Foil vs Rotary Shaver: Differences and Similarities

Foil vs Rotary Shaver

Should you choose a rotary shaver or a foil one? That’s a question that men are usually asking themselves when they’ve used one or the other. Your father might have started you on a foil shaver because he’s always used one. You might be ready to check out a foil after using a rotary for years.

Whatever the reason for your question, we have the answer to your dilemma. We can’t know what’s good for you personally since we can’t see your face. It’s all a matter of learning what is great about foil, when rotary really shines, and how they can benefit your particular skin or hair density.


What is a Foil Shaver Exactly?

Foil Shaver

A foil shaver is named because of the foils that cover the blades. The foils are thin sheets of metal that have tiny holes. Those holes allow the hair to enter the shaver. Behind the foils, there are oscillating blades. Those blades move back and forth to cut the hair as it enters the foil. The blades are often called cutters.

A foil shaver’s blades oscillate in a way like a fan or a lawn mower’s blades. This means there’s a different technique to shaving with the foil shaver. The shaver must be used in a straight line from side to side or up and down.

Advantages of the Foil Shaver

  • Gentler on Skin

When compared to rotary shavers, foil shavers are kinder to the skin. They have foils that will actually smooth the skin and get a really close shave. The foils pull the hair into the holes and cut them without pulling. This means a gentler shave on a sensitive face.

  • Precise Shave

A foil shaver can get a more precise shave because of the way the foils are set. The shaver head will move from top to bottom or left to right. This allows you to get under the nose or near the sideburns for edging and lines.

  • Very Close Shave

The foil electric shaver is known for the close shave it gives. It’s all based on the foils. They pull the skin taut while allowing all lengths of hair to enter the holes. It’s great for those with fine hair that is hard to shave with a rotary.

  • Fast Shave

This kind of shaver is great for a fast shave. In many cases, a rotary shaver requires time to move across the face. With the foil shaver, it’s quick to move from one side of the face to the other. There’s no need to pass over the same area multiple times.

  • Everyday Shaving

The man who needs to shave every day will appreciate the foil shaver. It will get closer to the skin and remove the shortest stubble. Many men want to be clean shaven on a daily basis. The foil shaver is the one that provides that kind of clean look.

  • Combs and Trimmers

Shavers with foils usually have combs and trimmers that guide the hair. This gives users a better shave because the hair is lifted and cut.

Disadvantages of the Foil Shaver

  • Noisy

The interior motor and the sound of the cutters can be much louder than other kinds of shavers. This can be an annoyance for the person shaving. It can be truly annoying for those who are trying to sleep while he’s shaving.

  • Straight Lines

Many men find that they like the up and down motion of the foil shaver. It’s not for everyone, though. There’s no variation in the motion of a foil shaver. It works best when it’s used in straight lines. A circular motion isn’t possible.

  • Limited Pivoting

The pivoting of the shaver is limited. The three to four foils will move slightly back and forth. The head itself doesn’t move as much as other shavers like the rotary.

What is a Rotary Shaver?

Rotary Shaver

A rotary shaver is one with round, independent shaving heads. There are lines in the shaver that allow hair to come through. Once the hair comes through the openings, they are cut as close to the skin as possible.

The rotary shaver can be used in a circular motion across all the contours of a man’s face. It’s particularly good on the neck area as well as the jaw line and chin.

Advantages of a Rotary Shaver

  • Thick Hair

The rotary shaver works the best with thick hair. This is hair that is coarse and grows quickly. It doesn’t necessarily have to be hair that has grown for a few days, either. Some men have fast-growing hair that’s quite thick.

  • Cuts Wild Hair

Some stubble grows in various directions. This is especially true on the neck. The rotary shaver works beautifully on wild hair that grows in lots of directions on the neck.

  • For Long Hair

If you’re the kind of guy that spends the weekend not shaving, you’ll need a good shaver for Monday. A rotary shaver is good for long hair. It’ll work better than a foil shaver on longer hair. Normally, 2 to 3 days of growth is the limit for any electric shaver. Otherwise, the shaver will pull and yank at the hair.

  • Rough Skin

Those who have been shaving for a long time can use a rotary shaver. It’s not really meant for those with sensitive skin. That means that beginners should use a rotary if they’re being introduced to electric shaving.

  • Quiet Operation

Compared to a foil shaver, the rotary one is much quieter. It won’t wake anyone who is trying to sleep in the morning. That’s important if your bathroom is very close to the bedroom. You won’t wake anyone with the rotary shaver.

Disadvantages of a Rotary Shaver

  • Not as Close

The rotary shaver isn’t going to give you a close shave like a foil. It’ll leave behind some stubble in many cases. It won’t leave you as smooth and hair free as other options like a foil or even a safety razor.

  • Not Precise

Compared to the precision of a foil shaver, the rotary isn’t going to match. Rotary shavers are meant to be used in a circular motion that doesn’t require precision. Areas like sideburns and edges of a beard won’t see the same lines as you’d get with other choices.

  • Irritation for Some

There are many men who will see some serious irritation from using a rotary shaver. The skin isn’t smoothed down as much as with a foil shaver. It can take some time to learn the proper technique for a rotary shaver to avoid irritation.

Key Aspects Different for Foil and Rotary Shavers

  • Design

The foil and rotary shavers have very distinct design differences. The foil shaver has between three and four foils with blades behind them. They don’t have as much movement as a rotary shaver.

The rotary shaver has three circular heads that move in a variety of directions independently. The head also moves for following curves. It works on the contours of the face and stays close to the skin.

  • Shaving System

The shaving system varies tremendously between the foil shaver and the rotary shaver. The foil system involves a thin metal with holes that pull in the hair. It often involves trimmers and guides that will lift the hair for cutting. The cutters behind the foil move from one side to the other like a lawn mower’s blade.

The rotary system is vastly different. The three rotary heads are shaped in a triangle. The heads move in 8 to 10 directions independent of the ones next to it. The entire device head moves, too. Behind the moving heads, the shaving blades spin to remove the hair that’s captured in the holes and slots of the head.

  • Technology

Foil shavers have sonic technology that will read the density of your whiskers. Once it’s read your face with sonic technology, it’ll adapt its power to the amount needed. It’s an innovative technology that isn’t available in other shavers.

Rotary shavers have their own technology for wet/dry operation. In one company, it’s called Aquatec. It allows the shaver to be submerged for cleaning as well as for use with shaving cream or foam.

  • Speed

A foil shaver is often faster because of the speed and vibration of the cutters. It can vibrate around 14,000 cycles per minute of operation. The speed of a rotary shaver doesn’t work nearly as fast. This is why it can require a few passes uses the common circular pattern of shaving with the rotary shaver.

  • Noise

Between the vibrations and the movement of the cutters, the foil shaver is much noisier than a rotary one. You risk waking your partner if you plan on using a foil shaver over a rotary one early in the morning.

  • Blade Motion

A rotary shaver has wheels with blades in them. These blades spin under the shaving head allowing hair into the shaver to be cut. The foil shaver has cutters that work behind the metal foils. The cutters oscillate back and forth cutting the hair that enters the foil holes.

Similarities Between a Rotary and Foil Shaver

  • Wet/Dry Options

Electric shavers often have a few models in their line that can be used wet or dry. That usually means that the shaver can be used with foam or shaving gel. It can be rinsed under a running faucet. In some cases, the shaver can be taken into the shower, too.

  • Cleaning and Charging

The newest shavers have cleaning and charging stations. Even those without charging stations can be rinsed under a running faucet. They can be charged because most of the time they have rechargeable batteries.

  • Trimmer

Rotary and foil shavers come with accessories to make them an entire grooming system. Many of the best shavers have trimmers in the handle of the shaver itself. These popup trimmers will work on sideburns and the edges of your beard or mustache.

  • Skin Safety

Unlike a safety razor, electric shavers are not applying a blade directly to your skin. In the past, this meant that you weren’t getting a close shave. Today, it means that technology allows for a close shave without causing nicks and cuts.

  • Flexible Head

The flexible head of these electric shavers will move with the contour of a man’s face. The angular nature of his cheekbone or along the edge of the jaw or chin needs flexibility. The flexible head will move to keep the blades in contact with the skin.

  • Li-ion Battery

Most electric shavers have a rechargeable battery. That battery is often a lithium-ion battery that will give you at least 60 minutes of shaving time. When an electric shave can be completed in less than 5 minutes, that’s a long battery life.

  • Shaving Time

The time spent shaving shouldn’t be very long. You want to spend as little time as possible getting ready in the morning. There’s work and family life to participate in, and you don’t want to spend your entire morning in the bathroom. It shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes to shave with your electric shaver.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which kind of shaver is good for sensitive skin?

Overall, the foil shavers are better for sensitive skin. They have foils that will smooth and glide over the skin and help you avoid irritation.

What shaver is best for daily use?

The foil shaver is good for daily use. It’s meant for fine or short hair while the rotary shaver is best for those who want to skip days between shaves.

What is the best shaver for beginners?

As far as beginners, the rotary shaver is a better overall choice. It doesn’t require a precise movement. The user can get the hang of the circular motion on the rotary easier than the foil.

Which shaver is a good choice for black men?

The rotary shaver is meant for coarser, thick hair on the face. That’s usually the case for black men. It’ll help avoid irritation and shaving bumps to use a rotary shaver.

Thick beards would benefit from what kind of shaver?

Rotary shavers are best for thick beards. A man can go a few days before shaving if he’s using a rotary shaver to remove thick whiskers.


There are certain times when a rotary shaver makes more sense than a foil. It will depend on the thickness of your whiskers and the sensitivity of your skin. A foil shaver is best for men with thin hair or sensitive skin. The rotary shaver is better for men with coarse hair and less sensitive skin.

If you’re making a switch, it’s important to allow some time for your face to get used to the change. Now, that you have read about the differences between foil vs rotary shaver, and some of the best choices, picking a shaver should be a bit easier.

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