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Foil vs Rotary Shaver: Which one is the best for you?

Foil vs Rotary Shaver: Which one is the best for you?

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It’s happened to all of us–we see a commercial for what we believe is the best electric shaver on the market. Now, months later, it’s sitting on our bathroom counter. Why? Yours might be like mine and, after a few shaves, it’s clogging with hair and shaving cream.

That’s normal, and you find yourself tossing more cash out the window for cartridges. Now, you’re thinking about weighing the pros and cons of a foil vs. rotary shaver. These shavers might be ideal for a quick morning shave, and, on average, they last for approximately twenty years.So, what have you got to lose?

Well, first, you must do some research. I mean, what if your skin is sensitive like mine? After I shave, my neck has a nasty razor burn. Let’s dive into some research and check out why a foil or rotary shaver might be ideal.

Foil vs. Rotary: Is There a Difference?

Foil vs. Rotary: Is There a Difference?

Now it’s time to get into the nitty-gritty of understanding the differences between foil and rotary shavers.

You’ll also see foil electric shavers under the name of electric cutters. They’re typically referred to as foil cutters because they have a thin layer of metal–foil–with holes that form a mesh pattern covering the shaver’s cutters. When you’re shaving, the holes in the foil capture the cut hairs.

Have you ever seen an oscillating fan or barber’s scissors moving back and forth? That’s what it looks like when a foil head is in action. When you’re using a foil head, one of the most significant issues you’ll come across is struggling with your facial contours.

The main reason is that the foil head has a rectangular shape. Therefore, there isn’t much room for pivoting. So, getting around your chin and nose is challenging with this shaver. The heads are noisy, too.

When you’re using a foil head, it’s a lot like mowing a lawn. You’ll be going either from left to right or up to down. If you go in a circular motion, you’ll probably receive less than optimal results and even a razor burn.

Now, when you look at a rotary electric shaver, you can tell the difference immediately because of their three-disc patterned assembly. The circular heads spin around so they can cut your beard incredibly quickly. Think about how a weed whacker works, and it’s the same idea.

Unlike the foil shaver, a rotary will contour and bend with your face. Most of them will flex inward and pivot 360 degrees. So, you can get around your jawline, chin, and nose.

As a side note, using a foil electric razor will deliver closer results on your cheeks and provide a smooth shave. Consumers have two options; therefore, they must make a compromise between contouring and closeness.

You’ll use the rotary shaver in a clockwise, circular motion, unlike the foil shaver. Trust me, don’t go up and down using a rotary shaver because the experience is miserable.

Design Differences

Foil shavers have four blades that don’t move as much as when you look at a rotary shaver. When you’re looking at a rotary shaver, you can see the rotary heads moving independently. These discs stay near the skin when reaching contours.

Differing Working Mechanisms

The mechanisms for the foil and rotary shaver differ considerably, as well. For example, when you look at a foil shaver, you’ll see a device with holes. That metal works by pulling hair toward blades that oscillate. You’ll also find a beard trimmer that lifts and guides hair as it cuts.

The rotary shaver is different because its mechanism contains three rotating heads in the shape of a triangle. These heads will move in eight to ten different directions, and the entire head will also move. Behind them are spinning clippers. They remove the hair that’s captured in the slot and linings of the head.

Speed Differences

It isn’t uncommon for consumers to believe rotary shavers have more speed because they have three moving heads. However, that’s not the case. Foil shavers have a higher rate. The main reason is that they have speed and vibration in their cutter. When they’re working, they can vibrate 14,000 cycles per minute. That’s why, unlike when using a rotary shaver, you don’t have to go over the same spot twice.

Blade Motion Differences

These devices also differ in how their blades move. You’ll find the blades within wheels on a rotary shaver. In essence, these wheels are spinning underneath the shaving head and cutting the hair as it enters the shaver. On the other hand, foil shavers have blades directly behind the foils. Then, the oscillating blades cut the hair strands that enter the shaver.

Technological Differences

Foil shavers use sonic technology to detect the density of hair follicles. Then, it will make necessary power adaptations for optimal shaving. The tech you’ll find in rotary shavers is wet and dry options. That means you have the option of using either foam or gel when shaving with them.

Why Are There Wet/Dry Options?

Okay, we’re talking about the differences between foil and rotary shavers, but how can we maximize their efficiency? 

When conducting your research, you may be noticing some of these razors are wet and dry even though these devices were originally designed for dry shaving.

Our next question, then: why is there a wet option? 

Even though it may seem like a logical solution, wet shaving with these devices isn’t possible when you are in the shower. I know, that would be awesome, but that’s not their purpose. Instead, you have to use them with high-quality shaving cream.

Now, let’s return to the original point I made earlier about having sensitive skin. If your skin is sensitive like mine, having a wet shave is the ideal solution. 


Each time you use shaving cream, it causes the follicles on your facial hair to swell. In turn, that makes shaving cream bond to it better and shaving more comfortable.

Therefore, if you find a foil or rotary shaver that has a wet option, you’ll likely receive a closer shave compared to using dry.

Things to Keep in Mind Regarding Foil vs. Rotary Shaver

Topics to Keep in Mind Regarding a Foil vs. Rotary Shaver

We’ve gone over the differences, but there are some key topics I want you to keep in mind regarding foil and rotary shavers.

How Close Is the Shave?

We’re all trying to achieve the closest shave, and some say the foil shaver gets us there. However, that’s not always true. Both shavers can deliver results regarding closeness. Remember, the most significant difference between the two shavers is the shape of the head.

If you’re trying to achieve contouring and straight lines, opt for the foil shaver. However, if you prefer not to shave every day, foil shavers are the best choice.

The Pattern of the Shave

The pattern of the shave is going to differ significantly between both shavers. You can move in circular patterns with the rotary shaver, but not up and down or side to side. Otherwise, you’ll experience razor burns. The same is true for foil shavers. If you’re not using the up and down or side to side pattern, you’ll experience razor burn by trying to use circular patterns.

Is Contouring Your Priority?

If contouring is your priority, then the foil razor is going to be nothing more than frustration. I have trouble getting around my nose and chin because it has limits regarding its flexibility. You can avoid this frustration by using the rotary razor.

Do You Need a Specific Cutting Style?

Maybe contouring isn’t your priority, but shaping your sideburns or beard is of interest. If that’s the case, the foil razor works best. You’ll receive a close shave while receiving straight lines.

Are You Looking for Easy Maintenance?

The foil razor is simple to maintain because the head pops off and, when you use compressed air, you can spray the hair out. Cleaning a rotary shaver is challenging for some as they tend to lose the discs or have difficulty getting the head to snap back into place.

How Do I Choose Between Foil and Rotary Shavers?

How Do I Choose Between Foil and Rotary Shavers?

Don’t worry; I’m not going to say it’s all a matter of personal preference and finish this. There are advantages to both of them depending on the thickness of your hair, your skin type, and, after that, your plan for their usage. 

Here’s what I mean:

Advantages of a Rotary Shaver

A rotary shaver is ideal if:

  • Your skin is irregular or tough—for example if you’re older and shaving isn’t something new;
  • Your beard density is medium to coarse, or you have coarse or thick hair;
  • It’s not your intention to shave daily–for example, you prefer shaving every other day;
  • You need to cut longer hair–for instance, you go for a weekend without shaving, and then you’re looking for a close shave;
  • Contour navigation is your goal;
  • The hair in your beard grows in different directions or you have long hair.

Advantages of a Foil Shaver

A foil shaver is ideal if:

  • You’re trying to achieve an incredibly close shave;
  • Shaving every day is your thing;
  • Your facial hair is fine;
  • You want precision around your sideburns;
  • A close shave on your cheeks is a priority;
  • Straight-line shaving is your habit.

Experiences with Cutting and Cleaning

Experiences with Cutting and Cleaning

You’ll find differences across the board with brands, prices, and models. Using a high-end rotary shaver might be better than a lower price foil one, but there are exceptions. For example, if you’re looking for closer, more accurate results, the lower price foil shaver is the optimal choice. 

No matter how many times I’m working with a rotary shaver, I have to go over some areas a few times. That’s the main reason why razor irritation occurs when using rotary shavers.

Ideally, cutting down stubble should occur using the least amount of steps possible. You may also feel the temptation to push down on the razor to achieve a closer shave. Instead, the shaver becomes less effective that way, and you’re increasing the chances of razor burn occurring.

If you’re looking for that bald feeling, the foil razor is the way to go. It creates that smooth feel everyone loves.

However, if you choose a cheaper foil razor, they’re frustrating to clean. When I’m using mine, I have to brush the hair away frequently. Using cans of compressed air helps solve that problem, though.

Separate Cleaning Stations

Remember, if you want your shaver to run optimally, you have to treat it like your car and maintain it regularly. That means replacing worn-out parts and keeping it clean.

The best part about newer electric shavers is many of them come with cleaning stations. So, they do all the work while you wait. The cleaning solution flushes contaminants out, lubricates the cutting elements, and then dries the unit.

Throughout the cleaning process, the cleaning cartridge also doubles as a charging station. So, when your shaver is cleaning, it’s charging simultaneously. Keeping it clean reduces skin irritation and extends the shaver’s life.

If There’s No Cleaning Station

If you’re new to shaving, I suggest picking a shaver with a cleaning station because it’s worth the investment. However, if this isn’t something you want to do, and you’re honest with yourself about being forgetful about cleaning your shaver, the rotary is your best option.


The main reason is that it doesn’t need frequent cleaning to achieve optimal performance.

Now, I’m not saying you shouldn’t clean a rotary shaver at all. What I’m saying is, if you forget to clean it regularly, it’s not going to hurt the shaver.

Why Should You Clean Your Shaver?

We lightly touched on why you don’t need to clean a rotary shaver often. However, is it a good idea to skip this maintenance? What happens if you aren’t keeping up with regular shaver cleaning?

If your skin is sensitive like mine, you’re in for a nightmare. You’re introducing a lot of bacteria and other contaminants to your skin each time you shave. As a result, you’ll be prone to acne breakouts. 

So, should you opt out of regular cleaning and shaver maintenance? 

My suggestion is, if you forget once in a while, that’s not a big deal. You probably won’t notice much of a difference. However, if you habitually forget, you’ll start seeing a noticeable difference in your complexion. That’s frustrating when you’re trying to achieve a close shave, and then, out of nowhere, breakouts appear.

Plus, you’re lengthening the lifespan of your shaver when you regularly clean it. If you invest in a high-quality shaver, the last thing you want to happen is for it to tank out on you because you’re not keeping it clean or well-maintained. 

What are the Pros and Cons of Foil and Rotary Shavers?

What are the Pros and Cons of Foil and Rotary Shavers?

I’ve tossed a lot of information your way so far, and I’m proud of you for keeping up! Now, we’re going to go over the specifics regarding the pros and cons of rotary and foil shavers. That way, you have the facts in front of you when making your buying decisions.

Pros of Rotary Shavers

  • Excellent for fast-growing, thick facial hair growing in different directions
  • Optimal for those who prefer not to shave daily
  • Generally, a solid-performing and all-around handy shaver
  • If you’re the type who will typically use a shaver in a hurry, using a rotary shaver is an excellent option
  • Makes little noise
  • Works exceptionally well with prominent facial features

Cons of Rotary Shavers

  • May potentially irritate those who have sensitive skin (be sure you’re using a circular motion with light pressure)
  • If you’re looking for precise shaving, this is not the recommendation (like for sideburns, for example)
  • Some think they are too pricey

Being highly selective when choosing a rotary shaver means you won’t experience disappointment following your purchase. If you conduct thorough research now by reading product reviews and balancing the positives and negatives, you won’t be stuck with surprises later.

I can wholeheartedly recommend a model of Philips Norelco Shavers, which one you choose depending on your budget. They are easily one of the best cordless and rechargeable electric shaving devices in the market. Some of them feature pop-up trimmers which ensure a clean shave. If you want to go for a cheaper yet no less trustworthy alternative, you can check out Remington’s rotary models as well.

Pros of Foil Shavers

  • You’ll achieve a close shave
  • Optimal for those with sensitive skin
  • It’s possible to achieve precise results
  • If you shave slowly and patiently, foil shavers are the best choice
  • If noise isn’t an issue, use a foil shaver
  • When shaving very close is of the utmost importance, use a foil shaver

Cons of Foil Shavers

  • You won’t receive optimal results if you work in circular motions, so you must go up and down
  • These shavers are not optimal for contouring
  • These shavers are frustrating to clean and keep well-maintained

I recommend being just as selective when choosing a foil shaver. The main reason is that, if you aren’t, you may expect specific results and end up with razor burns or the inability to contour instead. Turning to others for advice regarding their experiences is the best thing you can do before buying any shaver.

Braun Series 9 9291cc is easily one of the best foil shavers out there, but if its price is too much for you, you can also opt for Panasonic Arc3 or check out Remington’s foil models on Amazon.

Now that we understand the pros and cons let’s look at some additional key points regarding foil and rotary shavers.

Foil Shavers: 5 Key Points to Consider

  • The shaver’s quality and brand will dictate the price, but they generally run between $50.00 and $80.00 each.
  • Foil shavers are optimal for daily usage without irritation occurring.
  • Even though you can’t reach the contours of your face, you can achieve a close shave going straight, vertically, or horizontally.
  • You’ll find that these shavers must have frequent cleaning for optimal operation.
  • They are noisy compared to rotary ones, which might be a put-off for some.

Rotary Shavers: 5 Key Points to Consider

  • You can find a high-quality rotary shaver between $50 and $80.00 each.
  • If you prefer shaving once or twice weekly, this is the best choice.
  • Those who have thick or coarse hair receive the best results using this shaver.
  • You’ll have no trouble reaching facial contours and using circular motions.
  • It isn’t necessary to clean this shaver often, so if you’re forgetful, it doesn’t hurt its operation.

Wrapping Up

Your skin may not be sensitive like mine, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be careful when deciding between a foil and rotary shaver. For example, repetitive motions or pushing too hard with a rotary shaver could cause razor burn even if your skin isn’t sensitive. So, weigh your options carefully. 

The information I have here is not only based on research but also personal experience. Don’t forget to take into consideration the battery life when weighing the positives and negatives for foil and rotary razors. The last thing anyone who is shaving wants to experience is a unit that can’t hold a charge when they’re trying to achieve precise results.