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Safety Razor vs Cartridge Razor: Which Should You Use?

Hipsters all over the world are tossing their cartridge razors and making the switch to an older technology: safety razors. But is the hype warranted? This safety razor vs cartridge razor comparison will help you decide which is right for you. 

Table of Contents

What Is A Safety Razor?

A safety razor is a manual razor designed with some sort of guard that protects the skin during shaving. Technically, most manual razors (including cartridge ones) are safety razors, but the term is almost only ever used to talk about double-edge safety razors. 

Safety razors normally have a body made of metal, so they’re very eye-catching and durable. The blades themselves are thin, disposable double-edge ones that fit inside the head of the safety razor. 

They were first patented by Gilette and became popular during World War I when a kit was issued in every soldier’s kit. Compared to the straight razors that were common at the time, safety razors were a significantly more convenient alternative. 

Who Is A Safety Razor For?

Safety razors are great for just about anyone who shaves manually. They provide a close, clean shave – some cartridge razors can get in closer if the blades are fresh, but not by a big margin. 

There’s a lot of culture surrounding safety razors and wet shaving, with multiple online communities and a lot of purists. Using a safety razor can become a hobby if you want it to, but it’s not mandatory. 

Really, the only people who may want to avoid safety razors are those who don’t enjoy wet shaving at all (in which case, you may want to consider a foil or rotary shaver). 

What Are The Pros And Cons Of Safety Razors?

To quickly sum it up, here are the pros and cons of switching to a double-edge safety razor. 



  • There is a very small learning curve to shaving with a safety razor since they require a slightly different hold. 
  • Depending on where you live, you may have to do a bit of searching to find equipment online. It’s not easy to find safety razors or replacement blades in brick & mortar stores. 
  • The online wet shaving communities can be a little snobby at times – be ready to “lurk moar.” 

How Do You Use Safety Razors?

One of the beautiful things about safety razors is that it’s pretty easy to transition to them from cartridge razors. In a perfect world, you’d follow the classic wet shaving method when using a safety razor, but you don’t have to. 

  1. To start, rinse your face with warm water to help soften the hair you’ll be shaving. 
  2. Apply your usual shaving aid. You can go all out by lathering up shaving cream or soap, but you can also use a typical canister shaving gel. 
  3. Once your face is covered in a thick layer of cream or lather, you can begin shaving. 
  4. Bring the razor against your skin at a 30 to 40-degree angle. 
  5. Use small, slightly overlapping strokes to shave with the direction of the hair. 
  6. Make sure to apply almost no pressure against your skin, and instead, let the weight of the razor guide itself downwards. 
  7. Depending on your skin and face shape, you may want to use your other hand to pull your skin taut as you shave, to create a flatter surface for the razor to glide over. 
  8. You may need to alter your grip, move your head, or make odd expressions as you continue shaving, in order to get into all the nooks and crannies without cutting yourself. 
  9. After every couple of strokes, you can flip your razor over to shave with the other side of the blade. Once it’s too clogged, just rinse it under the tap with hot water. 
  10. After doing your first pass with the grain, you may choose to do a second pass going sideways, perpendicular to the direction you first shaved in. This will allow you to achieve a closer shave, but with a minimal chance of irritation. 
  11. Finally, if you think your skin can handle it, you may also do a final pass going against the direction of hair growth. You don’t have to do this all over, but you can just concentrate on areas where you’re still seeing a bit of stubble or shadow.  
  12. Once you’ve finished shaving, rinse away any remaining shaving cream from your face, and rinse your razor clean under hot water. 
  13. Finally, give your skin a bit of post-shave care. At the very least, I recommend splashing the face with a bit of cool water and applying a bit of lotion or an aftershave balm. 

What Is A Cartridge Razor?

A cartridge razor is the type of safety razor almost all men are familiar with, even if most of them don’t know it’s a type of safety razor. It’s your typical plastic razor with a disposable cartridge that has the blades embedded within it.  

Most cartridge razors have multiple blades sitting in rows. This design allows them to shave very closely since the rows of blades serve a dual purpose. One blade lifts the hair so the next blade can cut it more easily. You’ll notice this difference primarily when shaving against the direction of hair growth.

The first cartridge razors were introduced in 1971, 70 years after the first safety razors. Once again, this innovation came courtesy of Gillette! 

Who Are Cartridge Razors For?

Cartridge razors are for people who are not in the mood to try something new and have the budget to replace their razor blades often. 

A lot of men have this habit of not replacing their cartridges as often as they should. It’s not surprising – razor refills are expensive, so the more uses you get out of one cartridge, the more money you’ll save in the long run. 

Unfortunately, that means men are using blades that are far too dull for their skin, which leads to poor shaves and irritation. If that’s never been a problem for you then you must be some kind of wizard. Clearly, you’ve got your life together, and if you’d rather keep going with your trusted cartridge razor, more power to you.  

What Are The Pros And Cons Of Cartridge Razors?

At this point, you probably have an inkling as to what I think about cartridge razors, but here’s a summary of their main pros and cons.


  • Most people learn to shave for the first time with cartridge razors, so there’s almost no learning curve. 
  • You can find cartridge razors almost anywhere.
  • Multi-blade cartridges can provide a slightly closer shave when fresh.  


  • Replacement cartridges are expensive, often costing a dollar or more per cartridge. 
  • If your go-to razor becomes discontinued, the cartridges will eventually get discontinued as well and you’ll have to buy a whole new system. 
  • The disposable heads create a lot of waste.  
  • Because of the cost of the replacement cartridges, many men have a tendency to overuse blades and end up with a crappy shave. 
  • The multi-blade designs are slightly more irritating to the skin. 

How Do You Use Cartridge Razors?

If you were never taught how to use a cartridge razor, here’s a quick step-by-step. 

  1. Start by prepping your skin with warm water, and applying a thick layer of shaving gel, cream, or soap. 
  2. Now you can begin shaving. For the first pass, shave with the direction of hair growth.
  3. Bring the razor so the cartridge is about flush with your skin, and pull it downwards in small strokes to shave. 
  4. As you shave, be careful not to apply too much pressure on your skin. 
  5. Rinse the razor with hot water after every few strokes to remove stubble and shaving cream residue. 
  6. Be careful working your way around the contours of your face or any areas where the skin is a little looser. 
  7. You can use one hand to tighten the skin as you shave, to prevent cutting yourself. 
  8. Once you’ve finished your first pass, you can do a second pass. If your skin is a little more sensitive, just shave sideways. If your skin is more resilient, you can shave against the direction of the hair growth. 
  9. Once you’re done, use a splash of cool water to get rid of the shaving cream and stubble residue. 
  10. Finish things off with your favorite aftershave balm or lotion. 

Safety Razor vs Cartridge Razor: Which Should You Use?

If you care enough about shaving to look up comparisons between safety razors vs cartridge razors, you should have started using a safety razor yesterday. 

I’m not one for nostalgia, but it’s clear to me that cartridge razors are an innovation that did not improve on the original. Safety razors win against cartridges on almost every front. 

They’re significantly more affordable in the long-term, they encourage you to change razor blades more often, they’re better for the environment, and they look cool. No matter who you are, I think you’ll benefit from choosing to shave with one. 

While there is some snobbery in the safety razor world, you don’t need to do a ton of research to start using one. You can decide to dive deep into shaving brushes and soaps if it sounds interesting, but you can also keep it casual and use a safety razor with the same shaving cream or gel you’ve always liked.

Miles is a professional men's grooming analyst who believes that to look good a man just needs to take good care of himself. He’s all about wet shaving, sustainability, and evidence-based grooming - an obsession he’s ready to share. Miles is known for his in-depth analysis of men's grooming products, brands, and best practices you can't find anywhere else.