Philips Wet & Dry Electric Shaver

© Philips / Electric Shaver for Wet and Dry Use

Whether they are young, old, rich, or poor – all men share one fate: They have to shave. It’s up to each individual how often they trim their beard, of course, but even if it doesn’t happen on a daily basis, it still takes up a lot of time in the life of each man. It seems that efficiency is key in this matter, to save at least a little time, and therefore a man can choose between an array of different types of shavers.

The most popular option is a wet shaver with a multi-blade safety razor. It guarantees a thorough and sensitive shave. A straight razor, on the other hand, is barely used these days. It is still rather useful to trim a longer beard, though. An even faster and simple form of shaving is the electric shave; and you don’t even have to be in a bathroom to use it. In the following, we have put together a guide to the different types of shavers and we also put together a list of what you should be on the lookout for, should you want to buy a new shaver or switch to a different method of shaving.

1. A Little History: The First Electric Shaver

Schick 20 Electric Shaver

The long history of shaving begins painful. Early cave paintings show men cutting their beard with sharp rocks or even sea shells. A rather clumsy way of making oneself presentable, and a dangerous one as well.

It is a far journey from there to the invention of the electric shaver. Jacob Schick was the creative mastermind who came up with it, an American entrepreneur who was, deep down, stressed out, basically. Having to visit the barber every other day was simply too much for him. King Camp Gillette shared Schick’s aversion as Gillette himself had just invented a new type of razor. Schick, however, wanted to push Gillette’s advancement even further.

He developed different prototypes but the early ones were all failures. If he hadn’t had so much free time on his hands (he couldn’t leave his bed for almost a year as he had fallen ill), the project of the electric shaver might have died just then.

But in 1929, Schick presented the world its first electric shaver. But the world was not intrigued and no manufacturer wanted to collaborate with Schick. The economic crisis of the day might have played a role in this, but on the other hand, Schick’s electric shaver was clunky and a very blockish piece of equipment. It took another two years for a more user-friendly model to be ready for production. These two years, however, almost bankrupted Schick. But fortunately, the new razor gained popularity quickly and until the year 1937, 1.2 million razors were sold.

2. Different Types of Electric Shavers

There are different types of electric shavers, namely the foil shaver and shavers with rotary shaving heads. Certain advantages and disadvantages are inherent to each of these types, of course. Your decision on which shaver is the one for you should be foremost influenced by your very skin, since both kinds of shavers differ greatly when it comes to gentleness.

2.1 Foil Shavers

The electric foil shaver works like this: A protective foil prevents direct contact between the blade and your skin, rendering shaving cuts impossible. Tiny holes in the foil let the hair reach the blade just so. As the blade is swinging back and forth, your beard is being cut. The foil shaver does not adapt to the shape of your face, however, whereas rotary shaving heads do. Still, some newer models of foil shavers are able to circumvent this problem by yielding under pressure. But the foil shaver is, in the end, the more gentle one on your skin and especially beginners in the field of electric shaving should have no problems whatsoever with this kind of shaver. Trimming your beard is also not a problem when you’re using a foil shaver.

Electric Shaver Comparison

2.2 Rotary Shavers

Rotary shaving heads mostly come with three blades, embedded in moving sockets, and they actually adjust to the outline of your face. The handling itself is somewhat easier, compared to the foil shaver, and even problematic regions of your face or jawline quite easily be reached with a rotary shaver. The blades themselves are shielded from your face by a protective grid, thus preventing any form of shaving cuts. Since this shave is not as gentle as a shave with a foil shaver, irritated skin might become a problem. On the plus side, the rotary shaving head is, by nature, moving in a circular motion, and thus lets you cut your beard from different angles.

3. Using the Shaver Correctly

It’s not very complicated: Move the foil shaver down your face in straight lines; the rotary shaving head should be moved in circling motions. Only the former is thus suitable to be used for trimming or shaping your beard in a certain fashion, whereas a rotary shaver is not a precise enough instrument to accomplish works of a very fine and defined nature. Applying too much pressure will in both cases lead to irritated skin.

4. Important Features and Purchase Criteria

4.1 Both Wet and Dry or Just Dry?

Electric Shaver for Wet & Dry Use

Some models can also be used as wet shavers. Here too, gel or foam is applied before you start shaving, making the hair stick and stand up in the foam or gel. Stubble is much easier to remove this way. The process is a gentler one, too, since the foam or gel lets the blade glide much more smoothly across your face.

Some models are waterproof. So if you wanted to, you could shave right in the shower. The effect is going to be a much more thorough one, since the warm water opens up your skin’s pores and the hair becomes more accessible.

4.2 Number of Shaving Heads

Rotary shavers usually come with three shaving heads, guaranteeing easy access to even the more problematic regions of your face. Three shaving heads are simply the ideal number. There exist, however, some models with only two or even four shaving heads, but two are usually not enough to achieve a good and clean result, and the fourth is often-times just one too many, as it brings no additional advantage.

The number of shaving heads or shear elements on a foil shaver is harder to determine. Especially the more upscale models come with different attachments, each with an unique and special purpose. Some let you trim your beard in a certain way, others allow you to make certain regions of your beard stand out.

4.3 Battery: Capacity, Charge Time, Durability

Your electric shaver should, in general, come with a strong battery, especially when you travel a lot. That’s one important buying criteria. A long durability is another detail to be on the lookout for; these shavers are not cheap after all. The battery’s charge time is yet one more factor to be considered. Luckily, even medium priced models come equipped with very good batteries, which can be charged within a couple of minutes and last up to an hour.

4.4 Beard Styling

Electric Shaver with Beard Styler

If you trim your beard regularly, the following problem should be old news for you: It is almost impossible to keep the exact same distance between your face and the shaver for more than just a couple of seconds, resulting in a more or less unevenly trimmed beard. To solve this conundrum, special styling attachments have been invented, enabling you to shorten every single hair in your beard to the exact same length.

4.5 Paraphernalia: Case, Hard Shell Case, Cleaning Brush

Especially when you’re on the road, you don’t want to miss your electric shaver. Certain accessories are hence fundamental: Most models come with a case. All this case does, however, is that it prevents beard stubble raining down from the shaver onto the rest of your clothes inside your bag. Hard shell cases are better, as they protect the electric shaver from being bumped around and damaged, should your luggage be handled in a more rough manner, at the airport, for instance.

4.6 Integrated Beard Trimmer

Many electric shavers come equipped with long hair cutters. With these you can manage to cut hair you wouldn’t have been able to reach otherwise. You can also use these trimmers (usually built-in on the backside of the shaver so you can fold them out) to give yourself a new haircut.

4.7 Cleaning Station

Some of the more expensive models come with a cleaning station. The shaver is put in there head-first and is then automatically rinsed with a liquid. Often times alcohol is used as well, for disinfecting purposes. Besides being cleaned this way, the shaver is also being oiled. The sometimes available quick-clean function is not as thorough and efficient, however and the regular procedure takes time, often up to half an hour.

5. Cleaning and Maintenance

Should your model not include a cleaning station, then you’ll have to maintain it manually to ensure its durability. Every model usually comes with a small brush and you should use them to remove beard stubble from the shaving heads after every shave. Oiling tasks have to be performed manually as well. Also, the shaving heads should be disinfected once a week.

To clean a foil shaver, the foil has to be removed first. Just empty it out in your sink. If need be, tap it gently against the sink in the process.

Rotary shavers can usually be flipped open, so you don’t have to remove the blades.

6. Other Applications

Electric shavers are also great when you’re bald and you want to get rid of every single last hair that might still be growing on your head. In contrast to using them to shave your beard, using system blades on your head can easily lead to injuries, quite frequently even. This won’t happen with an electric shaver, thanks to the protective grid. Also, it’s much faster this way and, paired with a finishing wet-shave afterwards, more thorough too.

You can actually also use an electric shaver to shave your private parts. There exist, however, special models for this delicate work, with a different handle much more adequate and suited for this situation.

Shaving your legs is also quite easily done with an electric shaver. Models especially made for this are also available.

You can also use it to remove the hair in your armpits. This is best done shaving wet.

Using an electric shaver on more sensible regions like these usually leads to some skin irritation in the beginning. They should become less and less painful over time.

7. Wet Shavers vs Electric Shavers

A classic shave is usually quite affordable. A blade lasts up to three weeks, even if used daily. Basically, a supply box containing eight blades lasts four months and doesn’t even cost 15 pounds. An electric shaver’s shaving head costs around 40 pounds, but lasts for about two years. There are other costs involved, however, which can amount to 15 pounds per months (costs for electricity, cleaning oil, etc.). There are more advantages to an electric shaver though.

7.1 Wet Shaver

For a long time, this was the only shaving method, and there still is something primal and dignifying about it: Immerse the badger hair shaving brush into your shaving soap, dab your jaw, lay out the stainless steel razor – this has more to it than pressing a plastic razor to your face. But a wet shave takes more time. Even when you’re well-practiced and have your face all ready and good to go with only a couple of strokes, preparation and follow-up processes alike are laborious. Besides, the blades keep on being wear and tear parts. The brush won’t last forever, too, and you need a lot of different care products.

A wet shave is through. The blades graze the skin directly and cut the hair close to the root. A well-done wet shave lasts longer. Men whose beard growth is not really that strong don’t need to shave every day.

But thorough is, in this instance, the exact opposite of gentle care. It’s a simple fact: A wet shave is a great strain for your skin and hair. Heavily applied pressure is not the only reason why a wet shave cuts away more of your skin’s top layer. Depending on the blade and the direction of the razor, some hair are being downright sharpened and thus develop a stronger tendency to grow in and become inflamed. Men with impure and rough skin are also prone to cutting themselves when shaving wet.

  • affordable to purchase
  • more thorough shave
  • not as convenient
  • can only be used in the bathroom

7.2 Electric Shaver

Electric Shaver in Use

The dry shave procedure is also old enough already, to have legends spun around it. The fact is: Dry shavers have been continuously developed further and further over decades. Today, they are a quick, clean and gentle tool. But the cost keeps being an issue. Whatever you are using so close to your face should be a product of quality and not some cheap tack. In the end, an investment in this kind of razor will be noticeable. But it is also true that the follow-up costs are little. The blades are again basically wear and tear parts, but here they last longer than a wet shave blade ever would. Besides, you will be needing fewer care products as well. The dry shaver turns out to be the inexpensive option in the long run – if you can afford the initial investment.

A dry shave is less thorough than a wet shave. It’s the nature of the beast: Between the blade and the skin, there is always going to be the shaving foil. It lessens the risk of injuries but enlarges the space between the root of the hair and the blade. The end result of a dry shave is often good but could, in most cases, be better at the same time. A good model, taking good care of it and cleaning it in steady intervals, plus a good pre-shave for a dry shave – all of that improves the result. But even the best dry shave can not prevent a certain shadow to grow back onto a man’s face once evening comes around again, if his beard growth is strong.

Men with sensitive skin in particular should not be deterred. A somewhat superficial shave is one thing: Ingrown hair, pimples and inflammations are a whole different deal altogether. Anyone unable to tolerate a wet shave should definitely change to a dry shaver. Wet and dry dual shavers are, by the way, just another care product. They can be used in the shower, and thus save you some time, and they can be gentle to your skin. But what they can not do is substitute a thorough shaving method. Shaving foil does not magically disappear as soon as the water starts running.

  • less care products needed
  • you can use it everywhere
  • quick and not complicated
  • easy on the skin
  • no injuries
  • expensive to purchase
  • not as thorough

8. The Most Important Manufacturers

8.1 Braun

The company was founded in 1921 by Max Braun, an engineer. Originally being a supplier to other industries like the automobile industry, business flourished until the Nazis forced Braun to only manufacture war equipment during WW II. Nowadays Braun manufactures a variety of electric devices and appliances and is also, together with Philips, a global market leader when it comes to electric shavers. Braun favours the foil shaver.

8.2 Philips

Being a traditional brand founded in the year 1891 by Frederik Philips and his son Gerard, the company first produced light bulbs. After opening a research lab in 1914, the company expanded into different markets as well, producing radio valves, for instance. With about 100,000 employees, the company is the biggest in the field of electronics. Philips favours rotary shavers with three shaving heads.

Electric Shaver Manufacturers

8.3 Panasonic

Panasonic is a Japanese corporation which in 1918 started out as a family business. Konosuke Matsushita founded Panasonic together with his siblings and the first products leaving the assembly lines were bulb sockets. After severe difficulties and a small turnover, the company expanded nonetheless and success followed. Almost a quarter million employees generate a revenue of about sixty billion Euros annually today. Panasonic favours foil shavers.

8.4 Remington

Remington, founded as a subdivision of Remington Rand in 1936, was one of the very first computer manufacturers. Since the early 1930s, electric shavers are part of the brand’s choice of products as well. Remington produces foil as well as rotary shavers.

9. The Correct Pre- and Aftershave

A dry shave’s biggest advantage is the small amount of effort it takes. Usually, there is no pre-shave ritual like the wet shave’s applying of foam or gel. You can, however, still use certain pre-shave products, or rub your face with a warm and wet towel. This will open your skin pores and guarantee a more thorough shave. To close your pores again afterwards, you can wash your face with clean and cold water. You can also use shower gel to clean your face and thus guard your skin against pimples. An aftershave moisturises your skin and you’re good to go.

9.1 Creams, Pastes, Lotions

  • Pre-Shave – If your skin tends to be on the problematic side, you should create the best preconditions possible before a shave. Pre-shaves are available for wet and dry shaving.
  • Shaving Foam – A gel or soap will work just as well, but for a wet shave a suitable product should definitely be applied to ensure the right conditions. For a grooming shave, look for products without alcohol, without additives such as perfume or preservatives. Herbal supplements like chamomile or aloe vera, however, can soothe your skin beforehand.
  • Aftershave – The main product for skin care after shaving. Anyone with sensitive skin, though, should rather ignore “invigorating” or “cool” products, but should instead choose sensitive aftershaves which contain no alcohol and soothe and moisturize the skin and ease irritations.
  • Antibacterial Pens – Styptic and antibacterial pens, usually with a herbal supplement, are best bought at a pharmacy. Anyone frequently suffering from little shaving cuts can consider these a real lifesaver. They often provide a quick remedy so you don’t need to wear a telltale patch to work anymore.
  • Face Soap – Basically everyone should have a gentle soap for their daily skin cleansing routine. It particularly prevents skin blemishes.

Don’t turn red: Does your skin feel better already? How to take good care of your skin after a shave is no secret lore. A few good (gentle) toiletries, diligence and calmness when shaving already resolve the biggest problems for most.

9.2 Are Electric Shavers Better for Sensitive Skin?

Shaver for Sensitive Skin

In general, fewer skin irritations are caused by electric shavers. Your skin is not in direct contact with any of the shaver’s blades, as they are hidden away behind by the shaver’s grid. An electric shaver should thus be more gentle on your skin. Believe us when we say that your skin will get used to the electric shave. Should your skin however still react to the shave after a couple of weeks, you might be dealing with an allergic reaction here.

9.3 What To Do With Ingrowing Hair?

Although it only happens from to time, ingrowing hair can be a painful situation to deal with.

There is a remedy though: Apply some acne creme or tooth paste and the swelling should grow back.

9.4 Switching From Wet to Dry Shave

The reason why men give up on the dry shave so often and so quickly is as easily explained as it is often times clearly visible: Irritated skin. After the shave, a painful and irritated feeling often lingers. But over time, your skin gets used to it. Pimples can also be a side effect of a dry shave, however, being caused by the blades cutting away fine layers of scarf skin that linger on your face after the shave, obstructing your skin’s pores. Using a Pre-Shave will take care of this problem.

10. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Can a Woman Just as Easily Use Your Electric Shaver?

In theory, yes. However, your shaver is proportioned to be used on a man’s face. There exist special models for women though, way better suited to shave legs with.

How Often Do You Need to Change Blades?

Approximately every two years.

Can I Bring My Electric Shaver on an Airplane as Carry-On?

Since you can’t turn your electric shaver into a deadly weapon, like you could a wet shaver, they are allowed as carry-on. You might have to prove that it is a working electric shaver though.

Can You Cut Yourself With an Electric Shaver?

You can’t really cut or injure yourself. You can get pinched, though.

How Useful Is It to Use Shaving Foam When Shaving With a Wet & Dry Electric Shaver?

A wet & dry shaver is made for use in the shower and it is quite useful to use shaving foam. The shave is gentler and more thorough then.

Can I Return the Electric Shaver in Case I Don’t Like It?

This is not easy to answer. You have the right to be compensated, since you can not re-sell the shaver. Online retailers are usually very fair when it comes to a situation like this, since they mostly try to avoid getting bad reviews.

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Manuel Rowinski

Manuel Rowinski, Editor-in-Chief

Manuel is one of the founders and editor-in-chief of this project and primarily interested in technical topics. For a long time he ran his own home cinema portal, wrote for Idealo about new products and is a regular visitor to various electronics trade shows.