Although some of us still prefer the traditional way of the blade for shaving, there’s no denying the convenience of electric shavers. They’re fast, can be used without much preparation and are generally safer than regular razors.
Electric shavers work similarly to hair clippers — they use blades moving in scissor-like motions to cut hair. However, electric shavers are covered by what’s known as a foil, or, in the case of rotary shavers, a protective disc.
These covers slightly push on your skin to reveal more of the hair and cut it, which is how the hidden blades can give such a close shave. This also protects your skin from coming into direct contact with the blades. But of course, the level of closeness and smoothness to your shave depends on the particular technology of each brand and model — which can range in price from under $30 to well over $300.
Overall, now that most electric shavers can be used with shaving cream, the right model can be comfortable and gentle on your skin while giving you almost as smooth a shave as a traditional razor.
Electric shavers buying guide
Here's what to consider as you sort through the options to find the best electric shaver for you:
• Foil vs. rotary shavers. When choosing an electric shaver, the first question is whether you want a foil shaver or a rotary model.
Foil shaver blades are hidden by one to five half-cylinder metal covers (or "foils"). The covers sometimes have a lifting trimmer in the middle to catch long hairs and prep them for the close-cutting blades. This style of shaver is best used mostly up and down, against the grain, and it generally provides a closer shave than rotary models. It’s also more effective for fine-tuning your shave, giving you more control around the ears or beard line, for example.
Rotary shavers, on the other hand, have three large circles with rotating blades inside. They’re good for fast, full-face shaving since they cover a large area, though they don’t provide as much control when shaving around the beard or sideburns.
The correct way to use a rotary shaver is by making circular motions. Rotary electric shavers are usually comfortable to handle and may be better at following the face’s shape, especially models with independent pivots on each disc. Due to their circular shape and motion, they can grab longer, flat-lying hairs so they’re recommended especially for people who don’t shave daily.
Both styles of electric shavers are available in models that can be used wet or dry, and there is great variety in terms of how close a shave they provide and how comfortable they feel on your face. Although foil shavers give you a closer shave overall, a $40 model will probably not outperform a $150 rotary shaver.
• Cross-cuts per minute. Cross-cuts per minute is the measurement of how many times the blades inside a foil shaver move back and forth. Although this can be related to the power of the motor, it’s not necessarily a representation of that power. Instead, it’s more accurate to describe it as the shaver’s speed. The more cross-cuts, the faster a shaver works, and the more area or quantity of hairs it can cut.
Unfortunately, this number is not stated by all models. It is usually only given in high-end shavers that range around 30,000 cross-cuts or more, and only foil shavers (not rotary models) mention this measurement. Also, bear in mind that any model’s ability to shave quickly will be hampered if you’re trying to use it on thicker and longer hair.
• CPM (Cycles per minute) and RPM (Revolutions per minute). Electric shavers often don’t advertise the power of their motors, and when they do, it’s not always a standard measure across the board.
However, when looking for shavers, you might see two units of measurement: CPM and RPM. These are essentially the same thing, both representing a motor’s power. The more power the motor has, the speedier the blades and the more strength it has to cut thick or denser areas. Still, electric shavers are meant for very short hairs in general — even very powerful models, for example, can only handle a three- to five-day stubble at most.
• Closeness. There isn’t really a verifiable way to tell how close a shave a model provides before buying it. Some brands advertise measurements like “0.05mm,” referring to the length of the hair left behind. But it’s not totally clear what that means — especially since not every brand does it. To gauge how close an electric model shaves, ask friends about the shavers they use, and watch videos and read reviews.
• Rechargeability. While there are still models that use AAA or AA batteries, the newest and most powerful work with built-in lithium ion batteries. Average run times are roughly 45 minutes to an hour, though professional models can last up to two hours.
Unfortunately, neither shavers nor clippers have adapted USB inputs such as micro-USB or USB-C. Something to look at, though, is if they provide a cable that is USB A on the other end so you can connect it to your phone adapter, external battery or laptop when traveling.
• Comfort. One major complaint about electric shavers has always been that they're not comfortable on the skin. Many people claim that they irritate their skin and pull on hairs, especially when users apply pressure to either attempt a closer shave or pass difficult areas such as the chin. Newer — and more expensive — shavers have heads (where the blades are) that can move independently from the body (the area you grip) to adapt to the contours and angles of your face and decrease the likelihood of uncomfortable pulling on the hairs.
Inexpensive models will move only up and down, but higher-end models can move in nearly every direction. The foils can also move up and down, similar to a see-saw, to avoid excessive pressure on the skin.
In rotary shavers, each of the three discs with blades inside have independent pivots, so they can move in any direction. This is one of the reasons rotary shavers are a lot more comfortable on the face, because of the amount of movement allowed by the pivot, and the three smaller ones moving each disc.
Best electric shavers and razors
1. Best overall: Panasonic Arc5 ES-LC97K Wet/Dry Electric Foil Shaver
With a motor advertised at 14,000 cycles per minute and 70,000 cross-cuts per minute, the Panasonic Arc5 provides, possibly, the closest shave among all electric razors. The fact that you can sometimes find it on sale for under $200 with a charging and cleaning station essentially makes it a no-brainer as the best value for a top-notch shaver.
It does have some competition, mainly the Series 9 by Braun, which is said to be gentler and more comfortable on skin. But the Braun is significantly more expensive at about $300 and doesn’t quite match the closeness of the Arc5’s shave. The Braun isn’t as powerful or fast either, rated at 40,000 cross-cuts per minute.
The Arc5 eliminates a downside common among foil shavers by featuring an incredibly flexible shaving head. The head can swivel in 16 directions, and the foils themselves move up and down for major comfort when gliding around the natural curvatures of the face. (You can also lock it in place, if you don’t want this movement.)
There’s a small trimmer on the back, to mark lines or tackle areas where hair has grown too thick for the foils. The trimmer easy to push out, and it extends far enough from the shaver's body to use with precision — this is something its rival, Braun’s Series 9, doesn’t do.
The Arc5 has a lower run time (45 minutes) than many other shavers in the $200 to $300 price range, but with the included charging station, you can easily recharge.
2. Editor’s pick: Braun Series 6 6075cc Wet/Dry Electric Foil Shaver
Braun shavers are probably the most recognized and respected in the market. Though the Braun Series 5, 7 and 9 are popular and often come highly recommended, the Series 6 seems to fly under the radar — and we think it’s an overlooked gem. You can find the shaver by itself for $100, or for $120 to $130 with the charging and cleaning station. That’s around the same price as the Series 5, and the Series 6 can sometimes even be cheaper depending on the bundle.
Unlike the Series 5, the Series 6 comes with a SensoFlex head, which means more movement to accommodate areas like the cheeks, chin and jawline. The foils are also flexible. They can move up and down to adapt to the skin as you press the shaver against it, or when you pass any curves. The slim design is nicely ergonomic, and the rubberized grip prevents it from slipping, which is an important feature since this shaver can be used wet and with shaving cream.
The charging and cleaning station helps keep it in working order without much hassle. Nevertheless, the run time is 50 minutes, so if you’re traveling or forget to put it in the base, you’ll have enough charge to shave a couple of times, easily.
One drawback users have found when comparing it to other models is that it’s not as good at picking up longer hairs. The trimmer in the middle of the foils is supposed to do that, but it’s not very effective. If you tend to shave very short stubble, though, you’ll get a smooth and comfortable shave.
3. Best for low prices: Remington F4 Comfort Series PF7400 Electric Foil Shaver
The marketplace is full of electric shavers that sell for $25 to $40, but it’s hard to find any in this price range with quality that can emulate regular razors. While the Remington F4 won’t necessarily shave as close as more expensive electric models, it does bring decent quality and many of the features of higher-priced options.
The Remington F4’s head has limited flexibility, but it can swivel up and down to provide a comfortable shave, especially by the jawline. The foils themselves also move up and down as they push the skin, just like in our other picks.
In a model at this price, the lifting trimmer between the foils might not catch all the longer hairs, but its presence does help. However, the Remington F4 kit includes an attachment (essentially a guard comb) that helps grab those longer hairs before you use the bare foils to shave. If that still leaves you hanging, it also has a regular trimmer on the back to take care of stubborn areas, fix your beard or line up your sideburns.
It’s rechargeable and has a very competitive run time of 50 minutes. It’s also waterproof and can be used in tandem with shaving cream or soap.
4. Best for barbers: BaBylissPRO FX02 Cordless Electric Foil Shaver
These simple double foil shavers are the ones you often see in barbershops. They don’t have the bells and whistles of consumer-focused shavers, and you might wonder why. What professionals need are long runtimes for a busy day, hypoallergenic foils for sanitation purposes, lots of power for smooth operation and, most importantly, reliability.
BaByliss offers all of this, and with style. The FX02 is part of the brand’s professional FX series that includes clippers and trimmers. And just like FX trimmers, the shaver shines due to power. This shaver is as powerful as the most expensive consumer-grade models, and it provides a very close shave while lasting up to two hours on a single charge — another selling point.
It comes with hypoallergenic titanium foils too. This reduces the risk of irritating clients’ skin or cross-contamination from person to person. Titanium is also extremely corrosion resistant, more so than any stainless steel, so it won’t be affected by moisture, sweat or being regularly washed.
Finally, the FX02 is very good when it comes to detail-intensive work. Both of its foils are separated by a small gap, and one is slightly taller than the other, meaning it can be used as a single foil when addressing areas near the ears or avoiding shaving parts of a fade accidentally.
At $120, and often found below $100 if you keep your eyes peeled, this BaByliss shaver is a great value for the power and reliability it offers, for both barbers and consumers.
5. Single foil portable option: Gamma+/Stylecraft UNO Single Foil Electric Shaver
Although Gamma+ markets the UNO as a professional single foil, it strikes an appealing balance for the average user as well. Its power, reliability and portability for the $50 price point is excellent value whether you’re a regular consumer with no need for additional features or a barber who likes to travel with his tools.
At only 3.2 ounces, it’s light, small and portable. Yet the UNO has a powerful 9,000 RPM motor that overshadows most single foil shavers on the market, and even some expensive multi-foil ones. It also has a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that provides a two-hour run time. That’s a very long time for a rechargeable shaver of this size.
It has hypoallergenic titanium foils like most pro shavers, and it comes with two different cutters for those who have specific preferences. One is called the crunchy cutter, meant for guided shaving as it’s loud when actually cutting hairs; the other is the forged cutter, which provides more power for a smoother, closer shave.
The UNO is a good companion to upkeep your stubble on the go without sacrificing power and reliability. However, if you feel like you can benefit more from replaceable AA batteries when traveling, look at the BaByliss FX01.