Finding the best wet/dry electric shaver—especially if you’re new to electric razors—can be tough, and it seems like there’s a lot you need to know if you’re in the market for one. There are dozens of different manufacturers, and one company makes a dozen different models, and each model has a dozen different features. It can feel a little complicated, and that’s a shame: there are a lot of fantastic why/dry shavers that provide a really close shave, but a lot of guys have hard time finding a model they like.
So in the post below, we’ll provide an “A to Z” on wet/dry shavers. We’ll list a couple of reasons why they may be a good choice for you, we’ll provide some guidance on how to select one that meets your needs, and then we’ll provide a full review of models we like.
Let’s start at the top:
Why is a Wet/Dry Shaver a Good Option?
We were going to make this a “pros and cons” section, but we couldn’t really think of too many “cons.” Wet/dry shavers are pretty rad. Here are our four favorites aspects of using one:
1) You’ve Got Options. If you’ve never used one before, even the concept of a wet/dry shaver is pretty amazing: an electric razor you can use with shaving cream or gel, but also use dry, without any shaving cream or gel whatsoever. If you get tired of the same old morning routine, that variety is pretty fantastic.
2) You Can Experiment. This is another fantastic option. Because there are so many different ways to use a wet/dry shaver, you can switch things up and see if you get new results. If you’re using gel and not getting the shave you want, try a dry shave. If you’re dry shaving and experiencing irritation, try using a shaving cream in front of your sink. With regular steel razors, you don’t really have that many options; with wet/dry shavers, you’ve got some choice in the matter.
3) Many Are Waterproof. A lot of guys assume “wet/dry” means waterproof, but that’s not quite correct: the “wet/dry” in “wet/dry electric shaver” refers to the machine’s ability to shave over shaving cream or gel (that’s the “wet” part) and the machine’s ability to shave without shaving cream or gel (and, you guessed it, that would be the “dry” part). That said, many wet/dry shavers are waterproof, and you can take those models in the shower with you. If shaving is part of your bathing routine, that can be a fantastic feature (and you’ll obviously want to make sure your shaver is fully waterproof before you take it into the tub!).
4) Dry Shaving is Quick. If you’re in a rush, the ability to shave without creams or gel can save you a great deal of time. A couple of passes over your skin, and you’re good to go, with minimal clean-up necessary. Plus, if you’re using a rotary shaver, you can shave while roaming around your house or apartment (and we’ll talk about that in a second).
5) You Can Get a Really Good Shave. For the longest time, electric shavers were a distant second place to conventional razors. That’s not really the case anymore, though—newer models provide a surprisingly close, and very reliable, shave. Electric shavers have come a long way over the last few years.
Now that we’ve covered why wet/dry shavers are fantastic, there’s a big decision you’ll need to make if you’re interested in getting one:
Rotary Wet/Dry Shaver vs. Foil Wet/Dry Shaver
This is, perhaps, is the biggest question you’ll need to ask yourself if you’re looking for the best wet/dry electric shaver for your morning routine: rotary or foil? We’ve actually written entire posts about the rotary vs. foil debate, but here’s a quick intro to each type, and a quick breakdown of the strengths and weaknesses of each:
Rotary shavers: These are the electric shavers that have the circular discs at the top of the shaver. They’re a great match for guys who have very thick, very course facial hair that grows in all directions. They’re a little bit easier to use—with foil shavers, you have to guide the shaver in straight lines over your face, whereas with rotaries, you can have a more “freeform” technique, and shave your face in circles—but they provide a shave that isn’t quite as close as foil shavers. They are, however, a little bit quieter than foil shavers, which can get pretty loud.
Foil Shavers: These are the electric shavers that have a rectangular head. They’re a little more precise than rotaries, and they require a little extra attention—as we mentioned, with rotaries, you can shave in a circular motion over your face, but with foils, you need to shave in straight lines. That makes them a great option for detail-oriented shaves, for guys with loose skin or wrinkles, and for older gentlemen—and if you need to square up a sideburn or shape some facial hair, they’re a much better bet than rotaries. And perhaps most importantly, as we mentioned, these provide a closer shave than rotaries—but over the last couple years, that performance gap seems to be shrinking, and there are some high-end rotary shavers that provide a very, very close shave.
If you’re looking for a wet/dry electric shaver, there are rotary options and foil options, but for whatever reason, most of the wet/dry shavers on the market are foil shavers. There are a couple rotary options available—and we’ve included our favorites below—but there seem to be many more foils available.
Wet/Dry Shaver Reviews
There are, luckily, a lot of electric shavers on the market, and it seems like most models are wet/dry. That can make it a little bit overwhelming to choose the right product, so we’ve gone through and picked our favorite options, according to their strengths.
Best “Nuts-and-Bolts” Options
In our estimation, it’s a tie:
The Panasonic ES8103S Arc3
This is an older Panasonic model, but it’s a rugged—and capable—choice: the Panasonic ES8103S Arc3. It’s got three cutting surfaces on a decent-sized head and an extremely thin foil, designed to allow the blades underneath to provide a very close shave. The head itself moves pretty easily, and allows you trace the contours of your face (that’s an improvement over past models, which felt a little bit stiff, and made it difficult to the get the area of skin behind your jaw and directly underneath your chin). The digital display lets you know exactly how much juice the device has left, and it’s got a pop-up trimmer to do some detail-oriented work on your sideburns, goatee, etc.
In our experience, it’s surprisingly easy on the skin—especially for a razor that’s not specifically designed for sensitive skin. Our only gripe against the ES8103S Arc 3 would be that the battery doesn’t last as long as some other shavers, and you might need to charge it a little more often that you would with a newer model. All in all, though, a good shaver and a good option.
The Braun Series 3 ProSkin 3040s
Braun has a LOT of different shavers, but the Braun Series 3 ProSkin 3040s is a fan-favorite, and with it’s blue-and-black design, is immediately recognizable. This, too, has the “Triple Action Cutting System,” which is shaver-speak for three cutting blades, but if you take a close look at the head, you’ll notice that the middle blade is a little more aggressive. That gives it the ability to gather longer whiskers into the blades, and makes it a great match for guys with thick facial hairs. It should also work if you’ve got medium-to-light stubble, as well—the perforations on the outside foils are extremely small, and cut shorter whiskers close to the skin.
It’s important to note that this model does not have a pivoting head, so it can be a little bit more of a challenge to navigate your face. Still a great option, though, and we like Brauns a lot.
Best Rotary Options: Another Tie
The more time you spend in the world of electric shavers, the sooner you’ll find that while manufacturers make a LOT of foil shavers, they make far fewer rotary shavers (and most of those rotaries are made by Philips Norelco).
So, if you’re looking for a wet/dry razor and you want a rotary, here are our two suggestions:
Philips Norelco Shaver 4500 (Model AT830/46)
As we’ve mentioned in other posts, rotaries are a different beast than foils, and they’re a great choice for guys with thicker facial hair, men with whiskers that grow in every direction, and guys who want to shave quickly and be on their way. If those are some qualities you’re looking for in a shaver, the Philips Norelco 4500 may be a good option.
Right off the bat, it’s got some great features: it’s got a sleek, ergonomic design; the discs on the head are flexible and are designed to conform to the skin; and it’s got a pop-up trimmer that’ll let you do some closer shaving.
That pop-up trimmer is actually a really important feature: because rotaries are shaped so differently that foils—foils have a straight cutting edge and are meant to be used in a straight line on the face, whereas rotaries are meant to be used in a circular pattern—it’s more difficult to shape goatees and sideburns when you’re using a rotary. And that’s where the pop-up shaver tool becomes important, because it’s designed to help you get a straight edge on your facial hair, should you choose to do so.
And, while this may seem like a small deal for some, rotary shavers are much quieter than foils. The 4500 is niiiiice and quiet, so if you like a calm, relaxing shave in the morning—and hate the very loud, very unsettling buzz of a foil—it can be a good selection.
Philips Norelco Electric Shaver 8900
This is our higher-end choice for a wet/dry rotary shaver: the Philips Norelco Electric Shaver 8900. It’s sleek, and we’ve found it to be easy-to-use and effective.
If you look at this model and compare it to the 4500 (the one we just reviewed), you’ll see that the head that contains the discs actually protrudes from the shaver itself. That’s not just a design update—it actually allows the entire head of the shaver to move more freely, providing a little more flexibility to shave all the different angles of your face. Rotaries were long criticized for being inflexible, so that’s a pretty brilliant update. Plus, the discs themselves rotate in different directions, whereas previous Norelco models rotated in five (or fewer) directions—another advancement designed to translate to a better, closer shave.
Another leap forward on the 8900 is the beard styler. Most previous models have a trimmer—a very useful tool, to be sure—but the 8900 (and later models) offer different settings that allow you to shave your facial hair to different lengths. If you like the short-and-stubbly look, you can go with that; if you like a “short beard” look, you can do that too. It’s not a great option for longer beards—you’d need a regular trimmer for that—but it’s a fantastic feature if you like to switch things up here and there, and try on different looks.
The biggest technical strength of the Philips Norelco 8900, though, is its V-Track Precision Blades—and that’s shaver-talk for razors that are designed to cut your whiskers 20% closer to the root than older Norelco models.
If you’re in the market for a higher-end wet/dry rotary, the Philips Norelco 8900 can be a great option.
Best Wet/Dry Electric Shaver for Sensitive Skin
One consistent criticism—and not an unfair one—is that electric shavers can be tough on your skin, and that’s why we like the Philips Norelco Electric Shaver 7500 for Sensitive Skin—it’s one of the few wet/dry shavers made specifically for guys who want to avoid the red bumps and irritation that sometimes come with electric shavers.
It’s pretty brilliant, actually: the Comfort Ring discs on the head are lined with a “microbead” coating designed to allow the shaving surface to sail smoothly over the skin, without some of the friction that you find with other shavers, and its GentlePrecision blades are positioned to reduce the cutting tension as they travel over your face. It’s a fantastic feature, and it’s actually kind of odd that other shavers don’t also use that feature.
Perhaps the best aspect of the 7500, though, is that the sensitive-skin functionality doesn’t hamper the shaving capability of the device. In our experience, the shaver itself is fantastic—its Precision Blade system allows the shaver to target flat-lying whiskers and guide them toward the shaver’s blades, and it also tackles whiskers in odd formations (like the “swirl” formation that sometimes occurs at your neck or Adam’s Apple). We have found it to provide a close shave, and while your results may vary—it’s always very difficult to predict how skin will react to any given shaving product—we’ve had great success with it.
Best Deluxe Wet/Dry Option
There is one high-end option that we think is fantastic. It is:
The Panasonic Arc5 Electric Razor
For the longest time, men who used electric shavers were willing to forego a super-close shave for the convenience and comfort of an electric shaver, but newer wet/dry shavers seem to make that concern a thing of the past. Many do deliver a super-close, and one that’s comparable to a regular razor.
The Panasonic Arc5 is a quantum leap forward in terms of cutting blades. It’s got:
Five individual cutting surfaces, each with the capability of easing towards or away from your face;
A sensor system that actually “reads” your face, to detect the differences in the thickness of your whiskers, and accelerate the speed of the blades where your whiskers are thickest; and
Micro-thin foils, designed to lift individual whiskers that are flattened down onto the skin.
All that translates to, in our experience, an extremely close shave, and the Panasonic Arc5 gets our vote as our favorite high-end wet/dry shaver.
A Quick Tip if You’ve Got Sensitive Skin
Electric shavers are kind of interesting—they provide a very unique shaving experience, and there are two things you should keep in mind when using one:
1) “Beginner Bumps.” If you’re used to using a disposable razor blade or a cartridge razor, the switch to an electric razor may do a number on your skin. The process of regular shaving—that is, dragging a sharpened bit of steel over your skin—is a lot different than process of using an electric razor. Electric razors actually pull at your whiskers before cutting them, and for a lot of men, that results in irritation.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that your skin will most likely acclimate to it. A lot (not all, of course, but many) guys who initially experience bumps and rashes see those bumps and rashes disappear a week or two after continued use of an electric shaver.
And, keep in mind, those results aren’t a sure-thing—there are a lot guys switch to an electric razor with no issues. It’s just something to keep in mind, in case you begin using an electric shaver and experience some unpleasant results.
2) Wet is Better Than Dry. The general consensus among folks who think a lot about this sort of thing (and that would be us, and other shaving websites) is that using a wet/dry shaver with shaving cream is a little easier on the skin than shaving dry. As we mentioned, the process that electric shavers use to shorten whiskers is a little traumatic—there’s a lot of tugging at the whiskers before they’re cut, flattening them, and pulling at them by their root—and for a lot of guys, that results in some bumps and irritation. Using a shaving cream, or perhaps even better, a gel, can alleviate some of the irritation.
And, if you find that after using a wet/dry shaver for a few weeks that you’re still experiencing irritation, you may want to experiment with traditional wet shaving—that is, shaving with a gourmet shaving cream, a shaving brush made from badger / boar / horse / or synthetic hair, and a safety razor. The average shave takes longer (a lot longer, actually—a shave with an electric razor can take a minute or two, but a proper wet shave takes at least 10 minutes), but it’s a great option for men who have sensitive skin. We’ve written a lot—a lot a lot—of posts about wet shaving, so if it interests you, take a stroll around the site and read up.
Maintenance Tips for Wet/Dry Models
It’s easy to forget that shavers are actually little machines, and without proper upkeep, they’ll fall to pieces. Here are some pointers to keep your wet/dry shaver in good working order.
Keep It Clean. There are products that have a life span that is directly related to how well they’re taken of, and electric shavers definitely last longer if you take care of them—and the best way to take care of them is to clean them.
If you’ve got a cleaning station, you’re in good shape—you can insert the shaver itself into the station and the station will usually do everything for you: depending on the model you have, it may remove any errant whiskers, disinfect the blades, and lubricate all the different bits and pieces in the shaver head. Just remember to replace the cleaning solution once a month or so (or however often the instruction pamphlet tells you to), as that stuff can get truly grody if you leave it in there too long. On many models, there’s a blinking light that goes off when you need to replace it, so keep an eye out.
If you’re cleaning the shaver by hand—and we’d venture that most men clean their shavers manually—you can usually do so by running it under water or with a brush. Your shaver should come with explicit instructions on how to clean and maintain it, and if you’re still having a hard time, you can always go to YouTube for help—many shaver manufacturers have a lot of helpful videos online, and if they don’t, it’s very likely that a couple of YouTubers have uploaded a few videos on how to clean their shavers. You would not believe how many guys post shaving videos—it’s pretty fascinating, actually.
One last thing before we wrap up the “Cleaning” section: cleaning is important no matter how you shave, but it’s especially important if you use shaving cream or gel. That stuff can gunk up a shaver pretty badly, so make sure you’re cleaning your device properly.
Replace the Head. This is one of those things that’s really easy to forget, because you can never really see how sharp the blade is—you’ll need to inspect the quality of your shave, and see if the razor’s efficiency is trailing off. If you’re coming away from a shave and you look the same as when you did before you shaved, you need to replace the actual razors in your shaver.
As a general rule of thumb, it’s easier to replace the blades on a foil shaver—usually, you can take the entire head off, and simply insert another head. Rotaries are a little more challenging, because you need to remove each disc the head and then replace them individually—but really, it’s pretty simple, and most rotaries, regardless of their brand or model, are changed the same way. If you need a video to illustrate how to change the discs in a rotary, here’s a good example.
There’s one other thing to keep in mind: as you’ve probably learned, there are a LOT of different types of electric razors out there. There are a ton of product lines, and a ton of models in each product line. Very often, each of those models will use a very specific replacement models, and you want to be certain you’re getting the right replacement. Some shavers come with a replacement head, so be sure to stash that someplace if it comes with one.
Keep It Lubed. If you’ve ever seen the inside of a shaver head, it’s pretty incredible—there are dozens of incredibly small parts, and they work in almost perfect unison. Parts that small need to be kept lubricated in order to work properly, so that should be part of your general maintenance of your shaver.
This, unfortunately, is something we can’t really provide any guidance about—you’ll need to look in your owner’s manual to see how to keep the parts lubricated.
Charge It on Schedule. Believe it or not, a lot of electric shavers have a charging schedule. Many shavers are meant to be recharged until they’re at maximum energy, and immediately unplugged after that. Overcharging a battery—that is, charging it after it’s already at maximum energy—can actually harm the battery over the long run, and hamper the battery’s ability to keep a charge. If you’re every using the shaver and it runs out of juice, you can always plug it in and use it (but, obviously, not if you’re in the shower).
And, yep, you guessed it—you can check your owner’s manual for your specific shaver’s schedule.
There It Is: Our A to Z Guide
Hopefully that helps a little bit! If you’ve got any questions, feel free to leave them below or jump over to our “Contact” page and send us a note. 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.