Foil vs Rotary Shaver: Choose The Right Type of Electric Razor

Ever since their commercial introduction in 1931 and eventual popularity during the 1960s, electric shavers have become an essential alternative to daily men-care and self-grooming. The ease, mobility and functionality provided by electric shavers have steadily replaced the traditional cartridge razor blades in many households.

If you’re considering making the switch to electric shavers, you’re definitely making the right choice. However, there are a few factors to keep in mind before finalizing your decision. Which type of electric shaver is the right choice for you?

Electric shavers mainly come in two types: rotary and foil. Foil shavers have a design similar to the older, traditional razor blades, aligned straight and parallel to each other. Rotary shavers look a bit more unique, with a round head and signature rotating blades.

The choice between rotary and foil shavers often comes down to a matter of personal preferences, but more experienced users will advise you to be wary of the fundamental differences between the two types of electric shavers.

Worry not, for we are here to aid your curious mind. Read on to learn about rotary and foil shavers, and which one might be the right one for you!

Understanding Foil Shavers

For those new to electric shaving, the terms ‘foil’ and ‘rotary’ can seem confusing. Read on to understand what a foil shaver actually entails.

What are foil shavers?

Foil shavers are designed similar to traditional straight head razor shavers. The blades move via an oscillating manner and are placed behind a thin metal layer. This layer is called the ‘foil’, from which foil shavers get their name.

What are foil shavers

The foil of foil shavers is covered in a tiny row of meshed holes, called a perforation, which can pull the hair towards the blades and perform a smooth, close cut. The foil also protects the skin during the shaving process and helps lift the hair up so the oscillating blades can do their job.

Foil shavers usually have two to three straight heads, and each head contains blades that are vertically aligned with each other. The parallel placement helps trap the hair and offer the signature close shave that foil shavers are famous for.

The back and forth motion of the oscillating blades help cut the hair shorter than other types of shavers and the meshed foil helps prevent burns, cuts and irritation on the skin.

The oscillating blades of a foil shaver can cut up to 14,000 cycles per minute. This high-speed functionality combined with the foil acting as a safety net ensures maximum balance between efficiency and comfort.

The combination of these features means foil shavers are the go-to choice for men with sensitive skin, as the foil shaver reliably allows a safe, clean cut with the least amount of hassle.

How to use foil shavers

To get the most optimum shaving experience with your foil shaver, move the device in a long, straight pattern. Since the oscillating blades work close to the skin, the more straight you hold the device during operation, the better results you will get. The blades are precise and will perform best under a good balance of pressure with your hand guiding the direction.

Since the oscillating blades of foil shavers aren’t multi-directional like rotary shavers, a good way to go is to move the shaver vertically, up and down, to cover more surface area of your skin.

Keep in mind that when it comes to foil shavers, a larger shaving head will usually contain more blades, which would result in faster shaving time. However, an experienced user knows how to find a balance between the number of blades and efficiency in shaving results.

A foil shaver with a large head will be harder to carry, which impacts a key function of electric shavers: mobility. Nonetheless, they are usually still easier to carry than rotary shavers and can be easier to use for those more accustomed to traditional razor shavers.

Foil shavers: Factors to consider

Consider a foil shaver if you want a super clean and smooth shave. If you are planning to use a shaver to completely shave off your facial hair, foil shavers are what you are looking for. Foil shavers focus on a precise shave, so while they might not be as great with navigating contours like rotary shavers, they will offer a close shave on the cheek areas.

If you shave every day and want regular tune-ups to your facial hairs, consider foil shavers. While rotary shavers are better for longer hair, the converse is true for rotary shavers. The oscillating blades are perfect for cutting down finer facial hair, and since the foil acts close to the skin, the resulting experience is always comfortable.

Using foil shavers in a straight maneuver means a lot more surface area is covered at once, resulting in a more whole, clean look. Foil shavers are also easier to clean as they don’t require cleaning stations like most rotary shavers, and can often just be cleaned by a thorough rinsing on water.

On a whole, you should consider foil shavers if you shave often and have smaller and finer facial hair.

Recommended foil shaver brands

Braun Series 7 is one of the fan-favorites when it comes to foil shavers, combining affordability and functionality in one neat package. Braun Series 7 7071cc and Braun Series 7 790cc are two cost-effective foil shaver options to consider. If you want a bit more bang for your buck, Braun Series 9 9370cc offers more power and flexibility.

Panasonic is another brand to consider when it comes to foil shavers. Currently, Panasonic Arc 5 ES-LV65-S is favored by fans looking for an alternative to Braun shavers.

Understanding Rotary Shavers

Rotary shavers are a relatively new form of technology when compared to foil shavers. Read on to learn what exactly makes rotary shavers different from their foil counterpart.

What are rotary shavers?

rotary shaver

Designed to shave around the contours of the face, head and neck, rotary shavers offer a different brand of experience than foil shavers. Just how foil shavers are named after the signature foil that houses the oscillating blades, rotary shavers are named as such because of the ‘rotating’ motion of their blades. Rotary shaver blades are circular, unlike the straight head of foil shavers, and spin independently to each other.

One head of a rotary shaver usually contains three circular blades, which can rotate flexibly within the position and can retract back to their initial position after the operation. The independent circulation motion allows rotary shaver blades to shave in many directions at once, making rotary shavers the go-to choice for men with prominent jawline and facial outlines.

Despite the multi-directional blades working independently, rotary shavers make a lot less noise than foil shavers. Because the blades can cut in almost any direction, rotary shavers are easier to maneuver than foil shavers and do not require a specific straight, vertical handling.

While rotary shavers do not have a foil like foil shavers, they feature an outer stationary guard that helps keep the skin safe and allows better maneuverability of the shaver head. Experienced users tend to choose rotary shavers for a fast and easy shave.

How to use rotary shavers

When using rotary shavers, keep in mind that they are the best for handling the contours of your body. Be it the face, neck or jawline, if you want a good trim along those areas, this is where rotary shavers come in handy. So, for an effective shave, move the shaver along the contours, gliding it across the face and steadily along the neck. If you have facial hair scattered across your face, control the shaver in a circular manner.

Rotary shavers usually perform the best when maneuvered in a circular motion, as more surface areas are covered thanks to the multi-directional rotating blades. Unlike foil shavers, it is best to not use rotary shavers up and down your face, as you will struggle to get a smoother cut along the contours in that case. The rotary blades also allow a much quieter experience than foil shavers, making them relatively more hassle-free when using in a rush.

Because the rotary shaver head contains openings that allow all types of hair to easily enter, rotary shavers are often considered the catch-all choice for many different types of hair. Whether coarse or rough or soft, the rotary shaver can be used to cut hair beside the ones on the face and neck.

Rotary shavers: Factors to consider

Consider using a rotary shaver if you have tough skin and thick hair. If you are someone who has been shaving for a long time, a rotary shaver might be a good shift for you. The rotating blades are perfect for cutting through coarser hair and thicker beard density.

If you do not shave every day and only want occasional tune-ups to your facial hair, rotary shavers will help in that regard. Since they are designed to cut along contours, rotary shavers are perfect for casual shaves. In the same boat, rotary shavers are also great for long hair, as the multi-directional pattern will help trim and cut the hair more easily and quickly.

Rotary shavers often come with a cleaning station and it is recommended to clean and lubricate the blades after each use, which could prove to be a hassle if you are not familiar with the process.

On a whole, rotary shavers are the go-to choice in electric shavers if you shave occasionally, and if you have long and thick facial hair.

Recommend rotary shaver brands

While you can alternate between Braun and Panasonic for foil shavers, Philips is pretty much the most popular option for rotary shaver brands. Specifically, the Philips Norelco series is a must-have for any rotary shaver fans.

Our recommended models are Philips Norelco S9000 Prestige SP9820, Philips Norelco Series 8900 and Philips Norelco Series 9700. All of these are exemplary rotary shavers and offer a comfortable, quick shave as expected from rotary shavers.

Foil vs Rotary Shaver: User-based Differences

Despite the mechanical differences between foil and rotary shavers, there are other contrasting aspects between the two types of electric shavers as well. When considering user experience and everyday functionality, a few other differences can be noticed, which are mentioned below.

Foil vs Rotary differences

  • Skin sensitivity

Aside from the previously outlined differences between rotary and foil shavers, experienced users will suggest that skin sensitivity is the main influential factor between the two types of electric shavers. The rotating blades of rotary shavers may be very quiet during operation and super easy to navigate along contours of the skin.

However, compared to the smoother shave of foil shavers, rotary shavers can be a little less comfortable. Still, those with thicker hair may find foil shavers uncomfortable in the long run because the oscillating blades prefer shorter hair, as they perform quite close to the skin.

Ultimately, both types of electric shavers are a recommended way of avoiding the razor burns, rashes and cuts that traditional cartridge razors tend to leave behind. Because of the fundamental way in which electric shavers function, i.e. using a motor that automatically uses blades to cut the hair, they are primarily designed to reduce irritations on your skin.

Foil shavers, which work best when used in a vertical motion, have a built-in foil to protect the skin. Likewise, the stationary guard on rotary shaver heads helps keep the skin safe during the blade rotation.

  • Ease of function

While user preference is a subjective matter of discussion, it is a fact that rotary shavers perform much quieter than most foil shavers. The oscillating blades make more noise than the rotating blades, and thus, users looking for a hassle-free quiet cut should go for rotary shavers. But if noise is not a problem for you, foil shavers can be considered.

Regarding ease of usage, both types of electric shavers offer different forms of user comfort. Those used to the traditional cartridge razor shavers will find it much easier to get accustomed to foil shavers.

Foil shavers are held and used in essentially the same way as older types of non-electric shavers, and thus is recommended for those new to electric razors and thinking of making the shift. Foil shavers are also much easier to clean and wash than rotary razors.

On the other hand, some users will suggest that the recommended vertical motion of using foil shavers is old-fashioned and does not cover the purpose of shaving facial hair as efficiently as rotary shavers.

Rotary shavers are known for using blades that perform in almost any direction, and thus is better for a more casual trim, with a focus on places that are harder for foil shavers to effectively reach, such as along the Adam’s Apple and the jawline. Those with more prominent contours on the skin are suggested to opt for rotary shavers over foil shavers.

  • Wetness

Some electric shavers are labelled as both ‘dry’ and ‘wet’, which usually means that the shaver can be used in the bath or with shaving cream. Both foil and rotary shavers support shaving cream functionality, but since shaving creams are usually preferred for a cleaner smoother shave, foil shavers are often chosen for more user-friendly ‘wet’ functions.

If you are looking to use shaving cream with your electric razor, the recommended method is to have the cream lathered on your face for five minutes beforehand. The cream helps soften the cuticles and allows the hair to absorb water. This process makes the hair both soft and wet, allowing an easier shave and reducing skin irritations and cuts.

Using shaving cream with either rotary or foil shavers will give you a shave that is closer to the skin when compared to just ‘dry’ shaving. The ‘wet’ functions mean you get not only a close shave, but a more comfortable shaving experience thanks to the shaving cream support functionality.

Final words

If you went through all the points mentioned above, you should now be well aware of the differences between rotary and foil shavers, and hopefully closer to making the ultimate decision. Both foil and rotary shavers are the epitome of cutting-edge technology in electric shaving.

Depending on your preferences, personal requirements and need for comfort, you will not go wrong choosing either type to make the shift from cartridge shavers to electric shavers.

Hi, I’m Ross and I take hair care more seriously than most people ever will. Truth be told, I was tired of reading misleading, half-baked information on hair care and styling equipment. Life is too short for hair care products that don’t work. That’s why I have collaborated with a bunch of like-minded folks to help you buy the best hair products and gadgets.

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