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 gels 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.

Top 4 Foil Shavers

Foil Shavers Comparison Table

ModelBraun 790ccPanasonic Arc4Braun 9290ccPanasonic Arc5
Movement8 directionsMulti-Flex Pivoting10 directionsMulti-Flex Pivoting
Cleaning & ChargingYes
Cross-cutting actions30000560004000070000
Shaving time50 min42 min50 min45 min
Price Check Price Check Price Check Price Check Price

Braun Electric Shaver Series 7 790cc

The Series 7 790cc has 4 shaving elements for a close shave. There are 3 cutters for 10,000 microvibrations. That’s 30,000 cross cutting actions per minute. The 4th shaving element is the SkinGuard meant to protect your skin from nicks and cuts. It smooths the skin down while guiding the hair through the foils.

An 8-D Contour head means that the cutting elements float to stay in constant contact with the skin. Each element moves independently from the next. The entire head moves to stay with the angles and curves of your face.

Five shaving modes are available with this shaver. If you need a sensitive shave, there’s an option for that. There’s also a turbo mode for more power to your shave. You can personalize your shaving needs with one of the five modes from sensitive to turbo.

The 790cc comes with a cleaning and charging station. The 4-action cleaning and charging base will keep your shaver like new. It cleans, dries, lubricates, and charges your shaver.

My impressionBraun 790cc foil shaver

This foil shaver from Braun has a precision head that follows the contours of a man’s face. From cheeks to chin, it’ll stay in constant contact to ensure a close shave. It works especially well in the area under the nose, too. That’s not always the case with many shavers.

It’s easy to clean this shaver under a running faucet. You can use foam or gel for a wet shave then run the shaver under water to rinse it. That’s important when you’re using foam or gel. You want to be able to rinse it during your shave. It keeps the shaver from being clogged.

This shaver has a total of 50 minutes of cordless time before it needs a charge. Between charges, you don’t need to worry about using the cleaning station, either. Once a week, you can place the shaver into the clean and charge station to keep it like new.

What could be better?

It would be better if this shaver could be taken into the shower for a shave.

Panasonic ES-LA63-S Arc4

One of the most critical features of a shaver is the ability to stay in close contact with the skin. That’s done through a pivoting head. The Arc4 head has Multi-Flex pivoting to move in all directions. In a uniform motion, the shaving head moves smoothly along the contours of your face.

The stainless steel foils are covering four very sharp blades that are angled at 30 degrees. The angle ensures that when the hair is lifted to be cut, the blades are getting incredibly close to the skin. The Nanotech blades are hypoallergenic stainless steel, too.

This wet/dry shaver can be used dry over the sink for a quick shave before you’re running out the door. It could even be used in the car at red lights if you were in a terrible hurry. The Arc4 is best when used with your favorite shave gel or foam. That can happen in the shower or at the sink, too.

The motor of the Arc4 provides a quiet, very fast shave . The linear motor propels the blades at 14,000 cycles per minute. It does so with a quiet power that won’t leave your shaver overheated or struggling to stay powerful.

My impressionPanasonic Arc4 foil shaver

The Multi-Flex head of the Arc4 ensures that you’ll get the closest shave possible. Behind the flexing head, the foils and blades are performing beautifully to keep contact with the skin. The foils smooth the skin while the holes allow hair to enter. They’re cut without pulling.

It’s important to have a shaver that can adapt to your lifestyle. You might have days where you can take your time with your shave. Other days, you might be sprinting for the door without even a cup of coffee. To always look your best, an adaptable shaver is key. That’s what you’ll get with the Arc4 since it can shave wet or dry.

The Arc4 is a great travel shaver. It comes with a cover to protect the shaving head. It has a travel lock on the handle, so you don’t have to worry about the battery running down. It comes with a portable charger and case, too. All of the things that make it easy to travel with this electric foil shaver.

What could be better?

The shaving head is large, which can make it hard to get to small areas like under the nose.

Braun Electric Shaver Series 9 9290cc

The Braun Series 9 9290cc has five shaving elements. That’s 4 cutting elements plus a SkinGuard that will guide hair and protect your skin. There are also two specialized trimmers on the shaver that help to capture all the hair on your face and neck.

For each blade, there’s a cross-cutting action of 10,000 per minute. With 4 cutting elements, that gives you 40,000 per minute for maximum efficiency. The guide will lift all kinds of hair for cutting, too.

To keep the blades close to the skin at all times, the shaver has huge flexibility. The 10-D Contour means that all the shaving elements move side to side. Each one also moves independently from the others next to it. The head itself also moves and flexes. All of the floating elements mean that the cutters will stay in contact on your curves.

The shaver is waterproof, so it can be used in the shower. It can also be used in the sink with your favorite shaving gel or foam. Rinsing your new shaver in the sink is simple, too. Just run it under the faucet.

For thorough cleaning as well as charging, the 9290cc comes with a cleaning and charging station. It’s a 5-action station that will clean as well as charge and lubricate your shaver. It uses an alcohol-based cleansing solution that will give the shaver a thoroughly hygienic clean.

My impressionBraun 9290cc foil shaver

One of the best features of this Series 9 9290cc is the shaving elements powered by sonic technology. There’s an AutoSensing motor that will read your whiskers and provide the power needed. That’s fantastic for delivering exactly the power and cutting action for the density of your beard.

The cutting elements deliver 40,000 cross-cutting actions per minute. At the same time, the guide and trimmer will lift and deliver the hair to be cut. All of these features work together to give you the closest shave possible.

Out of all the features to love about the 9290cc, the cleaning station is the most exciting. It uses an alcohol solution to clean and sanitize the shaver. Keeping your shaver clean and lubricated is essential to maintaining the life of your shaver’s blades.

What could be better?

The head of the shaver is large for small areas like the space under the nose.

Panasonic ES-LV95-S851 Arc5

The Arc5 shaving system has five sharp, Nanotech blades. They sit behind ultra-thin foil that glides across the skin. The blades are honed to a 30 degree edge that lifts while it cuts the hairs. This gets an incredibly close shave.

The shaving sensor works to read the density of your whiskers as it glides across your face. Cheeks to chin to neck, there are different thicknesses and density of the hair. The Arc5 will read that and deliver more or less power as needed. You don’t need to keep it at full power in areas where hair is thin. That would cause serious irritation.

This is a wet/dry shaver that can be taken into the shower. That’s a fantastic time saver. Whether you use foam, gel or use it dry, the shaver can be cleaned using running water from the faucet.

Once a week or so, you can use the premium cleaning and charging station. This cleans and charges the shaver, which keeps it in good working condition for a very long time. The cleaning station automatically performs its job, so you don’t have to do anything except insert the shaver and walk away.

My impressionPanasonic Arc5 foil shaver

The blades, foils, and pivoting movement of the shaving head work together to give you the closest shave possible. The 5 blades are angled to ensure that the hair is lifted as its cut. The power delivered by the autosensor is customized based on the reading of your facial hair. You’ll never get more or less power than what’s needed.

The pivoting head will give you a precise shave no matter where its needed. Near your sideburns, along your jaw line, down your neck are all places where pivoting matters. Precision in your grooming routine can be helped with the popup trimmer that’s found on the back of this shaver, too.

This is a great travel shaver. It has a separate charger, so you don’t have to bring your charging station with you on the road. The adapter is included. There’s a travel safety lock and a pouch for traveling, too.

What could be better?

The head of the shaver is quite wide, which can be a problem in small areas to be shaved.

Top 4 Rotary Shavers

Rotary Shavers Comparison Table

ModelNorelco 9700Norelco 4500Pitbull GoldNorelco 8900
Movement8 directions4 directions30 degree movement8 directions
Cleaning & ChargingYes
Shaving SystemV-Track Precision Blade ProDual Precision Blade SystemPitbull universal bladeV-Track Precision Blade Pro
Shaving Time60 minutes50 minutesCan be used while charging50 minutes
Price Check Price Check Price Check Price Check Price

Philips Norelco Shaver 9700

The self-sharpening blades of the 9700 are an upgraded V-Track Precision Blades Pro system. It captures the hair on your face from 1 days to 3 days of stubble. It lifts and cuts them to ensure a close shave.

It captures the hair with contour detect technology, too. In a single pass, you’ll capture more hairs because the shaver stays in direct contact with the face. When the blades more in 8 directions, there’s almost nowhere that the hair can hide.

There are incredible accessories with this shaver. There’s a cleaning and charging system and additions like the SmartClick cleansing brush. The cleaning and charging system includes the cartridge that will keep your shaver clean and sparkling new every day. There’s a precision trimmer, cleansing brush, and travel case, too.

Some shavers have an automatic power sensor to change the power based on the thickness of your hair. You can choose your own personal comfort settings on this shaver. You can choose a Sensitive setting for a gentle shave, a Normal one for everyday shaving, or Fast for a quick powerful shave.

My impressionPhilips Norelco 9700 rotary shaver

There are many accessories for this shaver. There is a cleansing brush to remove oils from your face. This gives you a cleaner, closer shave. Preparing the face before a shave helps you avoid irritation and in-grown hairs. There’s also a cleansing and charging station to ensure the cleanest blades possible.

The interface on the shaver gives you a ton of detail to keep your device in the best shape. There’s a battery level indicator, a travel lock indicator, replacement head indicator, and a cleaning indicator. All of these help you to maintain your shaver in great shape.

The contour detect technology moves the shaver in 8 directions for a close shave. Moving in circles across the angle of your cheeks or over your jaw line, you need that kind of flexibility.

What could be better?

There’s no attached trimmer for this shaver.

Philips Norelco Shaver 4500

The DualPrecision Blade System is meant to capture both long beard hairs and short stubble. Your hair doesn’t grow at the same length in every area of your face. Neck hair can be much longer. The shaving system will deliver the same power and cutting action to long hair as short stubble.

The AquaTec technology allows the shaver to be taken into the shower. Whether you want a dry shave or a wet one with foam or gel, the AquaTec seal will keep your shaver from being filled with water. It’s completely washable, too.

The Pivot, Flex, and Float blade system keeps the rotating blades in contact with the skin. When your shaver maintains contact, you’re getting a close shave. The rotary heads move independently from each other to give you varied movements to follow curves and contours.

There’s a popup trimmer on the handle for turning your shaver into a complete grooming system. You don’t have to search for attachments. This trimmer is right in the handle. The handle also features an LED charge light and a battery indicator to let you know when it’s full or low.

My impressionPhilips Norelco 4500 rotary shave

The wet/dry nature of the shaver means that you can hop into the shower with it and give yourself a fast, close shave. If you don’t have time for that, this will give you a quick, dry shave as you’re running out the door, too. It’s a flexible type of shave for a guy who is on the run a lot.

The flexible head and rotary shavers move in 4 directions independent of each other. It’s easy to keep the blades close to your face when it follows the contours and stays with the angles.

Along with the great technology that comes with this shaver, there are accessories, too. There’s a protection cap as well as a cleaning brush. It’s fully waterproof, but if you’re dry shaving, you might have access to water to clean the shaver. There’s a popup trimmer on the handle of the shaver, too. It has everything you need for a full grooming system.

What could be better?

It takes 8 hours to fully charge the shaver.

Pitbull Gold Shaver

The Gold Shaver from Skull Shaver is meant to work on the roundness of your head. It’s the ultimate in curves and contours to have to shave your head. For that reason, the rotary blades move independent of each other to cover the contours.

The shaver allows you to work on a wet or dry surface. You can use shaving foam to soften the hair and ensure that there’s no irritation. It can be used in the shower, too. It’s easy to rinse the foam from the blades after you’re done. The shaver can move from the surface of your head to the face quite easily, too.

The shaver can be used cordless while you’re in the shower or on the go. The great thing about this shaver is that you can use it while plugged in, too. As long as you’re not using this in the shower at the same time, though. Electricity and water should never mix.

The handle of the shaver makes it an ergonomic design that’s easy to hold when you’re shaving areas like the back of your head. It’ll never slip and fall to the fall as you hold it in the palm of your hand.

My impressionPitbull Gold Shaver

One of the best things about this shaver is the ability to hold it in the palm of your hand. You can hold it with just two fingers to get to the back of your head, too. It’s lightweight, balanced, and ergonomic.

There are 5 blades and a wide surface on this rotary head shaver. It’ll cover a big surface like your head easily and quickly. It won’t take very long to remove the hair that’s started to grow in between shaves, too.

The shaver is water resistant at IPX5. That means it’s safe for the shower, but it shouldn’t be submerged. You can definitely clean the blades of foam under a running faucet.

What could be better?

Can’t be used with gel as it tends to clog up the blades.

Philips Norelco Electric Shaver 8900

The V-Track Precision Blades gets 30% closer to the skin when cutting. Along with the precision blades, the Contour-Detect technology helps the blades get closer to the skin when cutting your whiskers.

The LED display has tons of information. It’ll show you at a glance when the battery is low. It’ll also tell you when it’s time for a new shaving head. It should last a while, though, so that’s not a concern for some time. It’ll also let you know when the travel lock is engaged. Your shaver won’t turn on by accident when you’re traveling.

The 8900 comes with a SmartClean system that cleans as well as charges your shaver. The cleansing solution is alcohol free and friendly to your skin. It’ll remove all the hair, foam, and gel from your shaver to keep it in great condition. It’ll clean, lubricate, dry, and charge your shaver for your next shave.

In the kit with the shaver, you’ll find a click-on beard styler. It can change to 5 different lengths, so you can keep a trim, shapely beard. Any level of whiskers you want are perfect for this beard styler.

My impressionPhilips Norelco 8900 rotary shaver

The shaver comes with more than just the standard accessories like the power cord and travel case. This one comes with the SmartClean charging and cleaning station, a precision trimmer, and the beard styler. It’s an all-in-one grooming system for your face.

It’s a good idea to have a shaver that can go from dry shaving to wet shaving as you need it. It gives you a versatility in your morning routine that you might need. If you’re running late, you might want to hop in the shower with your shaver. On the other hand, it might be faster for you to take your dry shaver to the car.

This is a great travel shaver, too. While it has a charging base, it also has a power cord and travel case. The travel lock will keep it from turning on and wasting the charge while traveling, too.

What could be better?

The trimmer isn’t built into the unit. The beard styler has to be changed out for the shaver head, too.

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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