The Best Electric Shaver for Sensitive Skin: Our Picks
Welcome to Rough and Tumble Gentleman! In the post below, we'll be talking about electric shavers for sensitive skin. There are an incredible number of electric shavers out there, and it can be a little overwhelming when you need to pick one out—especially if you're concerned about bumps, itchiness, and irritation.
First we'll detail some of the buying features you may want to know about, then we’ll discuss some models we like, and finally, we’ll provide pointers on how to avoid skin irritation when shaving. We'll discuss what we consider the best electric shaver for sensitive skin, and hopefully we'll find which model might be a good match for you.
Sensitive Skin and Electric Shavers: A Quick Buyer's Guide
The Basics. If you're completely new to electric shavers, here are the absolute basics you need to know about:
Types of Shavers. There are two types of electric shavers: rotary shavers and foil shavers. Rotary shavers are the models that have three circular discs at the top of the device; foil shavers have a flat, rectangular shaving surface. While they both provide a very close shave, there are a few notable differences between the two: foils are used in a straight line over your skin, are great for straightening up sideburns, goatees, and beards, and typically provide a closer shave the rotaries; rotaries can be used in a circular motion over your skin, are better for shaving hairs that grow in different directions or coarser hairs, and are a little easier to use than foils.
Both have their pros and cons, but if you've got sensitive skin, foil shavers are usually a better bet. In our experience, they're less likely to pull at your whiskers from odd angles, less likely to produce ingrown hairs, and less likely to cause irritation. There is a little bit of debate when it comes to foils and rotaries and how they perform on sensitive skin—there are some rotaries that can work great for men with sensitive skin, and we've had great luck with the Philips Norelco Electric Shaver 7500 for Sensitive Skin (which we'll review below)—but as a general rule of thumb, foils are the better option.
Wet/Dry Capabilities. The "wet/dry" functionality refers to your ability to use the shaver "wet" (that is, with shaving cream and/or gel on your face), or "dry" (without any shaving cream and/or gel on your face). Most electric shavers made in recent years have wet/dry functionality—you'd actually have to search around for a dry-only shaver—but it's definitely something to look for, because wet shaving is a LOT easier on your skin. Dry shaving can really do a number on your face, and using creams or gels can really make things more comfortable.
Waterproof Features. This is closely related to the "wet/dry" capability: waterproof shavers are easy to clean under running water from the faucet, and most are safe to bring in the shower. This is another very common feature with electric shavers, but if you plan on using your shaver in the shower, you'll obviously want to be certain the model you choose is waterproof.
Manufacturers of Electric Shavers. This is, perhaps, one of the most helpful paragraphs in this entire post, and that's because it seems like there are thousands of different makes and models of electric shavers. Basically, there are four main companies that make electric shavers: Braun, Philips Norelco, Panasonic, and Remington. There are a lot of other companies that make them—new players in the game—but those four companies are the ones that have the most name recognition, and a lot of them have a great deal of customer loyalty.
Here's how it breaks down: Braun is perhaps the biggest player in the game, and they focus on foil shavers; their main competitor is Panasonic, who also focuses on foil shavers; Philips Norelco primarily makes rotary shavers, and they dominate that space; and Remington makes both foils and rotaries, but they tend to be nuts-and-bolts, "no frills" models. If you want a foil shaver, chances are you'll want to look at Brauns or Panasonics (and we'll talk about all that below); if you want a rotary, you might want to check out a Philips Norelco; and if you want a "lo-fi" model, you may want to consider a Remington (although, to be honest, we don't know of any Remingtons that are manufactured for guys with sensitive skin, and we don't review any Remingtons in our "Reviews" section below).
Model Lines. Now that we've introduced the makers of electric shavers, let's take a minute and "de-code" their product lines, because that will also help you make an informed decision about a model you're interested in. Braun releases their shavers in different "Series"—Series 1 was their original offering, and then Series 3 after that, then Series 5, Series 7, and Series 9. Each "Series" is a little bit more capable than the last, and offers a closer shave and more features. Panasonic releases their shavers in "Arcs"—the Arc3 is an older model, and has three cutting surfaces; Arc4 is newer than that, and features four cutting surfaces; Arc5 is—you guessed it—newer than that, and features five cutting surfaces. Philips Norelco's original series was Series 1000, and then 2000, 3000, 4000, 5000, 7000, and then 9000 (they skipped 6000 and 8000, for some reason).
Braun, Panasonic, and Philips Norelco each offers a number of products in each product line—so, for example, in Braun's Series 7 line, they offer the Series 7 7899c, the Series 7 7898c, the Series 7 7865c, and so on. Most of the features in a particular model line have the same main features, and each model has very small differences.
Sensitive Skin Models. There are some shavers that are made specifically for men with sensitive skin (the Panasonic 7500, which we mentioned above, is one; we'll talk about more below), and there are others that are regular shavers but have different settings, with "Sensitive Skin" being one of those settings. In our experience, both the models with a "sensitive skin" feature and the models made specifically for men with sensitive skin are good options.
Features. Electric razors usually have a couple of characteristics that people usually look out for. They include: a pop-up trimmer, that will allow you to shape your sideburns / mustache / goatee / beard; length settings, that let you vary the length of whiskers as you shave them (and settings usually range from something like "super-close shave" to "short beard"), and a charging station that doubles as a cleaning station (which is a pretty sweet feature). Each model has different features, and it's up to you to determine what you want.
Most of the features, though, are designed to increase the closeness of the shave, and companies can REALLY get into the weeds with the names that they give to their patented technology. Braun is probably the biggest offender on that score: they boast the "SynchroSonic" technology, "OptiFoil" closeness, "2x MacroMotion," and so on, and that all sounds great, but what does it actually MEAN? Some guys truly appreciate those terms, while some other guys are bored to tears by them, and find them confusing.
Basically, all that "tech talk" basically means that manufacturers trademarked a new technology to bring you a smoother and closer shave, and as a general rule of thumb, newer shavers offer a closer shave and more features. The new technology in each new line of products (and those little machines really do have a lot of tech in them) usually advances the capability of the products that came before it. If you're interested, we'll get into detail about all those terms below, but if you don't want to be burdened by all that, keep in mind that "newer" usually equals "more advanced." That's not always true, but companies really do put a lot of effort into research and development, and it's true a lot of the time.
Battery Life and Recharge Ability. This is another area where electric shavers have truly advanced over the years—many of the high-end shavers can keep 50 minutes of charge after only an hour being plugged in, and many have a "quick charge" ability, where you can plug them in for about five minutes, and they'll last through an entire shave. If you're on a schedule where you're simply going to plug in your shaver after each use, this may not be the most important feature to you, but if you travel a lot or keep an irregular shaving schedule, it can be worth looking into.
Warranties. Many shavers come with a warranty, and the general trend is a two-year warranty, but it's definitely something to note when you're comparing different models. Also, not every warranty is the same—some may cover the entire shaver, whereas others may omit certain parts from the warranty (like the foil itself).
So, there you have it! A crash course on what to keep in mind when you're looking for an electric shaver for sensitive skin. Now let's take a look at our reviews.
The Best Electric Shaver for Sensitive Skin: Our Reviews
In order to simplify things, we've broken down our reviews into different types of razors—best "just-the-basics" option, best mid-range option, best all-around, and so on. Hopefully it'll help you find the best electric shaver for your skin. First up:
Braun Series 3 ProSkin 3040s—The Best "Just-the-Basics" Option
We've written a lot about Braun, and they're a fantastic company. Every single series of shaver they've put out has been a great enhancement over the last one—and the funny thing is, their original shavers were pretty darn excellent! So, if you're looking for a "kind of dated but still functional and fantastic" shaver for sensitive skin, the Braun Series 3 ProSkin 3040s may be a great pick.
We think it's a great option for guys with sensitive skin for a couple of reasons: 1) it's a foil, and foil models are a great option for men with sensitive skin because they're specifically designed to be used in straight, single lines over the area to be shaved. Because more passes = a higher chance of skin irritation, your odds of an irritation-free shave greatly increase if you never shave over the same area twice; 2) It's got pressure-sensitive blades. This is a feature you don't often see in older razors—the ability of the blades to pull back a little bit if they're getting too close to your skin; and 3) It's an older model, but it's still got wet/dry capability. If you find that dry shaving is making you raw and/or irritated, you can see if using the ProSkin 3040s with shaving cream is easier on you.
This is an older model, so it doesn't have some of the perks of later models—most notably, the shaving head doesn't move, so you'll need to deftly manipulate the shaver to get to those hard-to-reach areas—but all-in-all, we think it's a great shaver, and a great example of how something doesn't need to be the newest and shiniest model to be effective.
The Panasonic Arc4—An Excellent Mid-Range Option
The Panasonic ES-LA63-S Arc4 Men's Electric Razor is another shaver that isn't the newest model, but performs at an incredibly high level. It's got four "nanotech" blades (in other words—four super-thin blades underneath the foil) designed to provide an incredibly close shave; a motor that operates at 14,000 cycles per minute (that's the "CPM" that they refer to in the instruction manual—very fast, and an improvement upon past models); and, finally, it's waterproof with wet/dry capability, so you can use it in the shower, and with or without shaving cream. It's also got some very nice features, like the pop-up shave trimmer and an easy-to-read LCD display. Charge it, shave with it, rinse it underwater when you're done using it—nice and simple.
But, the most important thing is how it performs for men with sensitive skin, and it's got two fantastic features going for it: the foil, and the blades beneath them, are hypoallergenic, making them a great option for men who may experience irritation from regular metallic blades. And—remember the 14,000 cycles per minute we mentioned above? That enhanced speed is designed to reduce some of the "tug" that you feel with other razors. That's a great feature to have if you're doing a single pass, and a truly great feature if you have to do more than one pass.
As far as mid-range shavers go, there are a couple that we like, but this is definitely our favorite in this category, and it gets our vote as best electric shaver for sensitive skin when it comes to mid-range options.
The Philips Norelco 7500 for Sensitive Skin—The Best Rotary
It's a sad fact, but there aren't really too many electric shavers that are made solely for men with sensitive skin, and that's one of the reasons we're including the Philips Norelco 7500 for Sensitive Skin. Philips Norelco designed it specifically for men with skin sensitivity issues, and it's got some truly fantastic features:
"Comfort Rings," which are basically super-small microbeads coating the shaving discs, to reduce some of the friction that regular rotary shavers inflict on users;
"GentlePrecisionPRO" blades, designed to smoothly guide whiskers to the cutting surfaces, in order to decrease some of that "tugging" feeling you get with many shavers; and
A five-direction flexible head, in order to get tougher-to-reach locations (like the curve of the jaw underneath the ear or around the Adam's Apple).
In addition to its sensitive-skin features, though, it's also got some of the other perks you'd hope for with a shaver: it's got a precision trimmer for trimming/styling/detailing edges into your facial hair (like you would with sideburns or beards/goatees); a clear LED display range that provides info about the charge and cleaning needs; and finally, multi-use properties—it's a wet/dry shaver (so you can use with shaving gel or without) and its waterproof (so you can use it in the shower).
A very good shaver—especially for a rotary—and one we've enjoyed a great deal. Recommended.
Tie for Best Overall: The Panasonic Arc5 and the Braun Series 9290CC
There are two electric shavers for sensitive skin that we think should get the win for "Best All-Around," and they are the Panasonic Arc5 and the Braun Series 9290CC. We consider both to be top-of-the-line razors that offer a fantastic shave, and they're both a lot of fun to use. We'll start with...
The Panasonic Arc5. Panasonics always have a certain look to them—they're easy to distinguish from other electric shavers—and that's because of their 30-degree blades. That gradient is designed to provide Panasonic shavers the optimal angle to cut whiskers, and that actually makes a big difference when it comes to skin sensitivity—shavers that attack whiskers are too aggressive (or too lax) and angle can be ineffective and may require more passes, and as we mentioned earlier, more passes = more irritation.
So the general set-up of the shaver is manufactured to provide an effective delivery for whisker removal. But it has (as you'd imagine), some very technical-sounding features that add to the closeness of the shave: a "Hyper Performance" linear motor, which allows the shaver to cut whiskers at an incredible speed; a shaving sensor, that allows the razor to kick it up a notch (or calm itself a bit) depending on the thickness or sparseness of your facial hair; and a pivoting head with Multi-Flex capability, which basically means that each of the cutting surfaces (and there are five of them, because this is the Arc "5"), can rock back and forth as they travel over your skin, making it a good match for uneven surfaces. Also, as with most electric shavers, a pop-up trimmer function provides some styling capability.
That's all wonderful, but the real benefit of the Arc5 is its ability to handle sensitive skin. It's got two factors that make it stand out from other models: 1) it's manufactured with hypo-allergenic "Nanotech" blades, which are incredibly thin and travel right beneath the foil to chop whiskers and reduce "pull," and 2) that "Hyper-Performance" linear motor that we mentioned earlier allows the shaver to operate at 14,000 cycles minute. Those blades are moving very fast, and that speed allows the razors to cut whiskers before they leave the perforations in the foil, making the shave feel (in our experience) a lot of smoother. And, finally, because it's a waterproof wet/dry model, you can use shaving gel or cream to lubricate your skin before use. We dig the Arc5s.
The Braun Series 9290CC is our other "Best All-Around," and it too has some pretty impressive features that are common among high-end razors:
"AutoSense" technology that allows the shaver to "read" your facial hair, and ramp up or ease down as necessary;
"10-D Contour Adaption," which basically means that the shaving surfaces can ease back and forth in ten directions, to more comfortably canvas your face; and
Titanium-coated trimmers, that catch flat-lying or irregularly-growing whiskers.
Just like the Arc5, it's got five different shaving elements, and we've known it to provide an exceptionally close shave, and it's a wet/dry, waterproof model, so you've got plenty on options on how to use it. In our experience, it's fast, effective, and easy-to-use. Another fantastic model, and in our opinion, worth checking out.
OK! Those are our favorite shavers for guys with sensitive skin—hopefully we've decoded some of the terminology, and provided some clarity on which models might be a good option.
Shaving Tips for Men with Sensitive Skin
If you've got sensitive skin and shaving is sometimes a torturous experience, we feel your pain—literally. Having sensitive skin and shaving can be agonizing, so here are a couple of tips to make things more comfortable.
Always Making Sure You're Using Sharp Blades. This is true whether you're using an electric shaver, a cartridge razor, or a safety razor or straight razor: always make sure you're using a sharp blade. Not only do blunt blades do a lousy job of shortening whiskers, they're also a great way to experience irritation and rashes.
If you're using an electric shaver, you'll usually need to replace the shaving head every year to year-and-a-half (and the instructional packet that comes with your shaver should tell you exactly when you need to replace the head). If you've lost instructions, you'll have two clues that'll let you know it needs to be replaced (and the first is pretty obvious): 1) It's providing a lousy shave; and 2) It "pulls" at your whiskers. Electric shavers with properly-sharp blades will cut your whiskers without that tugging feeling on your face, so as soon as the shave feels different and you feel like the device is pinching you, you may want to think about the last time you replaced the head.
And, just for general reference—disposables last anywhere from three to five uses; cartridge razors last anywhere from five to ten shaves; and the razor blades you'd use in a safety razor last about five shaves.
More Passes = More Irritation. We mentioned this above, but we'll repeat it here: the more passes you use during a shave, the higher your chances of experiencing skin irritation. That's one of the reasons why a lot of guys have skin troubles with rotary shavers—rotary shavers are designed for multiple passes over the skin in a sort of "free-form" technique.
So if you can, really focus on what you're doing, and take it slow—see if you can get a close shave with only one or two passes. Be mindful and practice your technique as you shave, and see if you can remove all the whiskers you want to remove in a single pass.
Take a Look at Your Shaving Cream. There is a LOT of weird stuff in some shaving creams, and it's worth taking a look at the brands you use to see if you can figure out why your skin is irritated. Seriously—among the many odd ingredients in shaving cream is propane, just like the gas in your grill, and it's used to push the shaving cream or gel out of the can you bought. It's obviously not there because it's good for you—just like a lot of the ingredients in your shaving cream (and most of your other products), it's included for functional reasons, and not for health reasons. The same goes for all the dyes and other chemicals added to skin care products—they're there to make the product easier to use, or more attractive, or longer-lasting, and a lot of them just aren't good for you.
This is all to say, if you're consistently breaking out, getting rashes, or experiencing bumps, take a look at your shaving cream, and all the other substances you put on your face when you shave. And the same goes for your equipment—if you're experiencing irritation with a rotary shaver, a foil shaver might work better for you; if foils and rotaries irritate your skin, maybe it's time to try traditional wet shave (and we'll talk more about that in a minute).
And that actually leads us to another issue when it comes to products you use on your skin: the "keywords" companies use to market them.
Try Hypoallergenic and Non-Comedogenic Products. These are two words you'll see a lot if you're looking for sensitive-skin products. "Hypo-allergenic" means the product is less likely to cause an allergic reaction, and "non-comedogenic" means that the product is less likely to cause you acne. And that's great, but—what are the actual laws concerning these two terms?
The sad fact is, neither of these terms have any legal meaning (to see what we mean, take a look at the FDA's definition of hypoallergenic). There are no laws or rules or regulations that require a hypo-allergenic/non-comedogenic product to include, or not include, any particular set of ingredients. When a company makes a product and uses either of these two words to market it, all it means is that they've created the product without ingredients that they believe to cause allergies or acne.
So are hypo-allergenic and non-comedogenic products worth looking for? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Most companies do try to create a product that's easy on the skin, but in terms of actual results, it's hit-or-miss: some guys find that hypo-allergenic/non-comedogenic products keep them from experiencing rashes or inflammation or acne, while others find that hypo-allergenic/non-comedogenic products don't do anything, and they still experience skin issues.
It's another one of those areas where you'll have to find out what works for you, but in our opinion, it's definitely worth trying—we've have good results with them, but obviously your personal results may vary, and they're not a guaranteed thing.
Don't Go Nuts with Your Cleansing Regimen. This is another area where we speak from experience: if you've got sensitive skin or are prone to breakouts, you may be tempted to cleanse your skin more than you need to. You may be tempted to wash your face too often, use strong deodorant soaps that strip your skin of its oils, or exfoliate too aggressively. If you've got sensitive skin, it makes sense that you'd want to take steps to fix it, and you'd want to keep trying until you figure it out. There are a lot of problems where "trying harder" will help you find a fix sooner—but sensitive skin is not one of those problems.
In fact, over-doing it may actually worsen your issues. It's an "easy-does-it" sort of thing, and the American Academy of Dermatology provides a very simple, very clear set of instructions on how to correctly wash your face. Basically, use a gentle cleanser that doesn't have alcohol in it, use your fingers instead of a washcloth (and be gentle!), and limit your washing to twice a day. They also suggest that...
Moisturizers Can Help. There are a lot of guys who experience irritation when their skin gets too dry, and there's a really easy fix: moisturizers. They introduce liquid to skin, keep it in your pores, and depending on the type you buy, they can also deliver vitamins (like Vitamins A, C, and E, all of which are great for your skin) and antioxidants that can maintain skin health (like green tea and grapeseed).
A lot of guys are a little reticent to start moisturizing. They imagine it takes a long time, or that you need to do re-apply it during that day, or that it's a traditionally "feminine" thing and not worth doing. The good news is, it's quick and simple and very masculine: there are aftershave balms you can use that do a great job moisturizing your skin, and you can simply rub them into your face after you're done shaving. Easy peasy.
Consider Traditional Wet Shaving. There are some guys who simply can't use an electric shaver without experiencing in-grown hairs, bumps, or rashes, and a good number of those guys experience a lot of relief when they try traditional wet shaving.
These terms overlap a little bit, because above, we defined "wet" shaving as "using shaving cream to shave." "Traditional wet shaving" is different—traditional wet shaving is when you use all-natural shaving creams or soaps, a shaving brush to create a lather and spread it over your face, and a safety razor or straight razor to cut your whiskers. It's an old-school method of shaving—it's usually described as "the way your grandpa used to shave"—but it's a lot simpler, and because it only involves a single razor blade against your skin (compared to the multiple blades in an electric shaver, or the multiple blades on a cartridge razor), it can be a lot easier on your skin. Plus, the all-natural shaving creams and soaps can be a lot less likely to cause inflammation and rashes.
The one for-sure negative to wet shaving is that it takes longer than shaving with an electric shaver. With a good electric shaver, you can get a decent shave in five to ten minutes, whereas most wet-shaving sessions will take you fifteen minutes or more, even when you get good at it. If electric shavers are truly irritating your skin, though, that extra time it takes to shave with a safety razor or a straight razor can be worth it.
We've written a great deal about traditional wet shaving, and you can learn more by visiting any of the posts in our sidebar.
If you've got sensitive skin, you probably know first-hand how difficult it is to find products that aren't going to irritate you or make you break out. Hopefully our guide has helped a little bit. Be good, and happy shaving!