How to buy an electric shaver

Say goodbye to nicks and cuts.

19jun electric shavers hero

Sick and tired of arriving at work late covered in scratches from a hasty shave with your old manual razor? Here’s what to look for and tips for getting the best shave.

Types of shaver

There are two types of electric shavers: foil (also called oscillating) and rotary.

Foil shavers are the earlier technology, and use an oscillating blade like a barber’s shaver covered by a curved metal foil.

Our tests show foil shavers give a closer, more precise shave than rotary models. But they can struggle with long, thick or uneven hair, and their rectangular shape means it can be difficult dealing with facial contours (though some foil models have a head that pivots in three dimensions). They’re best for those who shave every day or two. If they’re used every day they’ll need new foils every 6-10 months and new blades every couple of years.

Rotary shavers use rotating razor blades covered by pivoting circular heads, making them easier to manoeuvre around tricky areas like the jawline and neck.

They don’t shave quite as closely as foil models but better for long, thick or uneven growth. Rotary models are a good option if you often go several days without shaving. They also require less maintenance than foil shavers, with new heads only required every 2-4 years.

Shavers are further divided according to their water-resistance:

  • Wet+dry shavers can handle a ‘wet’ shave with foam, lotion or a soapy face. Be aware that many models labelled wet+dry can’t handle shower use or immersion under a tap.

  • Waterproof shavers can be used in the shower and washed under a running tap.

What to look for

If you're planning to buy a new electric shaver, here's what to consider.

  • Batteries: most models now use a Lithium ion (Li-ion) rechargeable battery, which are lighter and recharge faster than Nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) cells (Li-ion cells usually only take around an hour to recharge from flat, as oppose to 4-8 hours for NiMH). Most shavers can be operated on the mains as well, but shaving with the cord is only meant to be a back-up measure, in case the battery runs out.

  • Ease of use: choose a model that's easy to clean and comfortable to hold. If it has a separate blade for trimming beards and sideburns, make sure your view isn't obstructed when you use it. Cleaning is easier and quicker if the shaver can be washed under a tap, rather than brushed out.

  • Cleaning stations: are becoming common on high-end shavers. They’re a dock filled with cleaning liquid which cleans your shaver at the touch of a button. Some models also features sonic cleaning mode which enable more thorough cleaning when you run them underwater.

  • Trimmers: are intended for keeping sideburns in check or maintaining that 3-day shadow look.

  • Wet shavers: if you feel that a lather gives a better shave, or you like to save time by shaving in the shower, look for a "wet and dry" shaver. These can't be used on mains power, and have a charging stand.

  • Washable models: cleaning out electric shavers can be a messy and fiddly job. A "washable" shaver will be easy to clean, as you can just run it under the tap, but may not be intended for wet shaves.

  • Travel case: a pouch is easier to pack than a hard case when you're travelling. If your model has a charging stand or power pack, make sure it will fit into the travel case. Also handy for travelling shavers is a locking on/off switch (it ensures the power switch remains "off"), and a shaving head cover to protect the foil or cutters.

  • Indicators: a rechargeable shaver should warn you when it is about to run out of power. It's also handy to have a charging light (so you can be sure you've plugged it in properly), and a more precise display of the charge level. Other indicators may include a light to warn you that the foil or cutters need replacing, or the shaver needs cleaning.

  • Docking station: this can provide a convenient base to recharge your shaver and can also incorporate a cleaning solution.

  • Conditioner dispensing system: dispenses shaving conditioner onto the skin while shaving.

  • Price: when shopping for shavers it also pays to look around. Many shavers seem to spend more time on sale than at their nominal retail price, so if you don’t like the current price you can often wait a month or so for it to come on sale.

Electric vs disposable

How does an electric shaver measure up to a disposable razor?


  • Convenient: Electric shavers are quick — and you don't need to bother with shaving gel or foam.
  • Portable: Most shavers come with a travel pouch. Charge them up before leaving home, and they'll stay charged for a week's worth of shaving.
  • Easy to use: Most shavers come with a moustache trimmer, some wash themselves, and others dispense gel. Electric shavers are less likely to bite than a razor blade: they're great for those who have dexterity problems.


  • Maintenance: Foil shavers need new foils every 6 to 10 months and new cutters every other year (it depends on the thickness of your beard). Rotary shavers need new heads every 2 to 4 years.

Shaving tips

Top tips for getting the best shave from your electric shaver.

  • Charge it up: Make sure your shaver is fully charged.
  • Wash up: Some manufacturers recommend washing your face before shaving, others don't. For most people, this will be a question of personal preference.
  • Pull your skin taut: Stretching your skin allows a closer shave.
  • Shave against the grain: Electric shavers work best if you shave against the direction in which your hair grows.
  • Moisturise: To avoid dry skin, moisturise after shaving.
  • Clean your shaver: Brush or wash away stubble after use. Check the manufacturer's instructions on how to clean your shaver — some can be rinsed under a running tap.

Member comments

Get access to comment