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Foil vs Rotary Shavers

If you want a quality shaving machine, getting an electric razor that delivers a comfortable and close cut without skin irritation is important. When it comes to electric shave tools, the foil and rotary shaver are the two main types to choose from. The best rotary and foil electric shavers are designed with sharp blades, a powerful motor, long-lasting rechargeable battery and engineered for dry and wet shaving.

The difference between these shavers is the head, with one machine having a round shaving head and the other featuring a straight blade design. Some men prefer a rotary shaver for the circular cutting motion and pivoting blade head, while others like the foil shaver for a clean cut and smooth experience. With so many models, it can be a challenge picking the right electric shaver option.

To help you decide, we’ve compiled this guide on foil and rotary shavers. From cutting motion to performance, explore the different types of electric razors to find the best shaver for your needs!

Foil vs Rotary Shaver

Types of Electric Shavers

There are two different types of electric razors: foil and rotary. Although both designs offer a comfortable close cut and can be used for wet or dry shaving, there are a few differences between foil and rotary shavers that can make one machine better for some men than the other. The best electric shaver for you will depend on your needs and preferences since there are pros and cons to different products.

What Is A Foil Shaver?

A foil shaver is a men’s grooming machine that has two or more straight heads. Each shaver head houses several vertically aligned blades or cutters that are covered with a very thin sheet of metal (“foil”) that’s been perforated into a fine mesh pattern.

Foil Shaver

These micro foils capture the facial hair that is fed into the rapidly oscillating (back and forth action) blades, cutting the hair shorter. The foil also acts as a barrier between the blades and skin, offering a close cut and gentle shave without skin irritation, nicks, burns or bumps. Electric shavers are great for men who have sensitive skin or just want an effortless and comfortable shaving experience.

Electric Foil Shaver

A foil shaver is equipped with a robust motor that powers the blades to cut 10,000 to 14,000 cycles per minute. This high speed increases the foil shaver’s efficiency in cutting hairs faster and prevents skin irritation by reducing how many passes are needed to shave sensitive areas.

What Is A Rotary Shaver?

A rotary shaver is another popular type of electric shaver for men who don’t like to shave every day. It doesn’t cut as closely as a foil shaver, but it can shave larger areas. A rotary shaver usually has three round metallic heads that revolve and pivot independently. This design allows the shaver to closely follow the contours of the head, face, jawline, and neck.

Rotary Shaver

Each rotary head grabs hair through the head’s grooves, which are then cut by the built-in spinning blades. For peak efficiency, the rotary shaver should be moved in a circular motion to capture and cut longer flat-lying facial hair that grows in different directions.

Electric Rotary Shaver

The Difference Between Foil and Rotary Shaver

Cutting Motion

A foil shaver has vertically aligned blades that cut back and forth. Its rectangular head only allows for short, straight strokes in the direction of hair growth. A foil shaver is best for daily use and men who want a clean-shaven look without skin irritation, razor bumps, burns and ingrown hairs.

A rotary shaver’s blades cut in a circular motion, so the shaver’s head needs to be moved in a circular motion over the area being shaved, sometimes several times. A rotary shaver will not give as close a shave as a foil shaver and is better for men who don’t shave every day.

Difference Between Foil and Rotary Shaver


A foil shaver’s oscillating cutting action and its rectangular head can limit mobility on sharp edges, like the jawline or Adam’s apple. These types of electric shavers can also be difficult to maneuver around hard-to-reach spots, like just under the nostrils. A foil shaver is good for precision trimming and detailing your sideburns and mustache.

A rotary shaver has better mobility for shaving any area of the face and head. Its flexible heads pivot independently and follow the contours of the face, neck, and chin.

Difference Between Electric Shavers

Facial Hair Types

Another important difference between a foil shaver and a rotary shaver is how they cut different facial hair types.

A foil shaver pulls skin taut and feeds different lengths of hair through the foil. Fine, straight hair can pass through the foil’s mesh-like perforations more efficiently than coarse, thick hair. For men with a light beard, the foil shaver is the better option.

A rotary shaver is best suited for men with a thick, coarse beard who shave once or twice a week. Its three rotating cutter heads also allow the shaver to cut hair that grows in different directions.

Best Electric Razors By Facial Hair Type

Skin Type

Men with tight, curly hair are often prone to razor bumps (or ingrown hairs) that are caused by clogged hair follicles that grow beneath the surface of the skin. A foil shaver reduces these painful eruptions by lifting facial hair and cutting it cleanly beneath the skin’s surface.

A rotary shaver is perfect for men with normal skin that isn’t too dry or oily. If you need an electric razor for sensitive skin, you’ll want a foil shaver that will protect your face. If you want to get the closest shave possible, then make sure to invest in a high-quality rotary shaver for a clean-cut look.

Best Electric Shaver By Skin Type

Sensitive Skin

A rotary shaver often requires several passes over one area, which can irritate sensitive skin. Thanks to its high-speed motor, a foil shaver usually just needs a single pass and is recommended for men who want to avoid razor burn and other skin conditions. Some foil shavers have hypoallergenic foils that add extra protection for sensitive skin.

However, not all rotary shavers are the same. For men who prefer the rotary shaver’s superior mobility, look for models that have a powerful motor and self-sharpening blades. These higher-end machines match the fast and efficient shave provided by electric foil shavers.

Generally speaking, most men choose a foil shaver for sensitive skin to avoid irritation, bumps, burns and acne. If you are prone to irritated skin and razor bumps due to thick curly facial hair, the safest way to avoid these issues is to use a stubble or beard trimmer for a very short trim that won’t penetrate the skin.

Choose Between Rotary and Foil Electric Shaver For Sensitive Skin

How To Choose Between A Rotary and Foil Razor

When it comes to deciding whether you should get a foil or rotary electric razor, you’ll want to pick the shaving product that fits your facial hair and skin type, and is engineered for long-lasting performance.

Rotary Razor

A rotary shaver is best for guys who have thick, coarse facial hair, regularly shave large contoured areas of their face and prefer to freely maneuver their grooming tool in any direction.

Foil Razor

A foil shaver might be best if you trim your facial hair daily, prefer shaving in straight lines, want a smooth and gentle close shave and have relatively fine facial hair.

Types of Electric Shavers

Best Foil and Rotary Electric Shavers

Once you’ve chosen a design, the best electric shavers come with quality sharp blades, a powerful motor, a robust rechargeable battery that offers a long run time, a waterproof design that can accommodate wet and dry shaving and a low-maintenance cleaning system.

Best Electric Foil Shavers

The Braun Series 9 is one of the most popular and top-rated foil shavers on the market. This high-performance electric razor was designed to offer the ultimate shaving experience, efficiently gliding over your skin for a comfortable and close shave. Engineered to be waterproof for wet and dry shaving, you can feel the premium craftsmanship as you hold this grooming tool in your hand.

Some guys may also want to consider the Braun Series 7, which offers a similarly smooth and close shave at a lower price point. You’ll get much of the same technology and features, including increased power when shaving thick coarse facial hair. The main difference is the Series 9 comes with higher cutting efficiency and enhanced shaver head flexibility. This model is still 100% waterproof, which allows for low-maintenance cleaning and versatile wet and dry shaving.

For an affordable model that still comes with many innovative features, the Panasonic Arc5 is an excellent alternative that will get the job done well.

If you just want a quality cheap shaver, the Remington F5-5800 features all the essentials necessary for a good trim.

Best Electric Rotary Shavers

If getting a premium close shave with maximum efficiency is important to you, then you can’t go wrong investing in the Philips Norelco 9700. This top-rated electric rotary shaver will maneuver around your face with ease, effortlessly cutting more facial hair with every pass compared to other models. With multiple speeds, you can choose the setting that’s right for your hair type and skin, ensuring protection and performance.

The Philips Norelco Shaver 7700 is a close-cutting and gentle shaving machine made with quality parts and engineered to deliver performance. Great for guys who want to minimize skin irritation, this rotary shaver is easy to use wet or dry and comes equipped with sharp blades, a strong motor and powerful lithium-ion battery.

For a basic shaving tool that will fit any budget, get the Philips Norelco Shaver 3500 and enjoy a clean shave with a multi-directional head that flexes to accommodate the contours of your face.