Disposable Razors vs. Cartridge Razors: A Detailed Look at Both

While both similar in form factor, disposable razors and cartridge razors provide a different shaving experience and are used for two different purposes.

We’ll compare the two types of razors in this article and discuss the pros and cons of each.

Comparison Table

Here’s a brief comparison table outlining some key differences and similarities between disposable razors and cartridge razors:

FeatureDisposable RazorsCartridge Razors
CostCheaper upfrontMore expensive over the long term
LongevityDiscarded after a few usesHandle is reusable, blades are replaceable
ConvenienceReady to use, no blade changing neededBlade changing necessary, manual cleaning required
Environmental ImpactMore waste producedLess waste as only blades are replaced
Shave QualityPoor to moderateModerate to good

Overview of Disposable and Cartridge Razors

side by side of cartridge and disposable razors

Before we dive into the comparison, let’s understand what each type of razor brings to the table.

Disposable razors, sometimes referred to as fixed cartridge razors, are designed for temporary use, typically a few shaves, and then discarded. This includes both the handle and the blade. They are popular for their convenience and affordability.

On the other hand, cartridge razors consist of a reusable handle onto which disposable blade cartridges are affixed. The razor may contain a pivoting and tiling head along with a precision trimmer. When the blades become dull, you simply replace the cartridge while retaining the handle.

The Cost Factor

When it comes to upfront costs, disposable razors are usually cheaper than cartridge razors. Most packs of disposable razors provide multiple razors at a low price. For example, visiting your local drugstore, you can typically find a 12-pack of disposable razors for about $5 bucks:

disposable razors screencap

This equates to roughly 40 cents per razor.

However, cartridge razors have an equally affordable upfront price. However, the razor handle and starter cartridge are sold as a loss leader, with the expectation that you’ll buy replacement cartridges in the future. A package of 8 cartridges for the Gillette Fusion 5 costs about $34 bucks:

cartridge razors screencap

This equates to roughly $4.25 per cartridge – a steep increase from the 40 cents per disposable razor.

But why are replacement cartridges so expensive compared to disposables? Well, disposables are often made of poor quality materials and are designed to be used only a few times.

The Average Lifespan of a Razor

For disposable razors, you can typically expect anywhere from 3 to 5 shaves from a disposable razor before replacing it.

In contrast, cartridge razors can generally last for about 15 to 20 shaves before the blades need replacing. Of course, the handle should last much longer, often for several years.

It’s worth noting that many factors impact the longevity of a razor, including the quality of the razor, the thickness of your hair, how well you care for your razor, and the area that you are shaving. For example, shaving just your face will yield many more shaves than if you were to shave your face and your chest, legs, pubic area, etc.

Convenience and Usability

Disposable razors are ready to use straight out of the pack, with no need to change blades. This can make them a preferable choice for travel, gym use, or other situations where you need a quick shave.

Cartridge razors are equally portable, so there is no true advantage here.

Environmental Impact

In terms of environmental impact, disposable razors produce more waste because the entire razor is thrown away after use. In fact, the EPA in 1990 estimated that 2 billion pounds of disposable razors and blades were discarded each year in the United States alone – this figure has likely grown significantly since then.

While the quantity of waste is less with cartridge razors, since only the blades are disposed of, they still generate plastic waste.

For those concerned about ecological impact, neither system is optimal. Consider exploring more sustainable options such as safety razors or straight razors.

However, worth noting is that some companies have started recycling initiatives, that allow you to recycle your disposable razors and cartridges.

Area You Intend to Shave

While both razors can be used on virtually any part of your body in a rather safe and efficient manner, cartridge razors typically have a greater range of pivot and tilt to the head of the razor, allowing for constant contact of the blade on the skin.

This is especially useful when shaving areas that are not flat, such as the groin, head, or armpits.

Adam Williams

As the lead editor of Tools of Men, Adam loves men's grooming products. Particularly of interest is managing facial hair and perfecting the art of the modern man's skincare routine. His work has been featured or quoted in several publications, including New York Magazine, Vice, Sharpologist, MIC, Elite Daily, and more. When Adam isn't working, he enjoys spending time with his two little kids who keep him both on his toes and young at heart.

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