Foil vs. Rotary Shavers: What Gives the Closest Shave?

Male shaving
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When it’s time to shave, you want to get as close and comfortable as possible! And the best electric shavers are capable of providing nothing less! But given that there are two types of electric shavers – foil and rotary, many consumers ask which one of the two provides the closest shave.

Foil vs. Rotary Shavers – What’s the Difference? 

Before delving into the main question – foil vs. electric shavers – which one gives the closest shave, here are the key differences between the two types! Understanding the key differences between the two will help you make an informed decision on which one is right for you.

First things first – both foil and rotary shavers are powered by batteries or can be plugged into an electric outlet or both to work. 

Foil Shavers Explained

Foil shavers were first introduced in the early 1930 by Col. Jacob Schick. He patented the first electric razor.  when trying to find a solution to shave with one injured arm. But it wasn’t a bestseller from the get go owing to its limited functionality and bulky design. 

However, foil shavers over the past few decades have been greatly improved. Today, they are much more convenient and easier to use. Foil shavers are aptly named, because their blades are covered with foils. These foils are simply razor thin sheets of metal with tiny holes in them. 

When powered on, these tiny holes in the foils allow the hair to enter the shaver. The hair is then simultaneously cut by the set of oscillating blades located behind them aka cutters. The oscillation motion of the foil shaver blades is similar to that of a lawn mower or fan’s blades. 

Since foil shaver blades move in a to and fro motion, this type of electric shaver generally works well when used in a straight line from side to side or up and down. 

Foil shavers are a great if you want to:

  • Line your edges
  • If you have Sensitive skin

Foil shavers are easy on your skin, and make it easier to get a close shave, because they cut the hair through the foils without yanking on it. Adding to this, they are also easy to use in hard to reach areas owing to the way the foils are placed such as:

  • Under the nose or near the sideburns
  • For edging and lines 

Foils shavers also work quickly compared to their rotary counterparts. Reason being, it’s easier to move them from side to side. So, you don’t have to maneuver the shaver over the same area multiple times. 

This type of electric shaver is designed to remove the shortest stubble. This makes them a great choice for:

  • Men with fine hair
  • Men who like a clean and quick shave almost daily

Foil shavers also work great on coarse hair with a single pass. This is possible due to the varying patterns on each foil. Furthermore, they mostly come with several accessories including combs to help guide your hair for a better shave.

They are also easy to clean and maintain. The best foil shaver models can even be run under water to get rid of the stuck hair and shaving cream. Foil shavers are mostly the preferred choice for men looking for the closest shave, “BUT” there are exceptions! 

  • However, they do come with their fair share of drawbacks, starting with the fact they are noisier than rotary shavers. 
  • The up and down motion of the blades of a foil shaver may not work great for everyone. This is due to the lack of circular motion. 

Foil shavers also don’t always provide a close shave. This is especially when used over long hair as it gets trapped in the foils of the shaver. You also need to be gentle when running a foil shaver across your face. This is because it can cause skin irritation when pressed against your skin. 

Rotary Shavers Explained

Unlike foil shavers, rotary shavers are fitted with round heads. These heads are embedded with circular blades, which are collectively designed as three discs. Philips, the Dutch multinational company bills itself as the pioneers of the rotary shaver. Hence, you’ll find a wide range of shavers with different designs from this brand aimed at a wide range of users. 

The spinning heads of rotary shavers are engineered to closely follow the contours of your face. They do this as you move the shaver in a circular motion. The hair is cut as it slips into the openings in the heads of a rotary shaver. They are then cut off completely, similarly to the foils with holes in foil shavers. 

The rounded heads of a rotary shaver make it easy to maneuver the device around the difficult areas of your face such as:

  • The neck 
  • Chin
  • Other contoured areas

This type of electric shavers is an ideal choice for:

  • Those who have a generous growth of facial hair
  • Longer and thicker hair 
  • Those who don’t shave on a daily basis

The three circular blades of a rotary shavers will spin and flex to closely follow the contours of your face, and give you a close shave. At most times, they do a better job than foil shavers would when used over longer hair. This is especially true when trying to follow the outline of your face and neck. 

Adding to this, rotary shavers are also a great choice for those with:

  • High cheekbones
  • Sharp jawline 
  • Prominent Adam’s apple

And because the individual shaving heads can flex inwards, rotary shavers can easily adapt to the shape of your head. This makes them an ideal choice for bald head shaving too. 

Contrary to foil shavers, rotary electric shavers are also quieter to operate. This allows you to get the close shave you desire without waking up the neighbors. On the flipside, some rotary shavers are a bit challenging to clean. This is because you may have to take apart the components to get rid of the hair stuck within. 

Even though they may work great for longer hair, they may not offer the same performance when it comes to cutting straight, fine hair., This is due to the independent rotation of the heads. 

Do Foil or Rotary Shavers Provide the Best Shave? Final Thoughts

To answer your big question on whether rotary or foil electric shavers provide the closest shave; it truly depends on 

  • The type of hair you have
  • The style you’re looking to achieve

Foil shavers work well at lining edges and getting to hard to reach areas, owing to the side to side motion of the foil topped blades. But due to the lack of circular motion, foil shavers may not be able to get rid of long hair in just one go. 

Therefore, repeated use over the same area may cause skin irritation. Further, they may also not provide a close shave if you have high cheekbones or other contoured areas. This is because of the straight heads and oscillating cutting motion. 

If you have:

  • Longer hair
  • Curved shaped face 
  • Or you want to shave your head bald

A rotary shaver will most likely deliver better results. This type of shaver is appointed with three independent blades that rotate in circular motion. This makes it easier to achieve a close shave when trying to follow the outline of your face, neck and top of your head. 

You Have to Clean the Shaver Periodically for the Closest Shave

Once you’ve determined the best electric shaver for your needs, there are a few other things you can do to ensure you get the closest shave as possible. For starters, hair is bound to get stuck in the blades of both foil and electric shavers. This will obviously prevent them from delivering close cuts. 

Therefore, it is important to read the manufacturer instructions on how to clean your electric shaver for a close shave and long service life. Most electric shavers do need to be lubricated every so often to remove the dirt buildups. They also need to be cleaned to get rid of the excess hair stuck in the blades of the shaver. 

Don’t Forget About the Batteries 

Electric foil and rotary shavers are typically powered by batteries. These generally come with the shavers, and should be fully charged in order for the blades work their best. When battery juice is low, slow moving blades aren’t going to cut near as close as fast-moving blades. 

And in fact, using them in this low-powered state may cause the hair to get stuck, consequently affecting the longevity of the device. Just like manual razors, the blades of foil and rotary shavers do tend to go dull over time. Hence, they will need replacement after a certain period of time. 

Getting Used to Your Shaver Takes Some Practice

Also, worth mentioning is that you will have to adjust the pressure, angle and direction of your electric shaver according to your needs. You need to do this especially when shaving areas such as your neck chin or jawline. 

If you’re just making the switch to electric shavers, it will take a bit of practice to get used to, and achieve a close shave. But when used properly, be rest assured that both foil and rotary shavers are capable of providing you with that clean and smooth shave each time. 

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