Men's electric shaver and razor buying guide
Electric or manual hair removal – which is the best shaving method for a smooth operator?
Looking for a smoother shave?
The age-old battle for domination of the shaving cabinet continues, with electric shavers versus razors getting both camps in a lather. Maybe you're thinking it's time to cut the razor and switch to electric, but you're not sure if the other side of the fence is smoother?
Want to know how we get our review results? Check out how we test electric shavers.
It's a close shave
A man will spend an average of five months of his life shaving and with that much time spent in front of the mirror, it's no surprise you'll want your shaver to be convenient, easy to use and tame your beard quick smart. And being hair-free doesn't come cheap. Electric shavers can cost more than $500. Disposables may seem like a cheap option, but they sure add up when you're using them. Every. Single. Day.
Each system has its pros and cons, and most often it will come down to personal preference. But with comfort and cost at stake, read on to find out which method is for you.
The main differences between shaving methods come down to convenience and price.
Electric shavers are convenient and mess-free. They can come with a range of features like multiple shaving heads, cooling heads, sonic vibration and shaving sensors that determine differences in beard density and adjust the power accordingly. A good shaver is less likely to leave nicks and razor burn than a razor. But the initial outlay can be expensive, especially if you find you don't like electric shavers. You'll probably only need to replace the head every six to 12 months, but this can cost around $80 in the more expensive models.
Razors are cheaper, they often give a closer shave, and there's no need to recharge. But they're messier to use and more likely to nick or cut the skin. You're also locked in to a brand's blades – which is tricky when you go shopping and can't remember if you have a Fusion, Mach, Hydro or Quattro, or if you're just getting confused with Transformer toys.
Either way, comfort is a personal thing. Some men find the electric shaver more comfortable, others the razor. Often it's just down to what you (and your skin) are used to. Whatever you decide, you need to give your skin time to adjust to the change.
Razors with reuseable handles and replaceable blades are called shaving systems. Most of these come with three, four or five blades, and some also come with a trimmer blade on the back of the blade cartridge.
Disposable razors are sold in multi-packs and are significantly cheaper than shaving systems. Disposables range from cheap and nasty versions that may leave you reaching for the band-aids, to models with multiple blades that deliver a similar quality shave to the one you'd expect from a razor shaving system.
Here are some more features to look for in your razors:
Multi-blade = better results
Razors with three or more blades are likely to give you a closer and more comfortable shave than razors with just one or two blades. More blades give the razor the best chance of shaving closely and cutting as many hairs as possible.
Powered vs manual razors
Battery-powered razors with oscillating blades look impressive, but we haven't found they work any better than standard manual razors.
Lubrication strips soothe the skin after the blades have shaved the stubble. Some of the disposable razors with a lubrication strip can deliver just as good a shave as a cartridge razor system but make sure they have multiple blades and a swivel/pivoting shaving head.
All the trimmings
Trimmer blades are useful if you need to trim around sideburns or a beard. Guards beneath the razor blades also help to smooth the skin before the blades cut the stubble.
Like their manual competitors, electric shaver manufacturers are always looking to add new features to their models. Multiple pivoting shaving heads, a cooling head to soothe the skin, sonic vibration to help lift and capture more hair, and variable levels of shaving intensity are some of the features you'll find.
Rotary or foil?
Rotary shavers use two or three rotating heads to lift and cut the hair. Foil shavers use oscillating blades beneath a perforated foil to cut the hair. Each type is said to train hair to grow in a particular direction, so if you're switching from foil to rotary or vice versa, give your face at least a month to adjust - similarly when switching from a manual razor to an electric shaver.
- Mains operated shavers only work when they're plugged into a power point making them less flexible.
- Mains rechargeable shavers can be used when they're plugged in and recharging, or when they're running off the battery.
- Rechargeable shavers cannot be used when they're being charged.
- Battery shavers are convenient and ideal for shaving on the go.
Battery-powered models are more convenient than having to plug your shaver in to a power point. Some models use a Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) rechargeable battery which is fine but lithium-ion (li-ion) batteries are becoming more common and may last longer. An indicator that tells you how much battery is left would be handy, but most new models have enough power for at least one shave after only five minutes of recharging from a dead flat battery.
Wet and dry options
Give you the option to shave with or without water. Waterproof models (often called wet and dry) can be used in the shower. They can also be used for shaving with water or a shaving balm, oil or foam to ease irritation.
All shavers will require manual cleaning to some degree and cleaning under water is enough for the most part. If you don't think you need a wet and dry shaver, at least make sure you can clean your shaver under a running tap. Some come with a brush to remove hair and then there are shavers that come with a cleaning dock where the shaver cleans itself while recharging. Other models we've seen have a sonic vibration cleaning mode feature.
Adjust to the curves in your face and neck to assist shaving.
If you like to style your moustache, beard or sideburns, this feature is essential. A trimmer can be attached to the shaver or come on a separate head.
Low battery indicator
Is a helpful visual indication that it's time to recharge the battery.
Head tilt lock
Locks the shaver head in position (either a single position or multiple positions). It can be particularly useful when shaving hard to reach areas.
Electric shavers range in price from around $60 for a basic model, up to around $600 for all the bells and whistles. In our testing, we generally find that a clean shave doesn't come cheap.
A pack of disposable razors can cost less than a dollar per razor, but avoid the cheapest disposables if you want a close and comfortable shave.