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Rotary blade or foil shaver?

If you look at electric shavers, you will basically find two types. The rotary blade technology, used by Philips and some of Remington’s models, and the foil technology used mainly by Braun and Panasonic. Both types do the same job – but in very different ways. I will help you  find out what is best for you!

The Rotary Blades

The rotary blades used by companies such as Philips/Norelco and Remington (Photo by Philips)

However, first let me explain the differences between the two.

The rotary blade shavers have a series of circular cutters attached. Typically, three rotating blades placed in a triangular pattern.

To get the best shave, you will have to move the shaver across your face in slow, rotating movements – almost as if you were applying a nice skin tonic.

The foil shavers

Braun has chosen a different approach to electric shaving. Their shavers consist of a series of knives hidden under a rectangular metallic foil, designed to raise the hairs and guide them close to the vibrating knives. Long and straight movement of the shaver is the key to success here.

Which to choose?

So which one should you buy? For me, the answer has been quite clear.

I need both! For the last seven years, I have used a combination of the two types.

Honestly, I must have a strange face. For my face and cheeks, the rotary blades really do a great job. However, on my chin and neck, where the skin is slightly looser, the foil shaver is so much better for me.

If I use my Philips shaver for the entire shave, I will have to spend much more time shaving my chin – and I will eventually end up with irritated skin. Using my Braun foil shaver for the whole shave will result in a beautiful chin, but will leave the cheeks less soft compared to the Philips shaver.

Not for everyone?

The foil blade shavers, like the ones from Braun and Remington, tend to be better on looser skin (Photo by Braun)

Compared with the shave you get from a traditional razor, the electric shavers win by far when it comes to convenience and time. It is so much easier just to pick up the electric shaver and get the work done, instead of preparing the razor, foam and water and slowly work your way across your face and chin.

Nevertheless, the dry shaving methods used by most electric shavers may cause some irritation to your skin. If your shaver allows you to shave on a wet face, you could apply loads of warm water or a good pre-electric shaving oil just before shaving.

If your shaver cannot cope with the wet face, you could try to put a warm, damp towel on your face for a few minutes and then dry your face afterwards. This will warm your whiskers a bit, and probably lessen the skin irritation.

You should expect the skin irritation to be worst in the first few weeks of using the shaver. This is true if you have never used an electric shaver before – OR if you are trying to switch between a rotary blade and a foil blade shaver (or the other way around).

Money back guarantee

In Denmark, where I live, both Braun and Philips offer a 30 or 60 day money-back guarantee. You can buy the shaver and use it for some weeks before deciding if it’s the right one for you. This is fantastic, as it will allow you to try out the different methods before deciding which shaver to use for the years to come.

Many of the electric shavers you can buy on Amazon come with a full 60-day money-back-guarantee. This applies to many Philips Norelco, Braun and Panasonic shavers.

I am very interested to know about your personal experiences. If you use an electric shaver, please comment below and let me know how you decided on your current model.

About Hans - the Shaving Detective

I am Hans the Shaving Detective, founder and owner of ShavingDetective.com.
You are welcome to follow me on Google+ or contact me via email with any shaving related questions.

Comments

  1. Great subject,
    I do use foil shaver from Braun and it’s fantastic, i tried the Philips with rotary blades and i feel it’s scratch my skin, one of my friends has the same experience, 4 years ago i used Gillette foam and blades but it’s messy to carry when you travel, even in home much easier to use the electric shavers.
    But when i started use the electric shaver i had skin irritation for 0ne week then it’s back to normal, may it’s not the same with everyone.
    But i do like electric foil shavers, simple, fast, and safer.

    Cheers

    • I have used all 3 types of shavers, the regular manual razor, the foil shave electric, and the rotary electric. Its ben my experience that the manual works best. As far as electic is concerned, there are a few discrepencies 2 consider between the foil and rotary shave system. The Rotary tripleheader seems 2 work best with shaving longer hairs, like if its ben a while since u last shaved then a foil shaver does, but the foil shaver seems 2 do a better job of shaving closer 4 the day 2 day shave. It seems men who use electric shavers are loyal 2 either 1 of these systems or the other.

  2. As someone with a beard I find a rotary shaver to be problematic. It is easier to shave along the edge of my beard without out altering it with a foil shaver. The slots in the sides of the rotary shaver has a tendency to catch and clip hairs at the edge of my beard, gradually eroding it and affecting the shape.

    • That is so to true Eric! The Rotary blades are really bad when it comes to precision work. The foil blade shavers are a bit more precise.

      • I have found that sometimes electric shavers can be difficult 2 use if u have facial hair, they dont do a great job getting around the goatee or beard. Especially if u have, a beard or goatee. The mustache not so much a prob 2 get around, the goatee or beard, however, sometimes tough with electric, im thinking due 2 the bulky size of the shaver. I have found that long facial hair, such as beards and goatees, when hairs r clipped with an electric shaver, it can be painful. U have 2 remember, if its called a “razor” its meant 2 shave stubble, not 2 trim long hair. Otherwise it wood be called a trimmer

      • Rotary shavers r very bulky, cover alot of area, this is the 1 thing that makes them convenient when ur in a hurry, but they r a “razor” not a “trimmer” and so they dont do well with long hair.

  3. Shuttle says:

    Hi

    I’ve just purchased and used a foil based Panasonic Shaver, and found it does not cut hairs. As much as my Phillip’s rotary one which does cut hairs on my face and chin. On the whole I recommend and use a Phillips triple head rotary shaver as it cuts good. I have been using shavers since I started shaving aged 18.

    Thank you.

    • Often times it can depend on your face. Ive known people who swear by either the foil shavers, or the rotary shavers. I have found generally that the rotary shavers r more useful cuz u mite be able 2 get away with not shaving 3-4 days, if u dont have 2 heavy of a beard, where as daily shaving is almost required with a foil shaver

  4. Samuel lloyd s. says:

    I have been using the philips rotary shavers for a long time now and must say they are just amazing -having both used the rq1150 and rq1280 model-. Optic wise they are sleek and appealing and getting the job done i must say they are more than just great. @shaving detective and @eric my shaver also came with a trimmer, which i use for shaping the side burns so precision aint a problem ;-)

  5. Another thing to take into account is the how frequently you need to replace the shaver heads/foils, which in this case the rotary razor should be a better choice.

  6. I have tried both kinds(rotary and foil)but the bumps are always there especially under the chin. Then tried some after shave lotion without success, what sould i do?

    • I always used a pre-shave, its called Williams Lectric Shave. U use it almost the same way u wood use shaving cream if u were going 2 use a manual razor, although its liquid. U want 2 let it dry maybe 10-15 seconds prior 2 shaving tho. I dont know if it will eleviate the bumps as much as it will give u a closer shave with an electric. It probably will, because it stands up the whiskers, so that the razzor does not hav 2 work as hard 2 get a close shave. Often the more work the razor has 2 do 2 shave, the less comfortable shave. Try that Mica

  7. Finally someone who knows the answer to the question I have never been able to answer for myself. I have used blades and a Braun before and decided recently to use a Philips for a change. I too found that it was great on the side of the face but not so good on the neck and chin, or the top lip either and so I have to have a quick scrape with a blade to get it really smooth. And I thought it was just me. I do enjoy not having to lather up everyday and not I keep a 2 head Philips at the office for a late afternoon top up and the 3 head Philips at home for the morning rasp!
    Great work, thanks for the tip and confirming my own view…nice to know there are more than one of us who ask these questions

    • Thats interesting, most people think the phillips does the best on the neck, and thats why ive heard alota people use those over the braun or remington, or a foil shaver

  8. I have owned the same Norelco electric triple head shaver dating back to the 70s (I think). Never changed the heads or cutting blades and it still works. Thought I would buy a new one. Tried two Norelco and took them back. They pulled my hairs and sounded like they had no power. I just tried a Braun (3 series) and took that back. It was better than Norelco but I like a triple rotary cutting action. I have not seen any good reviews on the Remington. Does this mean all the new shavers are of poor quality. Does anyone recommend a robust electric shaver that will work? Thanks

    • Remington generally r pievces of shit from my experience. I had a beard trimmer from them, and it broke within a few uses, and the shaver was not worth a damn, the foil screen on it was cheap. Dont buy a remington.

  9. I’ve never used a rotary or a foil, and lots of people compliment my “shaving skills” since i never have any hair left when i do. The answer i think many shavers miss is trimmers can be good too. it can’t cut that deep and soon enough you need to do it again, but shaving has the same problem. So it’s just like normal.
    I actually just came to see which i should go for if i choose to shave, it sounds like there’s many problems with both and indeed a difficult choice. Nice article by the way, i really liked it.

  10. Hi, guys! I would like to ask you for some advice for foil razor shaving. I bought a Braun’s Cruzer foil shaver 2-3 years ago, but haven’t got a satisfying shave yet. I am pretty satisfied with the result on cheeks, above and below the lips, but below the chin and on the neck the result is awful. I’ve never got a full shave here. It looks like the razor misses or skips the hairs and leaves a single or a bunch of hairs on the beard. Any advices?

  11. @Shavingdetective…I am bald and have been looking to buy an electric razor to be able to cut my whole head and face, but have not run into a lot of promising reviews to help me find the right one. I have been looking at the Braun Series 7-76Occ, but I am not sure. I have been bald since I was 18 and just turned 25 and I get tired of running the blade everyday…Any help is greatly appreciated! Thanks…

  12. Oh my God… I have shaved with various Gillette blades for about 15 years and recently I decided to buy an electric razor… I am in pain… I don’t get a rash for more than 5 minutes but skin below my chin is burning like hell every time I shave for about half a day. It doesn’t matter how careful I try to be or how I shave, wet or dry. It is Phillips PT920. I don’t shave often, twice a week because I hate doing it and I like the slightly rough look. I been trying this Phillips for about a month… Ig will be going back where it came from. This is not how it’s supposed to be…

    • You’re right – the PT920 is a very aggressive electric razor. I’ve tried it as well (review coming up shortly!), and must say that these PowerTouch models with the HQ9 head are FAR more aggressive than any of the other Philips shavers. If you really want an electric razor, try one of the models using the HQ8 shaving head – it only has one “circle” of blades, where the HQ9 has got three circles with holes in them in each of the rotary blades.

  13. Im wondering which shaver is best for me . I have used the Braun 360 complete and the Panasonic ES8807. I bought a Panasonic ES-LA93-K and im still taking 30 minutes or so to shave.It is always the upper lip and chin area also the the jaw area and upper neck.I dont know if the Norelco 3D will be better or if panasonic and braun have a differant model that will shave faster and smother

  14. The rotary is great for my face and side burns but burns and stumbles on my chin, neck, chest, and legs. Foil is definitly better in those categories, but your skin will have to get used to that feel.

  15. ApurvWalia w says:

    @shavingdetective I would like to know from your experience is foil better for skin ? I want my skin to stay smooth, doesn’t have to r electric. I can still stay with manual blades.
    Looking forward to your reply.

    • That is a good question. But not one that can be answered easily. There is no clear cut winner (no pun intended) between foil or rotary style shavers. But if you have sensitive skin, I would definitely recommend a manual shave. I am currently writing a series of articles on how to improve your wet shave. Join the newsletter or follow me on Facebook or Twitter to stay updated. ;-)

  16. Bhargava says:

    hi, i am looking for a supplementary shaver when i am pressed for time. primarily i would like to stick with manual razor and foam. seek advice on philips HQ6940/16 (rotary) using hq55 heads.

  17. Well I have to say I have used a Philishave for 10 years dropped mind and broke it. Went to look up and buy spares- it cost more to buy the parts than a replacement. So I bought a Braun 340s. I wish I went with a foil type head years ago- and the parts are cheaper so it is a big no to Philishave – no more.
    The Braun shave like a we shave so good buy to rotary shavers for good.

  18. I’m looking for a single head rotary razor. If my triple head Norelco were to have only one head it would be perfect. Is there a single head rotary out there?

  19. Brad Williams says:

    I’m a manual razor user for basically the last 40yrs. Here is a tip I’d like to share. Instead of shaving gels or foams I use regular hair conditioner like; VO5, Suave, White Rain and the likes. I shave both head and face using a light coating of conditioner and a disposable triple blade razor, usually Schick Xtreme3, Gillette Mach3 or Bic Flex3. I get 5-6 head/face shaves that are smooth as a baby’s butt from each razor using this triple blade/conditioner method. Give it a try. Conditioner: $1
    00-$1.49, Triple blade razors: Look for sales (no lightweight or store brands.

  20. Haven’t read all of replies to your post but I thought I’d share my experience. When I started shaving around the age of 17 I used to get quite red. I tried using a rotary one and it almost did noting to my hair than just irritate the skin. The some time after that I got a foil braun cruzer. This worked to some extent. I would start shaving with it and would get awful irritations, red all over my chin and throat, and would keep going for 2-3 months as I thought the skin might get used to it at some point. I did get better but not significantly (though I did notice here that if I’d wear something that was close to my chin like a scarf or touch the chin/throat a few times throughout the day and the day after the shave, it would get more irritations). I tried using it on and off for almost two years but finally gave up on that and moved back to traditional soap and blade. I found after watching some videos with advice on wet shaving that this things considerably improved the finished product: 1. good sharp blades. 2. practice 3. good soap 4. a lot of soaking in hot water. always hot water. 5 not to strong aftershave.

    • Nice article and responses. Mostly I have dissatisfied with the razors.
      I have to use rotating blades for two reasons. My facial hair after teens was too tough and hairs on the kneck lay at different angles so the foils cannot pick them up to cut them.
      Another problem is that sealed battery rechargable razors only last a few years as when the battery has had it the razor is scrap. Fortunately Philips made a corded only razor as well so I bought that over 10 years ago and it still works fine except that the trimmer broke many years ago.
      However, I also have a moustache and need to use a trimmer for that. Philishave trimmers always broke. Terrible design. So I have to use a trimmer from another razor.
      I agree the best shave is to use the rotary blades first and the foil after that for a closer shave. I would do that if I could be bothered but it takes more time.

  21. I alternate between wet & dry. If I’m not showering of a morning, eg before golf (yes, I’m retired), I have a wet shave. Having noticed ( many years ago) that shaving creams all advised washing the face first, then re-soaping, I guesed that the cream only kept the face moist, so I stopped bothering with it, and have had close painless shaves ever since! I’m probably fortunate in having fine, not thick, hair, so not a tough beard. I use cheap, throw-away razors that last me about 10 shaves.
    After a shower I use a multi-foil razor (have had some excellent Remingtons, by the way!), currently Braun, but don’t think there’s much to choose between them – the technology seems identical. I did like a model I once had with a trimmer between the foil heads.
    I tried a rotary some years ago – nice and quiet compared with a buzzing foil, but a very poor shave and I returned it. I’ve been wondering recently whether to give rotary another try, but reading some of the comments here, I don’t think I’ll bother.

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