Hey gang! In this post, we’ll be talking about how to choose an electric foil shaver. We get a lot of questions about electric shavers in general—and after all, they are a bit confusing!—so we thought we’d write a post to tell you what you need to look for if you’re in the market to buy one. Foil shavers tend to have a LOT of features, and they’re not all that intuitive to read about, so hopefully this will clear things up a bit.
Before we jump in, we should quickly mention: this post is about foil electric shavers. They’re the ones that have the flat shaving surface on the top, and they’re the “classic” electric shavers. Rotary electric shavers are the ones that have the round discs on the top. They both do the same thing, but foil shavers tend to be easier to use and less likely to cause skin irritation. If you want to read more about how the two types of electric shavers compare, you can click here to learn more about differences between foil shavers and rotary shavers.
OK! With that out the way, we’ll assume you’re here to learn about foil shaver features and what you should look for when you’re buying one. The first one is maybe the most important:
Does the Foil Have Multiple Cutting Surfaces?
Foil shavers are named after their cutting surface—it’s the smooth, shiny part that you put to your face when you’re shaving. It’s actually very smooth and should feel cool, and there are little holes in it. Those little holes are where your whiskers enter and get cut by the blades beneath those holes.
With that in mind, here’s the first thing you want to look for: you want at least two shaving foils on the head of the electric shaver. Old-school foil shavers had a single foil, and while it was good enough for back then… it’s not really enough for today. Single-foil heads tend to be inflexible and difficult to shave with, and while most foil shavers sold today have at least two foils on them, there are still a few that have a single foil. We’d urge you to stay away from them—while they tend to be very affordable, they can do a number on your skin.
If you look closely, you’ll see that a lot of foil shavers actually have an area between these two foils, where there’s a third cutting surface. You’ll often find these and mid-range of higher-end foil shavers, and they’re great—they allow the shaver to gobble up more of your whiskers as you shave, and that’s a good thing. The one exception to this rule is the BabylissPRO Barberology GOLDFX Collection—that has two foils and it’s a top-of-the-line model. BaByliss gets away with a lot of rule-breaking, because they made some SERIOUSLY fantastic shavers and clippers.
So, to sum up: one foil—not great. Two foils—better. Two foils and another cutting area—excellent. Most high-end shavers (which are usually Braun shavers) have two foils and another cutting area.
"This is a top-tier, best-of-the-best, super-capable shaver. The 790cc is worth the steep price, in our humble opinion. We absolutely loved it."
- RTG Editorial
- Amazing, close shave with minimal irritation to sensitive skin.
- The cleaning station is actually amazing and worked flawlessly in our testing.
- It's great for denser hair—it actually amps up to target thicker patches of whiskers, and you can manually adjust the settings so that it's more aggressive (or more gentle) over the areas where you need special attention.
- It's also a great option for guys who suffer from ingrown hairs, and that's VERY uncommon for a foil shaver.
- Pricey - it's probably too much razor for many men.
- Only 50 minutes of cordless shaving (there are better options for a travel shaver).
How Flexible Is the Head?
This is a big one: how much does the head of the foil shaver adjust to meet the contours of your face? Ideally, you want a shaver head to be gymnast-level flexible, because every man’s face is unique and has its own peaks and valleys—and an inflexible shaver won’t be able to rise and fall to shave all those whiskers in those hard-to-reach areas.
This, sadly, ends up relating to cost, and the high-end foil shavers are going to be a lot more flexible than the lower-cost foil shavers. The good news is that if you have durable skin that isn’t too sensitive, you can go with a nuts-and-bolts model and be fine. If you have skin that freaks out every time you shave, you may want to look for something that can really bend and twist to meet your skin, because the fewer passes you take with sensitive skin, the better. Repeated passes can be VERY rough on your epidermis.
Is It Wet/Dry Capable? Is It Waterproof?
Here’s a feature that often surprises guys who are new to electric shavers: not only are many electric shavers waterproof—meaning you can actually use a waterproof foil shaver in the shower—but with wet/dry models, you can use it with shaving cream, as well.
For some guys, this isn’t really that important—they like to roam around the house, without shaving cream, shaving away as they go about their morning routine. Other guys absolutely love the option of using an electric shaver and ALSO getting the added skin protection of shaving cream when doing so (and if you find that electric shavers give you rashes and razor bumps, you may want to try a wet/dry model and see if it goes any easier on you).
Obviously, you want to be 100% certain—and we’re going to put that in caps—YOU WANT TO BE 100% CERTAIN—that your foil shaver is designed to get wet. If it’s not designed to get wet, you don’t want it to get wet, because you may electrocute yourself, and that’s something you want to avoid.
OK! Next up in our “how to choose an electric foil shaver” guide:
Battery Life: How Much Juice Does It Have and Is It Rechargeable?
This is the feature that sets the great foil shavers apart from the “meh” foil shavers: battery life. Great foil shavers charge quickly and last a while, whereas lousy ones take forever to charge—and then lose their charge very quickly. Here’s how it plays out:
> Most foil shavers have a rechargeable battery, and that’s great. A reasonable run-time on a full charge is anywhere from 1 hour to 2 hours (or more, on some high-end models). If you can charge your shaver every night, that’s not such a big deal—but many guys can’t, and having an hour or two of juice is great. 1 to 2 hours on a single charge is anywhere from 10 to 20 shaves, and that’s fantastic.
> An option that a lot of guys like is the “quick recharge” feature. Basically, with a “quick charge” foil shaver, you can plug it in for just five minutes (or sometimes ten) and you’ll have enough for a single shave. That can be a great option if you don’t have counter-space to charge a shaver overnight, and you often find your device has totally run out of juice and you need to shave to get to work in the morning.
> Regular battery-operated models—that is, foil shavers that use regular batteries that run out and can’t be recharged—are, in the grand scheme of things, still fine. They can actually be a great option if you travel a lot for work, or find yourself in areas without an electrical outlet.
This is another option where everyone has different needs. Just keep it in mind, though, that it’s another feature where the best foil shavers are going to really separate themselves from the so-so options.
How Do You Clean It?
Old-school electric shavers were… we’re just going to say it, even though we’re in the business of promoting electric shavers: they were awful. They were loud, they messed your face up, and they were an. absolute. drag. to clean.
Newer models are much, much easier, and with most shavers, you just take off the head and run it under water and you’re good to go. Easy peasy, lickety split! For most guys, that’s all that’s needed—running water.
With that said, if you have sensitive skin, you may want to look for a self-cleaning option.
The models that you run under water to clean are goooooood… but they’re not great. Water can get rid of a lot of facial oil, whiskers, and assorted “gunk,” but it can’t get rid of all of it. In fact, a lot of it stays in the device, and for a lot of guys, it becomes a bacteria trap that can wreak havoc when you drag all that gunk over your skin. It can result in bumps, rashes, welts, etc. and all sorts of other things you want to avoid.
So what a lot of guys with sensitive skin look for is a self-cleaning option that incorporates alcohol into the cleaning process. These models actually disinfect themselves, and a lot of guys with sensitive skin swear by them. The best-known self-cleaning model is the Braun 790cc Electric Shaver. It’s pricey, for sure, but it’s one of the few models that can truly clean itself. Here’s the cleaning solution from that model:
Cleaning a shaver is one of the chores that many guys don’t think about when they’re buying an electric shaver, but it’s a really important part of the process.
By the way, if you’d like to learn more about how to actually use and clean a shaver when you buy one, you can click here to learn more about how to use your foil shaver.
Does It Have Different Intensity Modes?
We go into the nitty-gritty about what certain modes mean below, but there’s one that’s actually really helpful, especially if you’ve got really thick facial hair, and that’s “intensity mode.” Different shavers call it different things, but it’s basically this:
When your shaver goes over an area of your face and meets more resistance—usually because your facial hair is thicker there—it amps up the voltage and kicks up the motor and puts more effort into cutting your hair.
How neat is that?
It works the other way, too, and when the shaver goes over an area of your face that doesn’t have too much hair—usually a more delicate part of your face—it tones things down a little.
That’s a really cool feature, and it can be a worthwhile one to look for if you’ve got really thick facial hair, and find that “normal” mid-range shavers don’t cut it (ha).
We’ve found that this feature is really popular with guys who have tried electric shavers but ditched them because they couldn’t get a close enough shave. That extra “oomph” in heavy growth can really be the difference between an OK shave and a close shave.
What Add-On Features Does It Have?
When we say “add-on features,” we’re really talking about a pop-up sideburn trimmer. There really aren’t that many other features you can add onto an electric shaver, and the pop-up sideburn trimmer seems to be the most popular.
So… you got sideburns? You want to trim them? Look for this feature. Don’t have sideburns? Or don’t care about trimming them? Don’t worry about this one.
Here’s what a pop-up sideburn trimmer looks like, by the way. You can use it for sideburns, but it also comes in handy if you want to shave your face but then trim a moustache or goatee:
Is It Easy to Get Replacement Blades? How Often Does the Shaving Head Need to Be Replaced?
Replacing them isn’t the hard part—most replacement heads are relatively easy to put on; you just take off the old one and pop on the new one—it’s finding replacement heads that can be the tough part.
As a general rule of them, a foil electric shaver is going to need replacement blades every 18 months. That’s true for MOST shavers. Some of the lower-end and mid-range models may need them sooner (and actually, a lot of lower-end models don’t even sell replacement blades, so you have to just get an entirely new shaver after the one you’re using gets dull and doesn’t cut your whiskers—or even worse, tugs at your skin and gives you rashes and razor burn).
So, “replacement blades” are something to look for if you’ve gotten a decent foil shaver, and you can do a quick check online to see how easy it is to get replacement blades. If you have a hard time finding them, chances are they don’t make them, so you may be looking at a “temporary” electric shaver, instead of a “long-term” electric shaver.
Is It Made for Sensitive Skin?
Our two tips for guys with sensitive skin are 1) look for a foil shaver that is self-cleaning, and even better, is self-cleaning with an alcohol solution, and 2) look for a foil shaver with hypoallergenic foils. There are quite a few of them on the market, and they’re not too pricey (which is great, because plenty of models get PLENTY pricey).
Our favorite shaver with hypoallergenic foils is the Wahl Bump-Free Rechargeable Foil Shaver. Wahl is a GREAT company, and we’ve had a lot of luck with this model.
We should also mention: if you are an older rough and tumble gentleman, looking for a shaver that’s designed for sensitive skin is a very sound idea. We’ve actually written an entire post about electric shavers for older fellas, and there are plenty of foil shavers discussed there.
How Loud Is It?
Some guys don’t care about this, but if you’ve got a wife / girlfriend / partner / roommates / bunch of kids you live with, it can be VERY important—especially if you wake up and groom yourself before they get up.
There’s no way to know how loud a model will be, but many of them have some sort of technology incorporated to muffle sound. One example is the Remington “Virtually Indestructible” Foil Shaver, which has a “Quiet Drive” motor that’s engineered to vibrate less and make less noise than comparable models. That’s pretty neat.
Again, this isn’t the most important thing in the world, but if you’re worried about waking up your peeps, it’s something to consider.
Does It Have Hyper-Drive Super-Sonic Motion at 1,000,000 Movements per Second (We’re Kidding Here)
What is Hyper-Drive Super-Sonic Motion at 1,000,000 Movements per Second? Obviously, it’s a made-up feature we’re including to prove a point.
The engineering teams that create electric shavers put some REALLY incredible tech into their shavers, and when you really consider it, the electric shaver is actually a really sophisticated device. It can whir razor-sharp blades within less than a millimeter from your skin, contour to the hills and valleys of your face, and somehow not cut you. That’s kind of incredible, when you think about it.
So, what do the marketing teams that work with these devices do? They REALLY go above and beyond when it comes to naming these features. The advertise that the shavers feature…
10,000 MICROVIBRATIONS PER MINUTE!
What does all that mean? We run an entire website devoted to shaving, and sometimes we don’t even know.
So, if all that jargon gets confusing, most of it is fancy-talk that the higher-models use to tell you that “it goes fast, adjusts to your face, and cuts close.” That’s really it. If you’re *really* into it, you can dive into those terms and compare them with other models, but that’s really it.
Got All That? You’re Good to Select Your First Foil Shaver
Alright! There you have it: how to choose an electric foil shaver. Now you know as much as we do, and we know a ton. Good luck buying and using your first model, and let us know how it goes! Have fun, be good, and happy shaving!
Michael Morris is the head writer here at Rough and Tumble Gentleman. He's got a ducktail beard and loves Brazilian jiu-jitsu. He's married to the woman of his dreams and lives in Brooklyn, NY.