Best Cartridge Razor of 2017: Review of The Top Brands
While many shaving purists may be strictly oppose the best cartridge razors on the market, there is no denying their popularity in the men’s grooming realm. From the stalwarts like Gillette, Schick, and Dorco the cartridge razor has been around for years and has been heavily marketed as such. Whether its your favorite basketball, golf, or tennis player plugging their products – cartridge razors are everywhere!
Like any market that has been in existence for years, there are often disruptions that can completely turn the whole industry on its head. Therefore we have seen recent entrants to the market like The Dollar Shave Club, Harry’s, and several others that offer a close shave at an affordable price.
But whether you decide to go the subscription box service route or pick up a new cartridge razor online, the fact remains, their initial cost along with their learning curve is relatively small and one that can still provide a great shave time after time.
Therefore, we set out on a mission to discover what the best cartridge razor is available for men – here are the results:
Table of Contents
- TLDR: Here’s What You Need To Know
- Why We Are Qualified To Recommend The Best Cartridge Razor
- When Using a Cartridge Razor It’s Important To Remember The Basics
- A Hot Shower Is Best For Prepping Your Hair
- Pre Shave Oil – Fanciful or Practical?
- Your Shaving Cream Shouldn’t Come From a Can
- Shaving Brush: For Those Who Take Their Shaving Seriously
- The Proper Shaving Techinque
- The Best Cartridge Razor Compared To The Alternatives – Electric, Double Edge Safety Razors, and Straight Edge Razors
- Aftershave Balms Can Help With Relief
- Do The Number of Blades Matter? What About Battery Power?
- Let’s Get Personal For A Minute: What Are You Shaving?
- Reviews To Determine The Best Cartridge Razor
- To Wrap It All Up
TLDR: Here’s What You Need To Know
By and far the best cartridge razor on the market right now is the Gillette Fusion ProGlide (with Flexball). With 5 blades, you can get an incredibly close shave time after time. But not only will you get such a close shave, you also have the versatility with this razor to shave just about any surface of your skin with its proprietary Flexball neck. So whether you are looking to go completely hairless on your face, head, chest, or groin, the Gillette Fusion ProGlide (with Flexball) just simply crushes the competition. If you are a budget minded shaver, then the best cartridge razor for your face only is going to be the Dorco Pace 6 Plus. Its strong price point along with incredibly handle design will leave you feeling pretty happy with your purchase.
Why We Are Qualified To Recommend The Best Cartridge Razor
While we have been shaving for years, we have written exhaustively on all things shaving. Simply put, we like to say that we know a thing or two when it comes to the types of blades, shaving creams, brushes, and more that come in contact with your skin!
With this on-going look at the best cartridge razor, we have spent countless hours looking at all the different makes and models, number of blades, etc. But not only is this just a one off article, as time goes on, should newer cartridge razors hit the market, this guide will be updated on a regular basis and we will re-examine our assessment on cartridge razors available.
When Using a Cartridge Razor It’s Important To Remember The Basics
If you were like us, you likely had a primer while in high school, be it from your dad, fellow father figure, or perhaps you just simply learned about the techniques yourself by reading guides like this one online. While some of the information you may have learned may indeed be true, its always critical to go back to the basics and understand how to actually shave.
Well sometimes when you go over something as simple as shaving, its important to make sure that you aren’t doing any bad habits on a daily basis. For instance if you have ingrown hairs, even the best cartridge razor might not actually make that much of a difference. In fact, you are probably just shaving incorrectly and therefore shouldn’t waste the money on a brand new razor.
A Hot Shower Is Best For Prepping Your Hair
By and far the best way to open up your pores and allow your follicles to swell is to take a hot shower before shaving. When you soak your hair and skin in the hot water, this will significantly increase the comfort of your shave. When you skin gets thoroughly hydrated, it will be less prone to tearing or having the blade skip across your skin making tiny abrasions.
If a shower isn’t available, a backup would be to place a hot wet towel on your face for several minutes to achieve similar results. However in all of our years of testing shaving products, we simply feel that a hot shower is the best method to increase the overall comfort.
Pre Shave Oil – Fanciful or Practical?
In all of our research to determine the best pre shave oils, many men are torn on their actual effectiveness. Pre shave oil isn’t a replacement for your hot shower or shaving cream. Instead pre shave oil is a unique product that rests directly between those two steps.
Pre shave oil is largely made up of carrier oils such as castor, jojoba, etc. These oils are found in many different beauty products including lotions, shampoos, and beard oil to just name a few. The oils themselves serve a few purposes, however their primary driver for inclusion is to moisturize your skin.
When placed on your skin, its going to allow the razor blade to glide effortlessly to effectively slice your whiskers while helping to protect your skin.
No, Your Shaving Cream Shouldn’t Come From a Can
Sure there are all sorts of canned shaving creams that you can pick up from your local drug store or big box retailer. However, when it comes to comparing them to a higher quality shaving cream such as Taylor of Old Bond Street – its a whole other world of comfort and scent.
Quality shaving creams are exactly that, quality. They include many luxurious ingredients that help to provide a great cushion for any razor blade while also doing a terrific job of retaining the heat and moisture on your skin.
A proper shaving cream should enhance your shave and not leave your face feeling dried out afterwards. No matter the razor that you use, whether its the best cartridge razor on the market or a double edge safety razor, if your face is looking pretty ashy after shaving, you will definitely want to consider investing in a proper shaving cream along with an aftershave balm for good measure.
Here’s the kicker:
Many men pass over the higher quality shaving creams due to their perceived notion that they are going to be at a way higher price point compared to their canned counterparts – however that simply isn’t the fact. In most cases the higher quality shaving creams tend to have a longer lifespan packing way more uses into a tube.
For a review of some of the best shaving creams on the market today, check out our recent post where we review the top brands.
Shaving Brush: For Those Who Take Their Shaving Seriously
Now one of the caveats to many boutique higher quality shaving creams, and soaps for that manner as well, is that they do tend to require a shave brush in order to fully draw out their benefits.
There are a variety of shaving brushes on the market that come in all sorts of different fiber grades and sources (i.e. badger, synthetic, etc.).
Shave brushes are used to help create a proper cushion for the shaving cream that helps draw out a better performance of your blade. In addition, a shave brush can help to lift your hairs on end when compared to actually using your hands to apply the shaving cream (which will leave your hairs matted down).
Now you still can of course apply a shaving cream with your hands, however we wouldn’t recommend it. Even a cheap $10 shaving brush can deliver some great overall benefits for applying a shaving cream or soap.
The Proper Shaving Techinque
Now when you shave with a dull sub-par razor or even the best cartridge razor available, its important to always remember that you shave with the grain.
Going against the grain will cause severe irritation along with making you much more susceptible to painful ingrown hairs.
One of the most important things you can do to ensure that you shave properly is that you take just a minute or two and study how your beard grows in. What you may have learned from your favorite YouTuber or father won’t necessarily work for you.
Every man’s beard for the most part, grows all in different directions and there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to ensure maximum performance.
The Best Cartridge Razor Compared To The Alternatives – Electric, Double Edge Safety Razors, and Straight Edge Razors
Now the cartridge razor is just one of the many different types of razors available on the market.
While we go in much further detail on all the different types of razors in this post, here are a few of the highlights:
Electric Razors Can Still Provide an Excellent Shave – Especially If Time Is of The Essence
Electric razors get a lot of flack, sometimes its justified but oftentimes its not. You see electric razor are built for convenience and efficiency in mind. While many of them can provide a pretty close shave – particularly foil based razors like Braun or Panasonic, they just simply can’t match the closeness of an actual blade on your skin.
Electric razors are incredible for business trips, if you do your morning shave in the car on the way to work, or for any other type of ‘mobile’ scenarios.
They, for the most part, have an incredible battery life that can provide a quick shave while you are in a pinch – all without the prep work of taking a hot shower, applying shaving cream, etc. Now with that being said, many of the electric shavers on the market today do actually work in a ‘wet’ condition and can be used with a compliment shaving cream or pre shave oil in order to increase the overall comfort and closeness of the shave.
Double Edge Safety Razors: What Your Grandfather Used
Double edge safety razors have seen quite the resurgence as of late. They provide just as good of a shave when compared to a cartridge based razor – while also increasing the amount of money in your bank account.
Double edge safety razors (or DE razors for short) have a somewhat larger initial investment cost when compared to even the best cartridge razors like the Gillette Fusion ProGlide, however, when looking at their pricing on a longer term, they are incredibly cheap.
For a quick comparison, a razor blade thats used in a DE razor costs only 10 cents (40 cents monthly), whereas when compared to a cartridge razor the costs skyrocket to about $2.80 per cartridge per month – to some this is quite significant.
As you can see the costs can quickly add up when compared to a DE razor – hence their resurgence and appeal among men everywhere.
A double edge safety razor does definitely have several shortcomings when compared to a cartridge razor. First and foremost, shaving with a DE razor can’t be rushed – if you go to quick you are likely going to nick yourself and have more of a problem on your hands that before you started.
Secondly, DE razors shouldn’t really be used on any other areas of your body (i.e. chest, head, groin, etc) given that they can nick you so easily.
The reason for the susceptibility of the nicks is that cartridge razors are set to the optimal pre-determined 30 degree cutting angle whereas a DE razor requires you to hold it at this angle throughout the duration of your shave.
But the learning curve shouldn’t steer you away if you are ever considering a DE razor. They do a good job and they are incredibly cheap. For more information on double edge safety razors check out our in-depth guide.
Straight Edge Razors: For The Pros Only
If the double edge safety razor was your grandfathers razor, the straight edge razor is your great grandfathers. The straight edge razor is simply a single blade that needs to be honed via a strop in order to get the blade to the appropriate sharpness.
Not only do straight edge razors require you to sharpen manually, but they also have a steeper learning curve when compared to any other shaving devices available.
Now with that being said there are alternate straight razors available called shavettes that allow you to insert a disposable blade for more hygienic cases (i.e. barbershops use these).
However if you get a straight edge razor, you can expect it to last your entire life with proper care.
Aftershave Balms Can Help With Relief
The first thing that many men think of when it comes to aftershaves is that they are going to sting horribly whenever applied to the skin due to the alcohol contained within them, and this fact may be true for some aftershaves. But as we recently published the differences in aftershave splashes, lotions, and balms these products are all completely unique but do deliver very similar benefits.
Simply stating, aftershave splashes (and many aftershave lotions) contain alcohol as an antiseptic to help ensure that your pores are clean before they close up after you are done shaving.
However if you experience even the tiniest of nicks while shaving, the application of an aftershave splash or lotion will sting due to the alcohol. Another downside to these two products is that the alcohol contained within them can actually dry out your skin which is somewhat counterintuitive of achieving a healthier looking skin.
Instead, what we recommend for men is to use an aftershave balm. Balms typically contain all natural ingredients that will help to provide an extra layer of moisture and helps to rid you of any sort of discomfort post-shave.
Do The Number of Blades Matter? What About Battery Power?
When it comes to cartridge razors, there are quite a few variances to choose from. You can pick one up with 5 blades like the Gillette Fusion Proglide or the once incredibly popular Gillette Mach 3 or of course if you want a different manufacturer you can go with the Quattro by Schick. The point is, there are all different options of cartridge razors for men available.
However, with the relatively recent introduction of 5 bladed based razors (and even 6 – as we reviewed below), there was quite of bit of debate among dermatologists and wet shavers alike. Many claimed that such a razor with 5 blades would substantially increase the amount irritation that would would receive when passing the blade over their skin.
In addition, as mentioned in older New York Times article, for the Gillette Fusion specifically, the manufacturer says that the increase number of blades cause a “hysteresis effect” of which the first blade of the razor pulls up the hair and then each subsequent blade cuts it lower and lower. When all is said and done, the last blade that passes over your hair should cut it just below the surface of your skin in order to leave your face feeling smooth.
In addition, the design of the multi-blade razors whether its Gillette or Schick have narrower spaces between the blades. This thinner gap reduces friction of the blades scraping across your skin – which ultimately leads to a more comfortable shave. However if you have severe skin irritation when shaving and you have tried the 4 or 5 blade varieties, some dermatologists do recommend trying a 2 blade disposable razor instead.
The claim of the vibration effect in some of the higher end disposable razors is to assist in raising up the hair allowing the razor to slice through more of the hair follicle effectively providing an even closer shave. However, this notion raising of the hair up and away from the skin was challenged by Schick and deemed there was not enough scientific evidence to support this theory – therefore when selecting a disposable razor, a battery powered razor shouldn’t be a consideration.
Let’s Get Personal For A Minute: What Are You Shaving?
If you are looking to shave your head, there are a multitude of options out there for shaving your head completely bald. Our pick for shaving your head was the Gillette Fusion Proshield w/ Flexball. In all of our hours testing, we never accidentally nicked ourself when shaving.
In addition to the extremely close shave that this razor provides, it really shines with the Flexball design. Making it one of our all around favorite grooming tools for your head.
Which leads us to our next point:
If you are shaving your groin area, including both the twig and berries, we recommend either the same Gillette Fusion Proshield mentioned above or even a women’s razor like the Venus Swirl.
But why are we recommending a women’s razor for shaving your junk?
Well the design of the head for this particular razor is much wider and is designed for shaving the entire body as opposed to a men’s razor from Gillette, Schick, or even Dorco razor that is geared towards primary use on your face (to note: Gillette does make Venus razors).
In addition to having a much wider head that will help press your skin down to ultimately increase comfort, the Venus Swirl also has 5 blades for incredibly close comfort along with a similar Flexball neck on the cartridge to help bend to the contours of your skin.
There’s no shame in ever purchasing a woman’s razor – the Venus Swirl is one of the best cartridge razors out there if you want a close shave for the rest of your body.
Reviews To Determine The Best Cartridge Razor
Below we breakdown the most popular cartridge based razors to determine which one will hold the reign as the best cartridge razor that is currently available:
Gillette Fusion ProGlide
Of all the cartridge razors available on the market, the Gillette Fusion ProGlide is the Rolls Royce.
This Fusion ProGlide that we reviewed comes with all the bells and whistles. Here are a few highlights of this particular razor:
- 5 blades on the front of the razor
- 1 blade for edging on the back
- Microcomb to guide stubble into the blades
- Flexball neck
- Battery operated vibrations
- Includes microchip for same performance on the battery every time
When it comes to the actual performance of this cartridge razor, its top notch. We found that generally speaking this is the best overall razor that you can get for the money.
Speaking of money, one of the biggest sticking points with this particular razor is the cost to refill the blades. However, Gillette has done an amazing job in the construction of these blades as one cartridge should last you about a month (assuming 4 to 5 shaves a week). Of course your mileage may vary depending on whether or not you have thicker or thinner whiskers. Also a large impact on performance will be the shaving steps that we outlined above (i.e. proper use of shaving cream, shaving brush, pre shave oil, etc.)
Generally speaking after using this razor for a couple of weeks, we found that skin irritation around the neck area is non-existent, especially when compared to some of the other razors reviewed.
Regarding the battery function of this particular razor, it really comes down to a personal preference. After using the battery operation for about a week, we didn’t notice much of a difference regarding comfort and closeness of the shave. We expect many men to follow suit and likely never replace the battery after it eventually dies out. With just about any battery operated cartridge razor, the Fusion ProGlide is of course waterproof.
Another note on the battery is that within the handle, Gillette does include a microchip that regulates the voltage of the battery to ensure that performance remains the same shave after shave. Therefore you won’t experience a really powerful vibration at the beginning of the battery life and notice start to waver as you continue to use the razor. In addition, the microchip also will automatically turn off the battery after 8 minutes of use. While battery limit might seem strange at first, its actually pretty smart thinking. The auto-shutoff is to ensure that the battery doesn’t die if its accidentally turned on while in your favorite dopp kit or traveling bag.
If you are looking to save a few bucks on this cartridge razor, then we would recommend the Gillette Fusion Proshield (which doesn’t include a battery).
The biggest selling point for this cartridge razor, and the primary reason why it was ranked the best cartridge razor that we tested was the Flexball technology. This razor is incredibly versatile and will work flawlessly on any of the contours of your face. This is likely the reason why the skin irritation for this razor is likely non-existent. The blades stay close to your skin throughout the entire shaving process while slicing through your whiskers.
If you are looking for a razor that will provide an incredibly close shave and don’t mind spending just a couple of extra bucks, then we highly recommend the Gillette Fusion ProGlide.
Schick Hydro 5
While Gillette may be the biggest name in razors when it comes to both cartridge and disposable varieties, by and far one of their largest competitors is Schick.
Schick’s most popular cartridge based razor that competes head-to-head with the Gillette Fusion ProGlide is going to be the Schick Hydro 5.
As the name implies the Hydro 5 is a 5 blade cartridge razor who’s goal is to provide an incredibly close shave with every use.
What really sets the Hydro 5 apart from the Gillette Fusion ProGlide and the other cartridge razors that we reviewed is that it contains a “Hydrating Gel Reservoir” that packs in both Aloe Vera along with Vitamin E – both of which are great at providing incredible hydrating properties to keep your skin well moisturized, especially for the morning hours.
However, the problem is that with such a reservoir, there is only so much of the hydrating fluid can be packed in, and, well lets face it, most of it likely gets washed off when you rinse your face post shave.
That’s the primary sticking point when it comes to the Hydro 5 – overall it provides a close shave with its incredibly close razor blades stacked upon each other – but the hydrating component just leaves a lot to be desired.
Instead what we recommend using a post-shave aftershave balm that you can control the application along with a higher quality solution that will leave your skin feeling incredibly fresh after your shave.
For those looking to clean up areas whether it may be along the sideburns or perhaps even a goatee will welcome the flip trimmer that becomes available as soon as you flip up the hydrating reservoir.
A few other noticeable features that are absent from the Hydro 5 when compared to the Gillette Fusion ProGlide is that it doesn’t have the vibrating function (remember the lawsuit we mentioned earlier?), along with a stiff neck.
The absence of any sort of ball feature like the one found in the Gillette will restrict this razor to be used on your face only. Other uses on any curves of your body may result in incidental nicks.
MicroTouch TOUGH BLADE
When it comes to value cartridge razors, one of the stand out competitors is MicroTouch. This cartridge based system, like the Schick and Gillette cartridge razors is widely distributed across the US. Therefore you should be able to pick this up at your local Wal-Mart or CVS (assuming they have them in stock). However, you can also easily pick it up from major online retailers as well.
Now when it comes to the MicroTouch, the reviews are mixed. Very similar in nature to the Gillette Mach 3, the MicroTouch is a three bladed system. Furthermore, MicroTouch touts that the blades are constructed in Germany inferring that its made of a higher quality and precision. MicroTouch goes so far as to claim that a single cartridge should be able to last about an entire month before it will need to be replaced.
However, in our review, and what many other men have found as well is that a single cartridge of the MicroTouch should last on average about two weeks. Which unfortunately is about 50% less than what is advertised. However with such a low entry price-point for both the handle and the 12 cartridges included, leaves it somewhat to be desired – but still a great value razor when compared to some of the larger brands.
Another fault however with the MircoTouch is the quality of the handle itself. The grip on the handle and weight is incredibly impressive and welcomed. However, the fault on the MicroTouch handle comes at the connection point of the cartridge and the handle. Many men have reported that when dropped, even once, the cartridge may tweak the handle connector too much causing it to break – thus rendering the entire handle useless.
While that may not seem like too big of an issue, the problem lies in that MicroTouch doesn’t sell the handle for the razor separately. Therefore you would have to purchase the entire system again (handle + 12 cartridges).
Being that this is a budget based cartridge razor, battery/vibrating functions are absent along with any sort of special ball within the neck of the handle for shaving along contours. In addition, the razors lubricating strip is on par with other similar budget type razors.
When it comes to providing a close shave, this razor appears to be on par with what you might expect from a disposable razor, or razors that are a few generations old. Don’t expect to get that desired “baby butt smooth” shave with a budget razor.
Overall, its a budget cartridge razor that requires care to ensure that the razor attachment on the handle doesn’t accidentally snap off. Its great if you are in college and are only looking to shave your face every so often, however we would recommend checking out the Dorco Pace 6 Plus (reviewed below) as a better alternative for only a couple of bucks more.
Dorco Pace 6 Plus
If you are familiar with The Dollar Shave Club, then you are familiar with Dorco razors. Dorco is the primary provider of razors for The Dollar Shave Club. The Dorco Pace 6 Plus would be considered a comparable razor to TDSC “Executive” option – which is also a 6 bladed razor.
Yes you read that right: The Dorco Pace has 6 blades on the head of the razor, making it the world’s first ever 6 blade cartridge razor – eat your heart out Gillette and Schick!
So what does that mean for your morning shave?
More about the shave in just a minute…
The biggest thing that a lot of men really love about Dorco products is that they are competitively priced and competes toe-to-toe with MicroTouch.
Unlike the MicroTouch, the Dorco handle is crafted extremely well and has ample weight to it when you place it into the palm of your hand. This is critical, as is the golden rule with many razors, especially double edge safety razors, you don’t want to really have to apply pressure when you are shaving your face. Doing so will increase the amount of friction which will consequently increase the chance of general skin irritation and razor burn.
Therefore the weight of the Dorco Pace 6 Plus should be enough to glide effortlessly through your whiskers while keeping your skin in tact.
A great feature that comes on the Dorco Pace 6 Plus is that its head does pivot rather nicely. While not nearly the range of motion that we exprienced in the Gillette Fusion ProGlide with it’s Flexbball, the Dorco should be able to get your chin and neck areas with relative ease and closeness. While you could definitely use this cartridge razor on your head and body, the range of motion (we feel anyways), just falls short for optimal performance.
Another noticiably absent feature from this razor is a vibrating funciton. While usually not a dealbreaker for most men – it is at least worth mentioning.
All features aside, this razor is extremely good considering its extremely competitive price point. When comparing this to the other big names, we feel it is better than the Schick Hydro 5, however just falls short of the Gillette Fusion ProGlide.
This razor is definitely worth the couple of bucks more than the MicroTouch and should definitely be a consideration for the budget minded men out there.
To Wrap It All Up
To bring everything to a close, the Gillette Fusion ProGlide is simply the best cartridge razor that is currently out there. You can’t beat the comfort of the shave, weight of the handle, along with the ability of the cartridge head to wrap around the contours of your face with its awesome Flexball neck. It truly is a great cartridge razor that will be able to work in just about any surface area on your skin.