Choosing an Electric Shaver: Foil or Rotary?

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Franz Rivoira
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Foil Vs Rotary

For convenience, there’s no better way to shave than with an electric shaver, but you still want the best results, and the equipment you choose plays an important role.

Here’s a quick run-down of the various types of electric shavers, what they do and what their advantages and disadvantages are. We’ve also included links to some of Groom+Style’s favorite shavers in the rotary, foil and clipper categories.

Please do not take these guidelines below as gospel i.e. I have a thick beard, therefore, I should buy a rotary shaver.  Personal preferences, shaving techniques, quality of the shaver (high end, medium, and low end) all come into the mix when choosing an electric shaver.  In fact, one of the key questions you should be asking is what type of a beard do I have and how thick is it?  If you have:

  • a very thick beard you should be aiming for a high-end shaver
  • a medium beard you can get away with a mid-level to high-end shaver
  • light beard mid-level to budget shaver

Electric Rotary Shavers

Rotary shavers usually have either three or four rotating heads. They’re particularly good for guys with thick or fast-growing hair, which tends to grow in lots of different directions.  Rotary shavers also have a slight advantage if you don’t intend to shave every day.

They work by lifting the hair away from the face and cutting it inside one of the rotating components. Ideally, you’ll want to look for one with a flexible head, so that you can reach all of the nooks and crannies on your face.

When shaving with a rotary shaver you move it in a circular motion on your face.

Advantages of Rotary Shavers

– Great for thick, fast growing facial hair that grows in different directions (see comment above about the quality of the shaver being of greater importance if you have a thick beard)

– For those men that don’t want to (or need to) shave every day

– Generally solid performance all-round, very hardy

Disadvantages of Rotary Shavers

– Not very subtle can cause irritation if you have sensitive skin. Note the preferred shaving technique for rotary shaver is a light circular motion, so if you are getting irritation with your rotary shaver then reduce the pressure you are applying i.e. let the shaver do more of the work.

– Not recommended for men that want to do precise shaving.  For example, if you have sideburns, a mustache or a goatee.

The Best Rotary Shaver as Recommended by Groom+Style

Philips Norelco S9311/84 – Read More Reviews on Amazon

Electric Foil Shavers

Foil shavers feature a thin layer of foil which covers the oscillating blades — this has two purposes. The first is to help lift the hair away from the skin to that it can be cut neatly and closely. The second is to limit blade-on-skin contact, making foil shavers somewhat kinder to your face than rotary shavers.

Foil shavers usually come in either three or four-blade varieties. A four-blade foil shaver will shave you faster and closer than a three-blade shaver.

When shaving with a foil shaver you move it in straight lines on your face.

Advantages of Foil Shavers

– Close shave

– Kinder to the skin than rotary shavers

– It’s possible to do more precise shaving with foil shavers

Disadvantages of Foil Shavers

– Best used in straight lines, so if you like to move in circles, you might not get the best shave

– Some men find that foil shavers (at least the cheaper models which don’t have a pivoting head) struggle with the contours of their face.  So if you have a very angular facial structure (a face like a male model) then it might be worth considering a rotary shaver – or you will need to buy a higher end foil shaver like the Braun one linked below.

The Best Foil Shaver as Recommended by Groom+Style

Braun Series 9-9095Cc – Read More Reviews on Amazon

Clipper Shaver, Beard Trimmers or Hair Clippers

A clipper or beard trimmer is a great choice as long as you’re not looking for a smooth finish. If you’re looking for all over stubble, and want something which will work on your head as well as your face, then clippers like the ones a hairdresser or barber uses are great.

They work by sending a series of serrated blades buzzing side-to-side, which cuts the hair in a sideways motion. Best used in one direction – straight lines.

Advantages of Beard Trimmers and Hair Clippers

– Can be used on beard and head (and even below the belt)

– Great for maintaining stubble

– Time-saving i.e. you can clipper every few days

Groom+Style Tip: If you want to save time and money over the long term (and your lifestyle and “looks” allow) change your appearance to a crew cut and stubble.  Then with a quality trimmer, you can clipper the hair on your head every few weeks, and clipper your facial hair every few days.  Over the years this will save you hours and lots of money on haircuts.

Disadvantages of Beard Trimmers and Hair Clippers

– Not super kind to the skin if used carelessly and you try to achieve super short stubble

– Obviously, not the best for a smooth finish

– Does not suit everyone’s lifestyle and looks

The Best Beard Trimmers as Recommended by Groom+Style

Philips Norelco Beard Trimmer 9100- Read More Reviews on Amazon

Read our full review of the Top 5 Best Beard Trimmers.


Hopefully, you now have a clearer picture of whether a rotary or foil shaver or trimmer, is right for you.  For more shaving and styling tips, visit the Groom+Style Art of Shaving section; and if you want some more information on how to get the most out of your electric shaver you can read our article How to Use an Electric Shaver.

Continue reading to find the top 5 best electric shavers review by Groom+Style.


  • Franz Rivoira

    Franz is an expert in watches and grooming. He has extensive knowledge of mechanical watches and loves exploring the details that make each one unique. He's also passionate about helping men look their best and shares tips on grooming, including achieving a perfect shave or maintaining a healthy beard. Franz is a go-to source for anyone looking to elevate their style game. Linkedin:

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