Foil vs Rotary Shaver: Pros & Cons and Final Verdict

It’s hard to overstate the benefits of electric shavers! The best of today’s products are dead simple to pick up and do the job remarkably well. Instead of having to buy costly blade cartridges on a regular basis, an electric shaver is a stable investment that can serve you well for years and years.

When the time comes for you to buy one, you’re going to face the age-old question all men must answer: Foil vs Rotary shaver. To the uninitiated, the difference might seem minimal, even dismissable. Don’t let yourself be fooled by first impressions! There’s a lot to take into consideration when you’re choosing rotary vs foil shavers. Whether it’s your hair thickness, skin sensitivity, or just your personal wants and needs, Foil and Rotary shavers provide different experiences that you’ll want to look into.

Luckily for you, we’ve taken a look at both kinds of razors, and present you with this guide to the pros and cons of both foil and rotary shavers.

Table Of Contents

What Is A Foil Shaver?

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A Foil Shaver uses a number of oscillating blades to cut hair, acting much like the electric scissors you’d see at a barber shop. The “foil” that gives the razor its name is the sheet of metal that acts as a barrier between you and the blades. Small holes dot the surface of the foil, letting hair inside to be cut by the blades, often called cutters.

The blades will oscillate either left to right or up and down. This will basically determine how you use your razor when shaving. You’ll have to move the razor in the opposite direction of the blades’ movement. So if your blades oscillate left to right, you’ll shave with an up and down motion, and vice versa. Chances are your razor will be built in such a way that this is intuitive.

Advantages Of Shaving With A Foil Shaver

  • Foil razors are better at giving you a close shave. The foil’s holes aren’t just a guard, but rather they pull each hair taut before they meet the blades, giving you a close cut on every hair you’ve got. If you have fine hair, a foil razor will better tend to your needs and ensure you get as close a shave as possible.
  • If you have sensitive skin, a foil razor will be gentler on the skin compared to a rotary shaver. The foils work to smooth the skin and the foils are built so hairs are made taut without pulling hard on the skin. The result is less stress on the hair and skin, and a close shave without being too aggressive.
  • Need to get your shave done in a jiffy? Foil razors will give you a faster shave thanks to their blade speed. What does this mean? A good quality foil razor can oscillate its blades at a rate of 14,000 cycles per minute, meaning you can get a good shave without sacrificing much in the way of a quality cut.
  • Foil shavers are more versatile than their rotary counterparts. The foil patterns cut into the metal that help line up the hairs will usually vary to allow for different kinds of hair curliness and thicknesses to be cut. Wavy and hexagonal patterns help with cutting down different hair lengths, ensuring a smooth shave no matter what your hair situation is like.
  • Some men want to be smooth every day. If you want to get clean shaven regularly, it’s better to use a foil shaver. You’ll get shaves of more consistent quality and closeness if you use a foil shaver, so if you’re looking for great results on an everyday basis, it’s better to go with a foil razor rather than a rotary one.
  • If you’re looking to give yourself some really sharp clear-cut lines, it’s best to work with a foil shaver. Rotary blades just won’t get you that crisp, clean effect that you get from the straight cutting foil blades. If your facial hair style looks best with clean lines, do yourself a favor and stick to a foil razor instead.

Disadvantages Of Shaving With A Foil Shaver

  • The foil razor is noticeably noisier than its rotary counterpart. The motor and oscillating blades moving in concert can really tip the decibel scales and might be uncomfortable when held so close to your face. Moreover, others living in your home might complain about the noise if you’re using it on a daily basis.
  • If you like moving in circles, then don’t get a foil razor. They’ll only cut in the direction that works for them, that is in straight lines. This can be a problem because the human face is not made up of straight lines at all, meaning getting into deep contours may be difficult or even undoable. If you need to get into more nooks and crannies, it may be best to reconsider.
  • You might have problems shaving off longer hairs if you use a foil razor. Long hairs may get trapped in the holes of the foil, reducing the effectiveness of the blades. While any razor would have problems dealing with very long beard hairs, a rotary razor will still handle longer hairs better than a foil razor.

What Is A Rotary Shaver?

Philips Norelco Shaver 9700

A Rotary Shaver will typically consist of three independent rotary heads, each with a spinning blade that works to shave off your beard hair. Metal shields allow hair to meet the blades through a series of holes and lines, similar to the holes found on foil razor heads.

The blades are granted more freedom of movement, and sometimes manufacturers will design the razors to spin in differing directions to ensure maximum coverage. The circular blade heads can also pivot to a greater extent compared to foil shavers as they aren’t constrained by the same directional limitations. A rotary blade can shave in any line, in any direction.

While it does ensure more freedom of movement and better coverage of the face’s contours, the rotary shaver provides a very different shaving experience, one that you’ll have to take into account if you are looking to buy one.

Advantages Of Shaving With A Rotary Shaver

  • Foil shavers cut hair well, but tend to find issue with hair that’s on the thicker side. If you have thick, coarse hair, it’s best to consider going with a rotary shaver. Whether that means you’re an infrequent shaver, or your hair just grows out thick, you’ll have an easier time getting the job done with a rotary blade instead of a foil razor.
  • A rotary razor will easily adapt to the contours of the face. The blade heads have more freedom when it comes to movement, and will often be designed to bend along with the natural shapes of the face. If you also shave other parts of your body apart from your face, reaching difficult areas may be easier with a rotary blade.
  • Want to shave in the dead of the night without waking anyone up? A rotary blade will typically operate at a lower volume compared to your standard foil razor. If you have friends or family who don’t like rising to the sound of a buzzing razor, you might want to consider going rotary.
  • If your hair grows in disparate and random directions, the circular heads of a rotary blade may be better suited to capturing and cutting your hair. This is good for places where hair has a tendency to grow in unpredictable ways, like around the neck. Coupled with the rotary razor’s proficiency in strange spots, you’ll be better equipped to take on wilder hair.
  • If you have tough skin, whether from long-term wear or genetics or any other reason, a rotary razor will serve your needs better. Rotary shavers tend to be rougher on the skin regardless, so if you aren’t too worried about your skin texture, then go ahead and use a rotary. It should be more comfortable to use, as well as be easier to handle.
  • If your hair grows really fast and thick, then you may need to consider a rotary razor. A foil is better suited to getting at smaller, finer hairs, making it ideal for everyday shavers. But if your hair is growing  so fast that it’s decently thick after a day, it might just be worth picking up the rotary razor instead.

Disadvantages Of Shaving With A Rotary Shaver

  • The rotary razor just doesn’t give you as close a shave as the foil razor. While they’re good for tackling thicker and varied strands, rotary razors have trouble getting the finer hairs left behind after shaving. This means you may need to go over areas of your face multiple times, which may be irritating for your skin. If you want a smoother experience, go with foil.
  • Due to their more complicated construction, rotary razors are harder to clean than their foil counterparts. Cleaning the insides of your razor may involve disassembling a whole load of parts and cleaning them individually, which can be a real pain to do regularly. If you’re not into that kind of maintenance, reconsider going rotary.
  • While getting at big areas is one of the rotary razor’s strengths, it makes it so you lack in precision. The rotary razor is meant to be used in big circular motions, meaning you’ll be hard pressed to do any detail work or clean lining with it. The rotary razor is meant to go at everything in its path, not get at a few hairs at a time.

Who Should Use A Foil Shaver?

Looking at its strengths, the foil razor is a machine meant to get hair off your face, and do that job well. It’s for a man who wants a smooth shave, even at the cost of noise complaints or limited movement. The foil razor is a razor you learn to use, one that isn’t exactly straightforward.

If you don’t like stubble, then you need to go foil. It does the job getting at thinner hairs, making sure that you’ll get as smooth a shave as possible with the fewest number of passes. For that reason, it is also good for those with sensitive skin. Foil razor heads are less irritating on the skin, and manage to pick up hairs more gently than their rotary counterparts.

While it doesn’t provide easy, reliable coverage as well as the rotary blade, the foil razor is better at getting hair off your face. Yes, you’ll have to get used to its idiosyncrasies and its straight linear motion, but master that and you should have a razor that will treat you well for a long time.

Who Should Use A Rotary Shaver?

You’re a guy who wants to look neat and shaving with a disposable razor is a bother. You just want as much hair off your face as you can manage with the least possible amount of effort. You think the five o’clock shadow look is pretty neat, and you’re not interested in being as smooth as possible. The rotary razor is your friend.

It’s easy to pick up, moves along your face without issue, and does the job without needing to do much thinking Yes, it’s less effective at shaving than the foil razor, but that’s not your game. You just don’t want a heavy beard. You just want to shave, and get out and enjoy your day. That’s what the rotary razor excels at.

Or let’s say you’ve got thick hair that reappears in thirty minutes and you can’t be bothered to go through your whole shaving routine. Pulling out the shaving cream and everything can be such a hassle, and sometimes you need to shave just enough so that you don’t look like a prisoner of war. That’s the convenience you’ll get with a rotary razor.


I hope this guide has cleared up a lot of questions for you! A good electric razor is a long-term investment. If you play your cards right, a high-quality product might last you a lifetime.

There’s a lot to take into account in the battle of Foil vs Rotary Shavers. We all have different wants and needs, so there’s no perfect electric razor for everyone. So, don’t take this decision lightly—it’s important to do tons of research before making a purchase.

In the end, what your priorities are should guide you to the answer. Whether you’re looking for the smoothest shave possible, or you just want something that’s simple and gets the job done, there’s a razor out there that’s just for you.

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