Electric shavers have been a go-to alternative for removing facial hair for years. They shave faster than a manual razor, offer nick-free performance, and can be used almost anywhere.
After more than two months of testing nine electric shavers by a professional barber on three different men’s faces, we found that the Philips Norelco 9500 (available at Amazon for $189.96) is the best option for most people. No matter if you prefer shaving dry, wet, or with shaving cream, its overall performance will leave your face feeling satisfied.
For those on a budget, we also recommend the Wahl Lifeproof Lithium-Ion Foil Shaver (available at Amazon). It's waterproof, powerful and cuts all types of beard hair well.
Philips Norelco 9500 (S9985/84)
Unlike many of its predecessors, the Philips Norelco 9500’s ComfortGlide rings make circular-motion-shaving virtually friction-free. This is a major improvement for their rotary blade system. The shaver includes 72 self-sharpening blades which are guided by its Smart Hair sensor scanning system that adjusts to each hair for a consistently close and comfortable shave. The added bonus is that this shaver performs even better in the shower and with shaving cream.
The 9500 comes with a Quick Clean Pod that makes post-shave cleanup a breeze. Simply place the shaver into the pod the cleaning solution inside will clean and lubricate the 9500’s blades, ensuring that it’s ready for the next time you need a shave. The Pod’s cleaning solution needs to be replaced on a regular basis. How often you replace it depends on how frequently you clean your shaver. Those who don’t want to fork over their hard-earned money in order to clean their razor will be happy to know that the 9500’s shaving heads can also be cleaned off under a running faucet.
There’s no getting around the fact that this shaver comes with a lot of bells and whistles, chief among them the Philips Norelco GroomTribe app (available for iOS and Android Devices). I was skeptical of the app’s usefulness, at first. However, I was surprised to find that its tight integration with the 9500 offered a number of useful features.
While in use, the shaver’s Motion Control and Pressure Guard sensor monitors the user’s shaving routine and displays what amount of pressure is being used—too little, too much, or just the right amount—through a series of colored lights built into the 9500. This information is sent to the GroomTribe app and used to suggest how I might improve my shave. As I’m familiar with how challenging it can be to achieve a consistently close, comfortable shave with a rotary head shaver like this one, the feedback is most welcome.
Despite all of this shaver’s perks, the 9500 isn’t perfect. Its pop-up trimmer does not have enough cutting power to make it a useful grooming accessory. Nor can it be locked into place while in use, making it a challenge to use the trimmer for minor cleanups.
The Wahl Lifeproof Lithium-Ion Foil Shaver’s eye-catching yellow and black design made it stand out from the competition. Labeled as ‘practically indestructible', Wahl claims that the shaver can continue to work even if it falls into three feet of water. To test this, I turned the shaver on, tossed it into the shallow end of my swimming pool, and waited three minutes before retrieving it. I was pleased to find that it still worked great. While still wet from its swim, the Lifeproof’s ergonomic shape and rubber grips made it feel comfortable and secure in my hand.
The Lifeproof’s performance on all hair types (straight, curly, thick, and overly-curly) ranked surprisingly above average. This is quite a feat considering most foil shavers can find it challenging to deliver a close shave on wavy and curly beards without multiple passes. The Lifeproof shaver executed this with considerable ease. Its foiled shaving heads (“Flex Foils”) offer a nicely cushioned shave that navigates the face comfortably and effectively.
The precision trimmer located just behind the head, outperformed many of the shavers in this guide, making facial hair maintenance a breeze. After an hour’s worth of charing, the Lifeproof can run for 90 minutes. If you’re in need of a quick shave and forgot to charge it, a five-minute charge provides just enough runtime for a single shave.
The only drawback I discovered while testing the Life Proof is that it did not perform very well in the shower or with shaving cream, making it less competitive amongst its peers.
My name is Craig Whitely, professionally known as Craig the Barber. I have been a professional barber for almost 15 years and have been practicing the trade since the age of 14.
My experience in the space of barbering has opened up opportunities to consult with Fortune 500 Skincare and Grooming brands, educate and train future beauty students and provide men’s grooming content for national magazines. In the past, I acted as the spokesperson for two global brands, Lab Series by Estee Lauder and Philips Norelco. My relationship with the latter ended eight years ago—a long enough time that I feel comfortable saying that I can talk to you about shaving hardware, without bias.
Additionally, I am the founder and CEO of my namesake and award-winning shaving and skincare line—Burke Avenue by Craig the Barber. For years, I have advocated for consumers in the men’s grooming space so I take great pride in doing so with Reviewed.
I put the electric shavers in this guide to the test, beginning with selecting a variety of beard types from straight to curly. This was important to achieve the most accurate review of each shaver’s performance. The shavers were tested on the faces of three volunteers:
Thomas (early 20’s)— thin and straight (virtually no curl); full beard growth on three-quarters of his face with the remaining areas fairly sparse.
Francisco (late 30’s)—curly and fine (thin); full face beard growth with greater beard density on the chin and mustache.
Me (early 40’s)—thick and overly-curly; full beard growth capable. However, I sport a Van Dyke (mustache and chin hair).
Over a two-month period, each electric shaver was tested on its ability to remove hair quickly, comfortably, and with the least amount of shaving irritation. I also felt it was important to test how well they performed in multiple shaving scenarios—dry face, wet face, and when using shaving cream. Lastly, one of the biggest benefits of electric shavers is how they can be used almost anywhere. So, testing how well they stand up against casual abuse when you’re shaving at the office, gym, or traveling needed to be explored, too.
What You Should Know About Buying Electric Shavers
When shopping for an electric shaver and using one for the first time, there are a few things you should keep in mind.
Rotary Versus Foiled
There are two types of electric shavers on the market:
Rotary: rotary-style shavers have been made most popular by the Philips Norelco brand. This shaver has revolving blades that move independently and are designed to navigate across the face no matter the shape or angle. Its ability to cut each hair is optimized by moving the shaver in a circular motion. This allows for each hair no matter the direction of growth to fit inside the blade openings and be cut.
Foil: The blades of a foil shaver are covered by a thin foil guard that consists of small circular holes. Once activated, the blades move left and right cutting each hair that enters through the circular holes. This shaver’s cutting ability is best used by moving its foil head up and down across the face.
How To Use An Electric Shaver
An electric shaver is considered the best alternative to wet-shaving if you want a close shave multiple times per week.
For Rotary shavers, the most effective way to achieve a close, comfortable, and irritation-free shave is to allow the blades to gently move across the face in an overlapping circular motion. This circular motion optimizes the blade's cutting ability while overlapping each shaved area can reduce skin irritation by limiting the number of times the blades touch the skin.
A Foil shaver’s blades move left and right cutting every hair that enters each hole imprinted on the foil guard. Once on, its cutting ability is optimized by shaving in an up, down, or across motion. This action effectively captures and cuts each hair no matter the direction the hair grows in. For this shaver as well, overlapping shaving strokes will also aid in reducing shaving irritation.
The Adjustment Period
It is important to know that it takes approximately three to four weeks for the skin to get used to being shaved with electric shavers. This is because it will take close to that long to get the right touch to achieve a close, comfortable, and irritation-free shave. So, you may experience extra heat on the skin from slower beginner shaving, to some hair tugging (or pulling) in more challenging areas of the face before you are 100% happy with your new shaver.
To help alleviate discomfort, I recommend applying a protective barrier between your face and your new shaver. This could be an electric shaving solution, face moisturizer, or shaving cream (essential oil-based versions). Additionally, shaving with no more than 2-3 days of beard growth is most ideal for these shavers. Because any longer could prove to be a very uncomfortable experience since electric shavers are made for removing shorter hair. Lastly, shaving the most sensitive areas of the face first when the shaving head is cool, is recommended in order to avoid any extra shaving irritation.
How To Maintain An Electric Shaver
There are three important steps to maintaining your electric shaver:
Get the hair out. A clean shaver is a reliable one. Cleaning out all of the hair from your shaver, after each use, will keep its blades effective. Unfortunately, most of the brushes that come with electric shavers for this purpose are pretty flimsy. Instead, consider using a soft-bristle toothbrush or manicure brush that can remove the hair easier and more efficiently. Some shavers, like the Philips Norelco 9500, are capable of being rinsed underwater or come with cleaning pods. If this is the case, take advantage of this extra benefit as these cleaning pods are great at cleaning thoroughly. As for rinsing, if the hairs are not removed entirety, what remains should be much easier to remove with the included brush.
Keep its blades oiled. Similar to the pistons in a car engine. Shaver blades that work for long periods without being oiled will become less effective. Consider oiling your shaver’s blades after each use or following the manufacturer’s instructions. This includes the waterproof shavers that say otherwise.
Store in a dry place. Like all electrical devices, long-term exposure to moisture can pose a problem down the road, due to corrosion. Storing your shaver somewhere dry is pivotal in maintaining a reliable electric shaver.
Other Electric Shavers We Tested
Braun Series 7 7085cc
The Braun Series 7 offers solid, smooth performance wrapped up in a comfortable-to-hold exterior. Its shaving system comes equipped with 3 blades on a 360-degree adaptive head that manages the contours of the face very well. The hexagonal holes within the foil guard used to capture and cut each hair can at times miss thicker hairs or ones that lay closer to the skin. However, it did perform slightly better with these hair types when using shaving cream.
Its accessories are plentiful and geared towards beard styling. Included in its beard styling package is a detachable trimmer head that comes with 5 trimmer comb guards. As well as a secondary detachable head accompanied by 4 sets of comb covers designed for maintaining different beard stubble lengths.
The SmartCare Center (its cleaning/storage station) does a great job cleaning, charging, and lubricating the blades easily and efficiently. Happily, the cleaning base doesn’t take up much counter space: The SmartCare Center stands approximately nine inches tall and five inches in diameter: about the same size as two 16.9oz body lotion bottles sandwiched together.
The Braun Series 9 - 9390cc is a four-blade, wet/dry shaver that comes with the ability to lift and cut low-lying hairs as well as the functionality to capture individual beard hair growing in multiple directions, aligning them in the proper position to be cut. The Series 9’s Clean & Charge System (its cleaning storage station), cleans, charges, and lubricates with a simple one-touch command and is much sleeker and quieter than previous models.
Disappointingly, the Series 9 does not come equipped with any beard maintenance accessories. And, its precision trimmer isn’t sharp enough to make a huge impact. More troubling than this is the fact that the shaver grows hot, very quickly, when in use. .
If you’ve ever stepped foot into a barbershop, the odds are good that you may have seen an Andis Pro-Foil shaver. This powerful electric shaver is a go-to for barbers looking to finish off a haircut or quickly remove stubble. Its wide, staggered, raised blades allow the Pro-Foil to choose what portion of the blade is needed to remove hair. This is an advantage for more detailed and more gentle hair removal (i.e. maintaining a mustache line or, cleaning up the neckline).
During testing, the Pro-Foil had no trouble removing hair of any hair type. And, its lightweight, easy-to-hold design made shaving feel almost effortless. Its hair-catch (located under the blades) can be removed for cleaning with the press of a button. I liked that its small charging stand makes for easy storage in tight spaces.
However, the Pro-Foil’s immense cutting power is also its weakness: it can feel very aggressive on the skin for many users. Additionally, it’s quite loud in comparison to many of the other shavers in this guide.
The Panasonic Arc3 is fast cutting, powerful, and can be used dry or wet. Its flexible shaving head allows its blades to freely navigate the contours of the face or to be locked into place for a more traditional shaving experience. The latter made the shaving with the Arc3 much more comfortable for me. However, with my thick and overly curly beard, I found it very challenging to get a close enough shave without multiple passes over the same area. This led to less comfort, post-shave. That said, when tested on thin, straight beard hair, it did a very good job, delivering a close shave with much less effort.
I liked that its trimmer locks into place while in use. During testing, it proved both sharp and powerful. I also felt that the Arc3’s battery runtime display was a nice feature. It provides an estimate of how much shaving time you have left——in intervals between 100 and 20 minutes——before you’ll need to charge the shaver. At the 20-minute mark, the display blinks to recommend charging. However, even after this warning pops up, you can feel comfortable knowing that you can still achieve at least two more shaves.
This is the five-bladed Panasonic Arc5 performs optimally with fine, straight, and wavy hair. When used on coarse or curly hair, this shaver requires multiple passes which can create some post-shave irritation. Users of the Arc5 can choose between two settings while shaving: Shaving Sensor Mode and Normal Mode.
Shaving Sensor Mode identifies the user’s beard thickness and automatically adjusts the shaver’s power to compensate. In “Normal Mode” the power level remains constant throughout. During testing, I didn’t notice any difference between how the two modes performed. Its pop-up trimmer, on the other hand, delivered a top-notch mustache and sideburns maintenance.
When powered on, the Arc5’s display employs an LED dashed circle that slowly disappears, piece by piece as the shaver’s battery level drops.
The Philips Norelco 6000 shaver lacks the power needed to perform close or comfortable shaves. The typical response to alleviate these issues is for the 6000’s users to apply more pressure while they shave. This will inevitably create some post-shave irritation. The correct response would be to invest in a more capable shaver, such as our Best Overall or Best Value picks.
In addition to its sub-par shaving capabilities, the 6000 also comes with a detachable trimmer accessory, capable of managing very minor touch-ups.
The Braun Series 3 is a durable, wet/dry shaver that performs very well with fine and very light-growth facial hair. Its pop-up trimmer is also just right for lighter beards and finer hair. This could make it an ideal first electric shaver for teens.
Unfortunately, it was no match for thick or dense beard hair.
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