Foil and Rotary Shavers – What’s the difference?

You may have been contemplating about switching from traditional manual wet shaving with a disposable razor to using an electric shaver. Because most men are so familiar with the manual wet shaving routine, switching to electric is like taking a big step into the unknown. There are many reasons for men wanting to make this change. Some of the most common are that some men want to simply save time in the morning or to take the boredom out of the daily shaving ritual. Some men have even decided they want to give an electric shaver a try out of curiosity or recommendation from someone. Whatever the reason may be for you wanting to buy an electric shaver, you are faced with a seemingly limitless selection of shavers to choose from.

Before you part with your hard earned cash for an electric shaver there are two options to consider. Firstly, what type of electric shaver should you buy – Foil or Rotary? And secondly, which brand of shaver should you go with?

Foil and Rotary Shavers – what’s the difference?

Before I talk about what I think is the best option between shaver types and brands. I am going to provide some details about the actual difference between the foil and rotary shaver. The foil electric shaver itself was first patented way back in 1928 by an American inventor called Jacob Schick. The electric shaver design was developed further by the manufacturer Remington in 1937.

Soon after another great inventor named Alexandre Horowitz who lived in the Netherlands and worked for the Philips company went on to invent the first successful revolving (rotary type) electric shaver. Over the years major manufacturers have made improvements to the original design which we continue to see to this day. Early electric shavers were designed only for dry shaving but one of the biggest improvements in design has been the waterproof shaver heads which now make many electric shavers suitable for both wet and dry shaving.

How do they work?


The name “foil” is in reference to the very thin, foil like lair of metal where the shaver blades are situated behind. The foil acts as a thin screen which has tiny slots and holes cut in it. These slots and holes are designed to capture hairs of varying lengths where they are lifted away from the surface of the skin to be cut by the blades behind the foil. The shaver blades are positioned in a straight line and depending on the model can have between 1 and 5 rows of blades (also know as cutting elements). The blades operate by moving in an oscillating (side to side) motion to cut hairs. The foil shaver is used in the traditional up and down movement across the face that most people are accustomed to from experience with manual shaving.


The name “Rotary” quite obviously comes from the spinning or revolving way in which this type of electric shaver operates. They were designed to give better contour following of the features on the face. The rotary shaver is typically made up of 1 to 4 rotating shaver heads where spinning blades are situated behind circular shaped foils. Small holes and slots on the circular foils capture hairs and spinning blades behind the foil cut the hairs off. This type of shave is used in a circular pattern when shaving.

Both Foil and Rotary shavers are specially designed to be hypoallergenic to ensure irritation is kept to a minimum. With most good quality electric shavers the large majority of reviewers and users repost no skin irritation at all. Of course, every one is different as we all have different skin and hair types so there is no way to definitively say whether one is better than the other in terms of eliminating skin irritation.

Foil vs Rotary Shavers – Which is Best?

No one is better than the other as both give unparalleled shaving results and it’s really down to personal preference in whether you select foil and rotary shaversa foil shaver over a rotary or vice versa. Some people want to stick with the traditional up and down motion they are used to with manual shaving and enjoy the flat surface of a foil shaver. Where other people on the other hand prefer to shave in circular motions with a rotary shaver. Both shaver types can give a close and irritation free shave which is all that is really desired from a shaver.

However, because there are many different makes, models and designs, each shaver can give varying results. My suggestion would be to try whichever type of shaver sounds most appealing to you. For example, if you choose to buy a foil shaver and are happy with the way that the shave feels and the result you get then stick with that.

In terms of shaving results, they are equally matched. The only real difference that I can think of that would make one better than the other is that foil shavers allow for more precise shaving. Because the foil shaver is flat and has a straight surface, you are able to shave side burns and around a goatee with more precision for styling. If this is something that is important to you then a foil shaver would be a better choice.

Foil vs Rotary – Which Manufacturer is Best?

So now that you have decided on which type of electric shaver that you want to go with it’s now time to think about makes, models and brands. There are two main market leaders in the electric shavers industry that you will no doubt be familiar with – Braun and Philips.


Philips would be the best choice if you are looking to buy a rotary type shaver. Philips manufacture the best rotary shavers on the market and this is their field of expertise. All there focus and attention has been on designing the world’s best rotary shavers. One of Philips top of the range and most popular rotary electric shaver is the Philips RQ1280 SensoTouch GyroFlex 3D. The rotary heads on this shaver are designed to easily adjust to all the contours of the face and neck in a unique design that Philips have named “GyroFlex 3D”

The Philips RQ1280 SensoTouch shaver heads also have a patented “lift and cut” system, SkinGlide and UltraTrack features. The “Lift and Cut” system lifts each hair away from the surface of the skin before cutting to give the closest shave possible. The SkinGlide feature is made up of a low-friction surface on the shaver heads to aid in producing a smooth irritation free shave. Finally, the UltraTrack feature is made up of three specialized tracks on each of the circular rotary shave heads which works in three stages. Tack 1 cuts normal hairs, track 2 cuts flat lying hairs and track 3 cuts the shortest stubble.


If you choose to go with a foil shaver then Braun is the brand of choice. They are the undisputed masters when it comes to foil shavers and all their shavers are built around this design. They have a wide range of foil shavers available on the market and one of their most popular and highly rated models is the Braun Series 7 720.

Braun have developed a feature they call “OptiFoil” which is found in the Braun Series 7 foil shavers and is their most advanced foil design. The foil has ergonomically sized holes that much like the Philips “UltraTrack” feature that I mentioned, works by using three cutting foils. First foil for normal cutting, the second lifts flat lying hairs in hard to reach places and the third cuts close to the skin for a smooth finish. Each of the three foils move independently and operate on a free floating flexible System which allows the shaver to adapt to the contours on the face and neck.

Points to consider when switching to an Electric Shaver

As you can see there are some great options available whether you decide to buy a foil or rotary shaver when you make that switch from manual to electric. Whatever type of brand of shaver you decide to buy, also consider these three points below:

1) It’s essential to give yourself a time period to adapt to the change when you start using an electric shaver. It’s recommended you give yourself at least 30 days for you face to adjust to your new electric shaver. Only after this 30 day adjustment period can you truly determine whether the type of shaver is the right choice and suited to you personally. Most shavers come with a money back guarantee of some sort sopoint to consider if after 30 days you are not happy with your purchase, and you are within the guarantee period, simply send it back and give a different shaver a try.

2) Select a shaver with a good quality battery because the last thing you want is the shaver to die on you in the middle of a shave. Most of the high quality shavers manufactured by Braun or Philips will give a good 60 minutes of cordless free shaving and a durable battery that will retain a charge for the maximum time. There is also a “Quick charge” feature that comes with some of the good quality shavers that charges the shaver in just 5 minutes from flat and gives the shaver enough power to get you through one shave.

3) Avoid the temptation of buying a super cheap electric shaver from an unknown brand. Some of these very low quality shavers give an uncomfortable shave that is not close ether. Shoot for the middle ground as there are plenty of high quality mid range options from reputable brands such as Braun and Philips. Also, when you do finally find a shaver that you want to buy, be sure to read through some of the customer feedback reviews to see what others have to say about the shaver before you buy.

Good luck on which every choice you make and I hope you find your new electric shaver enjoyable.