually damaged our shaving experience. How ironic.

In comparison, keeping things old-school and shaving with just a single blade is less likely to cause unnecessary irritation and redness, if used properly. The problem here is that using a safety razor with one double-edged blade naturally means there’s less protection. And this creates a harsher learning curve, which often puts men off. This also shows us the true innovation of a cartridge razor – the added safety and confidence it provides.

Ultimately, though, we believe that taking the time to master the shaving angles and intricacies of a safety razor, using just one sharp blade, will present you with a superior shave and better skin in the long run.

It’ll save you money, too.

Which is cheaper: a safety razor or a cartridge razor?

Once upon a time, there was a hare and a tortoise, and we all know how that story ended.

It’s actually a pretty fitting comparison for safety and cartridge razors too. You see, the initial cost of a cartridge razor is appealing. The handle is often cheaper than a safety razor and, technically, you get more for your money when it comes to the cartridges – five blades, instead of one. But the long term savings paint a very different picture.

Yes, the upfront cost for a safety razor is usually more than its cartridge counterpart. But double-edged blades cost literally pennies in comparison. On average, a pack of ten double-edged blades from the Shaving Shack will cost you just £3.00 (£0.30 each); while a pack of ten cartridges from Boots, Amazon or your local supermarket, will set you back roughly £22.00 (£2.20 each).

Annually, double-edged blades are a pretty good saving. On a lifetime basis, they’re even better. Here’s some quick maths from our team:

Are safety razors better for the environment than cartridge and disposable razors?

As we step into a generation of recyclers and ethically-minded shavers, this has become a pertinent point. Put simply, the answer is yes. Safety razors are more environmentally friendly than cartridge or disposable models.

This is because they don’t harbour plastics. Instead, their handles are often made of metals that last a lifetime (if you look after them) and the double-edged blades they use are made solely from sharpened metals, usually steel. In comparison, cartridges are a hybrid of plastic and metal, while throwaway disposables are simply the devil.

Due to their designs, most cartridge and disposable razors end up in the bin. In fact, in the 1990s, the EPA estimated that Americans tossed two billion disposable razors into landfill. That’s nearly 500 tonnes of plastic waste; enough to lay each razor on end and lap the world five times. And the rate of consumerism has only increased since then.

In comparison, double-edged blades can be safely recycled at most pharmacies, where they are melted down alongside other medical sharps (such as needles, syringes and scalpels) avoiding landfill altogether.

The verdict

This argument will rage on for eternity. But it’s still our job to try and conclude this piece, so here it goes.

The evidence is overwhelming. If you’re looking for a barber-grade shave, with cost and environmental benefits, you’re best suited to a double-edged safety razor. Just remember that there might be a slight learning curve when making the switch, so go easy at first and read up on some techniques.

If you’re the kind of guy that takes no pride in his shave – you just want to whip stubble off your face as quickly as possible – then a cartridge razor might be the way forward. The learning curve is virtually non-existent, but you might find things a little more irritable on your skin (and wallet) in the long run.


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