For years now, Gillette has been dominating the cartridge razor market.
We’re going to look closely at two popular variants in their product line – the Gillette MACH3 and Fusion ProGlide.
A lot of experts will tell you that using a safety razor is the way to go if you genuinely want a close shave minus the irritation.
But if you’re not yet ready to make the leap because of the learning curve or just need something basic to shave, these two are perhaps the best cartridges razors out there if you don’t mind the expensive refills.
If you’re just exploring the world of shaving, don’t know what you want, and would love to learn more about the nuances of these tools, they can check out this in-depth cartridge vs. safety razor guide.
Otherwise, read on the rest of the article.
This is essentially a battle between a 3-blade and a 5-blade razor.
What you need to know about Gillette razors and cartridge razors in general?
There is no doubt that Gillette has been synonymous with shaving and razors in general, thanks to smart marketing.
They’ve spent billions of dollars in research and marketing over the decades and have been a market leader in this multi-billion dollar industry during that time.
Is Gillette the best?
I have no doubt in my mind that Gillette produces one of the best cartridge razors. But is it truly “The Best a Man Can Get”?
Comparing it to other cartridge razors, Gillette dwarfs, but against safety razors, it’s a whole different story.
Experts have repeated time and time that single blade DE razors perform better compared to cartridges like these two Gillettes.
That’s because it only has one blade. Cartridge razors have as much as 6 blades (thanks Dorco!), and the more blades exposed to skin, the more irritated it gets.
When appropriately used, which means doing proper prep work – taking a hot shower, applying shaving cream using a shaving brush, etc. you will minimize the chances of irritation.
Expect some irritation
But still expect some level of irritation, especially when reusing cartridges a second, third, fourth time and so on.
As blades dull and clog up, chances of irritation and razor burn go up exponentially. This is one of the most significant selling points of safety razors – long term cost.
So it does not really matter whether you choose the MACH3 or Fusion, you will experience more irritation because more blades touch your skin.
And when you do a 3 pass shave, it’s like doing a 9 pass shave with the MACH3 and 15 pass shave with the Fusion – it all adds up.
Difference between a good and lousy shave
Quality matters when buying razors. Especially the cartridge or disposable variety, as it can mean the difference between a great shave and a painful, bloody shave primarily because of blade quality.
Good brands use higher quality and sharper blades. This is not something to be skimped on.
As for cartridge razors, you don’t really know the brand used, and you’ll have to take the word of Gillette, Schick, or any brand you are buying that they’re indeed using high-quality blades.
This is another selling point for safety razors – you can pick and choose the blades that will suit your needs.
On the other hand, the learning curve for razors like Gillette is much shallower, and if you’re just after convenience, then any of these will do.
A Close Look at the Gillette MACH 3
Gillette Mach 3 with the Mach 3 sensitive refill attached.
To give you a history lesson, the MACH3 is perhaps the best selling Gillette razor of all time.
Before it debuted in the market in 1998, Gillette spent 750 million dollars on research and development plus another 300 million on marketing.
It was the first razor that had 3 blades at the time and earned a loyal following.
Progressive blade technology
Gillette spokesman at the time Eric Kraus said that the Mach 3 had progressive blade technology to lessen friction. This patented system has made this a bestseller.
To protect skin from irritation, it has 5 comfort guard micro fins and a lubrication strip to help this razor glide smoothly.
Again, I’d like to stress that shaving cream is an absolute necessity even for this type of razor, especially if you have sensitive skin.
A lot of me like this product and don’t use other brands for a good reason – it shaves very well.
The Mach 3 product line has expanded since it debuted…
The 5-Blade Fusion
In terms of features, this is the top-spec model that has all the features of the Mach 3 and more.
Fusion is the latest Gillette with 5 blades. Some variants come with the patented Flexball technology that pivots from side to side. This helps deal with different contours on the face.
Two more blades mean this razor will cut closer compared to the Mach 3 at the expense of irritation.
Another thing to consider is the gap between blades. Five blades equate to a more massive head, and to save on real estate, Gillette made these gaps smaller.
A smaller gap also means it clogs more than the Gillette Mach 3 since there is less space.
Shaving cream, dead skin, facial hair, and gunk will clog that narrow space. This can reduce the number of times a cartridge can be used depending of course on factors like density, beard growth, and frequency of shaving.
The Fusion ProGlide has several different variants:
- Original Fusion (Amazon link)
- Fusion ProGlide with Flexball (Amazon link)
- Fusion ProShield with Flexball (Amazon link)
Just in case you have sensitive skin, the ProShield with Flexball would be the best option, according to Gillette, because it has more lubrication strips. But again, I can’t stress the importance of proper prep, especially for men with sensitive skin.
That includes applying shaving cream using a shaving brush after taking a hot shower.
To help you decide between the Mach 3 vs. Fusion, I’ve broken it down to different categories.
The Mach 3 ranges between $5 and $10 depending on the variant you choose. Edwin Jagger also sells a handle compatible with Mach 3 cartridges in case you prefer a thicker and heavier handle.
Cartridge prices will vary depending on the quality and variant.
Fusion more expensive
If the standard handle is too light and you’re looking for something with a little more heft, then this would be a better yet pricier option.
Fusion cartridges cost between $13 and $58 – price difference would vary depending on quantity and type, whether it is a standard cartridge with a single lubrication strip or a cartridge for sensitive skin with multiple lubrication strips.
The Fusion cartridges are slightly more expensive than the Mach 3.
It really isn’t a significant difference, so this factor shouldn’t weigh too much on your decision.
Usability and Control
In terms of weight, the Mach 3 feels heavier compared to the Fusion.
The added heft helps it in terms of control because you won’t need to apply as much pressure as you would on a Fusion.
Cartridge size is also another factor to look at here. When you compare the size of cartridges, the Mach 3 has a much smaller head. This translates to better control, especially around the sensitive mustache/lip area.
Winner: Mach 3
Closeness of Shave
By having 5 blades, the Fusion wins this. The two extra blades will cut closer.
Consumers also relay the same observation that more blades will cut closer.
Choosing between 3 and 5 blades may come down to the type of facial hair you have. If you have a thicker and coarser beard – a 5 blade shaver may be a better option.
Men with sensitive skin should go for the ProShield with the additional lubrication strips.
For men with softer hair and sensitive skin, then the 3 blade system of the Mach 3 would hands-down be a better option.
Comfort / Irritation
More blades mean a closer shave but at the cost of irritation. Adding two more blades scraping on your skin adds to the level of irritation by 60%.
This is a trade-off you must carefully weigh when picking between these two variants. Do you want a close shave but at the cost of more ingrown hair and razor bumps or a not-so-close-shave with much less irritation?
Men who have a sensitive neck area may be better off using a 3 blade razor as a 5 blade razor can wreck-havoc and cause significant irritation in that area.
Winner: Mach 3
Mach 3 vs. Fusion: The Bottom Line
Combining all the factors, the Gillette Mach 3 is the winner here in most categories. It only lagged behind the closeness factor because it has 2 fewer blades.
Mach 3 = Less Irritation
The Gillette Mach 3 is heavier, leaves less irritation, slightly cheaper, and won’t clog as easy, which extends the lifespan of its cartridges.
Heavier razors need less pressure because you don’t have to push as much.
Less pressure means less chance of irritation. You’ll have to understand that all these small features add up, and if a razor lacks one element, there is a domino effect that affects shave quality.
While the Fusion has a built-in trimmer at the backside of the cartridge to help trim precision areas like the mustache or sideburn area.
It really isn’t a factor that should swing the pendulum on the Fusion side of things since the Mach 3 blades would do as good a job on those same areas because it uses a smaller cartridge.
Why you should by the Fusion?
The Fusion does have its plus points. For instance, the FlexBall technology eliminates some of the control issues found in the standard Fusion.
The latest cartridges in the Fusion ProGlide system also have thinner blades that should take care of the clogging issue. But the narrower gap still exists, and you may have to replace it a little more often than a Mach 3.
Unless you really have tough and wiry facial hair, it’s hard to recommend the Fusion over the Mach 3 since the latter beats the former in the major categories except for closeness.
5 Blades vs. 3 Blades
Again, you will have to carefully weigh the pros and cons of a 5 blade compared to a 3 blade razor. It’s closeness vs. irritation, and if you have susceptible skin, I’d recommend you go with the Mach 3.
Another feature that may sway you to pick the Fusion would be the vibrating feature, but upon reading reviews, it does not really make much of a difference. Rarely do men replace batteries after it has run out.
The bottom line is you really can’t go wrong with either of the two. It’s all a matter of preference – comfort vs. closeness.
Denser beard grown may need more blades.
Men with thicker beards may prefer the cut power of the Fusion with its 2 extra blades. But those extra blades will add excess irritation. The Mach 3 will be less close but more comfortable.
Remember that it’s not just the razor that matters but also the prep work.
You can use the sharpest and best razor in the world, but without the proper prep work, you will end up with a mediocre shave.
Proper prep includes having a hot shower, washing your face with an appropriate facial soap to rid of any impurities, applying shaving cream using a shaving brush.
Just adding these steps to your daily routine can easily elevate your shaving to the next level.
If the 5 blades of the Fusion irritate your skin, then you may want to consider switching to a safety razor.
Extending the Life of Cartridges
One of the most significant downsides of cartridges razors would be the running cost long term.
If you check this infographic I’ve created, it runs into the hundreds annually and a primary reason why companies like Procter & Gamble love these products – massive profits!
Also, there isn’t any instruction on the packing on how to clean the cartridges. I think it’s by design because creating longer-lasting cartridges would eat into their bottom line, simple as that.
But fear not, I have some tips that you can use to extend the usability of these refills.
1. Dry Properly After Every Use
Cartridge razor manufacturers do not use stainless steel blades due to costs. Instead, they coat it with a protective film that keeps it sharp and resist corrosion.
Eventually, it wears off, and these blades will corrode because of the minerals found in tap water if you don’t dry properly.
The process is simple simply blot dry using a thick terry cloth towel and store in a dry place.
Another way of drying would be using a blow dryer. I like this method because it completely dries up the front and back of the cartridge.
2. Coat Razor with Alcohol or Oil
Every drop of water left on the blades could be a potential source of corrosion. To prevent this from happening, coat blades with alcohol or mineral oil after blotting it dry.
3. Alternative Method of Cleaning/Sharpening
Another method of cleaning would be rubbing the razor against a worn set of jeans. Check out this article to see this process in detail.
If it works for you, then you could potentially save hundreds of dollars down the road.
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