How to Choose the Best Electric Shaver

There are so many different shavers on the market today, with a huge variance in price and quality.  So just how do you decide which one to splash your hard earned cash on?

This article runs through the things you should consider, the main features available and their relative merits, together with our recommendation for best buys in each price bracket.

Type of Shaver

The first thing you need to decide is whether you want an electric shaver with a foil head or a rotary head.

This will depend largely upon personal preference, but how regularly you shave, your type of hair and the sensitivity of your skin have may also have a bearing on your final choice.

The following gives a brief guide to the different technologies used, followed by an outline of the pros and cons of each option.

Foil​

These shavers have been around for the longest, having first been patented back in 1923 by the American inventor Jacob Schlick.   Due to the huge advancement in shaving technology they have been vastly improved over the years.

How it works

Put simply, a foil shaver has a rectangular shaped head, which includes a barrier of very thin, perforated foil between the blades and your skin, hence the name.

The holes in the foil capture the hair and hold it upright whilst the blades are able to cut it very close to the skin, without actually touching it.​

The picture on the right illustrates the basic foil head, of the Braun 190s, which is an entry level, basic shaver and just one example from Braun's huge range of foil shavers.

Braun Smart Control 190s

Shows the foil head of the Braun Smart Control 190s

Foil shavers are used in straight lines, either up and down or from right to left across the cheeks, much as you would use a standard razor.

Rotary​

Rotary shavers were developed by Philips and first brought to market in the 1960's.  To this day, all Philips shavers are rotary although, as with foil shavers, technological advancement has played its part in producing today's highly efficient devices.

How it Works

Philips Norelco 3100 Comfort Blade Shaver Head

Philips Norelco 3100 rotary shaver head

As the name implies, the three heads of the rotary shaver rotate in a circles, whilst flexing independently to follow the contours of the face.

As illustrated on the left, which shows just one of the Philips Norelco large range of shavers, there are ​fine slits in the outer rings into which the hair slips easily, to be cut off close to the skin.

Rotary shavers are used by gliding them around the face, neck and jaw in circular movements, and they follow the facial contours very easily.

Foil vs Rotary Pros and Cons

Before I start, it is worth mentioning that there is little to choose between the results achieved by a decent foil or rotary shaver nowadays and largely, individuals have their own personal favourite.

However, if you are new to electric shaving and would like a few pointers, then the following comparison table which shows when each is best should be helpful:

When Foil is Best

When Rotary is Best

Shave Daily - if you like the clean-shaven look all the time and want the closest shave possible

Shave Sometimes - perhaps you prefer to have time off from shaving - maybe at the weekends

Fine, Straight Hair - if your hair is fine and straight, the foil razor will give the closest shave

Coarse, thick hair - or if it grows in different directions the rotary shaver will tackle it more easily and efficiently

Sensitive Skin - for sensitive skin, foil shavers are generally more gentle.  Look out for one with the highest speed.

Skin which is not sensitive - although advancing technology has improved rotary shavers in this regard

Close Shave - if you require a very close shave, generally foil is likely to be the best for you, although nowadays a good rotary shaver can be pretty much as effective

Following facial contours - rotary shavers are particularly good if you have trouble shaving the neck, chin or jawline areas - they follow the contours well

Budget​

The good news is that the huge variance in cost, anything from $25 to $300+ of electric shavers means that there will almost certainly be one to suit your pocket.

The flip side of this is, how do you decide which to choose from amongst so many and ensure that you are getting good value for your money?​

Well, you don't necessarily need to spend a huge sum to get a decent shaver, but I would advise that you purchase one​ from a well known manufacturer such as Braun, Philips or Panasonic.  

You will then have the peace of mind that the shaver you choose will be of good quality and have the usual money back guarantees​ and warranties offered by such large and reputable companies.

Once you have decided on the maximum you want to spend, you can shop around to see what your money can buy and what features are included.

You may find that it is worthwhile spending a little more than you thought in order to purchase a model with added features e.g. a multi-length trimmer attachment may mean that you don't need a separate device to trim your mustache.​

Other Considerations

Rechargeable Batteries

Electric shavers can be used corded, whilst plugged into the mains, or cordless by means of rechargeable batteries.  Only the most basic, entry level models are operated corded or by standard batteries nowadays.

Usually, when batteries are rechargeable it is not possible to use them whilst plugged in and charging, although there are a few exceptions.​  

Philips Norelco 6800 shaving time

Whilst some of the more unsophisticated chargers plug straight into the shaver from the mains​, others have charging stations for the shaver to sit in, for added convenience.

The obvious advantage with cordless use is that you are less restricted as to where you can use the shaver, but you do have to remember to keep it charged.​

Some shavers have quite a long charge time to re-charge the batteries (up to 8 hours) whilst some of the more expensive ones can be fully charged in​ just an hour.  

Some also have the option of a quick, 3 or 5 minute charge for a single shave in case you have forgotten to charge it.

Panasonic ES-RW30-S Pop up Trimmer

Panasonic ES-RW30-S Precision trimming

Trimmer

Almost all shavers, at whatever price, include an integral trimmer for added precision around sideburns, mustache etc.

Some models also have an additional trimmer attachment with up to 5 length settings used, for example, to achieve the currently popular stubble look or for neatening longer hairs and beards.​

Wet or Dry​

If you have sensitive skin, or would simply like to use the shaver in the shower, make sure you choose a wet or dry model, from which there are many to choose.

These can be used with or without your favourite shaving creams, gels etc. and are fully waterproof.​

For sensitive skin, using shaving cream can help the shaver to glide over the skin even more easily.​

Philips Norelco 2100 washable head

Philips Norelco 2100 Pop open head for rinsing

Philips Norelco 7300 S7370/84 Shaver

Norelco 7300 S7370/84 with travel lock and deluxe case

Travelling​

If you travel a lot, you need to consider the size and weight of the shaver, as well as how it will be powered.

Many shavers include travelling pouches to store the shaver when travelling and many have automatic dual voltage, but do check this out.

Where you are opting for a shaver with a cleaning station, there should also be the possibility of charging the shaver with a cord for convenience when travelling.​

The addition of a travel lock to ensure that your batteries are not drained by accidentally switching on ​whilst travelling is a handy feature.

Cleaning

Most shavers come with a cleaning brush, but being able to clean the head under running water is a good feature, and can be possible even on a dry use only shaver.

This would probably be worth spending the required few extra dollars for.

Nowadays, many of the slightly more expensive shavers come with an automatic cleaning and charging station which is great for convenience.

After use you simply place the shaver, head down, in the station and press a button.  It is then hygienically cleaned, lubricated, charged automatically and left ready for use, which will have the added benefit of maximising the life of the shaver head.

​It is worth remembering, though, that you do need to replace the cleaning cartridges containing the cleaning solution every so often, and so you need to take into account the cost of these before you go ahead.

Cleaning base stations can be bought/replaced separately for around $60 depending on the model and cleaning cartridges average around $6 - $8 each, bought in multiples of 2+.

Panasonic ES8103S Arc3 LCD Display

Panasonic ES8103S Arc3 - battery and cleaning status

Displays

Many shavers have LED or LCD displays showing the battery status, some are countdown so that you can see exactly how much charge is left in your battery at any time.

​Other displays included on higher end models include cleaning status, when shaver head needs replacing and when travel lock is on.

Recommended Shavers

Our Picks in each Price Bracket

Less than $50

Philips Norelco 2100 S1560/81

Easy to use, basic rotary shaver for around just $35, has some good features for an entry-level model:

Rechargeable for cordless, dry use only, batteries give around 35 minutes shave time from a full charge.

Integral pop up trimmer, self sharpening blades and ergonomic grip.

Head pops open for easy cleaning under a tap.

Panasonic ES4815S Travel Shaver

Operated by 2 AA batteries, this basic shaver is small, light and ergonomically designed to be ideal for travelling.

Wet or dry use, with or without shaving creams and easily cleaned under running water.

Features 2 independently flexible blades - hypoallergenic for sensitive skin.

Includes travel pouch, available for around $36.​

Panasonic Dual Blade Travel Shaver ES4815S

Braun Series 3 310S

Rechargeable, cordless wet or dry use with slide out trimmer for detailing.

Triple action cutting with two foils and middle trimmer on head, pivoting individually to follow facial contours.

Fully charged in one hour for 20 minutes shave time, also has 5 minute quick charge for single shave.

All for around $45.

Braun Series 3 310s Wet & Dry Shaver

Between $50 - $150

Braun Series 3 Shave & Style 3010BT

Currently available for around $90, this Series 3 Shaver comes with the addition of a trimmer head and 5 trimming combs for trimming your beard at 1,2,3,4 and 7 mm lengths

With triple action cutting system, good for wet or dry use and a one hour full charge time with quick-charge option.

Good quality for the price, great if you have a beard and only want the bother of using and cleaning one device.

Panasonic Dual Blade Travel Shaver ES4815S

Philips Norelco 6800 1190X/46

This rotary model includes folding stand for charging, separate 5 length trimming attachment and travel pouch.

Can be used wet or dry, charges in one hour for up to 60 mins shaving time with quick-charge option.

Good quality, independently pivoting heads for a clean, close shave.

Available at just over $100

Panasonic Dual Blade Travel Shaver ES4815S

Panasonic ES-LA63-S Arc4

The powerful, dual motor system delivers 14,000 cpm with back and forth and side to side movement to lift and position hair for greater efficiency.

Multi-flex pivoting foil head for comfort, wet or dry use, rechargeable and has safety lock and travel pouch.

LCD display for battery status and shaver functions.

Available for around $110

Panasonic ES-LA63-S Arc4 Shaver

More than $150

Panasonic ES-LV65-S Arc5 

Cordless, wet or dry shaver with flexible 5 blade, pivoting foil shaving head and shaving sensor to detect different beard densities for even results.

Multi-LED Display, safety lock and built in shaver-trimmer are additional features and the device comes complete with a travel pouch.

Sonic vibration cleaning mode to ensure thorough cleaning under a tap.

Currently available online for just under $210.

Panasonic ES-LV65-S Arc5 Shaver

Philips Norelco 9300 S9311/84

Philips' most advanced shaver to date, with precision blades to cut hair at correct position, reducing irritation.

With independently floating shaving heads which move in 8 directions to follow contours precisely.

Features the choice of slow, medium or fast settings, wet or dry use, one hour full charge with quick charge option and advanced LED display for battery, cleaning, head replacement and travel lock status.

Includes cleaning station to clean, dry, lubricate and charge the shaver at one touch.

Ultimate in quality for around $220.

Philips Norelco 9300 S9311/84 Shaver

Braun Series 9 9090cc

This model has 4 independently flexible elements to the head to give 40,000 cross-cutting actions per minute for a smooth, close shave.

Further features include slide out trimmer, multi-head lock (5 positions), waterproof for rinsing under tap (recommended dry use only), LED display for battery, hygiene and travel lock status.

Comes with 5 action clean and charge station which cleans, dries, lubricates and charges the shaver.

Top quality shaver from Braun designed for comfort - great for sensitive skin, available for around $220.

Philips Norelco 9300 S9311/84 Shaver
Sue
 

For the past 12 months, I have been testing and playing with all sorts of hair removal products for Hair Free Life. My goal is to provide the most accurate and up-to-date hair removal consumer information on the internet. When I'm not photographing, reviewing and researching hair removal products I play the drums in a samba band and am a volunteer for the Swindon Lions! Got any questions? Write to us below: