Foil vs. Rotary Electric Shavers: Which is Right for You?

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Choosing the right electric shaver can be tricky, especially when deciding between foil and rotary technology. Both foil and rotary shavers are offered at a range of prices, with more expensive models delivering faster and more comfortable shaves while also including more convenience features like cleaning stations.

Each technology has its benefits, but it all comes down to your preferences and experience. With features and prices being offered across both technologies, the choice of shaving technology plays a significant role in determining the quality of your shave.

Major electric shaver brands focus on only one type of shaving technology. Braun and Panasonic produce foil shavers, while Philips Norelco focuses on rotary shavers.

Just want a summary of what matters? Here is a quick overview:

Shaver Type


Key Advantages

Foil Shavers

  • Braun
  • Panasonic
  • Remington
  • Closer shave
  • Quicker shave
  • Better for sensitive skin
  • Easier maintenance

Rotary Shavers

  • Philips Norelco
  • Remington
  • Quieter during operation
  • Can be used on head and other body areas
  • Better for thicker or curly facial hair
  • Easier to use on neck & jaw line

Already know the type of shaver you want? Head over to our article on the best electric shavers to see what models we recommend for the price, value, and features they offer. 

Foil Shavers (Braun & Panasonic)

Foil vs. Rotary Electric Shavers: Which is Right for You? 1
Braun’s Series 5 shaving head showing the oscillating cutting elements and foil covers.

Foil shavers are designed with a thin metal screen that captures and guides hair into the cutting blades. The cutting blades are made of either titanium or stainless steel and are located beneath the screen. They move back and forth rapidly in a linear motion to ensure a uniform cut close to the skin. 

This design not only offers a close and comfortable shave, but it also protects sensitive skin from cuts or nicks. By keeping the skin from direct contact with the blades, foil shavers are an ideal choice for people who prefer a clean-shaven look but have sensitive skin.

When deciding between budget and premium foil razors, it’s important to consider the number of cutting elements and pivot points they offer. Cutting elements refer to the number of blades or foils used to cut the hair; a higher number of cutting elements usually means a closer shave. Pivot points refer to the flexibility of the shaver head, which enables it to contour to the curves of your face. The more pivot points, the more flexible it is, resulting in a smoother and more comfortable shave. 

If you want a closer and more comfortable shave, a premium foil razor with more cutting elements and pivot points might be the better choice for you. Braun and Panasonic’s premium models, such as the Series 9 and Arc5, include more foils and cutting elements than cheaper models. These elements are designed to handle different hair lengths and make it more likely to trim all hair with one pass. In addition to various cutting elements, premium models often allow shaving heads to rotate in several ways, so they better follow your face’s shape. 

Cheaper razors from these brands typically limit the shaver head pivoting to one direction (side to side) and include fewer cutting elements, which results in you having to pass over the contours of your face at different angles to trim all hair. These additional passes can cause skin irritation and take longer to complete your shave.

Braun Series 3 Proskin 3040s

Braun’s Series 3 models have limited movement of the shaving head. This can make it difficult to shave along the neck & jawline.

Panasonic Arc5 ES-LV67-K

Panasonic’s Arc5 allows for significantly more movement of the shaving head. This allows the foils to better follow the contours of the face.

Advantages of Foil Shavers

More Efficient: Advanced shavers from Braun & Panasonic include multiple cutting elements, each engineered to target hairs of various lengths for a more efficient shave, reducing the number of passes needed to complete most shaves.

Better for Sensitive Skin: Foil shavers are gentler and require fewer passes than rotary shavers, reducing the chances of skin irritation.

Simplicity of Maintenance: With a shaving head structure less prone to trapping hair, manual clean-up is straightforward – a simple rinse is often all that’s needed.


Braun Series 7 790cc with Clean and Charge

Braun Series 7

If you’re looking for a top-quality foil shaver, the Braun Series 7 is the one to get. It consistently delivers a smooth, close shave that most people love, and the best part is that it’s widely available for under $200.

To get the best results, make sure to use it on a daily or every-other-day basis.

Foil Shaving Tips

  1. Shave against the grain: Foil shavers work best when you shave against the direction of hair growth. This technique helps the shaver lift the hairs and cut them more precisely. Additionally, shaving against the grain reduces the chances of inflammation, ingrown hairs, and other forms of irritation commonly associated with shaving. 
  2. Keep it clean: Regularly clean your foil shaver after each use to prevent hair and debris from clogging the blades. For convenience, some foil shavers come with a cleaning brush or a cleaning station.
  3. Replace the foil and blades: Over time, the foil and blades of your electric shaver will wear out. Replace them according to the manufacturer’s recommendations to maintain optimal performance and a close shave.
  4. Use gentle pressure: Unlike manual razors, pressing too hard with a foil shaver can reduce its effectiveness and cause irritation. Let the shaver glide over your skin with gentle, steady strokes.
  5. Prep your skin: For the best results, shave after a warm shower or use a pre-shave lotion to soften the hair and open up your pores. This will make it easier for the foil shaver to glide smoothly over your skin.

Rotary Shavers (Philips Norelco)

Philips Norelco 9300 our best rotary shaver
Philips Norelco Rotary Shaver

The blades on rotary shavers are housed within (typically) three pivotable heads, allowing them to easily adapt to facial contours, especially along the neck and jawline.

Rotary shavers are better suited for handling uneven and curly facial hair than foil shavers. This is because foil shavers require hair to feed through foils before reaching the cutting elements, which can be challenging for uneven or curly hair. On the other hand, rotary shavers sweep all hair into the cutting element without feeding through foils.

However, it is worth noting that some people may experience an uncomfortable pulling sensation when using rotary shavers.

More expensive and advanced models from Philips, like the Norelco 9800, have improved shaving heads, resulting in closer and faster shaves than their cheaper competitors, but rarely delivering as close as the most advanced foil shavers.


Philips Series 9000 9800 Shaver

Philips Norelco Series 9000

Our choice for a rotary shaver is the Philips Norelco Series 9000. It delivers a close and powerful shave that can get through thicker stubble. Recent models include pop-up trimmer instead of an attachment, making them more user-friendly.

We recommend the Series 9800 model, but if you’re on a budget, the Series 9400 offers the same quality shave without the charging stand and cleaning station.

Advantages of Rotary Shavers

Enhanced Contouring: The independent movement of the shaving elements allows rotary shavers to excel at navigating the jaw and neck, notoriously tricky areas to shave.

Coarse and Lengthy Hair Management: If you have thick or long stubble, using a rotary shaver can provide a better experience, especially if you wait a few days between shaves.

Decreased Noise Levels: When a shaver’s loud buzz is undesirable, rotary shavers typically offer a quieter shaving experience than their foil shaver competitors.

More Veristile: Rotary shavers can shave the head or other body parts. The independently moving shaving heads and ability to capture hair of different thicknesses allow them to be used on areas other than the face.

Related: The Best Rotary Shavers

Rotary Shaving Tips

  1. Follow a circular motion: Rotary shavers are designed to work in a circular motion, so use small circular movements when shaving. This helps the blades capture and cut the hair effectively from different angles.
  2. Adjust for contours: Rotary shavers are great for navigating your face and neck contours. Tilt the shaver slightly and move it in circular motions to cover all areas evenly.
  3. Replace the shaving heads: Just like foil shavers, the shaving heads of rotary shavers can wear out over time. Replace them regularly to maintain peak performance and ensure a close shave.
  4. Keep it charged: Rotary shavers perform best when fully charged. Make sure to charge your shaver regularly and consider investing in a model with a quick charge feature for convenience.
  5. Clean the shaver head: After each use, remove the shaving head and clean it thoroughly to remove any hair and debris. Some rotary shavers come with a cleaning brush or a cleaning station to make this process easier.

Which shaver is best for you?

In conclusion, when it comes to choosing a shaver, you need to prioritize your preferences. If you are looking for a close shave and enhanced comfort, foil shavers such as Braun Series 9 or Panasonic Arc5 may be the best choice for you. However, a rotary shaver may be a better option if you prefer flexibility and a quieter shave.

It is important to remember that both types of shavers have their own advantages and disadvantages, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Ultimately, it all comes down to what you value most in a shaver.

Therefore, take your time to research and compare different models before making a decision. Consider your personal preferences, skin sensitivity, and hair thickness to choose the right shaver that will provide you with the best shaving experience. With the right shaver, you can achieve a smooth and comfortable shave every time.

Related: The Best Electric Shavers