The problem with electric razors is choice. As technology has improved, so has the number of options. Here’s how to choose the best one for you.
The Big Choice: Foil vs. Rotary
Before you pick a specific electric razor, you need to decide which of the two types is better for you.
Foil shavers tend to get you a closer shave and are better for people who shave every day. The thin layer of foil on the shaver works to both catch facial hair so it can be cut and ensure the blades don’t come in direct contact with your skin. You use them kind of like you would regular razors, moving up and down in basically straight lines. The design of a foil shaver also means you can be more precise when shaving around a beard or sideburns, and most will give you a quicker shave than the average rotary shaver.
If you shave only a couple of times a week, or if you have coarser hair, a rotary shaver is probably better for you. Unlike a foil shaver, the cutting heads on a rotary shaver catch the hairs and cut them, which can pick up coarser hairs that the tiny holes on a foil shaver would pass over. Unlike foil shavers, rotary shavers are used in a circular motion and their highly-flexible cutting heads mean they can more easily handle the contours of your face.
The Best Foil and Rotary Shavers
The best shaver Philips Norelco makes—wet/dry shaver that clean itself and comes with a face-cleaning brush attachment.
A step down from the 9700 without sacrificing too many features, a good rotary pick for the more money conscious.
The ultimate budget pick when you need something good but simple. Also a good pick as a backup if your go-to shaver craps out mid-shave.
Braun has focused singularly on foil shavers for decades, and that dedication pays off with the Braun Series 9, the best foil shaver you can possibly buy.
Braun’s next-in-line Series 7 will give you nearly as close a shave and all of the main features you’ll need at a considerably cheaper price.
This shaver combines modern features like a lithium-ion battery and USB charging with a vintage design.
Remington is an old stand-by when it comes to electric shavers, and you don’t get as much for so little like you do with the F5-5800.
Braun has been making foil shavers since the 1950s. Their best is the Series 9 electric shaver ($310). It’s a wet/dry shaver, has a more flexible shaving head than many foil shavers, and comes with a charging/cleaning stand. If you want to save a hundred bucks, though, The Wirecutter, GQ, and others have found Braun’s next-in-line Series 7($200) has all of the important features of the Series 9 and will give you nearly as close a shave. Both Brauns work whether your face is wet or dry and are 100 percent waterproof.
The Philips Norelco Shaver 9000 ($300) is the rotary equivalent of Braun’s Series 9. It is also a wet/dry shaver, and will clean itself at the push of a button when dropped in its base filled with cleaning solution. Unlike the Series 9, however, The 9000 comes with a face-cleaning brush attachment. Though less important than the actual results, rotary shavers also tend to be quieter than foil shavers.
If you want to save money and aren’t worried about a super close shave—maybe you like the stubble look—Philips Norelco also sells the 2100 ($30). It won’t last nearly as long, but you could buy 10 of them before you hit the price of the 9000. Or head for more of a sweet spot like the 8900 ($150). It’s half the price and still has features like wet/dry shaving and a snap-on beard trimmer.
The Wahl 5-Star shaver ($60) is a favorite of barber shops for a reason. It’s small, with a comfortable grip and lasts up to 60 minutes between charges. If you don’t want to worry about battery life, you also have the choice of using it corded.
At $41, Remington’s F5-5800 model is The Wirecutter’s top overall budget pick. For a little more money, the HF9000 Heritage Series ($137) combines modern features like a lithium-ion battery and USB charging with a vintage design.
Travel shavers aren’t just smaller than regular electric razors, they’re designed for travel, generally with removable (easily replaceable) AA batteries instead of a built-in rechargeable battery, or a travel lock so they won’t accidentally turn on in your luggage. They’re also less expensive than most electric shavers, and there’s no reason you can’t use them even when you’re at home. We certainly won’t tell.
If you’re looking for a rotary travel shaver, Philips Norelco 510 is compact, which means you’re only getting two shaving heads instead of three.
This shaver is washable, runs on a pair of AA batteries, and is designed for wet/dry use.
Panasonic’s ES3831K ($15) and Braun’s M90 ($23) are both good foil razers that are washable and run on a pair of AA batteries, but only the Panasonic is intended for wet/dry use. If you’re looking for a rotary travel shaver, Philips Norelco’s Shaver 510($19) has an unbeatable price and a compact design that keeps it from taking up much space in your dopp kit. But that small size comes at a cost: It has only two shaving heads instead of three.
Some Last-Minute Shaver Care Tips
Whatever shaver you choose, be sure to read the maintenance instructions. They can vary quite a bit from brand to brand.
If you keep your razor clean and replace the foil or cutter heads (usually every 12-18 months), your electric shaver should easily last five to seven years, which is also the warranty on Braun’s higher-end shaver.