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Safety Razor vs Gillette Mach 3: Which Should You Get?

Sometimes, one product can become such a mainstay that it merits a thorough examination. In this safety razor vs Gillette Mach 3 showdown, we’ll see how Gillette’s classic holds up against the old-school shaving method. 

Table of Contents

What Is A Safety Razor?

Usually, when you see the term safety razor, the product in question is a double-edge (DE) safety razor made of metal. These kinds of razors have been popular ever since the start of the 20th century, replacing straight razors which were much more labor-intensive and difficult to use. 

The first safety razors were actually patented by Gillette. During World War I, a Gillette shaving kit was distributed in every soldier’s pack, which resulted in the safety razor’s immense and rapid growth in popularity. 

Technically, almost all modern-day razors are safety razors, including the Gillette Mach 3. For the sake of simplicity, I’ll use the word safety razor to refer to DE razors exclusively.  

Who Should Use A Safety Razor?

Almost every person who shaves should try using a safety razor at least once. Safety razors have a few major benefits over most other razors. 

They’re usually made of metal with a durable design intended to last for decades. Despite the normally excellent construction, there are a lot of great safety razors out there that cost under $50. 

The double-edge blades that most safety razors take are very small and affordable. They only cost between 10 to 20 cents per blade on average, which means they save you money in the long term, and there’s no reason to keep using a blade once it’s gone dull. 

Because you only shave with one side of the blade at a time, it’s a little like using a single-blade razor. They don’t necessarily provide the closest shave, but they’re very gentle on the skin, and doing multiple passes is not an issue. 

Choosing a more aggressive razor or a sharper blade can also help improve shave closeness, so they’re very customizable. 

What Is The Gillette Mach 3?

The Mach 3 is Gillette’s most well-known razor, and possibly the world’s most well-known cartridge razor. When it was released in 1998 it was the world’s first 3-blade cartridge razor. 

At the time, Gillette marketed it as a more gentle razor, since the 3 blades ostensibly put less pressure on the skin. 

Nowadays, the Mach 3 has undergone some changes, although fundamentally, it still has the same main features. 

It’s a cartridge razor, which means that it has a handle that accepts disposable blade cartridges. The cartridges have 3 blades positioned in such a way as to allow for easy rinsing, a lubrication strip that helps nourish the skin after each pass, and a microfin strip at the bottom that helps pull the skin taut for an overall smoother shave. 

The Mach 3 cartridges are usually sold in packs. Generally, the cost per blade is around $1.50 to $2.50. According to Gillette, each cartridge is meant to hold up for 15 shaves, although in practice, not many men will get that much usage out of them. 8-10 shaves is a lot more realistic. 

Who Should Use The Gillette Mach 3?

The Mach 3 is a bit of a no-brainer. Most men learn to shave with either cartridge or disposable razors, just like the Mach 3, which doesn’t require any special technique. The Mach 3 is a thoughtfully designed razor, which is evidenced by the fact that almost all other cartridge razors have been inspired by its design. 

The 3 blades offer a great balance between closeness and gentleness, without having to make too many passes. The design is universally loved because it works well with all skin types and beard types. 

If you don’t see a reason to stray from mainstream shaving practices, you can’t go wrong with Mach 3. 

Safety Razor vs Gillette Mach 3: Which Should You Get?

If you’re on the market for a new razor and deciding between a safety razor vs Gillette Mach 3, I’d always recommend trying a safety razor. The long-term cost is much lower than committing to the Mach 3, thanks to the longevity of the razor itself and the low cost of replacement blades. 

Using a safety razor also corresponds with better shaving habits. 

In my safety razor vs cartridge razor comparison, I touched on a bad habit many men develop with cartridge razors: Because the cost of the cartridges is so high, people will keep shaving with the same cartridge long after its lost its sharpness. 

The result is a poor, irritating shave. This definitely applies to Mach 3, and it’s even encouraged by Gillette’s slightly exaggerated claims about how long a cartridge can last. 

The low-cost of safety razor blades helps break that mentality and encourages users to replace the blades as often as necessary (which is after every 3 to 6 shaves). Despite the more frequent replacement, DE blades are much smaller and less laden with plastic compared to the Mach 3 cartridges, so they’re also better for the environment. 

That said, if you’ve been using cartridge razors all your life and you’re not keen to stop, the Mach 3 is a fine choice. The costs and environmental impact of the Mach 3 are on par with other cartridge razors, and it is a well-engineered product. Sourcing cartridges will be easy since they’re sold at every store – something that, sadly, isn’t always true for DE blades.  

Lastly, I don’t necessarily think safety razors guarantee a better shave than cartridge ones. Using them requires a bit of practice, and the overall shave quality really depends on your technique and prep, as well as on the specific razor and blades you choose. 

That said, safety razors might encourage you to learn more about how to wet shave correctly which can be a lot of fun. There is a lot of room to customize your shave with new shaving soaps and different blades. 

Even if you do return to cartridge razors like the Mach 3, you’ll be a better shaver for having tried them.

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.