The age-old battle for domination of the shaving cabinet continues, with electric shavers versus razors getting both camps in a lather. Perhaps you're an electric enthusiast, but intrigued by the developments in razor technology over the past few years – vibrating heads, anyone? Or 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.
It's a close shave
A man will spend an average of five to six months of his life shaving. No wonder we want the easiest and most comfortable shave! 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.
Electric or razor?
The main differences between shaving methods come down to convenience and price.
Electric shavers are convenient and mess-free. 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 6 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.
Razors: What to look for
Razors with reusable 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.
Electric shavers: What to look for
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.
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
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 or oil to ease irritation.
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 shavers have a charging station that includes a cleaning system, but this locks you into buying that brand's cleaning solution, when all a shaver really needs is a good clean under the tap.
The good oil
Shaving aids dispense an oil or balm from a cartridge in the shaver to lubricate your skin while shaving. This can help with irritation, but it does lock you into buying products for that brand, and shavers that can be used wet can also be used with a balm, oil or a powder stick of your choice. Dry shave-only models should be OK to use with powder sticks, but check the manufacturer instructions.
Electric shavers range in price from around $35 for a cheap, mains power, no frills shaver, up to more than $500 for a self-cleaning waterproof model that will give you everything but hot towels and aftershave. The more expensive models generally give better results than very cheap ones, but previous CHOICE tests have found good models in the $100 to $300 range too.
Shaving systems can cost more than you think when you factor in ongoing costs. The price for the shaving system and a couple of cartridges may seem reasonable but when you go back for replacement cartridges you can pay anything from a few dollars up to $10 each. There is the added benefit of not adding extra plastic to landfill, as you do with disposables.
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.