When it comes to shaving, the cartridge razor expertly dances between performance and convenience.
The best cartridge razor should not only cut your facial hair with ease, but should also not cause any irritation, razor burn, or razor bumps – like the Gillette Fusion ProGlide cartridge razor.
In this review and guide, we break things out into three main topics:
- Go over a few key factors you should think about before buying a new razor
- Reviews of a variety of cartridge razors
- Share a few tips on how you can get the most from your new razor
Let’s get started:
Before buying a cartridge razor, a few considerations
When reviewing all the cartridge razors available, we identified 6 key factors you should think about before making a purchase.
Taking just a quick moment to think about each of the 6 factors listed below should help you find the perfect razor to match your facial hair and skin type.
1. Number of blades
The number of blades found on modern cartridge razors has increased significantly in recent years. With some companies offering up to six blades on a single cartridge razor, there has naturally been some debate among both dermatologists and wet shavers if this many are really necessary – or if it is simply a marketing gimmick.
Many have claimed that a razor with several blades will substantially increase the amount irritation given the added exposure of the skin to the razor blade.
During our research, we came across this interesting article on the New York Times, that mentions that the increased number of blades causes 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.
Beyond the quantity of blades on a single cartridge razor, another factor is the space between the blades. We found that those razors with a thinner gap will provide a more comfortable shave due to the decrease in friction.
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.
Don’t get too hung up on the number of blades as the quality of the shave can significantly change depending on a variety of factors including facial hair thickness, blade gap, shaving cream and more.
2. Battery powered
Once popular a few years ago, battery powered cartridge razors were dubbed the next big thing in the world of shaving.
However, shortly after their introduction, their ability to provide a closer and better shave was challenged by Schick.
The judge deemed that there was not enough scientific evidence to support that battery powered cartridge razors provided a better shave.
They key takeaway here?
When selecting a cartridge razor, it’s best to skip on any battery powered operation.
3. Lubricating strips
Lubricating strips can provide a great deal of comfort when shaving.
Their advantage is especially pronounced should you be using a budget shave cream that doesn’t carry slick lubricating properties.
However, as is the case with many cartridge razors, the performance of the lubricating strip is directly tied to how often you change your razor blade.
One noticeable introduction in recent years was with the Gillette ProShield. This unique cartridge razor offers a lubricating strip both before and after the razor blade passes on your skin.
They have claimed that these lubricating strips ‘shields skin from irritation while you shave’.
Secondly, in the Schick Hydro 5 Sense line, they have introduced lubricating strips with coconut oil, menthol, and herbal extracts to also lessen shave irritation while increasing moisture and comfort to your skin.
Should you often find mild discomfort when using your existing cartridge razor, then one with a better performing lubricating strip may be of great help to you.
Just be sure to swap out your blade regularly.
4. Price for refills
There is no denying that cartridge razors have a pricey long-term cost of ownership.
It’s through this high cost that both safety razors and shave clubs have made such a huge impact in the past few years.
However, the large cartridge razor brands have smartened up and started to provide their razors at a much more affordable price.
Whether it’s through their large multi-count offering that they make available at major online retailers or even providing subscription shave clubs themselves, the cost of owning a refillable cartridge razor has started to become a bit more affordable.
However, with that being said, we do recommend that you take a moment to price it out on an annual basis to compare all the options when reviewing the best cartridge razor for the money.
5. What are you shaving?
Whether it’s your head, beard, chest, or pubic region, the area of which you are shaving should be considered when reviewing all the cartridge razors.
With companies like Gillette allowing for increased pivot and flex through their proprietary Flexball head, this simple mechanism can provide great performance no matter how curvy the contours on your body may be.
However, if you are simply just shaving your face, then a straight forward cartridge razor with limited head movement should still provide plenty of motion to cut your whiskers.
When reviewing cartridge razors, the biggest brand may not always be the best one for you.
As evident with the many options available to you in our list below, it’s important to not get caught up in the marketing hype and buy a razor just because some famous celebrity or athlete endorsed it.
Instead, you should try to objectively compare all the options and features, as we mentioned thus far, in order to find the perfect razor for you.
The 7 best cartridge razors for men 2021
1. Best Cartridge Razor For General Use: Gillette Fusion ProGlide
Of all the cartridge razors available on the market, the Gillette Fusion ProGlide is among the most popular.
This razor features the following:
- 5 anti-friction blades
- Precision trimmer
- Flexball neck
- Battery operated vibrations
When it comes to the actual performance of this cartridge razor, its top notch. This is the best cartridge razor for general shaving.
- Anti-Friction Blades
The blades on the Fusion ProGlide are thin and spaced closed together making it perfect for men of all skin and facial hair types.
The reduced friction coupled with the lubricating strip allows for greater shave comfort.
As the blades get used, the lubricating strip will turn white, giving you the visual indicator that they need to be replaced.
- Flexball Neck
Able to stay close to your skin no matter the natural contours of your body, the Flexball neck provides added range of motion making it perfect to use on head, chest, or pubic region.
When you combine this added flexibility along with the thin blades, you have a comfortable shave no matter the area.
- Battery Power
While its effectiveness is up for debate, Gillette relies on 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 have it weaken 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, it’s actually pretty smart thinking. The auto-shutoff is to ensure that the battery doesn’t die if accidentally turned on in your Dopp kit.
- Anti-friction blades provide consistent performance
- Flexball neck great for general use
- Battery power regulated
What You Need To Know
2. Best Cartridge Razor For Sensitive Skin: Schick Hydro 5 Sense
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.
Their flagship cartridge razor, and the one that many men loved, was the Hydro 5 Sense.
Ranked as one the best cartridge razors for sensitive skin, there is a lot going on for it, which includes the following:
- 5 ultra-glide blades
- Shock absorb technology
- 7 gel pools
As the name implies the Hydro 5 Sense is a 5-blade cartridge razor that provides an incredibly close shave with every use.
The ultra-glide blades reduce the occurrence of friction between both the blade, skin, and facial hair when it is being cut.
This results in a shave that doesn’t cut too deep nor shallow which would otherwise result in additional passes.
Secondly, these super sharp blades will cut your facial hair easily, thus reducing the tugging or pulling sensation on the root which can cause post-shave irritation.
Shock Absorb Technology
One really unique feature with this cartridge razor among all others listed, was the inclusion of shock absorb technology.
Adjusting the pressure with each stroke, the razor ‘knows’ when to either apply or lessen pressure.
A common irritation issue for men with sensitive skin, this allows for an even-pressured shave that increases shave comfort.
7 Gel Pools
A trademark quality found in Schick cartridge razors are their gel pools. With the Hydro 5 Sense, you can purchase a cartridge razor with any of the following lubricating strip gel varieties:
- Hydrate – coconut oil (normal skin)
- Energize – menthol (normal skin)
- Sensitive – herbal extract (sensitive skin)
* Italics represents the name that Schick uses.
- Great for sensitive skin
- Provides an even pressured shave
- Sharp blades glide when cutting
- Limited range of motion on cartridge head
What You Need To Know
3. Best Cartridge Razor For The Money: Micro Touch Tough Blade
One of the best cartridge razors for the money will be the MicroTouch razor.
What sets the MicroTouch apart from the others on our list, and why you should consider it, is the following:
- 3 Micro-thin stainless steel blades
- Engineered to shave comfortably
- Inclusion of 12 refill razors
3 Micro-thin Stainless Steel Blades
In order to get a comfortable shave, the razor blade should not only be thin, but evenly spaced to prevent gunk build up.
With blades that were made in Germany, a country highly revered for their precision engineering when it comes to razor blades, the MicroTouch provides great value.
As found with the expensive cartridge razors of other brands, these razor blades have a non-stick coating that will lengthen the life of the blade.
Engineered to Shave Comfortably
While absent of any Flexball neck, the range of motion that you get with the MicroTouch should still deliver an acceptable performance for most shaving situations.
While it won’t stay as close to your skin when shaving your head or public region, the pivot head will do a great job on flat surfaces such as your cheeks.
With only 3 blades on the head, like the Mach 3, the reduced number allows for less contact of the blade with your skin – making it a favorite cartridge razor for those with sensitive skin.
Inclusion of 12 Refill Razors
What we found in the reviews of countless men was the love for the included refills. With each razor blade able to last up to a month on a single use, you have a year’s supply of razors included with your purchase.
This allows the MicroTouch to simply deliver a much better value when compared to other cartridge razors.
- Provides a good shave for the price
- Included refills deliver value
- Good handle
- Not as comfortable shave
What You Need To Know
4. Best Razor For Razor Bumps: Bump Fighter
One of the best cartridge razors for razor bumps, the intelligently designed Bump Fighter was initially made for men with dense and curly beards, but now has been sought after by any man that gets razor bumps when shaving.
Caused when the hair grows into the skin, razor bumps are both painful and unsightly.
However, after using the Bump Fighter cartridge razor for a few days, razor bumps become a thing of the past.
Unlike other cartridge razors that offer multiple blades, pivot head, or even a lubricating strip, the Bump Fighter offers none of those.
Instead, the Bump Fighter only features a single cartridge blade with ridges.
With their patented bump guard technology, the Bump Fighter creates just a little bit of space that allows the razor to cut your hair just a fraction above the surface of the skin.
This allows the hair just enough room to grow outwards instead of curling back into the skin and causing an ingrown hair or razor bump.
A truly genius idea.
When you pair this unique cutting system with the comfortable rubber grip that prevents slippage, you get a terrific razor.
- Prevents razor bumps
- Rubber grip for increase comfort
- Perfect for men with curly beards
- No frills
- Not for those that want a close shave
What You Need To Know
Originally introduced in 1998 and racked up an astonishing $750 million in research and development costs (source), the Gillette Mach 3 set the gold standard of which all other cartridge razors would be compared against.
Still being made today, the Mach 3 remains a favorite of men everywhere, especially those with either acne or sensitive skin.
The three key features that men loved most are the following:
- Stronger-than-steel blades
- Comfortable handle
- Skin guard and lubrastrip
Coated with DLC (Diamond-Like-Cutting), the razor blades on the Mach 3 are super sharp and can cut your facial hair close to the skin.
While the sharp and close cut is a large selling point, another is that the blades last much longer compared to cartridge razor of similar price point and quality.
Able to withstand about 15 shaves per razor, the Mach 3 provides great value.
As you will see in our guide below, one of the most important factors in order to get a good shave isn’t only the sharpness and quality of the blades, but your grip on the handle itself.
The ergonomically designed handle that Gillette has put together allows for a firm grip that does not slip even if your hands are coated with shave cream, water, or a mixture between the two.
This allows you to get a close shave in fewer passes – a key factor in order to reduce razor burn and redness.
Skin Guard + Lubrastrip
The skin guard on the Mach 3 is a unique addition that allows for consistent results. Able to gently stretch your skin before the razor cuts the hair, the skin guard ensures that you only need to make one pass in order to achieve your desired results.
Once that pass has occurred, the lubrastrip on the other side of the razor head works to stop any irritation or discomfort.
Like most Gillette razors, the lubrastrip serves as a gentle visual reminder to replace your blade once it turns completely white.
- Still a great razor 20 years later
- Affordable compared to modern razors
- Delivers a close and comfortable shave
- Not the best for body grooming
What You Need To Know
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 blade razor.
While we cover a variety of subscription shave clubs elsewhere, we want to focus on what makes the Dorco Pace 6 Plus so unique as a standalone cartridge razor.
When reviewing, we found that the following factors really stood out with this cartridge razor:
- Angulated blade platform
- Common docking system
- Vitamin E, Aloe, and Lavender lubricating strip
Angulated Blade Platform
In order to make 6 blades really work for this cartridge razor, Dorco had to get creative and come up with a new head that would allow for both a close and comfortable shave.
Their patented angulated blade platform allows for just that, a shave that competes head on with the likes of Gillette and Schick.
These micro thin blades not only slice through your facial hair with ease but are also set in a way to resist clogging or gunking up – which can drastically reduce the life of a blade.
Therefore, you don’t have to worry about any mild corrosion on the ends of the blade, which can of course lead to health and safety concerns.
Common Docking System
One of the biggest frustrations for men who use cartridge razors is that when a company introduces a new razor with an extra blade or lubricating strip, they also change the fitting of the razor blade.
This leads to waste as your old cartridge razors are rendered useless should the handle break.
Unlike other companies out to make a profit no matter the costs, Dorco smartly makes all their cartridge razors with the same fitting.
Therefore, if you want to try out one of their other handles or blades, you don’t have to worry, your existing blades will still work just fine.
Vitamin E, Aloe, and Lavender Lubricating Strip
With Vitamin E, aloe, and lavender contained within the lubricating strip, the Dorco 6 Plus offers intense comfort making this a perfect razor for sensitive skin and razor burn.
Able to not only repair your skin through the inclusion of Vitamin E, the aloe provides instant comfort should any sort of irritation occur when shaving.
- Unique blade setting allows for greater comfort
- Lubricating strip helps sensitive skin
- Common docking system reduces waste
- Large head may have a hard time around tight contours
What You Need To Know
Shave clubs offer a great way to get an acceptable shave with regular razor rotation.
When doing a quick bit of math, you will often find that they are more expensive than if you were to just simply buy a set of cartridge razor blades in bulk.
In addition, some of the major shave clubs such as Dollar Shave Club actually use Dorco razors and try and sell you on additional products such as shave cream, aftershave, etc.
So, if you are (or have) been thinking about joining a shave club, our recommendation here is to make sure that you check what the annual costs are before signing up – you will probably be surprised.
How to shave with a cartridge razor
While shaving may seem fairly straightforward, there is actually a lot that you must consider before taking a blade to your beard and skin.
From proper prep to shave technique, we go over all the essential steps you should perform when learning how to shave with a cartridge razor:
1. A warm shower is best for prepping your skin and hair
By and far the best way to soften your facial hair is through a warm (not hot) shower.
When you soak your hair and skin in the warm water, it 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.
In addition, your facial hair will swell and soften, making it much easier for the razor blade to perform a clean cut.
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.
2. Map your facial hair
Before pre shave oil or shave cream is applied, take a quick minute to examine how your facial hair grows in – every man is different.
Whether you learned to shave from your father or a YouTube video, the way you need to shave your hair is unique to you and is important when getting the best results possible.
So, take note to see how the hair on your cheeks, neck, and jawline all grow in as this will become critical in step #5 below.
3. Apply a pre shave oil
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.
When placed on your skin, a pre shave oil reduces friction and allows the razor blade to glide effortlessly to cut your facial hair while helping to protect your skin.
It’s a great addition to the shave process, especially if you have sensitive skin.
4. Thoroughly apply your shave cream
Shave cream is nearly as important as the razor blade itself.
A quality shaving cream should enhance your shave and not leave your face feeling dried out afterwards. No matter the razor that you use, if your face is looking dry after shaving, you will definitely want to consider investing in a proper shave cream.
Containing key emollients, a shave cream helps to further reduce the friction between the blade and your skin while increasing moisture.
A good shave cream should contain several natural ingredients that compliment your skin rather than synthetic or alcohol-based ingredients that can dry it out or cause discomfort.
When ready, we recommend you reading our guide to shave creams.
5. Shave with the grain
Now hopefully you remembered the way that your facial hair grows in as we covered in step #2 above, if not, rinse off the shave cream and examine again.
When using a cartridge razor, it’s 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 – this is especially pronounced with cartridge razors.
Many men who say cartridge razors are bad, usually always have skipped this step and don’t pay attention when shaving.
So, make sure you shave with the grain on every pass of the razor.
6. Aftershave balms for post shave comfort
When looking for post-shave comfort or relief, one of the first products you should reach for is an aftershave balm.
As we recently published the differences in aftershave splashes, lotions, and balms, just know that balms deliver moisture and nourishment to your skin through the use of all natural ingredients. They will never sting and will actually relieve you of any post-shave pain.
Just steer clear of aftershave splashes and lotions as they often contain alcohols and filler ingredients that can sting.
Cartridge razor vs. safety razor vs. disposable razor
While we only reviewed cartridge razors in this guide, it’s important to know of the alternatives that exist within the world of shaving, namely both safety and disposable razors.
Here’s a quick overview on how the cartridge razor differs from these two other types of razors:
Introduced in the late 1800s, the safety razor was an evolution from the straight razor. Containing a safety bar (how its name was derived), it was a much safer alternative for men.
Able use a variety of razor blades, safety razors still are relatively dangerous when compared to the cartridge razor, but still enjoy a cult following to this day.
Only relying on a single blade to perform the cutting, a safety razor requires near perfect technique in order to achieve desirable results.
Unlike cartridge razors, safety razors are poor travel companions as their razor blade cannot be brought with you via carryon.
Disposable razors are very much like cartridge razors in that they offer a multi-blade head and a close shave with very little chance of you cutting yourself.
However, unlike the cartridge razor, a disposable razor is a single piece and must be disposed of entirely once done.
Able to withstand only a few shaves at most, disposable razors are made for ‘throwaway’ purposes such as travel, going to the gym, etc.
The handles on disposable razors are often made from low-quality plastic and are extremely light weight.
If you have sensitive skin, it’s important to try and avoid this type of razor at all costs.
Our criteria for choosing the best cartridge razors
Over the past decade or so, men are finally starting to get some variety when it comes to cartridge razor companies.
This not only makes the dominate companies begin to examine their flagship razors more closely, but it also helps to increase the competition.
In the cartridge razors listed above, we tried to find companies that not only had strong reviews from other men, but objectively offered a well-rounded product that included blade variety, craftsmanship, lubricating strips and more.
We feel confident that our list is one of the most comprehensive out there and should help in finding the perfect cartridge razor for you.