Advice & Knowledge

Rotary vs Foil Shavers

Written by Advice Team on April 13, 2017

If you’re reading this article, you may be considering switching to an electric shaver. After all, we spend 5 or 6 months of our lifetime shaving in front of the bathroom mirror. Whether it’s out of convenience, reducing acne or avoiding nicks, cuts and razor burn or even the ongoing expense of blades; electric shaving is an option most men revisit time and time again.

Rotary vs Foil Electric Shavers


As a proven saver of time and effort, electric shaving is more convenient and the technology has certainly advanced since the early days. They say a great quick shave is better than a perfect one. Whatever your priorities - whether shaving in the shower, tackling body hair or even fading your beard neckline, there’s an electric shaver that will do the job well for you.

If you have already made the decision to switch from a cartridge razor, with the sheer range of choice on offer, you could be forgiven for feeling a little bamboozled. Given the level of investment you could be making, it’s important to get the decision right - and here’s where we can help.

What are the choices?

Probably the most fundamental decision you will need to make is whether to opt for a foil shaver or a rotary one. It’s the subject of fierce debate, but what’s the difference? But what are foil shavers and rotary shavers used for? As they're electric, it means that the motor is doing most of the work for you and with multiple blades and cutting actions, you can achieve closer shaves, wet and dry.

What is a foil electric shaver?

Foil electric shavers have straight heads that use oscillating blades, also known as cutters, beneath a ‘foil' to cut hair. Foil refers to the thin layer of metal, holed to form a particular mesh pattern, that covers the cutters. The foil captures the hair with its holes, cutting it close to the skin and offering a close shave.

What is a rotary electric shaver?

Rotary electric shavers usually have three circular heads that feature an internally spinning cutter that cuts the stubble captured by the outer, stationary guard. They are designed to follow the contours of your face, as you move the shaver in a circular motion hairs fall into the angular grooves and are cut off by the tiny scissor-like blades. The circular motion makes it easier to manoeuvre around difficult areas such as the neck and chin.

How do I choose between a rotary and a foil shaver?

Don’t worry, we’re not about to suggest that it’s all down to personal preference and walk away. There are advantages to either depending on your skin, the thickness of your hair and after that, it’s all in how you use them. We’ll come onto that bit too.

You might be best using a rotary shaver if:

- You have regular to tough skin - let’s say you might be a bit older and shaving for a while already
- You have thicker, coarser hair, or medium to coarse beard density
- You don’t intend to shave every day, i.e. it’s something you might only pick up a shaver every other day
- You are cutting longer hairs e.g. going a weekend without shaving and then want a close shave, Although, be aware no shaver will be that comfortable to use on much more than a day or two’s beard growth. For that, we recommend a trimmer to take off the length first
- You have contours to navigate
- Your beard hair grows in different directions. This is especially evident around the neck area

Essentially, rotary shavers are the perfect choice for men who have thick and/or long hair, as well as those who don’t want to shave every day.

On the other hand, a foil shaver might be best to use if:

- You are looking for a really smooth shave, the completely bald on the face look
- You shave every day
- You have relatively fine facial hair
- You need real precision e.g. with sideburns
- You need a close shave on the cheeks
- You shave in straight lines

So probably the biggest factor that will be influencing you choosing between a foil shaver and a rotary electric shaver, is skin sensitivity. The rotary shavers are a little less kind to your skin, even though they bend to the contours of your face and are great with long and/or fast-growing facial hair. Of course, you could be switching to an electric shaver to escape the razor burn that cartridge razors leave you with. Whilst electric shavers are much less prone to razor burn when compared to razors, you can minimise razor burn and acne as an issue by following the following as guidance:

Use shaving cream

You may have noticed that some shavers are both 'wet' and 'dry'. A 'wet' electric shaver doesn’t just mean that you can use it in the shower, it means that you can use a shaving cream. For those of us with sensitive skin, the ability to use shaving cream with an electric shaver is a game changer. It’s not hassle free, but it will be a godsend to the skin on your face.

A good quality shaving cream contains ingredients that act on the outer layer of the hair, called the cuticle, causing hairs to absorb water and swell, making them softer, bigger & much easier for the shaver blades to cut them. If you do decide to use it in the shower (much less clean up) then the water and steam will also make it much less likely that you will suffer irritation and/or razor burn.

The best way to use shaving cream with your electric razor is to massage it into your face (after a pre-wash) and leave it for at least 5 minutes for the shaving cream to soften the hairs. If you have been missing your badger hair brush since switching to an electric shaver, then you can use this to apply the cream / foam / gel. If you find you are making multiple passes on the same area, then apply some more cream to avoid burn.

Wet shaving with both rotary and foil electric shavers is a little closer than dry shaving. With wet electric shaving, you get the best of both worlds: a close shave that is almost as good as shaving with a blade and the comfortable and pain free experience of an electric shaver.

Use the proper technique

If you are using a foil shaver then you should shave the most sensitive areas first, whilst it is still cool and before the shaver heats up a little. Shave against the grain and in straight lines - up and down or left to right. Don’t attempt a circular motion. Only with a rotary shaver can you shave in circular patterns across the skin.

After you have finished shaving

Wash your face with water and use an aftershave balm or lotion, don’t skip the post shave treatment. Steer clear of alcohol-based aftershaves as they will dry the skin. Then clean your shaver after each shave, according to the manufacturer's instructions. Foil shavers have a head that you can pop off easily, but rotary shavers have become easier to clean. Most shavers are shipped with a small cleaning brush that is very losable. You can order a new one via our website, or you could use a fine paint brush.

Some of the more recent, top end electric shavers come with a docking station that serves to clean, lubricate and dry your blade, as well as recharge it with power. Cleaning your shaver regularly will also reduce the occurrence of acne, as your skin bacteria and oils won’t be spread across your face and into your pores.

Allow time to adjust

Don’t forget that it will take a couple of weeks of shaving for your skin to get used to used to switching to an electric razor, and this is also the case if you are switching from rotary to foil and vice versa.

Now that you know the difference and have a better idea of which one to choose, the best thing to do is to make that choice and try it out. After all, many of the top manufacturers offer a 30 day, no quibble money back guarantee. Try one and see if you like the flexibility and convenience.