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The Best Foil Shaver: Because Other Blades Can Tear Your Face Up

We have a LOT of love for electric shavers, but we have to admit: some of them can be absolutely brutal on your face. They've come a long way in recent years, but many of them—rotary shavers, in particular—can be downright painful to use.

And that's why we love foil shavers so much: good ones have a very smooth cutting surface that can be very gentle on the skin, and well-made models can provide a super-close shave that leaves your face surprisingly soft and silky.

So, here we're go over our picks for the best foil shaver. We've experimented with dozens of them over the years, and these are the ones we consider the top of the line.

A good foil shaver can make removing your stubble a relaxing, reaffirming routine that gets you ready for your day, so hopefully there's something here that matches your needs.

Ready? Let's jump in:

Foil Shavers: Review Summaries

We'll get to our extended reviews in a moment, but here's a quick run-down of our top picks, along with who/what they're good for:

"Best Bang for Buck" Foil Shaver: The Braun Electric Series 3—a well-built shaver that can provide an excellent shave, even on medium- to thick facial hair, without all the "bells and whistles" of more deluxe models

Last update on 2023-03-13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Best "Dry-Use" Only Model: The Remington F5-5800 Foil Shaver—a great option for guys who want a foil shaver but don't want to use shaving cream, and for guys who are new to foil shavers and want to get the hang of things

No products found.

Best All-Around / Best "Mid-Range" Foil Shaver: The Panasonic Arc5 Electric Razor—a mid-range model that punches above its weight, that can "scan" your face to provide a closer, smoother shave

Last update on 2023-03-13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Easiest to Clean / Best Travel Foil: The Braun Series 7 790cc—one of our favorite foil shavers, it's got an "ActiveLift" feature for guys with facial hair that grows in all directions, and a docking station that literally cleans the shaver for you(!)

Last update on 2023-03-14 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Best for Heavy Growth and Beards: The Braun Series 9 Foil Shaver—a deluxe model for guys who like the finer things in life, and our recommendation for fellas with sensitive skin and/or guys who have thick growth or usually go a few days between shaves, and finally

Last update on 2023-03-13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Best Foil for Face AND Head: The Andis 17150 Pro Foil—great for shaving your face AND head, with a really long battery life.

Last update on 2023-03-13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

The Best Foil Shaver: In-Depth Reviews

OK! Here are our picks for the top foil shaver in a range of categories, along with everything we like (and a few valid criticisms):

"Best Bang for Buck" Foil Shaver: The Braun Series 3

Summary: If you're looking for a basic, “no-frills” foil shaver, the Braun Series 3 can be a good match: it's a wet/dry shaver that can provide a close shave for medium- to thick facial hair, and it's very easy to recharge.

Braun Electric Series 3 Razor with Precision Trimmer, Rechargeable, Wet & Dry Foil Shaver for Men, Blue/Black, 4 Piece*
  • CLOSE, CLEAN SHAVE: 3 blade free floating system follows facial contours for a flawless finish and includes a middle trimmer to cut difficult hairs along with 2x SensoFoil shaving elements for ultimate closeness and skin comfort
  • CAPTURES MORE HAIR: Precision trimmer for accurate moustache and sideburn trimming, includes a specialized MicroComb designed to capture more hair in each stroke *compared to Braun series 3, tested on 3 day beards
  • BUILT TO LAST: Durable cordless electric shaver, lasting up to 7 years and designed for hair removal with water, foam or gel

Last update on 2023-03-13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


> Has wet/dry capability and can be used in the shower

> Can be a good match for thicker facial hair

> Has a detailer to shape sideburns, mustaches, and goatees


> Has a bit of a learning curve and can be result in a few nicks at first

> Doesn't have many of the high-tech features and isn't responsive

As you may have noticed (or will soon!), electric shavers range from "normal shaver" to "ridiculously high-tech." Sometimes you just need a mid-range, nuts-and-bolts model—one that's reliable, and gets the job done. Our choice for a reliable, get-'er-done model would be the Braun Series 3.

The Series 3 is a very capable razor that's wet/dry capable, so you can use it without shaving cream (and that would be that "dry" capability) or you can use it with shaving cream (and that would be that "wet" capability). You can even bring it in the shower with you—and that's a great feature if you hate standing in front of the sink to shave (and, take it from us—as dudes who sweat a lot after a shower, the ability to shave in the shower is pretty fantastic). It's also got a rechargeable battery, that can give you 45 minutes of use before needing to re-juice.

Perhaps the best feature about the Braun Series 3 is that it can be a good match for thicker, courser whiskers, and that's rare among many "best-bang-for-your-buck" foil shavers. If you take a peek at the cutting surfaces on the top of the shaver, the middle cutting surface has deep groves in it, designed to gather long whiskers to be cut. It still works for men with lighter facial hair—those super-small perforations in the top foil and the bottom foil capture thinner whiskers to be cut—but in our experience, it really stands out as a good option for thicker-bearded guys (and usually it's only higher-end foil shavers that can tackle thicker stubble).

It doesn't have all of the functionality that later models do—most significantly, the foils on the top are not flexible, so you'll need to use some extra care when shaving underneath your chin and jawline—but it's still a great option that gets the job done. We think it's a fantastic razor, and even though Braun has released many newer models, the Series 3 remains a fan favorite.

Best Dry Foil Shaver: The Remington F5-5800

Summary: If you have no interest in using shaving cream and don't want to waste your time read a long instruction guide, we think the Remington F5-5800 can be a good fit: it's a capable dry-only foil shaver with adjustable heads that can provide a close shave, and can be a great way to get comfy with electric razors if you're new to them.

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> Three cutting surfaces can provide a very close shave

> The head is flexible, and can adjust to your skin

> Has a decent pop-up trimmer for detail work

> Can be a great option for guys who are new to foil shavers


> Model doesn't provide a lot of feedback and takes some practice

> The foil can be a bit delicate and it helps to have a light touch

Not everyone needs the functionality of a wet/dry shaver—that is, one that you can use with shaving cream, or directly on the skin without shaving cream—and if you're looking for a dry option, we would suggest the Remington F5-5800 Foil Shaver.

The F5-5800 provides all the core functionality we'd want from a foil shaver: it has three cutting surfaces (thin foils at the top of the shaving head and at the bottom, with a central shaving surface for longer hairs); it has a pop-up trimmer tool that can be used to put a sharp edge on beards, goatees, and sideburns; and it can be used for corded or cordless use. Perhaps the best feature of the F5-5800, though, is that unlike some other entry-level options, the shaving surface at the top of the shaver does offer some flexibility, designed so the head can more easily trace the contours of your face, and provide a close shave.

And, finally, we've found that it's easy to use—even though it's a "dry" shaver (again—meaning that you can't use it with shaving cream or gel), you can rinse it clean with water underneath the faucet. There are a lot of "dry" foil shavers out there that are difficult to clean, and the quick-rinse option on the F5-5800 is a stand-out feature of the model.

That's a lot of functionality for an entry-level shaver, and it's a good match for a lot of guys (and in particular, guys who are new to electric shaving). It's not a perfect model—as with many mid-range electric shavers, it's not the sturdiest mode out there, and you'll need to go easy on it—but if you're looking for a "get 'er done" model to use without shaving cream, we think this is a really solid pick.

best foil shaver

The Remington F5-5800 has foils that can adjust to the contours of your face

Best All-Around / Best Mid-Range Foil Shaver: The Panasonic Arc5

Summary: The Panasonic Arc5 has five blades that prepare stubble for shaving, and for a "mid-range" electric shaver, it has some really deluxe features (like the Active Sensor tech that "reads" you face to give you a closer shave). One of our favorite foil shavers out there.

Panasonic ARC5 Electric Razor for Men with Pop-Up Trimmer, Wet/Dry 5-Blade Electric Shaver with Intelligent Shave Sensor and Multi-Flex Pivoting Head – ES-LV65-S (Silver)*
  • Sharp men’s shaver blades: Panasonic Arc5 men's electric shaver with five ultra-sharp precision honed 30° Nanotech blades and ultra-thin Arc foil follow facial contours for a quick, close and comfortable shave
  • Wet/Dry electric shaver and trimmer 2 in 1: Built-in pop up trimmer details mustaches, beards and sideburns; Wet/dry waterproof shaver allows for convenient shaving in or out of the shower.Power source:AC 100-240V (Automatic International Dual Voltage Conversion)
  • Multi Flex pivoting head: Panasonic flexible pivoting electric shaver head glides effortlessly to trace the individual contours of face, chin, neck and jaw; Built-in shaving sensor monitors differences in beard density and automatically adjusts cutting power for exceptional comfort

Last update on 2023-03-13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


> Has five blades, each of which are angled for optimum whisker removal at 30 degrees

> The model "scans" the contours of your face to give a close shave

> Wet/dry capable and good for use in front of the mirror or in the shower


> Only has a charge for 45 minutes, whereas "higher-end" models last longer

If you're new to electric shavers, you may have noticed: the naming conventions are ridiculous. Every company that makes an electric shaver has a dozen different models, each with different numbers, and a TON of different features—none of which really describe what they do.

Panasonic keeps it relatively simple, and the Panasonic line includes the Arc3 (basic), the Arc4 (advanced), the Arc5 (super-duper advanced), and the Arc6 ("we live in the future"). Each one builds on the features of previous versions, and when you consider that the Arc3 is a very well-made electric razor, you're getting into some fantastically helpful features as you climb the "Arc" ladder.

And that's why we like the Panasonic Arc5 as a "Best All-Around" model. It's one of their top-of-the-line foil shavers without being TOO deluxe, and it's got some really great characteristics, the first of which is our favorite:

Five cutting surfaces angled at 30 degrees. The cutting surfaces is our favorite feature, because that 30-degree angle is the "golden number" when it comes to shaving (and if you've read up on wet shaving with a traditional blade, you're probably heard that number a lot). Basically, a 30-degree angle is the most effective angle to attack facial whiskers. That angle allows the shaver to cut whiskers at their base, while not putting too much stress on the skin. A simple feature, but a VERY powerful one.

Active Sensor Technology. Modern foil shavers can "read" your face, and the Arc5 can change its behavior as it travels over your face: when the model hits a thicker patch of facial hair, the motor of the shaver speeds up so that the quality of your shave is the same across your entire face, regardless of facial hair thickness. It does the opposite, too, and slows down when you shave over thinner facial hair, both saving energy and going easier on your skin when the task isn't as difficult. How cool is that? and

It's got a very clear battery display. Old-school foil shavers didn't tell you how much juice they had left—they just sort of died on you. The Arc5 has a clear display that gives you a percentage of how much juice you've got left, which is great.

It's got all the other things we'd hope to see in a foil shaver, like a flexible head for maneuverability, and a pop-out trimmer for detail work, and this is the foil shaver we recommend to most guys—it's sturdy, it reads your face, and it performs at a really high level, while not being "too much." We think it's the best option out there for a "do-it-all" foil shaver.

Easiest to Clean / Best Travel Foil: The Braun Electric Razor Series 7 790cc

Summary: The Braun Series 7 790cc is a high-end, intuitive foil shaver with a four different shaving surfaces, five different modes, and an "ActiveLift" function that's great for guys with whiskers that point in every direction—and it's got a SELF-CLEANING function, which we love, because we’re slobs.

Braun Series 7 790cc*
  • Intelligent Sonic technology automatically increases power while shaving in difficult areas and on denser hair

Last update on 2023-03-14 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


> Shaving surfaces are designed to smoothly travel over skin and hair

> You can alter the "oomph" of the shaver depending on how thick your facial hair growth has been



> The self-cleaning function only related to the shaver, and won't clean the house or do other errands.

As we explain in our "Best Braun Shaver" post, Braun manufacturers five different lines of electric shavers: the Series 1, the Series 3, the Series 5, the Series 7, and the Series 9. Series 1 is the most basic, and Series 9 is the most space-age and feature-rich.

You'd imagine that we'd be recommending only the newest models, but we've found that the Braun Series 7 continues to punch above its weight, and that's because it's got just about everything we'd hope for in a foil shaver, namely:

> Four synchronized shaving surfaces (Braun calls them "shaving elements") designed to contour the skin with each pass; 

> Five different shaving modes, that range from "sensitive" all the way to "turbo," for a shave that can range from very light to very aggressive;

> An "ActiveLift" trimmer, that can effectively cut whiskers that are flat or pointing out of the skin in odd directions (and a LOT of guys have this issue);

> Corded or cordless shaving, with a battery that can last up to 50 minutes after only one hour of charging; and

> A precision trimmer for shaping and straightening beards, goatees, mustaches, etc.

All that alone would be add up to a really fantastic model, but our absolute FAVORITE aspect of the Braun Series 7 is the SELF-CLEANING FUNCTION.

Here it is—the device comes with the cleaning fluid, which you install at the bottom of the dock:

Oh yeah

There are a lot of shavers that you can run under water, and that's okay—it does a good job, but not a great one (and that's if we remember to clean it at all). The Series 7 has a dedicated docking station that cleans and dries your shaver, so that it's good to go next you grab it. If you’re slobs like us, that’s as good as it gets, and we think it’s fantastic.

Best for Beards / Best for Guys with Sensitive Skin: The Braun Series 9

Summary: A deluxe model that's got all the bells and whistles we'd hope to see on a high-end model, that's specifically designed for 1) guys with sensitive skin, and/or 2) guys with thick whisker/beard growth.

Braun Electric Razor for Men With Precision Beard Trimmer, Rechargeable, Wet & Dry Foil Shaver, Clean & Charge Station & Travel Case, Silver, 3 Piece Set*
  • World’s most efficient electric shaver . Efficient, close and gentle, for a flawless shave
  • Best efficiency: 5 shaving elements get more hair in one stroke than any other shavers
  • Best for gentleness: sonic vibrations glide over your skin for maximum skin comfort

Last update on 2023-03-13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


> SkinGuard and Sonic Vibration tech make the device easy on the skin

> Can plow through thick growth—great for guys with short beards or who skip a few days between shaves

> Waterproof for shower use, wet/dry capable


> Battery is good but not great

The Braun Series 9 is a truly high-end model that represents pretty much everything that a foil shaver is capable of: it's got 5 different shaving elements that can provide an incredibly close shave; it's 100% waterproof so you can use it in the shower, and it's a wet/dry model, so you can use it with shaving cream or without; and it's got a run-time of 50 minutes, which is better than the majority of battery-operated foils out there.

Plus—and we don't talk about this much, but perhaps we should—it just feels good. It's a pleasure to use. It's designed to glide over the skin and remove whiskers and stubble in a way that's relaxed and calm, and that makes it *light years* ahead of its predecessors in the other Series.

All that makes it a top-tier model, but we do have two favorite aspects of the Series 9:

It's great for guys with sensitive skin. Foil shavers are a lot better than rotary shavers when it comes to gentleness, but the Braun Series 9 stands out even among other foils when it comes to skin sensitivity. It uses sonic vibrations to steady the machine so that it can smoothly glide over the skin, it's got a SkinGuard that keeps the model from "nipping" you like older models did, and it's got a 10-direction flex head that can twist and turn to the shape and angle of your face. All that is top-tier.

But that's not to say the gentle touch of the Series 9 is weak—quite the opposite, in fact, and that leads us to our other favorite aspect of the model:

It's great for guys with beards and/or thick growth. If you're a guy who grows whiskers quickly and thickly, or just a guy who usually goes a couple of days between shaves, this is the model we recommend. It's built to ramp up intensity when it runs over thicker facial hair, while also cutting close to the base of the stubble—saving you the need for multiple passes (which in turn saves you time and can lessen skin irritation). You may need to take more than one pass, depending on your growth, but the Series 9 is designed so that you use fewer passes overall (and by the way, if you’ve got sensitive skin, you can check out our post about the top electric shavers for guys with sensitive skin).

This is a fantastic high-end foil shaver, and it's our pick for guys with sensitive skin and/or beards and heavy growth.

Best for Face AND Head: The Andis 17150 Pro Foil

Summary: If you embrace the full-shaven look, the Andis 17150 can be a great option—it can provide a close shave on your face, and a complete shave for your head, and it's got hypoallergenic foil, which can make it a great option for guys with sensitive skin.

Andis 17150(TS-1) Pro Foil Lithium Titanium Foil Shaver, Cord/Cordless, Gray*
  • ULTRA THIN: Gold titanium foils for zero finishes, ideal even for the most sensitive skin.
  • LITHIUM-ION BATTERY: Delivers an industry-leading battery with 2 hours of cordless run-time with a rapid 60-minute recharge.
  • PROFESSIONAL QUALITY: Use this professional quality shaver to get a close shave on the neck, face, & hairline.

Last update on 2023-03-13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


> Hypoallergenic foils / can be great for guys with sensitive skin

> Sturdy and well-built with an "old-school" look

> Surprisingly long battery/usage time—last longer than most deluxe foil razors


> A little bigger than you'd think

Last but not least! We'll keep this one brief: there are a lot of us who like the "completely shaven" look, and if that's your go-to style, you may want to consider a foil shaver that can capably remove stubble from your face and hair from your head.

If that's what you're looking for, we usually suggest the Andis 17150 Pro Foil. It's a classic, old-school foil shaver, small and sturdy, and built to maneuver all over the weird angles of your face and noggin. It can deliver 80 minutes of run-time—which is more than even the most deluxe foil shavers, and we're not sure why that is—and it features hypoallergic foils, which can make it a great option if you've got sensitive skin. The foil head is replaceable, too, so if your foil tears (which happens sometimes, even on the best foil shavers), you can easily replace it.

We like, too, that this is a mid-range model. There are some high-end foil shavers for your head out there (and of those, we like the BaBylissPRO BLACKFX), but this is a solid, sturdy model.

And... that's it! That about wraps it up for our reviews. We promised a more in-depth look at foil shavers—how they work, how to use them, and how to take care of them—so let's dive into that.

Foil Shavers: Buying Features to Keep in Mind

Regular cartridge razors are pretty simple—it's basically a handle and a slab of sharpened steel, and you drag it across your face to remove whiskers. Electric shavers—and in particular, foil shavers—are a little more complicated. They've got a lot of features, and every model is just a little bit different.

With that in mind, here are some of the buying elements you'll want to consider if you're looking to purchase one.

Shaving Quality. As a general rule of thumb, newer shavers usually offer closer shaves. The two main manufacturers of electric foil shavers are Braun and Panasonic (with, perhaps, Remington a close third). Those companies put an incredible amount of effort into research and development, and each new product they offer includes patented technology designed to help you get a closer shave. That technology often has some odd names—from Braun, you may hear about "AutoSense Technology" and "OptiFoil" features; from Panasonic, you may hear about the "NanoTech Blades" and the "Multi-Fit Arc Foil"—but each of those functions basically translates to a closer shave, and we'll go over all of those terms below.

For Brauns—the manufacturer of what are perhaps the most popular foil electric shavers—the Series 9 is their newest product line (at this time of this post, anyway), their Series 7 is their second oldest product line, the Series 5 is older than that, and the Series 3 came before that one. For Panasonic shavers, the Arc shavers are, from newest to oldest, the Arc6, the Arc5, the Arc4, and the Arc3. Each model has the same number of blades in its name—the Arc5 has five blades, the Arc4 has four, and, you guessed it, the Arc3 has three blades. As a general rule of thumb, for Panasonics, more blades = a closer shave.

Wet/Dry Capability. Most foil shavers have wet/dry functionality, but if you've never owned an electric shaver before, you may not even know that this is feature exists. Wet/Dry capability means that you can use the shaver when you've got shaving cream or gel on your face (that's the "wet" part of things), but also when you're not using any cream or gel at all (and that's the "dry" aspect). It's a fantastic feature, and it's something you may want to look out for.

A lot of guys confuse wet/dry capability with waterproof capability. "Waterproof" means that you can use that shaver on wet skin, rinse it in water when you're at your bathroom sink, and even take it into the shower with you, if you want to shave while the water runs over you. Obviously, if you want to bring your electric shaver in the shower with you, you'll want to carefully read the owner's manual and be 100% certain that your shaver is shower-friendly. Most wet/dry shavers are waterproof, and most Braun wet/dry shavers are waterproof up to five meters deep (which is kind of a funny feature, if you think about it).

A Pop-Out Trimmer. This is a really nice feature that most new (or newer) electric razors come with: a trimmer that will pop off the main razor and can do precise detail work. There are even some high-end shavers that have different settings, that allow you to set the length of your whiskers. If you like a super-close shave, there's a setting for that; if you like a "stubbly" look, there's a setting for that, too. Some shavers come with up to five length settings, that go all the way up to "short beard." If you're a high-and-dry kind of guy who wants a close shave every time, that may be a feature you can overlook, but if you like to switch things up every once on a while, it can be a great option.  

A Cleaning Station. These are pretty fascinating: the charging station itself is also a cleaning station, and when you put your electric shaver into the station, it rinses it clean of any loose whiskers, disinfects all the blades in the shaving head, and dries all of the individual parts of the shaver. You can do all of that manually—and many men do all that manually—but it can be a nice feature to have, especially if you're rushed for time (or simply don't like cleaning things). Cleaning stations used to be featured as an add-on for higher-end models, but they're becoming more of a regular feature.

Battery-Related Features. As with any electronic device, this is important: the re-charge period, the life of the battery, and automatic "shut-off" features. Shavers have come a long way in terms of their capacity to hold a charge, and many only need an hour or two for a full charge, and they can hold that charge for up to an hour. In fact, some higher-end models on the market only need a few minutes' worth of charging, and they'll last long enough for a comfortable shave. If you're the kind of guy who always charges a shaver immediately after use—and that probably describes most of us, with the exception of those guys who travel a lot—it's not a huge concern, but it's definitely something to look out for.

And, for those of us who may not charge the device after every use, an "automatic shutoff" function is pretty helpful. After a set amount of time, the device shuts itself off, and that can be a life-saver if you get absent-minded, forget to charge your shaver, and then find the next morning that the device has no juice because it was left on all night.  

Money-Back Guarantees and Warranties. Shavers usually have a pretty generous return period—most manufacturers have a 30-day return policy, and a warranty that goes up to two years. Not all manufacturers are the same, though, and you may want to compare plans. Pro-Tip: some warranties exclude certain parts from the warranty, like shaving heads or cleaning stations or something like that, so keep an eye out for that type of language in the warranty itself. As we said, most warranties and return periods are pretty straight-forward, but it never hurts to read the fine print.

Sensitive Skin. It doesn't get talked about too much, but there are a LOT of guys out there with sensitive skin. If that's you, there are models that have a "sensitive skin" setting, and there are other models that are specifically designed for men with sensitive skin, as well as older/elderly men. We've found that both are good options (and, as a general rule, the "wet" setting is widely believed to be easier on the skin than the "dry" setting).

It's important to also note that if you're used to using regular razors—either disposables, cartridge razors, or even safety razors or straight razors—switching to an electric shaver often comes with an "itchy transition period." Electric shavers are a lot different than traditional blade razors, and they shorten your whiskers in a way that's very, very different than the traditional "with a regular razor" shave. It's not uncommon for your skin to freak out a little bit, and get red, or bumpy, or tender. For many guys, those reactions tend to go away after a couple of uses with an electric shaver, after your skin acclimates to the shave the device provides.

What is a Foil Razor, and How Does It Work?

For a lot of guys—especially men who are used to shaving with a regular old cartridge razor—the switch to electric shavers is a bit of jump. It's not complicated to shave with a disposable blade; you basically scrape the blade along your skin and let simple physics remove your whiskers. But electric shavers are a lot more complicated—it's basically a little machine with blades that you're bringing very, very close to your face—and that can be a little bit intimidating.

So, here's a quick intro to foil shavers (and rotary shavers, while we're at it), along with some of the most common questions men have about them. If you've got a pretty good idea of what foils shavers are, feel free to skip this section.

We'll start at the very beginning. There are two main types of electric razors: rotary shavers (that is, electric razors with discs that rotate on the shaver head) and foil shavers (that is, electric razors that have a thin foil on the shaver head).

Rotary shavers have three circular discs at the head of the razor, and there are sharp blades underneath those discs that clip whiskers and shorten beard hair. They look like this:

Foils shavers, on the other hand, have a long, rectangular shaving surface, and they look like this:

The top of the shaver head has a very delicate, very thin layer of metal on it, and that's the actual foil. Here's a closer look at a shaver with foils:

On this model, there's a foil on the top and a foil on the bottom (and a third cutting surface in the middle, which we'll talk about in a minute). Those foils do three things:

> They guide whiskers to the oscillating razors beneath the surface of the foils;

> They protect your skin from those razors beneath them; and

> They feel niiiiiiice and smooth. The tactile sensation of the foil itself is one of the best features of a foil shaver, and manufacturers actually put a lot of effort into making them feel pleasant. They're finely polished, and they glide over the skin (although sometimes they can get a little hot, if you use your shaver for too long).

We mentioned above that there was a third surface between the two foils. That's a third cutting surface with a different perforation pattern, and it's an effective way to gather errant hairs into the machine to be cut. Old foil shavers only feature those thin foils with circular holes in them, and while they did a good job, the devices had a hard time getting flat-lying whiskers (and whiskers that grow in different directions) into them to be cut. The long, vertical grooves in that middle cutting surface gather "tricky" hairs and cut them effectively.

In general, the more cutting surfaces you find on the head of a foil shaver, the more effective it will be in removing whiskers. Earlier models had one or two cutting surfaces, and then manufacturers developed foils that had three cutting surfaces (like the one above), and some of the newer, high-end foil shavers have five cutting surfaces.

Why Foils Can Be a Great Option

So now you have a general idea of what a foil razor is, let's take a look at why they're so popular. Here are some of the main reasons they're a great way to get a great shave:

They're a Great Choice for Beginners. If you're new to electric shavers, foils are a place to start. Because the shaving surface on a foil shaver is rectangular, the proper way to use them is in straight lines over your face. "Shave straight" is a pretty simple strategy, even over more the "difficult" areas such as the chin and jawline—simply guide the shaver along your skin in a direct line.

They're Great for Doing Detail-Oriented Shaves. This is also due to the rectangular head—if you want to put a hard edge on a sideburn or a goatee, it's relatively simple to do, because the shaving surface features a straight line. Simply shave to the area where you want a line and stop. It's very, very difficult to do that with rotary shavers, but pretty simple with foils.

They Provide a Really Close Shave. Electric shavers are one of those products that have come a long, long way in recent years. Non-electric razors are pretty simple—they're basically blades, and maybe every couple of years, a shaving company will add a blade onto a cartridge razor. But because electric shavers are little machines, shaving companies are constantly creating new technology to make them more effective and efficient. Braun actually uses sonic technology to "read" the thee-dimensionality of your whiskers, and that's kind of mind-blowing.

The end result of all these technological advances is a seriously close shave. For years, electric shavers had a reputation as second-best—they were fun and easy to use, but if you wanted a truly close shave, you have to use a safety razor or a straight razor or a cartridge razor. That adage may still technically be true (safety razors and straight razors still probably provide the closest shave possible—it's hard to beat a razor directly against the skin), but electric shavers are really getting close, and a close shave with an electric shaver is pretty darn close.

Replacing the Blades is Relatively Easy. The blades of electric shavers have a much longer life than the blades on disposable or cartridge razors. Most disposables need to be tossed after a few uses (and we've written a post here on how you can recycle them), and the same goes for most cartridge razors. After four to six uses, they need to be replaced. And that's one of the best aspects of a foil razor: blades only need to be replaced every year to 18 months (although every model is unique—you'll want to read your owner's manual to find out the most efficient replacement schedule).

What's even better is that the blades are pretty simple to replace. Most foils have a cartridge or area of the head that you remove from the shaver itself, and you simply insert a new cartridge. Rotary shavers are a little more complicated to update with new blades—instead of simply replacing a cartridge, you need to install each individual disc, and that can be a bit of a pain.

Cleaning the Shaver is Also Pretty Simple. As we mentioned above, higher-end foil shavers may come with a charging station that also cleans the shaver. It's a really nice feature, and it accomplishes a lot of different tasks: it removes whiskers and cut hairs from the blades, it lubricates all the different parts of the motor, and it disinfects the razors themselves. If the shave you've got didn't come with a cleaning station, you may be able to buy one separately (but, of course, just be careful to make sure the station is created for the exact model you have).

Not all foil razors come with a cleaning station, but maintenance is still pretty simple, and some models only require you to run the shaver underneath hot water or pop off the head to remove and excess stubble whiskers.

They're Quick. This is, perhaps, one of the best advantages of an electric razor: they provide a very QUICK shave. Above, we mentioned that the closest shave is still probably reserved for safety razors and straight razors. The only problem with those two methods is that they can take a fair bit of time. There's a lot of gear (shaving bowls, shaving brushes, creams, aftershave balms, and so on) and there's a lot of stages (creating a lather, shaving with the grain, across the grain, and then against the grain, applying alum block to nicks and cuts, etc.). But with electric razors, you have the option to bypass all that and shave dry, and that's an incredible time-saver. Bada bing, bada boom, a couple of passes and you're good to go.

You've Got a Lot of Options. There are plenty of rotaries on the market, but it seems like—and this is an informal observation, and not the result of a study—but it seems like there are a lot more options when it comes to foils. Braun makes some great foil shavers, but Remington also has a bunch, as does Panasonic. That's not true for rotaries—Philips Norelco makes some great ones, but outside of their models, it can be slim pickins'.

Foils: The Last Word

There you have it! Our full discussion on foil shavers. If you decide to incorporate a foil into your shaving routine, hopefully there's something on the page that can provide you some guidance. Have fun, 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.

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