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A Cartridge Razor User Speaks Out

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I almost resent all those shaving snobs who poo-poo those of us not manly enough to use a single-edge or double-edge razor not to mention a straight razor. Give me a break!

The straight-edge has been used since Adam started dating Eve.  Surely, we must have evolved since. I’d sooner shave with King Arthur’s Excalibur. To me they are about the same.
I’ve tried numerous double-edge blades and razors. I tried a bundle of various DE blades that came in an assortment so I’ve used different brands. The DE has been around since 1901 and really hasn’t changed much since.  After having tried several I’ve come to 2 conclusions. First, they are cheap. Some go for less than 10 cents a blade. Second, even if you master the correct angle and degree of pressure I bled more, sometimes a lot more.
As to the multi-blade cartridge. I started out with a single-blade injection razor. I graduated to twin blades, three blades, four blades and now five blades along with various ancillary “lubrication strips” adorning the cartridge itself. I admit I’m not sure why they went from three to four to five but I do know I like, no, Love, the current iteration. Especially when they added the sixth blade on the back for trimming around the nose and squaring off the sideburns.
My two conclusions here: First, they do cost more, and Second, I would say I’ve reduced my bleeding by 99% or so. How much more does it cost? I buy them in bulk and it comes down to about $2.25 a cartridge. I shave maybe 15 times a month so it comes out to about 15 cents a shave. I discard the cartridge every month just to be on the safe side. A DE blade, I’ve found, is cheaper but doesn’t last as long. It comes out to about ½ of a Latte. I’m no Bill Gates but I’ll go for the $2. per month or less. Anyway, I save on styptic pencils.
I have found that the five-blade cartridge is much more forgiving in terms of angle and pressure especially with the latest edition that has the cartridge on a sort of ball spring allowing me to conform the blade head to the angles of my face without twisting the razor. The cut is smooth and effective. A cross-grain swipe and my face turns into a baby’s bottom.
Lather-wise, I think I’ve tried maybe 70-80 different soaps, creams, sticks and oils from the most expensive English, Scottish, Italian, German, Indian and American brands. I’ve found a few brands I like and can’t really choose one over the other. Currently I’m partial to TOBS, Art of Shaving, Castle Forbes and Kiss My Face.
I always precede all my shaves with a dab of grapeseed oil.  I read somewhere once in a shaving cream review as an aside that “of course” I precede every shave with grapeseed oil. I then embarked on massive research into pre-shave soaps and preparations. I tried various products, soaps and oils and found that not only is grapeseed oil very effective in lubricating and moisturizing my skin but it is also very cheap. You can buy some very expensive grapeseed oil preparations or you can buy it cheaply by the quart in the cooking oil section of your supermarket. Even cheaper you can buy it generically under the store brand name. I pour about a quarter’s size dollop into my hand then rub it all over my face and neck. It helps to lubricate the shave and moisturizes the skin afterwards.
Bottom Line: To me the latest multi-blade cartridge represents the pinnacle of evolution so far for removing visible hair from the face cleanly and painlessly. You can keep your “traditional” implements.
About the Author:
Saul Nathanson is retired and lives in Charlotte, NC.

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19 thoughts on “A Cartridge Razor User Speaks Out”

  1. After 32 years of wet shaving (e.g using a brush and red proraso soap but using carts as the “hardware”) i wanted to try the DE shaving and since march i’ve been trying several razors thanks to my cousin who is a DE aficionado. So i diligently watched tons of videos of youtubers like mantic59, geofatboy, mauro di lernia (being italian..) and began to humble applying that advice: no pressure at all..watching the angles…beard mapping…preparation..etc etc.etc. But even with all that info and by trying a lot of DEs (merkurs 34c/37c/15c , EJ de89, baili 191, YAQI DOC, new wilkinson TTO) i could never reach the closeness i got with my main cart razors (Hydro 5 sense and DSC), especially under the chin and on mustache area. Granted, i managed to avoid nicks/cuts thanks to the aforementioned advice but i could never reach the level of closeness i got with carts. And, more importantly, i don’t have 20+ minutes to waste on something that’s essentially a chore. I’m back to cartridge razors for good. Sorry.

  2. Mike: My 94 year old grandfather switched to an electric back in the 1960’s, farmed straight through the Great Depression. Still does pushups every morning even though his knees have given out. My 70 year old father farms full time and shaves with a cartridge.
    And you’re going to teach them how to act like a man. ROTFLMFAO.
    Your comments are symptomatic of a whole class of American men entering middle age and facing a future of economic insecurity and little prospects.
    It’s obvious that there isn’t anyone in your life who would use a bikini shaver. That’s what happens when you can’t find good work. Anyone who suggests that you need an obsolete razor to “be a man” falls well short in exactly that area.

  3. I really liked the Schick Quattro when I was using it but the cost of cartridges and the fact that they tended to get hair clogged forced me to use an old Gillette DE on the straightways while still using the Quattro under the nose. It was only a matter of time until I tried other DE razors and did the soap/cream exploration. I’ll admit there are moments when I wish to shave with the old Quattro but then I load up a fat boy and get myself a decent shave and the urge leaves.

  4. Razors vary, as do people and blades, so some experimentation is always necessary. I (and many others) have found that the razors listed in this post are extremely comfortable and also extremely efficient. They vary a lot in price (because of differences in their materials and manufacturing method) but in terms of feel and performance they are all first-rate. Since the cheapest are under $4 and $6, you might find it worthwhile to experiment once again. Just a thought.

  5. It’s just shaving at the end of the day. I get a good shave with a twin blade disposable and a can of barbasol. Whatever works.

  6. Though now a middle aged man, I unfortunately grew up with twin-blade cartridge razors. I also regularly experienced irritation, pimples, and ingrown hairs as a result. It wasn’t until my grandfather died that I became aware of traditional wetshaving, thanks to him leaving me his razor. Grandpa’s old razor is now a keepsake, but the enjoyment of shaving like a real man is an everyday joy to me.
    You see, cartridge razors began their growth and spread at a time when true manhood was weakening in the Western world, and the launch of the four and five blade cartridges basically coincided with the rise of homosexuality as an alternative lifestyle. As the distinction blurred between the sexes, so the lines between traditional and imitation wetshaving became unclear. Multi-blade cartridges, shaving cream in a can, aftershave that smells like toilet water and does nothing for your skin…you can find it in any large store.
    Today, thanks to men like Mark from Mantic59, traditional wetshaving is making a comeback. Thousands of us have discovered the solution to ineffective and irritating shaves, and we aren’t going back. You can shave with all the girlie razors or bikini shavers you want, but I will stick with SHAVING LIKE A MAN!

    1. Brian Fiori (AKA The Dean)

      Wow! Thanks for the good belly-laugh, Big Mike.
      So much crazy going on in this post, it’s hard to sort through it all.

    2. Mike, I respect your opinion but I suspect it has less to do with cultural changes and more to do with the expiration of profitable patents and the desire to get consumers into a “walled garden” of proprietary hardware.

    3. Mike: My 94 year old grandfather switched to an electric back in the 1960’s, farmed straight through the Great Depression. Still does pushups every morning even though his knees have given out. My 70 year old father farms full time and shaves with a cartridge.
      And you’re going to teach them how to act like a man. ROTFLMFAO.
      Your comments are symptomatic of a whole class of American men entering middle age and facing a future of economic insecurity and little prospects.
      Anyone who suggests that you need an obsolete razor to “be a man” falls well short in exactly that area.

  7. I learned to shave on a 1970’s. Era Gillette twist to open razor as a teenager. I did cut myself, but it’s what my grandfather was using. My father showed me to shave with the new Atra cartridge razors. I still use those occasionally today.
    I got tired of wasting so much money on razor blades and saw Mantic59’s videos on YouTube. It changed my thinking on shaving and cost. I went back to the DE razors. Yes I experimented with blades, razors, and technique. Sure I cut myself here and there but over a couple weeks, I was getting BBS shaves. I learned about shaving prep, making my own lather, shaving cream.
    If you’d rather use a cartridge go ahead. Feed the big razor machine. I have some Atra/Schick cartridges I use for travel or for when I am in a hurry and don’t need a good shave, just a quick one.
    Yes I did try those 5 Blade monstrosity razors when the came out. They caused in-grown hairs and I cut myself more. I won’t use them. When the big companies went past two blades, the cost rose to levels I won’t pay.
    I currently own a number of old Gillette and Schick razors for DE blades. I refurbished/replated many of them. I have an old Valet that I use SE feather blades in. I have bought new razors like the Cobra, Merkur, Feather, One Blade etc All give nice shaves.
    Once you learn to prep your face properly, make a good lather with soap and cream, then take your time and enjoy the classic shave for what it is then you’ll understand.
    If your in a hurry and have no time to treat yourself to a good shave, then that’s on you. But don’t be angry with those of us that appreciate the classic shave.
    Maybe go to a barber for a real straight razor shave after you have a couple days beard growth. That may open your eyes.
    The art of shaving had a couple barbers on staff in Vegas. I regret not making time in my schedule for that opportunity.

  8. Bravo! It took me months to master DE razor technique – a hard won skill I don’t want to loose. I still use my Gillette Fusion from time to time and find i get better shaves with it due to my experience with a DE. Technique matters even with cartridges. However, I do find that I get ingrown hairs with the Fusion.
    Since we have to shave, it shouldn’t suck. Nobody should put down someone else because he enjoys shaving with one type of razor over another.

    1. A few more thoughts about cartridge shaving if I may. The reason I shave with a DE safety razor is because it’s what I grew up with and because I like it. It reminds me of my dad teaching me to shave. My DE doesn’t give me a better shave than the Gillette Fusion I used from the time of its introduction until two years ago.
      Several friends have recently confessed (sheepishly) that they have returned to cartridge shaving after giving DE shaving a good try, and several others have expressed disdain. How silly! A personal preference for one technology over another should not get one blackballed from the brotherhood.
      Much of this has to do with sentimentality for old technology, and the feeling that those of us who like obsolete things are in on a secret.
      I, like many other men, like and own a number of fountain pens. I love the way they look. I love the way they feel in my hand. I mostly like the way they write but no fountain pen afficionado leaves home without his trusty roller ball because roller balls and ball points are more dependable.
      Same thing with vinyl LPs. Lots of people collect them and swear they offer better sound than CDs, but the sound really isn’t as good and there is all that surface noise, and they warp and take up more room and you have to get up and flip it every 20 minutes.
      Lets all enjoy what we like and forget the attitude. There are already too many things that divide us.

      1. Its shaving, its ridiculous how much time is wasted on this stuff all the forums and counter comments. I use a cartridge so I can get the job done. Do something productive like spending time with family and friends.

  9. Gillette and Wilkinson the true cartridge gurus are definitely no nut jobs. Put it simply over 100years of experience created a volkswagen which works very well for at least 80% of the population. Un…fortunately the increased number of blades and lube strips did not work out for me. I love the same pivoting heads on my oneblades which i prefer over other safety razors. And i have learned that using a fixed head mild DE from time to time will give me (if needed) an even closer shave and much more important helpes me to keep proper technique and not slack/press to hard). This together with a good prep and soap made all the difference for me. The price tag never bothered me (Feather FHS10 blades are approx 20-30cent per shave). Made the same soap trip etc. You quickly realise, you will not finish most of those and they did cost a lot of money also.
    Would not mind if Gillette made a cartridge with just 2 blades one on the front and a precision trimmer on the back (the remaining part of a fusion i use from time to time). With and without lubrastrips. But fitting the new flexball fusion handle. Simply put a deluxe pimped evolution version of the pivotting single blade cartridge Gillette sells in india. For those who are sensitive. Could be a bit painfull for oneblade in the end though… But would not mind if oneblade evolved the core and genesis either.

  10. To each his own. This is the reason we all use the term “YMMV” when discussing shaving. My personal experience was the exact opposite of yours. I always had weepers under my chin and on my neck when I used my old Gillette Fusion. But that has never been a problem since I switched to a DE almost 5 years ago. The contours of my face around my neck line made it impossible for the Fusion to cut certain hairs- due to the pivoting head. In order to cut those hair, I always had to press harder with the razor.
    The DE allows me to control the blade angle- thus solving my problem. Does that mean I am right and you are wrong? Or does your positive experience with cartridges mean the opposite? Absolutely not! Everyone should find the system that works best for them. If that’s a DE razor, great. If it’s a cartridge razor, great!
    Now that I am a more seasoned wet shaver, I will say that products and prep do more to improve the shaving experience than the razor itself. There are times (such as when I travel) that I will shave with a 2-blade disposable cartridge; and I can achieve very good results with it- because I use better products now, and also the DE has taught me better technique.

    1. I agree whole-heartedly. I learned to shave with cartridge razors, but until I happened upon the wet-shaving community, I knew nothing of actual shave prep. I actually switched whole cloth; razor, shave soap (over canned product), a brush, and (of course) preparing my face for the shave. I found that all these things were an improvement for me, as I no longer have cuts, weepers, in-grown hairs, razorburn, etc. My skin also looks and feels better.
      As an experiment, I recently tried shaving with a cartridge razor using all my prep routine. I discovered that, for me, cartridge razors cause razorburn and ingrown hairs. Perhaps my biggest take-away from my journey into wet shaving is that shaving truly is a unique experience for everyone, and we should all experiment to find what works best for us. Kudos to you for doing so, and may your every shave be smooth and enjoyable!

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