Foil vs Rotary Shaver: Which one Should You Choose?

(Last Updated On: March 6, 2021)


Table of Contents

It’s an age-old question: foil or rotary shavers?

Every person who uses a rotary or foil shaver has compelling reasons why each is better than the other. But are you aware of the differences between them?

When it comes to replacing an old shaver, you will always be bombarded with a series of questions pertaining to the best shaver.

Among the factors to consider are the price, design, and of course the performance features like wet or dry shaving.

In this post, we are all about learning the differences between a foil and rotary electric shaver. We’ll help you know the features that matter and when you should pick one over the other.

All about Foil Shavers


Jacob Shick designed and patented the original electric shaver in 1923. With the need to improve comfort in the shaving experience Remington perfected a shaver with micro-foils that could protect the skin in 1937.

Although the foil design has been developed and refined over the years, the fundamental principle remains unchanged.

Foil shavers contain a steel foil head with oscillating blades. They are typically referred to as reciprocating blades that move back and forth at high speeds. The foils have perforations which let the hair in allowing it to be cut by the blades at superfast speeds. They cut super close to the skin, and can, therefore, attain a close shave by lifting hair and getting below the skin.

Advantages of a Foil Shaver

Achieve a Smooth Shave

Most foil shavers come with two or three blades that clean in a straight line. They provide a clean look especially since they can be used on very fine hair.

Can Shave Every Type of Hair

Foil shavers have varying patterns on each foil. As such, they can work on different kind of hair including coarse hair with one pass. You will find foil shavers with a short slit, a long and wide slit pattern, and a rounder hole. The guiding holes have either a wavy or hexagonal pattern to allow different lengths of hair to get through the holes. This way, hair that is close to the skin can be raised even if it is lying flat, wavy, or coarse.

Faster Shaving Time

If you are looking for speed, you might be inclined to go with a foil shaver. This is because the blades spin at high speeds and can achieve a vibration rate of up to 14,000 cycles per minute. If you want speedy grooming, then you are better off with a foil shaver.

Better at Trimming Side Burns and Shaping Moustache

Since foil shavers are shaped in a rectangular manner, they can make a perfectly straight line making them ideal for tidy sideburns and mustache.

Easy to Maintain

Cleaning a foil shaver is as easy as running it under the water or using a cleaning station to remove stuck hair and shaving cream. If you are using a cheap foil shaver, you will need to remove the foils before rinsing the shaver under running water. But if you have a high-end design, all it needs is a quick rinse, drying and lubricating the foil head.

Drawbacks of Foil Shavers

They only shave in a straight/Vertical/Horizontal Position

If you like shaving using circular motions, you will find a foil shaver challenging to use. This is a crucial disadvantage since it does not fit the natural contours of the face. It, in turn, affects the overall shaving experience of a user who prefers a perfect shave while going around the face.

It is Noisy

The vibrations of a foil shaver are a clear indication that it is noisy. Many people agree that foil shavers are noisier than rotary shavers.

Factors that Reduce the Effectiveness of a Foil Shaver

Using it on long hair

If you do not trim long hair, it will mostly end up being trapped in the foils of the shaver. This will make it harder to get a close shave as the blades will reduce their effectiveness.

Not Drying the Shaver

Leaving a foil shaver wet is a guaranteed way of rust formation. You should always dry the shaver, lubricate it, and store it in a dry place; probably in its storage case.

Pressing it too hard against the skin

Your foil shaver will not achieve a clean look by pressing it on your skin. Instead, you risk having irritated skin. You should aim at being gentle and applying an aftershave.

Tapping the head too hard while cleaning it hard

A gentle tap is all it needs if you must do it. Otherwise, you risk damaging the mechanical parts which keep it working efficiently. Remember you invested a lot of money to own your foil shaver.

What about a Rotary Shaver?


On to our next type of shaver: The Rotary Electric Shaver.

# Preview Product Price
1 Philips Norelco Shaver 3800, Rechargeable Wet & Dry Shaver with Pop-up Trimmer, Charging Stand and Storage Pouch, Space Gray, S3311/85 Philips Norelco Shaver 3800, Rechargeable Wet & Dry Shaver with Pop-up Trimmer, Charging Stand and... $63.99
2 Ufree Beard Trimmer for Men, Cordless Hair Clipper, Shaving Kit for Mustache Body Nose Ear Hair Facial, Electric Razor for Men 7 in 1 Beard Grooming Kit Fathers Gifts for Dad Ufree Beard Trimmer for Men, Cordless Hair Clipper, Shaving Kit for Mustache Body Nose Ear Hair... $39.98
3 Head Shaver 7D, Wyklaus Upgrade Head Shavers for Bald Men, Head Electric Razor with Nose Hair Trimmer, IPX6 Waterproof Wet/Dry Mens Grooming Kit, Anti-Pinch, LED Display, USB Rechargeable Head Shaver 7D, Wyklaus Upgrade Head Shavers for Bald Men, Head Electric Razor with Nose Hair... $49.99
4 Detachable Head Shavers, SHPAVVER 5-in-1 Electric Razor IPX7 Waterproof for Bald Men, Wet/Dry LED Display Rechargeable 7D Rotary Shaver Grooming Kit with Type-C Charge (A) Detachable Head Shavers, SHPAVVER 5-in-1 Electric Razor IPX7 Waterproof for Bald Men, Wet/Dry LED... $39.99
5 Remington Shortcut Pro Self-Haircut Kit, Waterproof Cordless Electric Razor for Head, Beard and Body with Curved Blade and 5-minute Quick Charge Remington Shortcut Pro Self-Haircut Kit, Waterproof Cordless Electric Razor for Head, Beard and Body... $53.17
6 Philips Norelco Shaver 2300 Rechargeable Electric Shaver with PopUp Trimmer, S1211/81 Philips Norelco Shaver 2300 Rechargeable Electric Shaver with PopUp Trimmer, S1211/81 $44.96
7 AidallsWellup Head Shavers for Bald Men: Waterproof Bald Head Shavers for Men - Close Shaving Bald Head Shavers for Men Skull - Electric Head Shaver AidallsWellup Head Shavers for Bald Men: Waterproof Bald Head Shavers for Men - Close Shaving Bald... $49.99
8 Finishing Touch Flawless Legs, Leg Hair Remover for Women, Electric Razor with LED Light for Instant and Painless Leg Hair Removal Finishing Touch Flawless Legs, Leg Hair Remover for Women, Electric Razor with LED Light for Instant... $48.16
9 7D Head Shavers for Bald Men, SHPAVVER Detachable Head Shaver LED Display Dry/Wet Bald Head Shavers for Men, IPX7 Waterproof Head Shavers for Men with Type-C Charge 7D Head Shavers for Bald Men, SHPAVVER Detachable Head Shaver LED Display Dry/Wet Bald Head Shavers... $39.99
10 Ufree Electric Razor Foil Shavers for Men, Professional Beard Trimmer for Men Grooming Kit, Barber Clippers Hair Trimmer for Men, Birthday Gifts for Him, Shaving Kit with 4 Guards Ufree Electric Razor Foil Shavers for Men, Professional Beard Trimmer for Men Grooming Kit, Barber... $69.99
11 Electric Razor for Men, New Upgrade Electric Shavers for Men Cordless Rechargeable 3D Rotary Men Shaver,Wet/Dry Mens Shaver,Waterproof Mens Razor for Shaving Gifts for Husband, Dad,Boyfriend Electric Razor for Men, New Upgrade Electric Shavers for Men Cordless Rechargeable 3D Rotary Men... $28.99
12 Philips Norelco Shaver 7800, Rechargeable Wet & Dry Electric Shaver with SenseIQ Technology, Quick Clean Pod, Charging Stand, Travel Case and Pop-up Trimmer, S7885/85 Philips Norelco Shaver 7800, Rechargeable Wet & Dry Electric Shaver with SenseIQ Technology, Quick... $129.96

Rotary shavers have round heads with circular blades. The design of a rotary shaver usually involves three discs. They were designed by Philips which is a company that has maintained dominance in the creation of rotary shavers. Today, you will find sleek designs of this type of shavers aimed at different users.

The working of a rotary shaver is through spinning razors in the discs. They are designed to stay close to the contours of the face; it’s no wonder why both men and women prefer this type of shaver.

Advantages of a Rotary Shaver

Good for fast-growing, thick hair

The first attraction towards these shavers is their ability to deal with long hair. If you are not concerned with a daily shave but will mind taking it to the fourth day, this shaver is an ideal pick. These shavers are also great if you have tough skin that has endured long years of shaving.

Works on coarse hair

If your hair is coarse, it will most likely grow in different directions. This shaver will get you a close shave while working on tangled hair. The close shave will not be as good as the one you can get with a disposable razor or cartridge razor, but they are worth it for keeping irritation at bay.

Great for Contours

Rotary shavers can rotate their heads allowing them to make a 360-degree shave. They can bend and go around the face in all the places like under the nose and behind the ears. If you have a prominent Adam’s apple, high cheekbones, or a sharp jawline, you will be inclined to pick a rotary shaver over a foil shaver.

The fact that you will be making slow circular moves makes it easier on sensitive areas like the neck and underarms. They rarely miss spots meaning you will not be going over the same place twice.

Quieter than Foil Shavers

When compared to foil shavers, rotary designs are quieter. They will not irritate your eardrums if you take your time to shave.

Drawbacks of the Rotary Shaver

They do not offer a very close shave

Rotary shavers do not get close to the skin like foil shavers. It is no wonder why they are great for long hair. They are also not precise on straight, fine hair because of the independent rotation of the discs.

They are harder to clean

Rotary shavers have to be disassembled in many parts for cleaning. This makes it harder for people who want fast cleaning to go over every cleaning step and do a perfect job. It’s always important to follow the instructions on the manufacturer’s manual to keep your rotary shaver in good shaving condition.

Factors that may reduce the effectiveness of a Rotary Shaver

Applying more pressure than needed

You may feel the need to press a rotary shaver when trying to achieve a super close shave. But rotary shavers are not built that way. This means you will have to use a rotary shave in the manner in which it was designed, to work on hair growing in different directions.

Not Giving It Proper Cleaning

If your shaver does not come with a cleaning station, it is mandatory that you clean it properly. This will ensure the blades are in tip-top working condition. Failure to clean your rotary shaver will lead to blunting of the blades. Blunt blades are useless when it comes to neat shaving.

Dry Shave vs Wet Shave

This is one of the primary factors to consider when buying an electric shaver as it allows you to maximize the efficiency of your shaver.

A wet shave is preferred if you have thick and curly hair. This is because shaving cream protects the skin underneath while keeping the hair coarse enough to go through the blades.

But if you have fine, straight hair, it can easily get lost in the cream making it hard for the blades to efficiently capture all hair.

If you have sensitive skin, going with a wet shave will prevent irritation.

A dry shave is quick making it an excellent way to shave when you don’t have time for a wet shave in the morning. Electric shavers are ideal for dry shaves because have protective elements for the skin.

Finally Comparision Between Foil and Rotary Shavers

When it’s all said and done, the comparison between a foil and a rotary shaver comes down to 3 things and that is the blade movement, how they follow the contours of your head and face and basically how clean of a cutting job is done. Here are the details.

Blades design

Foil shavers have blades that are designed to move back and forth and that is the same motion you have to use while grooming yourself unless you want to get some unpleasant razor burns.  Thanks to the foil exterior, your skin is protected from the sharp blades lying beneath the foil. As a result, you get a smooth shave that is gentle on your skin.

On the other hands is the rotary shaver. Though it might seem a bit complicated a rotary shaver works through a spinning disk and its sharp blades. The rotary shavers are designed with three discs that deliver a safe and close cut. Just as the blades move in a circular motion, so should you groom in a similar fashion.

Adjusting to face or head’s contours

If you are a looking for a shaver that will work well with the contours of your face while grooming, go with a rotary shaver. Not only do they shave well even for those with long hairs but they also outperform foil shavers on flat surfaces such as your cheeks.

Foil shavers can cope well with flat surfaces, but you might end up spending more time to cover all the surfaces especially if you are going for a completely bald look. With high-end foil shavers, you can get precise cutting. But if you need a speedy shaver that works in a circular motion, a rotary shaver does a great job of conforming to your contours.

Actual hair cutting and cleaning

Just how precise is your razor when it comes to achieving a clean cut? Well, mostly it depends on the model or brand you are using. While some are manufactured with low quality, others are made to give a clean cut that lasts. But when it comes to comparing a foil to a rotary shaver, the differences are clear.

While a rotary shaver can be a bit frustrating to clean after a shave, you can easily achieve a more accurate shave with it than its rival. It’s a good pick for those looking to go bald with little frustrations.

On the other hands, a foil shaver takes time to clean up and has a decent cutting performance if you get a good quality foil shaver.

What’s best for sensitive skin?

Your skin’s sensitivity varies depending on how long you have been shaving. For most shavers, a foil shaver feels a bit easy on sensitive skin than a rotary shaver. However, with low quality foils shavers, you can still experience some roughness especially when the motor speed is slow. In most cases, whether you have a rotary shaver or a foil shaver, your experience will be shaped with how sensitive your skin is.

Wet and dry shaving explained

As the name suggests, wet shaving will involve the use of water.  Usually, you will use a manual razor, a shaving brush, and some shaving cream. Some electric shavers allow for wet shaving as well. The good thing about wet shaving is that it results in a smother and closer cut for an extremely clean look especially if you use the right technique.

Dry shaving, on the other hand, requires the use of an electric shaver and although it might not produce a cut as clean as wet shaving, it is a shaving technique that most men with sensitive skin can benefit from since it’s fast and less irritating to the skin. In fact, dry shaving can be done pretty much anywhere unlike wet shaving that requires you to have a set up in the bathroom.

After you have finished shaving

So you are done shaving now what next. Well after a clean shave the best way to keep your skin protected is to wash off the remaining hair with cold water. The reason why cold water is often recommended is that it helps to close down the pores of your skin to keep germs from getting into your skin. Plus, you can also use alcohol-free shave cream or balm to condition and hydrate your skin.

How to avoid Spread of Acne and Irritation?

Obviously, since you are no longer a teenager, this type of acne is not the same acne that is associated with adolescence.  It’s a different type of acne that forms when your skin gets irritated and hair follicles get clogged up thus forming the red bumps on your skin. It’s usually the dead skin cells that end up blocking the hair follicles thus causing the irritation after shaving. So how do you get rid of this type of acne? Well, here are a few methods you can use:

  • Applying shaving cream – If you are wet shaving, chances are you are cutting too close to the skin and some of the dead skin cells will definitely end up clogging your hair follicles. By simply applying some shaving cream, you can reduce this effect and prevent acne pimples from forming on your skin. Go with thinner shaving cream as they produce better results than rivals.
  • Do not go against the grain – Here it’s all about your shaving technique. Going against the grain puts a lot more strain to your hair follicles and the result is a discomforting irritation.  Prevent this by shaving down and not up against the grain.
  • Buy an electric razor – This is a great option for those with sensitive skin. Since an electric razor does not cut as close to the skin as wet shaving with a blade, it rarely causes acne breakout and it tends not to cut them too much dead skin in the process. If you don’t like electric shavers, go with a single-blade razor. Be careful however as single blade razors require advanced shaving techniques.
  • Use warm water and a mild-alcoholic free toner – after you are done shaving, first rinse your face with some warm water. You can do the same even before shaving if you are wet shaving.  By rinsing your skin with warm water, you make your skin more supple while preparing your hair for a cut. You can also apply an antibacterial gel or some mild alcohol-free toner to kill the bacteria that cause acne under your skin.

Charging time and portability

Apart from the speed of an electric shaver one of the biggest concerns that most users have about their electric shaver (foil or rotary shaver) is the battery life and portability. In terms of portability, most electric shavers are compact enough for travel. When it comes to an electric shaver’s battery life you can get the best out of your electric shaver by simply charging the battery in the right way. Here is what you need to do:

  • Make sure you completely discharge the battery before another recharge. By exhausting the battery you reduce the voltage depression that affects most batteries.
  • Do not overcharge your shaver or leave it plugged in overnight. It can cause voltage depression on your battery
  • Next, you need to consider what type of battery you have. Batteries made of Nickel Metal Hydride (Ni-MH) are known to hold more charge with Lithium Ion batteries coming in second and Nickel â€“Cadmium batteries being the poorest at charge retention.

Two of the Best Rotary Shavers

Factors to consider when buying a rotary shaver

If you are going with a rotary shaver, here are a couple of things to keep in mind.

Blade options

Having more than one blade to switch from is a plus for an electric shaver. In fact, it is recommended that you replace your blades at least once a year or sooner if possible.


Here it’s all about how good the electric shaver feels in your hands. Since you will do most of the shaving on the go, you will want to pick a portable model that is easy to use as well.

Power source

Even though corded shavers are outdated nowadays, they still offer the convenience of not thinking about charging. You can also pick a plug-in shaver or a battery powered shaver depending on how you like it.

Philips Norelco Electric Shaver 3100

If you are looking for an entry level shaver that is pocket-friendly, the Philips Norelco Shaver 3100 is a good choice. It comes with a comfortable cutting blade system and a pop-up trimmer at the back of the shaver which can be quite handy for cutting your goatee or sideburns into shape.

Sure it’s not a premium look, but for its price, this shaver is made of quality material with a lightweight and balanced body that is easy to hold.

It’s not designed for wet shaving however it can handle being cleaned with running tap water.


  • Comfortable grip
  • Quality build
  • Features a pop-up trimmer
  • Waterproof design that is easy to clean


  • The pop-up trimmer is not that good
  • You cannot use this shaver with a shaving cream

Philips Norelco Shaver 3100

At a slightly higher price than the Norelco 3100, the Philips Norelco Shaver 4500 brings about some quality premium features in a cheaper electric shaver. It is designed to fulfill the needs of men looking for a shaver that will follow the contours of their faces for a clean and close shave.

Apart from being a great value for the money, this shaver has a dual precision head that allows you to shave short and long stubble. Basically, it works well for cutting facial hair that grows in different directions.

It also has a popup trimmer, a pivoting head and an LED interface that is great for checking the charge level.


  • Capable of wet and dry shaving
  • Can be used with cream
  • Works well for neck and chin shaving


  • Uses a weaker motor than premium models

Two of the Best Foil Shavers

Factors to consider when buying a foil shaver

Here is what you need to keep in mind before going for a foil shaver.


With a foil, shaver speed is important if you want a clean shave. No, am not talking about your speed of shaving rather am referring to the speed with which the blades are moving.  Faster CPM (cycles per minute) results in a better shaver.

Battery life

Most shavers nowadays are battery powered hence the biggest concern for any user is how long the battery lasts. Here you get what you pay for. Higher end models provide quality lithium-ion batteries that can last on a full charge for a week.

Wet and dry shaving capacity

It’s a good choice to go with a shaver that gives you the option of shaving both wet and dry. Considering wet and dry shaving both come with a different set of pros and cons for different people, getting a shaver that allows you the convenience is a safe choice.

Philips Norelco Shaver 4500

This Series 9 Braun shaver is a successor to the Series 7 and was released back in 2015.  It is one of the most advanced premium shavers you will find out there as it features a new silver color treatment not to mention an automatic charging and cleaning station.

Among its top features is a flexible shaving system that offers precision. You can use it for both wet and dry operations which also mean its waterproof and can be submerged in water for a maximum of 5 meters.

As you would expect at its price range, this shaver has a bunch of accessories and boasts of a quality ergonomic design that is worth the money.


  • Quality performance
  • High-quality ergonomic design
  • Lightweight construct
  • A variety of accessories


  • Expensive

Braun Electric Shaver, Series 7 790cc

Even though the Braun Series 7 is an older model compared to the Series 9, it still packs a lot of punch especially for people looking for a premium shaver at a lower price.

It boasts of a capacity to capture more hair thanks to 1000 per minute micro vibrations that give you an effective shave. It has 3 personalization modes that allow you to switch from an extra sensitive shaving mode to an intense mode depending on your skin

You can also take advantage of its 3 individual cutting elements with blades that can be depressed independently for your convenience.


  • Comfortable premium design
  • Comes with a decent cleaning station
  • Durable build
  • Long battery life


  • It is a dry only operation
  • A bit pricey but worth it

Can I use a foil shaver for my pubic hair?

Look, even though many guys are curious about using their foil or rotary shaver on their pubic hair, it is a totally bad idea. You see, both rotary and foil shavers have blades that move fast either in an oscillating motion or a circular motion making them quite risky for your private parts. Plus, it’s hard to adopt a back and forth or circular shaving motion for your pubic hair as it grows in different directions. The best solution here is to get a proper pubic hair trimmer.


Choosing between a foil and electric shaver comes down to your preferences and personal taste. We believe we have shed enough light on these shavers with the hope this information will guide you as you pick your next shaver. Being electric shavers, you have the convenience of close shaving without common irritation caused by razors.

Go on now and pick the best electric shavers for March 2021 with trust and confidence.

10 thoughts on “Foil vs Rotary Shaver: Which one Should You Choose?”

  1. Good, comprehensive article. I sell both rotary/foil on eBay, and buy foils for myself. It is amazing to think some of us are die-hard foil shaver fans, while others are strong advocates of the rotary shaver. One thing I have found over several decades….shave first with the grain of your whiskers, then against. The initial run takes much of your whiskers off and allows the second run to give a close shave. Finally, I’m phasing out battery shavers. I am finding, through much research, there are a few brand new, old stock cord only shavers that work much better than battery rechargeables. No charging, no discharging, no batteries dying out and throwing the shaver out. But many people who don’t have an outlet in their bathroom, or like to shave in their vehicle, will prefer battery shavers. The very best foil electric is the Remington XLR series….their high speed, 60 cycle, AC motor is fast compared to today’s DC, low-torque battery shavers. Overall, a good article…good shaving!

  2. Such an amazing post. Thanks for this great post, I find it very interesting and very well thought out and put together. I look forward to reading your work in the future.

  3. Very clear and well thought-out. Rather than presenting a long list of technical details, this comparison site focused on the much smaller set of attributes that actually matter to users and help users make good, well-informed buying decisions.

    I spent the last two hours on various sites trying to find the razor that was best for me and was no closer to an answer than when I started. I spent 5 minutes on this site and was able to identify the right razor for me, and I am very confident with that decision. That didn’t just happen by accident – it happened because this site is very well conceived and designed.

    • Hi Ralph I’m glad you like it and yes I have done my best to break down the information as simply as possible, so it’s easier for buyers who are looking for an electric shaver to make an informed buying decision.

  4. This was so helpful I just had to leave a comment. I’ve been researching for two days on an electric razor to get my boyfriend for Christmas. He’s in the military and has sensitive skin. This was a great find and I wish I found it yesterday. I know what to get now! Thanks!

  5. I’m very much glad to find this article. It gives me some great Information that I’m looking for and I hope you have a great knowledge about It. Thanks and keep sharing 🙂


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