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Electric Shaver Recommendations

When Looking for a Wet/Dry Electric Shaver, Should You Choose a Rotary or a Foil?

This is, perhaps, the biggest question you’ll need to ask yourself if you’re looking for a wet/dry electric shaver for your morning routine: rotary or foil? You’re going to have to choose between one of the two, so which is the best wet/dry shaver option for your needs?

Let’s first give a (very quick) review of the differences between rotary and foil shavers. These characteristics are important to wet/dry shavers, so you’ll need to know what you’re talking about:

Rotaries and Foils: Main Differences (for Both Wet/Dry Shavers and “Regular” Shavers)

Here’s how it plays out:

Rotary shavers: These are the electric shavers that have the circular discs at the top of the shaver head itself. Those discs—here it is!—rotate quickly to cut whiskers, hence the name. They’re a great match for guys who have very thick, very course facial hair that grows in all directions, and many guys with thick whiskers choose wet/dry razors so they can soften those hairs a bit. As far as wet/dry shavers go, 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 while you walk around your house or apartment—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. So, there are a few pros and cons to consider when it comes to wet/dry rotaries.

Foil Shavers: These are the electric shavers that have a rectangular head, and on that head is a extremely thin sheet of metal that has a blade beneath it—that extremely thin sheet of metal is the “foil.” Foil shavers a little more precise than rotaries (and that’s especially true for wet/dry shavers, which can sometimes be challenging to use), 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—and straight lines are GREAT when it comes to wet/dry shavers. 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 wet/dry rotary shavers that provide a very, very close shave. The other important thing to remember about foils is that they can be a better option for guys with sensitive skin or skin that freaks out easily. All the circling and motion that comes with a rotary shaver—all that is not a part of the foil-shaving experience (regardless of whether we’re talking wet/dry electric shavers or just regular, “dry” electric shavers).

OK, great. So, which is for you, when you’re choosing a wet/dry electric shaver?

The Right Wet/Dry Shaver for Your Face

Honestly, for 90% of guys, it’s just a matter of personal taste—there’s no “right” or “wrong.” And that’s nice—most of the time, it seems like you can get either type and be relatively happy. Doesn’t that makes things easy?

There are two caveats, though, and here they are:

If you’ve got sensitive skin, a foil shaver really is better. It’s gentler and less likely to create rashes and bumps and razor burn. It’s not a sure thing—there are plenty of guys who can’t use wet/dry foil shavers—but it’s a much better bet than a wet/dry rotary shaver.

If you’ve got loose skin—perhaps you’re an older fella, or you’ve lost a great deal of weight (good for you, brother!)—a foil is also the better choice. The straight back-and-forth motion of a foil shaver is much better than the no-holds-barred, going-everywhere motion of rotary shavers. Loose skin doesn’t get shaved very well when it’s tugged every-which-way, and it’s easy to get a close, irritation-free shave with a wet/dry foil shaver when you’ve got loose skin.

Here’s the last thing: When it comes to wet/dry electric shavers, most of the wet/dry shavers on the market are foil shavers. There are a couple rotary options available, but the majority of wet/dry shavers out there are foils, so you might have “limited options” when it comes to rotaries. Them’s the breaks.

OK, that about wraps it up! We hope this helps. Wet/dry shavers can be a GREAT investment, and we hope you find something you like!

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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