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?
- What Is A Rotary Shaver?
- Who Should Use A Foil Shaver?
- Who Should Use A Rotary Shaver?
- Top 3 Foil Shavers Review
- Top 3 Rotary Shavers Review
What Is A Foil Shaver?
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?
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.
Top 3 Foil Shavers Review
In the world of electric razors, Braun is a respected name. The Braun Series 9 takes over from the popular Series 7, making improvements in design and capabilities to create a razor that goes the extra mile to deliver the best shave possible.
Its current flagship, the 9290cc is touted as “the world’s most efficient shaver” thanks to its improved motor and the addition of two more cutting elements, improving on the previous pack leader, the 790cc. Braun packs this razor with systems that made the Series 7 popular to begin with, like Pulsonic Vibrations and OptiFoil.
The razor’s four cutters are mounted on what Braun calls a 10-dimensional pivoting head, allowing each cutter to individually depress and adapt to the face’s contours and lines. While not exactly “10-dimensional”, the 9290cc does flex more than most other foil razors, making it an excellent choice for those looking for the effectivity of a foil razor with some of the adaptability of a rotary blade.
The 9290cc goes above and beyond its weight class, as you’d expect from Braun’s flagship. It deals well with wiry and coarse hair, and it shaves so close that stubble isn’t noticeable for an extra day at least. Less frequent shaving means less skin irritation, which means more comfort for you!
The one concern with this razor is its exorbitant price. You’ll have to shell out a lot of money to get your hands on this piece of work. While it can be argued that the price tag is warranted, many might find it too much to spend on a razor. If you’re the type who wants a no-compromises razor, then go ahead and get this one.
Like the others on this list, the 9290cc benefits from the strengths of foil razors, namely its efficient shave and its fast operation. That being said, this razor also manages to deal with the inflexibility issue many foil razors face, giving it an extra boost in the game. If you’re looking for a foil razor that’s high above the competition, you can’t go wrong with the 9290cc.
One of the most popular razors on this list, the Braun Series 7 790cc is a favorite amongst enthusiasts, and for good reason. Coming from the famous Series 7 line, the 790cc is considered by many to be the gold standard.
This razor boasts four cutting elements with one acting as a kind of skin guard. Like its successor, the heads can independently depress, allowing for greater freedom of movement. Like the 9290cc, the 790cc boasts innovative systems like the Pulsonic Vibrations and ActiveLift system that made it so popular in the first place. OptiFoil is present here as well, a foil pattern that uses hexagonal perforations to better pick up individual strands of hair.
Adding to the convenience, the 790cc can operate wirelessly. On a full charge, one can expect about 50 minutes of shaving performance. If you’re running low and still want a shave, there’s no problem. You can keep it plugged in while in use, serving to power the blade while charging it at the same time.
While the foil heads come with a locking mechanism to prevent them from moving around, using too much force while it is engaged may break the locking mechanism. Be careful not to push too hard. Another possible downside is that the 790cc doesn’t shave as close as you’d think. It doesn’t go all the way to the skin, and while this might be good for people who are susceptible to irritation or razor bumps, it may not be what you’re looking for in a razor.
Regardless, the pros outweigh the cons, and the 790cc is a razor that speaks for itself. Another foil razor, it’s got all the strengths you expect with the added benefits brought in by Braun in their technology and design work. If you’re looking for an electric foil razor, it might be good to look at a fan favorite like the 790cc and see what all the fuss is about. Who knows? You might become a new convert in the process.
Not to get lost in the myriad of choices available, Panasonic have made serious waves in the electric razor market with the ES-LV65-S. Popular as well, and boasting plenty of features that help it stand out, this razor is also noted for its good value for money in an industry with plenty of expensive products.
Outdoing its competitors at Braun, the ES-LV65-S boasts five cutting heads, forming a razor that is quite large when compared to others. Two outer foils work to contain small stubble, while two inner foils capture hair growing parallel to the skin—a system called “Lift Tech”. A fifth cutting element in the middle works to catch longer hairs, which are cut down to size to get cut by the other foils.
If you’re looking for a motor with power, then look no further than this razor. It boasts a powerful engine that oscillates its blades at 14,000 cycles per minute. Speaking of blades, this razor uses Panasonic’s nano-blades which come with an aggressive 30-degree bevel, a big part of this machine’s efficiency when cutting.
While its cutting heads don’t move independently, the entire head does move in four different directions, allowing for some flexibility with facial contours. Just don’t expect the dexterity present in the Braun razors we looked at earlier. Given that, this razor cuts extremely close, providing you with a smooth shave that put normal razors to shame. It’s not as silky smooth on the skin as the 9290cc, but it will still be easy to work with.
Compared to the other foil razors on this list, this razor is a tad more aggressive, and may be a bit harder on those with sensitive skin. What’s lost in comfort is gained in terms of sheer shaving performance. This razor will get your face clean without apologies, and if that’s what you need, then you’re going to find it in the ES-LV65-S.
If you want a razor at a good value that blasts away the competitors when it comes to clean, smooth shaving, then there’s no better razor out there. You don’t need to spend a fortune on a razor that gets you the shave you need.
Top 3 Rotary Shavers Review
Philips has a long distinct history with electric razors. In fact, they’re the inventors of the rotary razor design that we’re all familiar with today. Given that, you can reliably say that any of Philips’ rotary shavers will be quality products with a good pedigree.
Philips make a variety of Norelco razors, with those in the 9700 line forming the top-of-the-line. Made in the Netherlands, the S9721/89 is a strong product that works with both wet and dry shaving, and comes with a ton of other things in the box, not to mention the many features already equipped.
Along with the razor itself, you get a detachable precision trimmer, a travel case, and a power cord. The 9700 won’t work while it’s plugged in, but one charge will still let you go for a full hour. It also comes with the SmartClean Pro and a cleaning cartridge, which will be helpful when it comes to cleaning, lubricating, and drying your razor. You also get an attachable cleaning brush.
The 9700 uses V-Track Precision Blades PRO, which cut 30% close to the skin than Philips older SensoTouch blades. It also comes with Contour Detection, meaning it will recognize the lines of your face and neck as you shave, allegedly decreasing shaving time by 20%. These work in tandem to capture even shorter hairs, giving a shave that’s close enough to seem like it was from a foil counterpart.
The 9700 manages to power through some of the more blatant weaknesses present in other rotary razors. This can be attributed to design innovations and simply how high quality of a product we have on our hands here. Due to this, expect to shell out quite a bit more cash for this particular razor. You’re paying top dollar for a razor that can really get the job done after all.
The Philips Norelco 9700 is probably the best you can get in terms of a rotary razor. Its blade construction, design, and material quality help put it right at the top of the rotary market, and make it stand on equal footing with the best Braun and Panasonic have to offer. If you’re in the market for a rotary razor, you can’t do much better than the Norelco 9700.
Just a little down the line from the 9700, the Philips Norelco 8900 S8950/91 is another rotary razor from the storied brand. While it does differ in many ways from its older siblings, the 8900 has proved that it isn’t anything to sneeze at, offering a decent shave for a decent price.
Upfront in its marketing and one of its more useful features, the Norelco 8900 can shave easily in wet and dry conditions. Like the 9700, you could easily walk into the shower with it and give yourself a shave in there. Using its so-called “Aquatic Technology”, it manages to keep the blades from tugging or skipping while you run it across your face.
Just like most rotary shavers, the Norelco 8900 has independent shaving heads that can move in eight different directions. They have a slightly decreased range of motion however compared to the 9000 series razors. The cutters used are the SH90s you’ll find on the 9000 series razors as well, which do quite a decent job at shaving. In terms of closeness, it finds itself right up there with the 9700, given that they use the same shaving heads.
The Philips Norelco 8900 razor optionally comes with a cleaning base, which makes the job of maintenance a little easier in the long run, though it’ll cost more. It might be worth the investment considering it will prolong the life of your razor, which is good because buying replacement razor heads can be annoying and costly if you’re doing it often enough.
If compared to the 9000 series razors offered by Philips, there are more than a few creature comforts that are lacking in the 8900. If you’re a fan of stronger body construction and having everything you need right out of the box, you can always go for the Norelco 9700.
However, the 8900 is probably the best you can get in terms of value for money. You’re getting a similarly effective shave while foregoing on just a few features that most people wouldn’t honestly miss too much. If you’re looking for the best shave at the lowest price, you can’t go wrong with the 8900.
Again from Philips, the Norelco 4500 AT830/41 lives in the budget lane of electric razors. Much cheaper than the 9700 or even 8900, the Norelco 4500 aims to provide a clean shaving experience for a very competitive price point.
One of the razor’s strongest features are the DualPrecision heads, helping it to shave long and short stubble without problem. In places like the chin and neck, hair has a tendency to grow in different directions. The 4500 handles it well, lifting up hairs before cutting them. In addition, all three heads can pivot inwards individually, helping them adapt to the contours of the face. Unfortunately, the heads don’t pivot outwards like the 8900 or 9700.
Available in the box is a popup trimmer, which is great for getting at sideburns or longer hairs before shaving. No razor has an easy time against really long hair, which is why most will recommend using a trimmer beforehand to cut the hair down to a manageable size. Having a trimmer handy helps to make this job a whole lot easier, and cheaper too!
Unlike razors like the 9700 which feature a big bright display with all the info you could (or couldn’t) need, the interface on the Norelco 4500 presents battery status, quick charge, and a charge indicator. Honestly, you won’t really need much more. Battery life is decent, lasting about 50 minutes on a single charge.
Like the other razors on this list, the 4500 can be used for either wet and dry shaving, which is always nice. Wet shaving is a much better choice for men with sensitive skin as it prevents the metal from making direct contact with the face.
As expected from Philips, the Norelco 4500 gets the job done, and is a great budget option for those looking for a quality rotary razor. It has most of the features you would want in an electric razor, and for most men, you wouldn’t really need to ask for much more.
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.