Fans of disposable and cartridge razors alike face a serious existential question: 3 blade razors vs 5 blade razors – which is better? Here’s what you need to consider.
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What Is A 3 Blade Razor?
A 3 blade razor is either a cartridge or disposable razor with three horizontal blades, stacked one on top of the other.
As with many other shaving innovations, the first 3 blade razor, the Mach3, was introduced by Gilette in 1998.
The logic behind having three blades on a razor, as opposed to just one or two, is as follows. The first blade tugs the hair away from the skin as it cuts it, allowing each subsequent blade to then cut the hair again closer to the skin. This results in a closer shave.
In 1975, 23 years before the Mach3 was released, Saturday Night Live had already made fun of Gilette for the dual-bladed Trac II, which perhaps explains the long gap between the two releases.
Who Should Use 3 Blade Razors?
With one swipe of a 3 blade razor, you achieve a shave that’s fairly close to the skin, but generally isn’t too aggressive. You may still need to do a couple of passes, especially if you prefer a very close shave.
When deciding between 3 blade razors vs 5 blade razors, you’ll probably want a 3 blade one if your skin is a little more sensitive or if your facial hair isn’t incredibly coarse.
Additionally, 3 blade razors are a little slimmer, so it’s easier to maneuver them over hollow points and hard to reach areas. If you have smaller or more angular features, without much space between your nose and upper lip, a 3 blade razor will be much easier to use.
What Is A 5 Blade Razor?
In case it’s not clear, a 5 blade razor has 5 blades, stacked much in the same manner as on a three-blade razor.
Once again, it’s Gilette who’s responsible for the first 5 blade razor, the Fusion, which it released in 2005. Just for funsies, here’s a The Onion article from 2004 that predicted that release.
Gilette’s explanation for why more blades are better includes a few reasons. We already touched on how more blades mean a closer shave, but there’s more to it. Gilette also maintains that with more blades, the pressure on the skin ends up being more evenly distributed, which reduces irritation and cuts.
I don’t know about you, but when brands tell me something in order to sell more of a product, I’m usually pretty skeptical. The reality is that pressure is easily controlled by the person shaving, and having added blades pass over the skin is still going to increase chances of irritation.
Who Should Use 5 Blade Razors?
5 blade razors are best for men who want a fast, quick shave that’s still very close. One pass with a 5 blade razor is akin to two passes with a 3 blade one, so you’ll achieve a slightly closer shave a little more quickly.
That said, 5 blades are often a little more irritating, as well. Your risk of irritation probably has more to do with how you wet shave, but setting technique aside, 5 blades should still only be your first choice if your skin is pretty hearty.
Another consideration is size – if you have a broad face, using a wider 5 blade razor will be quick and easy, but men with a very angular face may struggle with the size.
3 Blade Razors vs 5 Blade Razors: Which Should You Get?
In practice, I don’t think a 3 blade or a 5 blade are especially different.
You might notice that a 5-blade razor gives you a closer shave or that a 3-blade razor gives you a more gentle shave… but the differences are so minuscule that it also might just be confirmation bias.
Your face shape can also matter. Guys with smaller or more angular faces will have an easier time using the smaller 3 blade razors, while guys with a broad face may prefer 5 blades. Most men fall somewhere in the middle, so it doesn’t make a huge difference.
“Your mileage may vary” is a key tenet of wet shaving, and this is one instance where it’s very easy to figure out what you like better. These types of razor blades are disposable, so you can simply buy a set of one, and then switch to the other, and see what works better. If you opt for a cartridge razor, most brands manufacture handles that’ll accept a few different types of cartridge blades.
You can even try shaving half your face with each one for a direct comparison of 3 blade razors vs 5 blade razors.
But, all that said… have you ever considered trying a safety razor instead of a cartridge? Double-edge safety razor give a more elegant shave, and in long term, they’ll cost you much less than either a 3 blade or 5 blade razor.