Why Use an Electric Shaver and what are The types of Electric Shavers


This is not a health or Personal Grooming website, but those who have taken just a superficial look at any of my work should know that it’s my nature to say something whenever I have something to contribute to the conversation. So, as an owner of multiple electric shavers over the years and as an owner of the tough beard but sensitive skin combination, I have something to contribute to the conversation about electric shavers and shaving in general. Let’s get to it.

Why an electric shaver?

So, why should you consider an electric shaver? Well, as you might imagine, an electric shaver is faster than the regular, “manual” shave, since most times, you can simply grab the shaver and shave “dry”, without using any shaving creme or gel. And as counterintuitive as it sounds, electric shavers are under certain circumstances much more comfortable and irritate the skin less.

Sounds great, you might say, but why doesn’t everyone use an electric shaver then? Well, truth be told, exactly because the very mechanisms that allow them to be more efficient and comfortable cause them being unable to match the closeness of a safety or (premium) cartridge razors. This means that you might need to use an electric razor more often.

There’s also the price, of course, but we won’t get into those calculations here as the benefits of electric shaving outweigh its cons and a potentially higher cost over a lifetime. After all, price calculation / total cost of ownership can become a personal thing very quickly, as for example, if you spend any amount of time browsing the “wet shaving” community forums, you will find out that many people who are into safety razors, for example, have tens or hundreds brushes, gels, razors, cremes and foams. So, we will ignore the price and talk about other reasons you might want to choose an electric shaver.

How do electric shavers work? It’s simple. There is some kind of a guard or a comb that stays in contact with your skin, This metal guard features holes which capture the hairs of your beard and moving blades that are hidden behind this guard then cut the hair.

As you can already see from this description, that is the reason electric shavers cannot get as close as safety razors – as opposed to a safety or cartridge razor, only the metal guard or foil touches the skin and the blades do not. That is the source of their power and of their greatest weakness.

Let us talk about this a little more. As the blades don’t touch the skin and it would be extremely difficult to cut yourself, * this means you will enjoy much more comfort than when using a cartridge razor and exponentially more than when using a safety razor. Not only is the shave with an electric razor easier, but they also don’t irritate the skin as much.

*I have never cut myself with an electric razor, even if I push a bit too hard. I have even gone directly over the beauty marks with it, without any problems or blood. However, I do not claim that it is impossible to cut oneself. I lack sufficient technical knowledge in order to be able to claim that.

You might be turned off by the notion that the closeness of the electric shave does not match the closeness of the safety or multi-blade cartridge razors, but the closeness is more than good enough. As you might imagine, over the years there have been huge advances in terms of closeness because manufacturers use technologies which lift the hair first and then cut it which leads to closeness that is indistinguishable with the naked eye from the closeness provided by the safety razor. You just might not feel the skin as smooth as with a safety razor but it’s there while the time saved and the increase in comfort more than make up for this. At least in my opinion.

When using safety or cartridge razors you have to apply the shaving cream, often rinse the blades under running water, then optionally do the whole thing again for the second or even the third pass to get the best results. With an electric razor, you don’t really need any shaving cream or any preparation. You just go.

Braun Series 9 Pro, probably the world’s most famous foil shaver

And there is often not as much work required afterwards, either. If you buy a shaver with an automatic cleaning station, you just put it there and the station will clean and usually charge the shaver. If you buy a shaver without a cleaning station, it’s a bit more complicated, as you do need to clean the shaver, but just taking off or opening the blade guard and rinsing the shaver and the guard under water is enough in most cases.

This does, however, not necessarily mean that you cannot use your favourite shaving cream with an electric shaver. Many electric shavers are meant both for Wet and Dry use, which means that even if you don’t have to, you absolutely can use shaving cream or gel with them. You can even take those in the shower with you, as Wet/Dry shavers are waterproof. That means they will not work while plugged-in and charging because of safety reasons.

However, please use some common sense and under no circumstances think about taking your plugged-in dry-only shaver in the shower with you.

In fact, I cannot imagine any reason, aside the price, why you would even buy a Dry-Only shaver. The point about being able to use it while connected to an outlet is moot, as all modern shavers enable you to charge them for a few minutes which will provide enough charge for a single shave. Wet/Dry Shavers are the way to go. They are just soooo flexible.

So, hopefully things are a bit clearer now why you might want to consider using an electric shaver. So, let’s see what types are there and try to see which one might be better for you.

Rotary Shavers

Perhaps the world’s best rotary shaver, Philips S9000 Prestige

Rotary shavers feature blades rotating in circular motion to cut the hairs. These blades spin behind a metal guard which prevent the blades from meeting the skin. Instead, the hair is captured in this guard – or comb – and goes into the openings where the blades cut it.

So far, I have used three different rotary shavers and they all recommended that you pass the shaving head in a circular motion in a small radius. This I have initially found to be challenging but luckily, I also found it not to be necessary – at least not in all situations. You can get away with using straight motions as well. What you should listen to, however, is the suggestion that you go against the grain as it will improve the shaving efficiency.

I have also found rotary shavers to be mobile and flexible as they tend to have three separately adjustable flexible heads which are very well suited to adjust to the curves of the face. Precisely because of this reason, they usually tend to do a better job on the tough spots, like under the nose.

Foil Shavers

Panasonic Series 900+
A superb foil shaver, Panasonic Series 900+ (Arc 6)

There is another kind of an electric shaver: the Foil shaver. Although the mechanism there is different – the blades move in an oscillating linear motion and are behind the foil which touches the skin. So, the principle is the same: blades do not touch the skin.

As the head of the foil shaver is usually just a rectangular shape with a limited degree of motion, it is recommended that you. use short, straight strokes against the grain, while using your other hand to stretch the skin to ensure that the comb captures as much hair as possible. Because of that rectangular shape and the type of movement that should be familiar to everyone coming from multi-blade cartridge shavers, foil shavers are usually more intuitive to use, especially for beginners. However, precisely that design makes hairs under the nose sometimes difficult to shave without doing multiple passes.

So far, I have used three different foil shavers and with each one I found it better to lock the head in place and not to rely on the flexibility and movements of the head but instead to make the necessary directional adjustments using my hands. This is what has always worked the best for me, as the flexible head of a foil shaver takes away some advantages and it does not compensate enough on the hard-to-reach spots to be worth it. This has, at least always been my experience.

Foil vs Rotary Shavers

What you should know is that a shaving experience can be very personal, and it depends heavily on your beard type, how often you shave, how sensitive s your skin, do you prefer wet or dry shaving, your patience, state of the battery charge and so on.

What follows is MY experience, a guy who has used (and uses) top models of both types and who has an unfortunate combination of a coarse beard and a sensitive skin. So, let’s get into it.

Coarse Beards

The difference between rotary and foil shavers is that in most cases foil shavers will provide a bit closer shave and a bit more comfort but at a price of having to do more passes to get rid of the same amount of hair as when using rotary shavers. This is especially true on thick, coarse, or tough beards.

However, if you have more than let’s say, three days’ worth of growth, then it is even possible you will achieve better closeness with a rotary shaver as you might lose patience with a foil razor when doing multiple passes. Rotary will in those conditions deliver more acceptable results in a fewer pass. Sure, if you have the time and patience and do more passes, the foil will have better closeness at the end. However, the difference can be barely seen and really, both rotary and foil top-models will deliver outstanding results, with foil having better closeness at the end but with rotary delivering comparable results with not as many passes and in less time.

Personally, as my beard is rough, if I haven’t shaved for two or three days, 90% of time I’ll reach for my Philips S9000 Prestige rotary. That thing just breezes through a coarse beard while still providing a more than adequate comfort & closeness, especially when wet shaving.

You can expect a full review of the Phillips S9000 Prestige on this site in a little while.

Sensitive skin

What might seem counter intuitive is that if you have sensitive skin, you usually want to switch to the highest power setting (if your shaver supports this) and shave with the fully charged battery. Your skin will be the least irritated if you use as few passes as possible.

Foil shavers are usually regarded to be better for a sensitive skin and this has been my experience as well. The most comfortable shaver I have used so far is a Braun Series 9 Pro. While it needs a bit of time and a few passes – especially on the neck and especially if your beard grows in multiple directions – to get through a few days of growth, it is almost impossible to irritate your skin while using it so you might as well take your time.

You can expect a Review of Braun Series 9 Pro shortly.


Here the clear winners are foil shavers. Their mechanism allows them to usually cut the hair closer to the skin than rotary razors. This is especially true if you have thin facial hair which does not grow in different directions, and you shave often – these are ideal conditions for getting a close and smooth shave.

The closest shaving electric shaver I have ever used is a Panasonic Series 900+ which makes you wonder how such closeness is even possible with an electric shaver. Provided you don’t let your beard grow for more than two days, you will in 90% of cases get an as close shave as a with a cartridge razor.

You can expect a Review of Panasonic Series 900+ on this site as well, so stay tuned.


Panasonic Arc 5 in it’s cleaning station

While both types are easy to clean and maintain, the winner in this category is a foil shaver. The foil head – or cassette as they call them, can easily be popped, by pressing on both side and taking it off. After that it can simply be rinsed under the tap water. If you buy a model with an automatic cleaning station you might not need even to do this. Not for a while, ´anyway.

While rotary shavers can come with a self-cleaning system as well, in case you don’t buy it, you will need to perform a deep cleaning about once a month, which means taking out the shaving heads, opening them up to access the blades themselves and then rinsing them individually, all while taking care to return them to their correct place because if you accidentally switch the blades between the heads, your shaver will not function optimally for a few shaving sessions – until the blades readjust to the way you shave.

This description does not do the process justice as it is simpler and more intuitive than I just described it and it can be done in minutes. However, you should be aware that in most cases, when it comes to ease of maintenance, foil shavers do tend to have an advantage.


Foil shavers need to have their foils and blades replaced more often than rotary shavers. For example, Braun recommends replacing the head every 18 Months, while it’s 24 Months for Philips. Panasonic, however seems to admit it should be, under circumstances, be replaced yearly and suggests an interval of 1-2 years.

You will need to think about the upkeep of the cleaning station as well, should you decide to get one. However there seem to be a lot of differences there between various manufacturers and this has nothing to do with if a shaver is foil or rotary but rather with the manufacturer’s philosophy.

For example, I personally find the solution from Panasonic the best, as they use a detergent that you simply mix with water yourself directly in the charging station and they don’t use separate plastic containers. All this causes this solution to be cheap compared to let’s say Braun’s – and the solution from Braun is based on alcohol which means it slowly evaporates over time.


Rotary shavers in my experience, produce way less noise in both wet and dry shaving conditions. There’s just no comparison.


So, which type should you choose? Again, it depends on a range of factors, however I have attempted to create a summary.

You should choose a Foil Shaver IF:
  • You have thin facial hair
  • You have no experience with electric shavers and are unwilling to take some time and energy to learn
  • You shave every day
  • You have mostly straight hairs
  • You prefer to shave in straight lines
  • You have sensitive skin
You should choose a rotary shaver if:
  • You have a dense, thick, or coarse facial hair
  • You have a facial hair type that is “curly”
  • Your facial hair grows in many directions
  • You, in principle, do not shave daily
  • You have tough skin
  • Noise level is important to you

There you have it. Hopefully by now you are at least convinced to give electric shaving a try or maybe you are even a bit closer to knowing which technology might be the right for you. In the next few posts, we’ll look at some of the shavers I mentioned here, so. stay tuned.

About the author


IT-Consultant. I make Web-Based Systems and Apps work. Humanist. Liberal. Progressive. Occasional blogger. I write about IT, Books and Philosophy. Opinions posted anywhere on the web are my own.

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