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.
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.
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 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
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
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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+.
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.