Last updated on February 8th, 2019 by Garrick Dee
Cartridge razors are great options for men who don’t have the time (or not willing) to learn the intricacies of using a safety razor.
In this guide you’ll learn the 5 best cartridge razors, how to choose one and tips on how to get good shave using a cartridge razor.
Despite all the downsides, cartridge razors still rake in sales because of its shallow learning curve and availability.
Thanks to brand giants like Gillette and Schick, this tiny little device has grown into the multi-billion dollar industry it is today.
Even traditional brands like Edwin Jagger have come up with products that integrate Gillete’s cartridges.
So there really is a lot of demand for these products right now.
Take note that a cartridge is different from a disposable razor.
A cartridge as the name implies use disposable refills where as a disposable razor is what it is – disposable.
You throw it way just after a few uses.
So our goal in this guide is to share with you the best cartridge razors available right now.
In the world of cartridge razors, the Gillette Fusion 5 blade ProGlide is still the best.
When you look at the head, this product is really similar to the Mach 3 but it has two additional blades.
The biggest upgrade however would be the handle. It comes with what Gillette calls the FlexBall handle technology that allows this razor to adjust to the contours of your face.
Not just for the face
This patented system not only limited to shaving your face, you can also use it for grooming hair on different parts of your body like the armpit, chest and even the bushy forest down under.
In terms of the price the razor itself isn’t expensive at just $13 for a one time purchase. The refills however are expensive.
An 8-pack will be roughly twenty two bucks so when you do the math a refill will cost a little under three bucks.
And even if Gillette says that these refills will last for up to a month, your mileage will definitely vary.
So expect a refill pack to last between one to four months depends on a lot of factors like beard density, growth and how often you shave.
If spending $20/month on refills sounds expensive opt for the cheaper Dorco Pace 6.
If you’re shaving for the very first time using a double edged or a straight razor is like to driving a race car without first knowing how to driving a sedan. You need to know the basics of shaving!
Fortunately in the age of the internet guides like this one I’ve written about wet shaving, you can easily learn from experts at the comfort of your own home.
Knowing the basics will help you avoid razor burn
Yes even in a simple task of shaving you have to learn techniques. And use the right products in order to avoid stuff like razor burn, cuts and ingrown hair.
Less passes the better
The goal in shaving is to use as little passes as possible and with these multi-bladed razors that principle is as important as ever.
Instead of just a single blade touching your face, you have three, four, five or six pieces of sharp metal raking on your skin.
The more passes you use, the more irritated your skin gets that’s why prep is probably the most important step. And I will share with you some actionable tips you can use to make shaving a more enjoyable experience and not a chore.
This is probably the most important pre-shave routine you can make. Hot water really opens up the pores and softens follicles making it easier for the blades to slice through them without pulling and tugging.
Another benefit of a hot shower would be the hydration it provides making it less likely for the blades to skin across your skin and leave tiny vibrations.
If taking a hot shower isn’t possible, the next best thing would be using a hot towel and leaving it on your face for a few minutes.
Disadvantage of the hot towel technique if you don’t wash prior is not being able to clean excess oil and other impurities on skin and hair follicles.
Is preshave oil really worth the expense?
There is a lot of debate and in order for you to understand let’s first define what it is and how it functions.
Preshave oil contains ingredients like jojoba and castor oil that help retain moisture. The keyword here is retaining moisture. A good product will hold water in the skin, providing moisture and making it supple.
What is supple?
This refers to the pliability or how the skin “bends” before it breaks.
According to Badger and Blade “When a blade drags across the well moisturized skin, the skin “gives” to the blade and will bend or conform significantly to the shape of the blade BEFORE it will be torn or cut by the blade”
Skin that doesn’t “bend” will tear and easily become irritated.
To help you further understand this concept, observe your hands during winter time. Skin is dry and there are a lot of visible “cracks”.
During summer it’s the exact opposite. Skin is pliable and there are no visible “cracks” because it retains more moisture.
This principle applies to other things. Observe things around you. For instance it would be easier to cut a dry, withered brands than a wet branch.
And this is the reason why preshave oil works. Not so much for the lubrication it provides, instead it helps retain moisture making skin supple and more resistant to cuts.
Beneficial oils to the skin include:
- Sun flower oil
- Jojoba oil
- Almond oil
- Castor oil
- Shea butter
- Cocoa butter
- Grapeseed oil
- Olive oil
Essential oils to avoid include:
- Lemon balm
- Tolu balsam
Take note that a pre-shave oil is different from a shaving cream that I’ll get into next.
Browse through the grooming section in a Walgreens pharmacy and you’ll see a lot of canned shaving creams.
These products are the most popular and frankly the easiest to use. But give me a minute to warn you about potential issues and why you should avoid canned creams like a plague.
Avoid aerosol cans
A high quality shaving cream does not come from an aerosol can full of propellants that dry out skin.
The highest quality creams usually come in a tub made from natural ingredients. These will not dry skin but instead it will moisturize and lubricate, allowing the blade to cut whiskers not your skin.
It does not matter what type of razor you use – whether a cartridge or a safety razor. A good shaving cream can mean a difference between a terrible or a world class shave.
One misconception that a lot of men make would be thinking that a good shaving cream will be expensive. But the reality is you can get a decent one for as low as $6 without the harmful propellants and chemicals that will sap out any moisture your skin needs while shaving.
You can read more about shaving creams in this in-depth guide.
One of the downsides of using traditional shaving creams if you call it a downside would be the need for a shaving brush.
There are a variety of shaving brushes in the market primarily differentiated by types of fibers used – boar, synthetic, horse hair, etc.
Different types of shave brushes
One of the biggest benefits of a shaving brush would be even application of cream so that it goes between the strands of hair.
It also helps lift hair follicles up which in turn allow the blade an easier time cutting. If you use your hands, the opposite could happen – instead of lifting hairs up, you flatten it.
A lot of the high quality creams will require you to use a shaving brush to get the best results but you can still use your hands but don’t expect the same result.
Price of these tools range from $10 to hundreds of dollars. But the good news is you don’t have to spend three figures for a good brush. You can purchase something decent for as little as $12.
When you ask men about aftershave, 9 out of 10 will say it stings.
The reason why these products have alcohol is because it kills bacteria that could potentially cause infection.
However, even the smallest nicks would mean a painful aftershave experience because of the alcohol content.
Another disadvantage of applying alcohol on your skin is it dries it up, robbing it of the moisture at a time it needs it the most.
So instead of torturing yourself with an alcohol-based aftershave, why don’t you try an aftershave balm?
Instead of relying on alcohol as an antiseptic, these products use all natural products that will not dry up the skin. But instead provide an extra layer of moisture that your skin will love (and it won’t sting).
As with most cartridge razors, you have a wide variety of options.
If you ask dermatologists and purist shavers, the majority would say a multi-bladed razor will cause more irritation.
The rationale is simple – more blades raking over the skin equals more irritation.
Gillette says otherwise.
In this 2006 article in the New York Times, they claim that their products have what you call a “hysteresis effect” wherein the first blade pulls the hair back to allow subsequent blades to cut closer until the fifth blade cuts just below the skin’s surface.
To combat irritation manufacturers narrowed the gap between blades to reduce friction. In theory this should lead to a more comfortable shave. But if you have sensitive skin you may want to stick to a 2-blade disposable instead designed for such.
Gillette also claimed that their vibrating razor produced “gentle micropulses that stimulate hair up and away from skin”.
Rival Schick challenged that claim saying there isn’t enough scientific evidence.
This leads me to the conclusion that you don’t really need a vibrating razor to lift up facial hair. A shaving brush will do the trick.
Now we reveal the best performing and most popular cartridge razors available right now and the reasons why.
The Mach 3 is one of Gillette’s most popular and perhaps its bestselling cartridge razor to date.
Gillette spent over $750 million for research and development and another $300 million for marketing prior to launch in 1998.
Gillette spokesman Eric Kraus at the time said that the Mach 3 had progressive blade geometry to combat the drag and friction that come along with 3 blades.
This patented technology has springboard Gillette’s popularity worldwide and turned a lot of men into loyal customers until the Dollar Shave Club came along but that’s another story.
It is also because of the Mach 3 that Gillette built a loyal following and still remains one of the best of not the best performing cartridge razors right now in terms of price and performance.
From the original Mach 3, Gillette has expanded the product line to include the following:
Take note that you can interchange the cartridges on different variants. So if you’ve already bought the razor and want shift to a different blade you can do that without having to buy an extra razor.
When you compare this to the Fusion ProGlide, the Mach 3 is actually heavier. This a big factor when it comes to shave quality.
Heavier is better
Being heavier is definitely an advantage because you don’t have to put too much pressure as you normally would that in turns means less irritation on your skin.
This is a big reason why a lot of purists prefer a safety razor over something like this.
But when you talk about closeness, the Fusion is still the razor to beat in this category because of the five blades compared the three of the Mach 3.
Other than that everything leans towards the latter.
Perhaps the most advanced and one of the most expensive cartridge razors in the market right now. The Gillette Fusion ProGlide has all the bells and whistles that you can possibly put on a cartridge razor.
This razor uses same patented progressive-blade system found in the Mach 3 but the only difference is it has two more blades.
Let’s look at the features:
- 5-blade razor system
- 1 blade for edging located at the back
- Flexible neck that pivots from side to side
- Streamlined comfort guard helps guide stubble
- Lubrastrip coating now infused with mineral oils and lubricating polymers that allow the razor to move smoothly over skin
- Has a microchip that ensures consistent performance
This razor will cut close because it has 2 extra blades but at the cost of irritation.
Easier to clean
Also the gap between these blades are narrower which means facial hair, shaving cream, dead skin and all gunk can clog it thus reducing the service life.
In terms of performance, a lot of men swear by this and with the swiveling head you can even shave “recklessly” without risk of a slightest nick as one consumer commented. But I would not recommend that since shaving should be methodical.
Does the vibrating feature work?
As for the vibrating feature of this product, it really boils down to personal preference. Since it has a microchip that controls the voltage, expect a consistent performance throughout the lifecycle of the battery.
Many consumers simply don’t change the battery after it dies out and didn’t really notice any significant difference in terms of shaving performance.
If you do a lot of manscapping, you can even use this razor on different parts of the body, not just the face. You can shave your chest hair, groin, legs and even your head with it. That’s the versatility the pivoting head provides.
Bottom line: The Fusion ProGlide is an Amazon bestseller for good reason – the FlexBall technology allows maximum blade contact on the skin no matter what angle you hold it.
No matter the contour, this razor will work well to shave off whiskers but at a cost. A cheaper alternative would be the Fusion ProShield that has the same pivoting head minus the motor.
While Gillette was celebrating the success of the Mach 3 years back, Schick was in the cusp of releasing the first 4 blade razor, the Quattro until Gillette sued them for patent infringement.
This is just a small sample size of how cut-throat the multi-billion dollar cartridge razor industry is.
Schick is probably one of the closest competitors to the Gillette brand and their Hydro 5 is their bestselling product to date.
This razor has some unique features that could sway you from a trusty Gillette.
Uses Aloe Vera
Instead of using lubricating strips, Schick opted to using a “Hydrating Gel Reservoir” that contains Aloe Vera and vitamin E. Both of these ingredients have incredible benefits in terms of skin hydration – keeping skin from drying out.
This feature looks promising on paper but in reality it easily washes off once you rinse. That’s why it’s important to use an aftershave balm.
Another great feature would be the blade guards that protect the skin from exposure to the blades. Less exposure to blades means less irritation.
Also the blades have more space between them making this product easier to clean.
There are several variants of the Schick Hydro 5 that include:
For men who like to sculpt their goatee or sideburn areas, this razor has flip trimmer when you flip up the HydroGel reservoir.
When you consider all things, in terms of shave quality, there really isn’t a large gap between the Schick Hydro 5 and the Gillette Pro Glide Fusion.
The only deciding factor I could think of would be the pivoting head that the ProGlide razor has that will allow you to use it on areas other than your face.
If you’re using this on your face then you can save a few dollars per cartridge by going with the Schick.
Bottom line: Schick provides consumers with a more affordable option to shaving without a significant drop in terms of quality. Their cartridges are slightly cheaper than the Gillette but will give you the same shaving performance and according to some consumers their blades will last a little longer but that will depend on a lot of factors.
If you regularly watch cable TV, I’m pretty sure you’ve see “The Dollar Shave Club”. But are their blades really f—ing great?
This start-up has taken the shaving world by storm with their subscription based business model.
Their marketing on TV has been aggressive and so effective that it ruffled the feathers of Gillette enough for them to file a lawsuit against them.
What does Dorco have to do with the Dollar Shave Club? Well, they are the primary suppliers of the blades they sell.
I’ve already featured a 5 blade razor but Dorco has one-upped Gillette and Schick by manufacturing the world’s first 6 blade razor! Yes, you heard that right this razor has six freaking blades!
Perhaps the biggest selling point of Dorco products is the price – for only twenty bucks, you can get ten, yes ten refills and a handle. Not even Schick can beat that price point.
Unlike their competitor, the MicroTouch, Dorco’s handle is sturdy, has good ergonomics and plenty of grip. Plus it has good weight that should factor in your selection process.
A heavier handle means you will need to apply less pressure on the razor to shave thus reducing the chances of razor burn.
The head also pivots, albeit less than a Fusion ProGlide but enough to allow you to work on tough to shave areas like the chin and neck area without causing too much irritation.
Bottom line: Performance wise, six blades should give you a closer shave but it still falls short when you compare it to the more established Gillette Mach 3 and Fusion ProGlide but when you consider the price difference, you have yourself a gem of a product here.
Another new comer to the scene, MicroTouch has been pretty aggressive marketing their new product.
The TOUGH BLADE even hiring former star quarterback Brett Favre as their brand endorser.
This is the same brand that produced the MicroTouch One Touch safety razor.
MicroTouch says that their products use three German-engineered stainless steel blades covered with a non-stick coating that will last for a full month!
So that’s about twenty bucks a year, excluding shipping.
Like Gillette and Schick, this product is widely distributed. So you can pretty much buy these razors in a majority of Pharmacies in the United States. It is also available in online retailers such as Amazon.
But how does it perform?
Does it deliver its promise of 12 cartridges lasting a year?
Let’s find out.
When I dug deeper in researching consumer reviews, I found out that it did not last that long.
While the blades were decently sharp, it did not last for a whole month.
You should expect it to last half a month at best.
Can it outperform a Mach 3?
In terms of shave quality, don’t expect this to outperform a Mach 3. You will definitely not get a baby-butt-smooth shave with this product but for the price point, it’s pretty decent.
And perhaps the weakest link to this product would be the handle.
As I combed through reviews, I noticed that a lot of men complained about the locking mechanism breaking prematurely (even before you use up the refills). The locking mechanism is what holds the refills in place.
The issue should not be a big deal until you realize that MicroTouch does not sell handles separately. If you want another handle, you’d have to fork out another twenty bucks and buy the whole set!
Bottom line: This product is all about marketing. Brett Farve endorsing this razor will get men to at least have a look because he was a football star. But buyer beware, there are red flags. The blades will not last a month and if the handle breaks prematurely you’d have to buy another set for $20 because they don’t sell handles individually.
In terms of value and performance it is hard to beat the Gillette Mach 3.
It was Gillette’s most successful product to date in terms of sales and turned a lot of men into Gillette converts.
The 3 blade system will not shave as close as a Fusion ProGlide but it’s hard to argue with the price. There’s more gap between the blades so it’s easier to clean and will last longer.
If you’re only shaving your face, this would be the best option.
But if you need something more versatile perhaps you need to shave your head, armpits, legs or the privates then the pivoting ProGlide would be a better option.
Brands like Schick and Dorco provide a cheaper alternative but as a user of Gillette. It’s hard to beat it in terms of quality. But I can’t blame you if you want to save a few bucks with these products because they’re also good but not as good as a Gillette.
I must warn you that the six blade Dorco will cause more irritation simply because it has more blades. If you have sensitive skin, avoid the Dorco and go with the Mach 3 with less blades.
Take note that the Mach 3 also has refills designed for sensitive skin.
The MicroTouch looks promising but the issues are a big concern for me, particularly the sub standard handle. The fact that you can’t buy the handle on it’s own is a deal breaker for me.
Garrick spends his days researching and writing about grooming. When he’s not in front of his computer, you can find him hanging around with his wife and son.