Electric Shaver vs Wet Shave – Which is Best for Me?
It is just about universally agreed that a wet shave with a good quality razor will ultimately leave you with the closest, smoothest results.
When you shave with a razor, the blades are actually in contact with the skin and so the hair is cut off flush with the skin's surface.
When you use an electric shaver, be it foil or rotary, there is a barrier between the blade and the skin, albeit extremely fine.
Electric shavers have improved enormously with huge technological advances since the first one was brought to market in the early 1960's.
Now many people swear by them and would never use anything else and it would be fair to say that, especially at the top end, they really are almost as good as a razor.
Razors have also kept pace with the times and moved on from the original straight blade and the first safety razors. Our article Safety Razor vs Straight Razor provides more information about the pros and cons of each of these.
Nowadays, there are razors with 3, 4 or even 5 blades and pivoting heads to give a close, smooth shave in just one pass.
Disposable razor heads mean that they are convenient and easy to use, once the blades are blunt you simply remove the head and click a new one into place.
Many are designed for sensitive skin, some such as the Gillette Fusion5 ProShield have lubricating strips built into the head to make it even more comfortable and easy to glide across the skin.
The convenience of electric shavers cannot be denied, they can be used dry anywhere at any time.
Nowadays, most electric shavers are rechargeable for cordless use, and many of them are waterproof for use in the shower for added convenience.
Although it is necessary to replace the electric shaver heads occasionally, if they are well maintained and looked after, they should last anything from a year to 18 months depending on frequency of use.
Razor blades, be they cartridge or safety, will likely need to be replaced at least monthly.
Obviously razors require the use of shaving cream, soap, foam or gel for lubrication and should never be used dry, and so wet shaving is necessarily more messy.
Whilst many electric shavers on the market today are versatile and can also be used with shaving foams etc. if you prefer, you also have the dry option for speed.
Some electric shavers, such as the Braun Series 7 799cc Wet or Dry model come with an automatic cleaning station, to clean, dry, lubricate and charge the shaver after use at just the touch of a button, for ultimate convenience.
These cleaning stations are designed to hygienically clean the shaver head and leave it ready for use, and will maximise the life of the blades.
Ease of Use
Shaving is not exactly difficult, no matter what your choice of implement, but it is fair to say that wet shaving with a razor may require a little more practice to perfect.
Electric shavers, with the exception of the very cheapest models, tend to have the blades set at the optimum cutting angle. This together with flexible, independently floating elements to the head, mean that you can follow the contours of your face with little or no effort on your part.
Many cartridge razors have similar features, with pivoting heads and angled blades, so that learning a good shaving technique is less important than it used to be.
However, if you opt for safety or straight blade razors, there is a level of skill required and it will take a bit of perseverance to achieve best results without nicks.
Our article Shaving with a Double Edged Safety Razor offers some helpful advice and tips.
If you have sensitive skin, the simple act of shaving can become a bit of a nightmare.
Electric foil shavers can be a good choice, as the foil acts as a barrier between blade and skin, and unlike the blade of the razor, it cuts the hair without removing the surface layer of skin.
Foil shavers, such as the Braun Series 3 Proskin 3050cc are generally considered to be the gentlest on the skin.
If your preference is for a rotary shaver, however, there are some such as the Philips Norelco 7300 S7370/84 which are specifically designed with sensitive skin in mind.
This particular model includes comfort rings with a microbead coating to reduce friction and help the shaver head to glide across the skin. The cleaning station uses an alcohol-free, skin sensitive liquid in the cartridges.
In general, look out for the speed of the motor - the more powerful, faster speeds give a gentler shave with less pulling.
There are huge variances in the cost of both electric shavers and razors.
It is fair to say that generally, an electric shaver will require the largest initial outlay, and can be anything from $35 to $300+ depending on the specific features that are included.
You don't necessarily have to pay a fortune for your shaver, but I would recommend that you buy one from a reputable manufacturer such as Braun or Philips, rather than going for a cheaper and less well known Brand.
Our article How to Choose the Best Electric Shaver gives advice and recommendations as to what to look out for.
After the initial outlay, you will need to factor in the cost of replacement shaver heads every 12 - 18 months. They can range between around $20 - $65 depending on the model.
The only other ongoing cost may be the replacement cartridges for the clean and charge station if you have one, which can be ordered online at an average of about $6 - $8 each, bought in multiples of 2+.
In comparison, wet shaving with razors will cost less to start off with, but will likely involve a considerable outlay over time, when taking into account the frequent purchase of replacement blades and shaving cream/foam etc.
We have looked at this in detail in our article Which is Cheaper - Cartridge or Double Edged Shaving?
In a nutshell, the article concluded that the cost of cartridge shaving over a year is around $290. So it is easy to see that, against this, a mid-range electric shaver of say $80 - $100 will represent pretty good value for money.
However, the cheapest option is actually the double edged safety razor, which comes out at an average annual outlay around $55, given their cheap replacement blade cost.
Summary of Pros and Cons
Pros of Electric Shavers
- Convenience - most are cordless, rechargeable, can be used anywhere and can be used dry for speed
- Easy to Use - very simple, little technique required
- Sensitive Skin - good for sensitive skin (especially foils) - look out for models with appropriate design features
- Versatile - many models give you the option to use wet and can be used with shaving creams etc. if desired
- One off Cost - works out relatively good value for money even factoring in replacement parts - should last many years if well looked after
Cons of Electric Shavers
- Efficiency - not quite as clean and close a shave as the wet razor option
- Recharging Batteries - need to make sure batteries are charged for cordless use - some models have a quick 3 or 5 minute charge function for a single shave in case you forget
- High Initial Outlay - cost of device is higher than razor counterpart
Pros of Razor Shaving
- Closest Shave - will give you the cleanest, closest possible shave
- Inexpensive first purchase - you can purchase a pretty good cartridge razor for around $10 initial outlay
- No electricity required - no need to charge batteries or worry about power source when travelling
Cons of Razor Shaving
- Ongoing outlay - high cost of frequently purchasing replacement cartridges
- Messy - you need to use shaving cream/foam or gel etc. with water
- Time - more time consuming than electric shavers, with a little more skill involved, especially for safety razor
- Sensitivity - cartridge razors are not generally as good for sensitive skin, although some models have features designed to help with this
A Final Word
In the end, it really does come down to personal choice.
If speed and convenience are your priority, or you have sensitive skin then a decent electric shaver is likely to be the best choice for you.
Certainly, if you like the currently popular stubbly look, then again, electric shavers with a trimmer attachment would be most suitable.
If, however, you prefer a very clean-cut, smooth look then you can't beat a wet shave with a razor.