After spending countless hours on forums, reading online store reviews, and getting feedback from men on shave quality, we found that the following razors performed the best for men in both reliability and results for each razor system category:
- Adjustable Safety Razor – Merkur Futur
- General Safety Razor – Merkur 38
- Straight Razor – Dovo
- Cartridge Razor – Gillette Fusion5
- Disposable Razor – Gillette Sensor3
- Budget Cartridge Razor – Gillette Mach3
- Shave Club Razor – Dollar Shave Club
- Hybrid Razor – Norelco OneBlade
A brief primer on the different types of razors
When looking at the world of razors, it can be quite daunting to figure out which one will not only work best with your skin, but also with your preference and budget.
So here is a quick breakdown to all the different types of razors that exist in the market today:
What was one the standard nearly a century ago, safety razors were a big advancement on the straight razor.
Featuring a safety bar that would press down on the skin to provide a much more comfortable shave (and how it got its name), safety razors are going through a renaissance as of late.
The biggest reason for their recent revival is due in large part to their low long term costs. With decent razor blades only costing a fraction to refill, you can get a fresh blade regularly without having to lay out a ton of cash.
But don’t be fooled by the name, shaving with a safety razor does take practice – not respecting the blade may result in minor surface nicks and cuts.
Adjustable Safety Razor
A subset of the standard safety razor will be the adjustable safety razor.
As one would probably infer from the name, adjustable safety razors allow much more control than their fixed safety razor counterparts.
Men using this type of razor love the fact that they can dial in the blade exposure in order to get the perfect shave they want every single time.
Whether you are looking for an extremely aggressive (i.e. close) shave or one that leaves a bit of rough stubble, adjustable razors are versatile.
Products like the Merkur Futur or Merkur Progress set the gold standard when it comes to adjustable safety razors (with the former being the more popular of the two).
These types of safety razors do cost just a little bit more, but are nearly always worth the price given both their versatility and effectiveness of delivering a great shave.
The classic straight razor is an ancient, yet still reliable, way to shave. Featuring just a single piece of metal (shavettes offer injectable blades), a straight razor can last a lifetime and will never need to be replaced.
With regular care and maintenance through proper honing and stropping of the blade, straight razors are perfect for men who truly appreciate the ancient art of shaving.
Largely dominated by companies like Gillette, Schick, and Dorco, cartridge razors offer the ultimate in convenience.
With the ability to be stored via carry-on while traveling and still achieving a wickedly close shave time and time again, cartridge razors are the most popular razor system that exists on the market.
But as you will see below, popular doesn’t always mean comfortable. Men who regularly suffer from razor bumps, ingrown hairs, or general razor burn will want to look at some of the other alternative razors we covered on our list (specifically the safety razor).
Not normally used as an everyday shave, disposable razors are well suited for those times that you need a razor to just last a couple of shaves and nothing more.
Whether you are looking to pack a razor for your next work trip or perhaps want to shave once you are done working out at the gym, a pack of disposable razors to have on hand can always be great to serve you when you are in a pinch.
A subset of the traditional cartridge razor, shave clubs like Harry’s and Dollar Shave Club are quickly snapping up men’s dollars by delivering an alternative to the traditional razors that you can pick up at your local drugstore.
Quality of the blades here can vary wildly but the convenience of having a blade delivered regularly to your front doorstep is huge.
Hybrid Trimmer And Shavers
Not quite a beard trimmer nor as close as a razor blade, hybrid systems like the Norelco OneBlade are starting to create a new area of the shaving market that didn’t exist a few short years ago.
These unique (yet proprietary) systems are suited for men who like to keep a kempt beard but may not need (nor desire) to shave daily.
Reviews of the best razors for men
Best adjustable safety razor – Merkur Futur
What we like: Fully adjustable. Universal blade fitting. Beautiful design aesthetics.
What we don’t: Smooth handle susceptible to slippage. Large head may be tough around tight contours of mustache area.
There simply isn’t another razor that is nearly as sexy as the Futur on the market.
But looks aside, it’s the adjustment feature that makes this truly one of the best.
With 6 different settings (1 being the mildest and 6 the most aggressive), the Futur can be dialed into your exact preferences.
So, if you are looking for an extremely aggressive (close) shave and have the skin that can sustain the abuse, then you can simply twist the handle and dial it up to 6.
However, if you are like me, and have skin inflammation with just about any razor on the market, then you can set the Futur to 1 and still get a fairly close and comfortable shave that will still look great.
Now for the purists out there that love to make multiple passes (with the grain, across the grain, and against the grain) the Futur will still shine under these conditions.
But it still gets even better:
Unlike other razor systems that have proprietary fittings for their razor heads (I’m looking at you cartridge and electric shavers), the Futur has a universal blade fitting that will work with any of the best safety razor blades.
Here’s the downside of the Futur though:
Unlike just about every Merkur that features a knurled or crosshatched design, the Futur is a brushed metal.
This means that if your hands are coated in shave cream, the handle could prove to be a slight bit slippery – so be careful.
But all is not lost:
With the handle being a bit longer (especially when compared to other safety razors), men with larger hands should have no problem controlling the Futur when you make the passes on your face.
A step up from more rudimentary safety razors, the Futur is truly the next generation of safety razors. The adjustable settings are welcomed by both newcomers and seasoned shavers who want to get a predictable shave time and time again.
Best safety razor – Merkur 38 (Barberpole)
What we like: Affordable yet terrific results. Heavy handle for easy shaving. Comfortable shave for a safety razor.
What we don’t: Handle is a bit shorter than the Futur, making it tough for men with larger hands to use.
With a swirl handle design that is reminiscent of the Barberpole that hangs outside of barber shops, the Merkur 38 sets the gold standard of which other safety razors are measured.
With an impressive heft of 3.88oz, the Merkur 38 razor is perfect for attaining a close shave.
By the weight of the razor alone, you can let gravity take over as it slices effortlessly through your whiskers.
Without the need of any additional force by you in order to getting a close shave (a common problem with lighter razors like the Merkur 23C), you won’t open yourself up surface nicks or mild irritation.
But beyond the weight of the razor, the narrow blade exposure in the head will also make for a pretty comfortable shave even if you make several passes in order to achieve what some purists call a ‘baby butt smooth’ surface.
Personally, we loved the combination of this razor with Taylor of Old Bond Street shave cream – it provided predictable, yet stellar results when shaving.
Like the Futur, the Merkur Barberpole does have a universal blade setting. While the starter blade provided by Merkur is enough to get you started, you can easily switch between other razor blades to find out which one will work best for both your whiskers and skin.
Just note, that unlike other shave systems featured on our list, the Merkur Barberpole won’t be that great when manscaping – you will instead want to go with a cartridge or disposable razor for this purpose.
Perfect for men who are tired of their everyday cartridge or electric shaver. If you have terribly sensitive skin or on a budget, a quality safety razor like this one by Merkur will both save you money and provide a great and comfortable shave.
Best straight razor – Dovo
What we like: Doesn’t get more manly than this. Cheapest shave option over a lifetime on this list despite higher initial cost.
What we don’t: Steep learning curve. Even when mastered still takes a while to shave. Not travel friendly.
Known for both their precision and uncompromising quality, this Dovo straight razor carries that legacy forward.
Crafted from a single piece of carbon steel, this 3” straight razor has been pre-honed and stropped and is ready to go when you get it in your hands (a huge time saver as you don’t have to worry about bringing it to a specialty store to have them do this for you).
Housed within its own carrying case, this straight razor by Dovo will likely be the last razor you will ever own in your lifetime.
With the ability to be sharpened once every few months, the single piece of steel will cut through whiskers effortlessly.
As great as this straight razor may be, the biggest draw back to any straight razor (not exclusive to this fine piece of metal by Dovo) is the learning curve.
Extremely steep and will likely entail plenty of nicks and surface cuts, getting used to shaving with a straight razor can be extremely tricky for some.
However, with plenty of practice and persistence, you will be able to get great results.
Great for men who revel in the age old tradition of shaving and don’t mind spending a few extra minutes doing so. Definitely not TSA approved – will need to be checked in luggage. Once mastered you will probably never want to go to another shave system ever again.
Best cartridge razor – Gillette Fusion5
What we like: Flexball Technology makes it great to shave any part of your body. A reliable shave that is extremely convenient. Double lube strip increases comfort.
What we don’t: It’s expensive to refill. Prone to razor bumps and ingrown hairs.
We wanted to find a brand other than Gillette deserving of the best cartridge razor for men.
Really we did.
But here’s the fact:
When it comes to shave comfort – there is none better than the Gillette Fusion5 on the market.
Perhaps it’s the due to the thinness of the blades, or not overdoing it by offering only 5 blades instead of 7, whatever the case may be, the Gillette Fusion5 wins.
One of the biggest advantages that the Gillette Fusion5 had over its competitors was undoubtedly the Flexball head.
While it might not seem like a big deal from the onset, however, the Flexball is truly the game changer with this cartridge razor.
Whether you are shaving your face, head, or any other parts of your body, the Flexball allows the cartridge head to pivot in order to remain in contact with your skin throughout the entire stroke as demonstrated here:
This not only reduces the number of passes necessary when shaving, but it makes it easier to get around tight contours.
So, for those men shaving around the mustache, ears (if you are bald), or even groin area, you don’t have to worry about incidental nicks and cuts when handling delicate areas.
Now we aren’t going to ignore the 800lb gorilla in the room (sorry gorilla)…
…and that is the cost.
Following the same concept as the printer and ink model (where the printer costs just as much as the ink itself), reloading the Gillette Fusion5 is no small expense.
At approximately $2.85 per blade (8 pack refill at $22.76), it’s one of the priciest options on our list – and largely the reason why shave subscription models have taken off in recent years (but you will see why this is misplaced in just a minute).
Another nice feature to this cartridge razor is the travel friendly nature.
Unlike their electric counterparts that need to be charged or safety razors that must be checked (razor blades aren’t permitted onboard post 9/11), with a cartridge razor, you can simply toss it into your dopp kit and go about your business.
It’s a reliable and predictable shave. While razor bumps and general skin irritation becomes a risk with this razor, it’s a problem that is carried across every cartridge razor on the market. While the refill costs are high, the quality from the Gillette Fusion5 is still better than its peers.
Best disposable razor – Gillette Sensor3
What we like: Dirt cheap. A great razor for out of home use (i.e. business trips, vacation, gym, etc.). Quality blades that will cut with ease. Passable comfort for a disposable.
What we don’t: A little too lightweight and will require moderate pressure while shaving. Slightly rough on the skin compared to other razors.
The Gillette Sensor line of razor blades have been around for years (since 1990 to be exact), and with time has become the staple disposable razor for a lot of men reading this.
While not employing the Flexball Technology that we loved in the Gillette Fusion5 we reviewed, the Sensor line of razors do at minimum, feature a pivot head that helps increase the comfort of the shave.
While these blades are intended to be…well…disposable, we found during our research that many men have been bucking this trend.
Instead of using the blades for only a few shaves at best and then tossing them, men have been able to get up to a month’s worth of shaves from a single blade (this was not uncommon).
While these blades do a great job at getting a close shave, they do carry a bit of ruggedness with them.
So, for the men reading this that have sensitive skin or find that redness will pop up after only a few passes of some of the more luxurious cartridge razors on the market you may be turned off by the Sensor3s (if that’s the case, we would recommend the OneBlade we also reviewed below).
But for men looking for a blade they can bring with them on a business trip, camping, gym, or any other scenarios where they don’t want to pack up their home-based razor, then these disposable razors by Gillette should get the job done.
Lastly, while the handle of these blades are made out of plastic, if you are looking for a bit more heft with your razor blade and want something cheaper than the Fusion5s, then the Mach3 would probably make a great fit for you (these are still actively being produced by Gillette, so you don’t have to search for blades).
The Sensor3 is a great disposable razor for on-the-go shaving. Whether it’s a business trip or at the gym, the low-cost nature of these blades (appx. $1 per blade), make them an efficient razor to bring with you. Given the quality, some men have started to depend on these instead of pricier options as their daily razor.
Best previous generation razor – Gillette Mach3
What we like: Incredibly affordable when compared to modern cartridge and subscription shave services. 3 blades are enough for a close shave.
What we don’t: Still a cartridge that may be susceptible to clogging. Doesn’t have edge tool on back side of head (which is great for touchups).
While not nearly as heavily marketed as it once was in the late 90s, the Mach3 is an amazing razor that still gets the job done.
Although who could forget this commercial:
Sure, seeing an airplane breaking apart through the sky coupled with cheesy effects of a razor flying right to a man’s hand might have been pretty cool back in its heyday, but rip the marketing fluff aside, the Mach3 is still a pretty decent (and affordable) razor that can get reliable results.
With blades costing roughly $1.75 a piece, it’s about $.25 cheaper than what subscription services Dollar Shave Club and Harry’s charges while also being about half the price of the Gillette Fusion5.
Now if you are under the age of 25 and feel like this might seem a poor selection (after all, who wants to share the same razor as their old man), don’t turn a blind eye right away.
Given that the Mach3 only has 3 blades on the cartridge head as opposed to 5 or even 7 found on the more modern razors of today, the fewer blades often equate to much greater comfort for some men (i.e. less blades scraping their skin).
So, if you find that you have some mild irritation post shave when using some of the more modern razors, the small investment you need into this system might be worth the price of admission.
There is a reason that this blade is still actively produced by Gillette nearly a decade after its introduction – it’s a damn reliable razor that gets the job done.
The Mach3 is a great cartridge razor that many men have depended on for several years. The ample heft coupled with 3 blades are enough to get a close and reliable shave every single time. If you like cartridges but are turned off from the bulkier options, then you should check out the Mach3.
Best shave club razor – Dollar Shave Club
What we like: Convenience. Having fresh blades delivered every month is nice.
What we don’t: It’s a little bit more expensive that buying in bulk. Not the greatest of shave when compared to others.
While their packaging and marketing simply doesn’t match that of Harry’s, Dollar Shave Club has it where it counts – a quality shave at a semi-affordable price.
Here’s why we say that Dollar Shave Club is only semi-affordable at best:
If you want to save money, you are better off purchasing razor blades in bulk.
With packs like this one readily available, you can get a full pack of blades at a cheaper rate than if you were to subscribe with any of the subscription services.
At a cost of $9 per month for Dollar Shave Club which includes 4 cartridge blades ($2.25 per blade), you can order a 24 pack ($50) Dorco Pace 7 blades directly at a rate of $2.08 per blade.
This ultimately will equate to a savings of $4 per 24 blades – while not huge, but it’s worth noting as you do pay a minor surcharge for the convenience that Dollar Shave Club offers.
Now price is one thing, but when it comes to the shave of the Dollar Shave Club razors, they are similar with systems that are probably already found in your medicine cabinet.
With the multi-blade head, you can expect to get a close shave on your face via the lift-and-cut technique that they employ.
In addition, the increased number of blades do provide a comfortable shave while also opening you up to the possibility of razor bumps and mild skin irritation.
If you are looking for a better or more comfortable shave we would recommend looking at other options on our list. However, if you simply want the convenience of having new razors show up on your doorstep once a month, there is no denying the convenience that Dollar Shave Club offers.
Best hybrid trimmer and razor – Norelco OneBlade
What we like: Quick yet non-irritable results. Perfect solution for men with sensitive skin.
What we don’t: Proprietary replacement heads are pricey. Low model has inferior battery performance. Won’t be as close as a razor blade. Heads are susceptible to breaking if dropped.
At the intersection of cartridge razors and beard trimmers you will find hybrid systems like the Philips Norelco OneBlade.
Borrowing characteristics of both shave systems, the OneBlade executes beautifully when it comes to shave performance.
While capable of being used in both a wet and dry environment (although from our tests, the dry shave performed much better), OneBlade is perfect for men whose necks get inflamed quite easily even when they exercise absolute caution while shaving.
Cutting the hair at just a fraction above the surface of the skin, you will never have to worry about ingrown hairs or skin irritation – making it great for men who don’t have to worry about stringent facial hair requirements while at work.
But as great as the OneBlade is, there are inevitably some downsides:
First and foremost, the propriety blade system.
Unlike safety razors that feature universal blade mounts, when you need to refill the OneBlade, you will need to purchase Philips Norelco produced blades (~$12 each).
While likely not needing to be replaced but once every few months, it can be a sticking point for some men who don’t like having to make repeat purchases.
Secondly, depending on the model you choose, both charge time and battery life can vary greatly. If you have the budget, upgrade to the OneBlade Face + Body pack – it has a Li-Ion battery that has 60 min battery life and a 4 hour charge time (as opposed to the cheaper model that has a NimH battery which takes 8 hours to charge and only can last for 45 minutes).
The OneBlade is perfect for men with severely sensitive skin. Won’t cause pronounced irritation. Inclusion of combs allow you to maintain a short yet kempt beard.
Some tips to getting a better shave
When it comes to shaving there are a couple of rules you will want to follow:
- Less passes on the razor blade will lower chances of irritation and cuts
- Know the proper shave technique
- Warm skin and water swells hair and loosens skin oils
- Decent shave cream will help a ton
Knowing your hair growth patterns
Now this will sound rudimentary – but its bears repeating.
Whether you learned to shave from a YouTube tutorial or your own father, know that everyone’s facial hair DOES NOT grow in the same direction – this is especially important on the neck area.
Whether you are using a straight razor, safety razor, cartridge, or even disposable, you must always cut your hair with the grain (at least on the first pass).
This will not only reduce the tugging and pulling on your whiskers that will cause pronounced skin irritation, but when you go against the grain it also opens you up to getting razor bumps or ingrown hairs as well – especially with cartridge and disposable razors.
The only instance you can go across or against the grain is with a safety or straight razor.
The reason is that these razor systems will not cut your hair below the surface of the skin – instead it will only cut it to be flush with the skin.
The reason cartridge razors aren’t allowed to go across or against the grain is that they employ a lift-and-cut technology which will cut the hair too low and open you up to additional issues (i.e. razor bumps).
Now this rule of mapping hair growth patterns can be applied across all areas that are to be shaved (namely body and groin hair).
Warm water preps your hair and gets the oil flowing
At the base of your hair follicles you have a collection of oil called sebum oil.
This oil is key in making your hair look shiny and healthy.
When you induce warm water into your shave routine, it will help to loosen these oils and make for a bit more comfortable shave.
Secondly, water on your whiskers before shaving will help to swell the shaft of the hair follicle as well.
This will not only make it a fair bit softer but much easier for razor to make a cut (which helps to further prevent tugging and pulling).
If you can’t take a shower before shaving simply applying a hot towel for a few minutes beforehand will be an adequate substitute.
Quality shave cream rather than alcohol induced gels
While usually a second thought for a lot of men, shave creams help bring the whole shaving process together.
With the ability to make your skin supple, a key factor in reducing razor nicks and cuts, a shave cream will help to keep your skin well insulated after it has been prepped with warm water.
Just be sure that you pick up one that is absent of nasty drying alcohols.
A decent shave cream not only makes for a better shave experience, but will help to keep your skin moisturized as well.
Shaving with any razor takes patience
Whether you decide to go with a safety, straight, or cartridge razor, just know that in order to get a close and comfortable shave, you need to take your time while shaving.
This means the necessary prep work along with not doing a hatchet job on your face.
Each and every razor can shine in the right environment, so make sure that you take the time to prep accordingly and have great supporting products like pre shave oils, shave creams, and aftershave balms for better results.