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ThispostwasdoneinpartnershipwithWirecutter.WhenreaderschoosetobuyWirecutter'sindependentlychoseneditorialpicks,WirecutterandEngadgetmayearnaffiliatecommission.Readthefullguidetoelectricrazors. Beard shaving patterns.

Duringmorethanfouryearsoftesting,adozenelectricrazortestersbuzzedandclippedapathtowardwhatwehopedwouldbesilken-jawednirvana—andwefoundthatBraunSeries7modelsarethebestelectricrazorsforremovingfacialhair.The760cc,790cc,and7865ccconsistentlyproducedclose,comfortableshaves.Allthreemodelsareeasytouseandmaintain.They'reessentiallythesameshavers—sogetwhicheveroneischeapest.

Braun'sSeries7razorshavebeenaroundinvariousformssince2010,andtheyhavebuiltareputationforproducingcloseshaves,beingdurable,andprovidingconvenienceandvalue.TheSeries7hasbeenaperennialpickinmanycustomerreviewsandpublications,includinghereatWirecuttersince2015.It'sstillourfavoriterazor,andit'sbecomeanevenbetterchoicebecauseit'ssignificantlylessexpensivethanitusedtobe.

The790ccandthe7865ccprovidethesamequalityshaveasthe760cc,withafewextrabutunimportantfeatures.Herearethedifferences:The790cchasfiveshavingmodes,insteadofthethreethe760ccoffers.Mostownerswon'tevenfindthemselvesawareofthetwoextramodes,andinourtestswedidn'tnoticeadifferencebetweenmodes.The7865cc,whichalsohasfivemodes,ismarketedasawetanddryrazor—Braunauthorizesyoutouseitintheshower—butsincethe760ccandthe790ccarealsowaterproof,youcanprobablyshowerwiththem,too.Thatsaid,wedon'trecommendshavingwithanelectricrazorintheshower,sinceelectricshaversworkbetteronadryface.AlloftheSeries7modelsarenowsimilarinprice;ifyoucan'tfindthe760cc,gowiththe790ccorthe7865cc(orwhichevermodelistheleastexpensive—pricescanvarywidely).

BraunclaimstheSeries9cantacklethreedays'worthofheavybeardgrowth.(We'vegenerallyconsideredtwodaysoftypicalgrowth—ifyoulooklikeyoureallyneedashave,you'reprobablyatthatpoint—tobeasmuchasatypicalelectricshavercanhandlewell.)Wefoundthatthisrazorwasasgoodasitsmarketing,withanimportantasterisk:TheSeries9setastandardforperformanceandspeedthatmostofourtestersagreedexceededthatofeveryothershaverwetried.Butmostpeoplewhoshavetheirfacialhair—whetherthey'refive-o'clock-shadow-by-noontypesorlight-and-wispy-bearded—don'tneedtheperformanceboost.Nearlyeveryonecangetashavethat'sjustasvelvetyfromtheSeries7.

AlthoughwebelievetheSeries7willpleasejustaboutanyonewhotriesit,theRemingtonF5-5800isasurprisinglycompetentalternative.Itprovidescrediblestubble-levelingresultsatagenuinelyaffordableprice.NoneofourtestersthoughtitwasonthelevelofaBraun—butthenagain,it'slessthanaquarteroftheprice.ButunliketheBraunSeries7andSeries9,thismodeldoesnotcomewithacleaningsystem.

Basedonourresearchandtesting,webelieveafoilshaverproducesabettershaveformostfacialhair.Butifyoupreferarotarystyle,considerPhilipsNorelco'sShaver9300(oranothermodelinthebrand's9000line).Rotaryshaversoperatedifferentlythanfoilshavers,usingfloatingheadsthatgraspandremovehair,whichsomepeoplefindmorecomfortable.

Whyyoushouldtrustus

I'marazorenthusiast,andIloveplayingwithbothmanualandelectricrazors.InthefouryearsthatI'vebeenwritingaboutrazorsforWirecutter,I'vepersonallytestedmorethan30models:thefulllinesfromBraun,Panasonic,andPhilipsNorelco,aswellasone-offbrandsandusedshavers(don'tdoit!)thatIfoundinthedeepest,darkestcornersofeBay.

Overfouryears,I'vemonitoredotherreviewsofelectricrazors—especiallytheextensiveadviceinTyler'sElectricShaverGuide—andcommentsonshavingforumssuchasBadger&Blade,Reddit'sr/shaving,andmultiplethreadsonAskMetaFilter.Ialsovisitedoneofthelastsurvivingbrick-and-mortarelectricshavershopsinNorthAmerica.Canada'sCentreduRasoirchainstillhasover30outlets,mostlyinQuebecprovince.Inspring2019,IstoppedbytheMontrealbranchandviewedeverymodelofBraunandPhilipsshaveronoffer,sidebyside.

Whothisisfor

Twoofthereasonsyoumaypreferusinganelectricrazoronyourfaceinsteadofamanualoneareconvenience(beingabletoshaveanytime,anywherewithoutwater)andsafety(noriskofnicks).

Ifyoufindmanualshavingtooroughonyourskin,tryelectric.Althoughneithermethodisspecificallymoregentle,peoplewhohaveproblemswithonekindofshavingorrazoroftendobetterwhentheyswitch.Thosewithespeciallycoarseorcurlyfacialhaircanbeparticularlypredisposedtoingrownhairsandrazorbumps,andtheless-closeshaveofanelectricrazor,orshaver,canhelp.

Thoughmostmanufacturersinsistthattheirelectricdevicescansmoothyourfaceaswellasatraditionalblade(andthismaybetrueforsomepeople),thephysicalmechanics—howelectricshaversactuallyremoveyourstubble—createaclosenesslimitthatsomeownerswillcertainlynotice.Ifacloseshaveisyourtoppriority,youmayfindthatanelectricrazorsimplycannotcomparetoamanualone.

Electricshaversvs.manualrazors

Manualrazors—whetheranold-fashioned,single-bladestraightedgeoranain't-this-ridiculousseven-blademodernnon-marvel—alloperateunderasimpleprinciple:Asharpbladeglidesacrossyourfaceandslicesyourwhiskersclosetotheskin.Multiple-bladesystemsaddatheoreticalsecondaction(razormakerscallthis"hysteresis")inwhichthefirstbladepullsyourwhiskeroutwardandsubsequentblades—asecond,third,fourth,onwardtoinfinity—cutthatpulledfollicleevencloser.Butnomatterhowmanybladesyourmanualrazorboasts,thefundamentalmechanics—aknife-likeslicing—remainthesame.

Electricshaversworkonatotallydifferentprinciple.Foil-basedsystemsuseoneormorecuttingblocksmountedbeneaththethinmetalhead.Thefoil'sperforationsguidethewhiskersintotheblock,whereapairofopposingbladesslicethemoff.Theactionismorelikewhatyou'dgetfromapairofscissorsthanfromaknife.Rotaryshaversusesimilarperforatedsurfacestoguidewhiskerstowardtheircutters,butinsteadofsnipping,hundredsoftinybladesslicehairswithacircularmotion.Imaginethehorizontalspinningbladeonapowerlawnmower—butwithteeth—andyou'llgettheidea.

Thefoilsandcircularheadsofelectricrazorskeepyourskinandthecuttingmechanismfromachievingcontact,makingitimpossibleforthemto"shaveascloseasablade."Nomatterhowthinthosebarriersare,you'llnevergetthecuttingpartofanelectricshaverasclosetoyourfaceasastandardrazorblade.

Onewayshavermakershavetriedtoimprovecloseness,tocompensateforthebarrierlayerbetweenshaveranduser,isbyemployingmechanismsthatlift,cut,andguidefacialhairintothecutter.Inadditiontoincludingmultipleheads,foilshavermakersaddjaggedguideblocksthataredesignedtocapturelonger,tougherhairs;thevariablepatternsareintendedtoactaswhisker-trappinglabyrinths.Rotaryshavermakersusebeardliftersthatarebuiltintothedozensoftiny,spinningblades;they'regenerallyscythe-shaped,sohairsare(intheory)scoopedupandpulledtautfrombeneaththeskinline,atwhichpointtheycanbecleanlycut.Bothrotaryandfoilmanufacturersaddpulsesandsonicvibrationstotheirhigher-endmodels.Thesearedesignedtogetyourwhiskersstandingalittlestraighter,forbettercontactwiththeshaver'scutters.(Inpractice,we'vefoundthatshaverswithhigherpulseratesdotendtosmooththefacealittlemoreefficiently,andtheyreducetheamountofpressureneededtogetacleanshave.)

Howwepickedandtested

Onethingthatmakeschoosinganelectricshaverconfusing:Nearlyallmanufacturersoffertheirrazorsinaccessory-andfeature-laden(ornot)"Series"salesschemes.Somecomewithcleaningsystems;somedon't.Somecanbeusedintheshowerwithshavingcream;somecan't.Somehavedigitalreadoutsshowinghowmuchbatteryisleftintheshaverorwhetheritneedstobecleaned;othersoffersimplerLEDdisplays.

Here'sthething:Therazorsallprovidethesameshave.AnyBraunSeries7,regardlessofaccessoriesandfeatures,willshaveyourfacejustascloselyasanyotherSeries7.ThesamegoesforanythinginPanasonic'svariousseriesdesignations,andforPhilipsNorelcoandRemingtonmodels.Butaddingorsubtractingafeatureortwocanshiftthepriceofashaverbyasmuchas$100.Forthatkindofmoney,it'simportanttodecidewhat'sworthit—andwhatisn't.

WeexaminedcustomerreviewsatAmazonandotherretailerstofindthetop-rated,best-sellingelectricrazors.(Thiswasmoredifficultthanitsounds,sincethemultiplelayersofsame-shaver-with-different-accessoriesmodel-numberchaosmeansmultiplelistingsforwhatisessentiallythesamerazor.)Whilewelookedatavarietyoffeatures,wedecidedearlyonthatourjudgementofthewinningshaverwouldbebasedalmostexclusivelyonclosenessofshave.That'sbecauseultimatelyit'sthemostimportantthing—andbecausenearlyalloftheshavermakersofferversionsoftheirvariousdeviceswithandwithoutbellsandwhistles.

Beyondclosenessofshave,weconsidered:

Rinsability:Theeaseofrinsingashaverinthesink—especiallywhentraveling—isimportant.Alittlewarmwaterandagentlebrushingwillcleanyourrazoraswellasastandardcleaningsystem.

Cleaningsystems:Thoughyoucancleanalmostanyshavermanually,acleaningandchargingdockautomatestheprocess.It'sespeciallyconvenienttobeabletoshaveandthenjustpopyourrazorintoadockingstationandhaveitchargedandreadytogothenextmorning.Note,though,thatautomaticcleanersaregenerallyloud(someroar,othersjustwhirr)andbulky,requiringcounterspace,whichmaybeatapremiuminabathroomoranapartment.Althoughyoucanusuallypurchaseacleaningsystemseparately,ifyou'dlikethisfeature,it'salmostalwaysmoreeconomicaltobuyashaverthatcomeswithone.

Ergonomics:Ashavershouldbecomfortabletoholdandshouldeasilymaneuveraroundthecontoursofyourface.

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Display:Welookedformodelsthatoffer,ataminimum,alightedbatteryindicator.Wefoundmoreelaboratedigitaldisplaysnicebutnotnecessary.

Otherextras:Theoften-overlookedcarryingcaseisabigplus.Theheadsandfoilsonelectricshaversaredelicateandneedtobeprotected.Mostshaverscomewithsomekindofcarryingorprotectivedevice.Lower-endshaverstendtocomewithplasticheadguardsthatsnaponfortransport.Theywork,butwemanagedtolosealmosteveryoneofthemduringourmonthsoftesting.

Weenlistedapanelof12totestadozenelectricrazors.Ourphysicallyandethnicallydiversepanelincludedpeoplewithheavybeardswhoshaveddaily,peoplewithlightbeardswhoshavedaslittleasonceortwiceaweek,andpeoplewhohadtight,inward-curlingfacialhair,whichfrequentlyleadstorazorbumps.

Weaskedtesterstoevaluateeachrazorforclosenessofshave,speed,andirritation.First,testersusedtherazorsatwhatevertheirstandard"Ineedashave"intervalwas.Wethenaskedforadouble-growthtest—skippingashave—and,asago-for-brokescenario,atriple-growthtest.

Wehadthetesterskeeptop-performingrazorsforextendedperiods,toallowforbreak-intime.Weaskedtesterstoshaveonesideoftheirfacewithonerazorandtheothersidewithanothersotheycouldperformdirectclosenesscomparisons(compensating,ofcourse,forproblemareas;manypeoplefindthatonesideorportionoftheirfaceistoughertoshavethananother).

Inaddition,weweighedeachmodelandmeasuredthenoise(decibellevel)ofeachrazorduringoperation.Wedidn'ttestbatterylife,specifically;allofthemodelswepickedwerecapableofrunningforaboutanhouronafullcharge.

Ourpick:BraunSeries7

Foraconsistentlycloseshave,plustheconvenienceofanincludedautomaticcleaningsystematareasonableprice,werecommendtheBraunSeries7.The760cc,790cc,and7865ccareeffectivelyallthesame.Pricesandavailabilitycanvary,however.

Whileitdidn'tearnsuperlativemarksonallthecriteriaourtestersevaluated—sometestersfoundtheBrauntobeoverlynoisy—itwastheonlyshaverthateveryoneagreedworkedwell,shavingcloselywithoutcreatingirritation.Overall,we'vefoundthatSeries7razorsofferajust-rightcombinationofupgrades(overBraun'slower-endmodels)andaffordability(comparedwiththenewer,Series9shavers).

TheBraunSeries7'sfoilssurroundascissor-likecenterbarthatcapturesyourwhiskersandguidesthemtowardtheireventualdoom.Photo:MichaelHession

IfyoulookatallfourBraunseriesofferings—the3,5,7,and9—you'llnoticethattheyusefairlysimilardesignswhenitcomestofoils.Eachisfundamentallyadouble-foilshaverwithatrimmermechanismlocatedbetweenthefoils.IntheSeries3,5,and7,there'sjustasingletrimmer.

Braun'spop-uptrimmerisconvenientlypositioned,comparedwiththeslide-upanddetachabletrimmersfoundonothershavers.Photo:MichaelHession

Ifyouobservetherazorwhenyouturniton,you'llseethatthetrimmerhasopeningsthatvibratewhenactivated;theideaisthatthevibrationcapturesthetoughestpartsofabeardwithahigh-speedscissoringaction.OurtesterswhopreferredtheBraunshavers—andthatwasmostofthem—reportedthattheydidnoticeadifferenceamonglines.TheSeries3shaversweretheleast-likedBraunmodels.

TheSeries7comeswithahard-shellcase,whichishandybecausefoilsarerelativelyeasytodamage(andexpensivetoreplace).Photo:MichaelHession

ThedifferencethatsetstheSeries7apartfromotherBraunmodels,includingthecheaperSeries3and5,ismostlyinternal,likethedifferentsoundstheshaversmakewhileinoperation.TheSeries7'shigher-pitchedbuzzisaresultoftheshaver'sPulsonictechnology;fastervibrationsaredesignedtolifthairmorecompletely(inpractice,wefoundthistobetrue,oratleastitseemedtobe).TheSeries5,bycomparison,hasathroatier,moremechanicalsound.

BraunrecentlybeganofferingaSeries8shaverasanexclusiveatCostco,anditsellsforlessthanaSeries7usuallydoes.Weexaminedone,andwedeterminedthattheSeries8isactuallyarebadgedSeries5withalargerbattery.

Braun'sproprietarycleaningcartridgesnapsinforleak-freeuse.Butmanualcleaningisacheaper,space-savingoption.Photo:MichaelHession

TheBraunSeries7'scleaningandchargingsystemistypicalofthoseavailableforourotherpicks.Alargedockingstationholdstheshaver,headdown.Insertingtheshaverstartsaprocessthatincludeschargingandevaluatinghowmuchcleaningtheshaverneeds.Oncethat'sdetermined,thedockingunitimmersestheshaverincleaningfluid—thiscomesinconsumablecartridges,andeachlastsaboutthreemonths—andthencleanstheshaverandconditionstheblades(ifyouchoosetocleanmanually,you'llhavetoconditionthebladesyourselfwithapurpose-builtsolution,likeRemington'sShaverSaver).

You'llneedtoreplacethefoilonyourshavermoreorlessannually,dependingonuse.Series7foilsgenerallyrunabout$30.

AllBraunshaversincludeatwo-yearwarranty,whichcoverseverythingbutthefoilandcuttingblock.

Upgradepick:BraunSeries9

WhiletheSeries7ispowerfulenoughformostshavingsituations,Braun'sSeries9isthetop-performingshaverwe'vetriedthatwefindworththeadditionalexpense—atleastforcertainsituations.Ifyouhaveparticularlycurlyorcoarsehair,orwishtoshavelessfrequentlybutachievethesamelevelofcloseness,thismaybetheshaverforyou.

Atfirstglance,thebiggestdifferencebetweentheSeries9andtheSeries7issize.Thoughtherazorsweighthesame—about7.6ounceseach—theSeries9islonger,hasmoregirth,andismoretop-heavy,thankstoitsquadruple-headedshavingmechanism.Thatfour-wayheadstickstothecompany'straditionaltwo-foildesignbutaddsapairofcuttingmechanisms—a"direct&cut"trimmeranda"hyper-lift&cut"trimmer—thatthecompanyclaimsbettersnagwiry,unrulywhiskers.

MostofourtestersagreedthattheSeries9isanamazingshaver.WhenItrieditonmythree-daybeard,IfoundthatitworkedbetterthananyelectricshaverI'deverused—thoughitpaledincomparisontoastandardbladewhenconfrontedwithmyironcurtainofahalf-week'swhiskers.

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Thatextrapowerandperformancecomeatadollaranddesigncost.Series9razorsarenotablybulkierthanSeries7razors,andsometestersfoundtheSeries9razorstoughtomaneuverinthetightspots(liketheequallyginormousPanasonicArc5,whichtheBraunsomewhatmimics).

Braun'sSeries9clean-and-chargebaseusesthesamecartridgesastheSeries7(andallotherBraunshavers)andisfunctionallyidentical.Replacementcartridgeslastaboutthreemonthsandcostabout$25forafour-pack.ReplacementfoilsareconsiderablymoreexpensivefortheSeries9;theycurrentlyrunabout$50,comparedwithabout$30fortheSeries7.

Budgetpick:RemingtonF5-5800

Amongelectricrazorsunder$50,theRemingtonF5-5800outperformedlower-endBraunandPanasonicmodelsinourtesting.Eachofourtesterssaiditgaveasufficientlycloseshave.

TheF5-5800hasthelookofaBrauncloneandusesaprovendual-foilsystemwithacenterlift-and-cuttrimmermatedtoapivotinghead.Althoughthere'snocleaningsystemavailable,youcaneasilyrinsetheshaverunderrunningwater.

TheRemington'scenterbarisn'tassophisticatedastheBraun's,butourtestersfoundtheshavertoworkalmostaswell.Photo:MichaelHession

Thebatterylifeisabout60minutes,abitlessthantheBraun's,butit'smorethanenoughformostowners,evenwhenyou'retraveling.Remington'sreplacementfoilsarehalfthepriceofBraun'sandPanasonic's(thoughyoumayhavetoreplacethemmoreoften—notbecausethey'reanylessdurable,butbecausetheRemingtoncomesonlywithacheapplasticheadprotectorthat'seasilylost).

Thepop-uptrimmerissimilartotheBraun's,anditworksjustaswellformildsideburngrooming.Photo:MichaelHession

TheRemingtonoffersgenerallygoodperformance,butyou'lllikelyfindtheshavingexperienceitselftobebuzzierandpotentiallymoreirritatingifyoudon'tmaintainaverylighttouch.

Likeallofourpicks,theF5-5800includesabatteryindicator.Photo:MichaelHession

AswiththemoreexpensiveBraunmodels,thisRemingtoncomeswithatwo-yearwarranty.Remingtonrecommendsannualreplacementoftheshaver'scuttingblockandfoil,whicharesoldasacombopackforabout$20.

Alsogreat:PhilipsNorelcoShaver9300

Formostpeople,foil-styleelectricrazorstypicallyprovideaclosershave.Butifyoupreferarotary-styleshaver,werecommendthePhilipsNorelcoShaver9300,whichincludesacleaningsystem.

Rotaryshavershaveatotallydifferentdesignphilosophythanfoilmodels:Theycaptureandcutyourfacialhairbyspinning,similartothewayacircularsanderworks.Photo:MichaelHession

LiketheBraunmodels,theseshaversaremarketedinseries.Ifyoucan'tfindthe9300,getwhichever9000seriesmodelischeapest.In2019,wetestedthelatestmodel,theS9000Prestige(pictured),whichincludesadigitalbatterymeter—anonessentialupgrade—but,unlikethe9300,doesn'tincludeacleaningsystem.Itshavesthesameasthe9300does.

TheS9000Prestige'sdigitalbatteryindicatorismoreprecisethanthetemperature-gauge-likebaronothermodelswe'veconsidered,butbotharefineinday-to-dayuse.Photo:MichaelHession

The9300canbeunwieldy.Thetrimmerisaseparateattachmentthatrequiresremovingthefloatinghead.Andbecausethetriple-headedshaverisn'tascompactasafoilshaver,itneedsalargercase,whichwilltakeupmorespaceinyourluggage.

TheS9000Prestige'strimmerisaseparateattachmentthat'seasytolose.Photo:MichaelHession

PhilipsNorelcodoesn'tintegratecleaningsystemsacrossitsmodellinelikeBraundoes,andthoughwethinkthebrand'scleaningbasesworkwell,they'realittleunwieldytousecomparedwithBraun's,andcleaningcartridgereplacementsarehardertocomeby.

Becauseitstrimmerisseparate,thePhilipsNorelcoshaverisathree-pieceaffair,ratherthanasingleunit,liketheBraunandtheRemingtonrazors.Photo:MichaelHession

Becauseoftheirshape,PhilipsNorelcorazorsneedtobeheldinthecleaningbasebyakindofstalk-likesupport,whichmeansanextrastepofinsertingtherazor.You'llhavetodecidewhethertheconvenienceisworthit;maintainingyourshavermanuallywiththeincludedcleaningbrushiscertainlyeasyenough.

Fortravel,PhilipsNorelcooffersahardcasethat'sconsiderablybulkierthanthosethatcomewiththefoilrazorswetested.Photo:MichaelHession

The9300requiresannualcutterreplacement.Theshaverincludesanindicatortoletyouknowwhenthetimecomes,andthecutterscostabout$50.

AllPhilipsNorelcoshaverscomewithatwo-yearwarranty.

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Use,care,andmaintenance

Anelectricrazorneedsbreak-intime—notfortherazor,butforyourface.Ifyou'reswitchingfromamanualtoanelectric,orevenfromoneelectricstyletoanother,you'llgenerallyneedtogiveyourskintwoweekstoadjusttothenewtool.Wecouldn'tfigureoutexactlywhythisbreak-inperiodisneeded.Isityourface?Yourshavingstyle?Therazoritself?Differentsourcesgivedifferentanswers,rangingfromnew-usererrortotheneedto"train"skinasitadjustsfromhealingthescrapescausedbyamanualrazortothepullingandshearingmechanismsofelectrics.

Wedidaliteraturesearchandfoundnoacademicresearchonthetopic,thoughinourexperience,thebreak-inperiodisreal.Yourfirstelectricshaveswillbepatchyandprobablypainful,andyoushouldn'ttouchthingsupwithamanualrazor(whichdefeatsthepurposeofthebreak-inperiod).Allmajorshavermakersoffera30-to60-daymoney-backguarantee,andwerecommendthatyougiveyournewshavertimetoreachpeakperformance—butdon'tbeshyaboutrequestingthatrefundifitdoesn't.

Togetthesmoothest,mostcomfortableelectricshave,nomatterwhichshaveryouchoose,you'llneedtorememberthatelectricscan'teasilygetascloseasablade.Mostelectricshavermakersofferadviceonhowtogettheoptimalshave.Unfortunately,thatadvicesometimesconflicts.Braun,forexample,suggestsshavingfirstthinginthemorning("Werecommendthatyoushavebeforeyouwash,sincetheskintendstobeslightlyswollenafterwashing.").Philipssaystowashbutnotshower("...otherwiseyourskinwillbehot,puffy...").Ourtestersuseddifferenttechniques.I'vedabbledwithelectricrazorsmostofmyadultlife,andmytechniqueisbasedmostlyonsavingtime.SinceIhavetwokids,I'malwaysinarushfirstthinginthemorning;whenI'musingamanualrazor,Ishaveintheshower.Butwithanelectricshaver,Iwaittoshaveduringacalmermomentmidmorning.

Nomatterwhenyoushave,besuretofollowsomebasic-techniquetips.Men'sHealthUKoffersafairlyextensivetutorial,butthetakeawayis:Golightly.Don'tpressthosecuttingbladesintoyourskin.Instead,gentlypulltheskintautwithonehandandlettherazorglideoveryourfaceinslow,steadystrokes;experimentwithcircularmotionsandstraightstrokes,andgoingwithoragainstthegrain(you'relookingfortheperfectbalanceofclosenessandpost-shavecomfort).Alloftherazorswerecommendhavepivotingheads,somaintainingaproperangleiseasy,butifyou'reusingashaverwithafixedhead(likeaWahl),makesuretoholdtheheadatarightangletoyourskin.Nearlyeveryshavermanufacturer—inatacitadmissionthatthesedevicesdon'treallyshaveascloseasablade—recommendsthatyousnagyourlongest,toughestfacialhairsfirst,usingtheshaver'sbuilt-intrimmer.Severalofourtesterssaidtheyusedamanualrazortogetthosehairsattheendoftheshave,whichtousfeltkindoflikea"what'sthepoint?"proposition.

Onequestionwe'vebeenaskedalotiswhethertouseapre-shave.ThebestknownoftheseisWilliamsLectricShave,analcohol-basedsolutionthathelps"theshaverglidewithlessirritation."Itusedtoclaim—seethisadvertisementfroma1982issueofField&Stream—thatitmadea"beardstandup."Howmuchthisactuallyhappensisn'teasytoestablish,andIwastheonlytesterwhoactuallyusesandlikesapre-shave.Themagicingredientinmostpre-shavesisisopropylmyristate,asyntheticoilcreatedbycompoundingalcoholandafattyacid.Combined,thetwoprovidelubrication(thesubstanceisalsoakeyingredientinLiquidWrench)withoutagreasyfeeling,soclaimsthattheyhelpanelectricrazortoglideareprobablycredible.

AlthoughIdon'tuseLectricShave—itsmellstoomuchlikemyUncleLarry'sbathroom—mypreferredpre-shave,KyokuforMenElectricPre-ShaveOptimizer,containsthatkeyingredient,whichIfinddoesmakemyskinfeelsmootherandmoretautforshaving.Otherpre-shavesincludepowders,whichareeffectivebutmessy,accordingtoAmazoncustomerreviews,andthickercreams(likeinMennen'sAfta),whichtendtogunkuptheshaver,makingittoughertoclean.

Youcanuseshaversintheshower,butadryfaceisgenerallyrecommendedtogetthesmoothestelectricshave.Wefoundthatusingshavingcreammadeforafoil-clogging,extra-gooeyexperience.Usingshavingcreamislikelygoingtoincreasetheamountoftimeyouspendshaving,ifyouwanttoreachtheclosenessyou'dgetgoingdry.

Mostshaversarerinsable,andyoucaneasilycleanthemunderwaterwithaquickbrushofthefoils.Some,liketheBraunSeries7modelswerecommend,comewithcleaningstations.Generally,replacementcleaningcartridgeslastaboutthreemonthsandcost$5each,ifyoubuytheminfour-packs.Youshouldalsofollowthemanufacturer'sinstructionsforreplacingfoilsandcuttingblocks.Braunrecommendsreplacementevery18months(theblockandfoilcomeasasingleunit,runningabout$30fortheSeries7and$50fortheSeries9);PhilipsNorelcoandRemingtonrecommendannualreplacement.

Onewarningforon-the-goshavers:Thefoilheadsfoundonmostelectricunitsarefragile,andifyoudentorbendone,you'llneedtoreplaceit.Mostshaverscomewithsomekindofcaseorshaving-headprotector.It'sagoodideatouseit.

Thecompetition

LikeBraun,Panasonicoffersrazorsinserieswithandwithoutcleaningunits.Thecompany'stop-of-the-lineseries,thePanasonicArc5,includesatotaloffiveblades—aquartetoffoilsandasingleoscillatinglift-and-cutcentertrimmer.LiketheBraunSeries9,thePanasonicArc5isabulkyunit,andsomeofourtestersfoundtheoversizeheadsdifficulttomaneuver,especiallyaroundthemustachearea.Andoverall,wefoundthatdespitetheextrashavingheadseachofthemcomeswith,neithertheArc5northePanasonicArc4—basicallythesameshaver,butwithonelessfoil—shavedaswellasthecomparableBrauns.

AnothernegativewastheglossyblackfinishfoundonmostPanasonics.Itwasa"fingerprintmagnet,"onetesterreported,addingthat"itlookedundesirablydirtyafteruse."Ourtestersfound,however,thatmanuallycleaningthePanasonicmodels—withoutacleaningsystem—wasmucheasierthanmanuallycleaningtheBraunmodels.ThefoilandheadsofthePanasonicunitspopoffwithaneasybuttonpush,exposingthecuttingblocksforquickrinsing.

WetriedPhilipsNorelco'slower-endrotarymodelsbutfoundthatthebrand's9000seriesperformedbetter,anditwassocloselypricedthatitwasabetterbuyformostpeople.Inourexperience,the3000and4000seriesrazorsdidn'tshavecloselyenoughtobeworththeirbargainprices.However,onememberofourtestpanelhasbeenusinga4000seriesforyears,andtheystillloveit,evenaftertryingmuchmoreexpensivemodels.

Ifthe9300isunavailableoryou'reshoppingforaneven-more-budgetrotary,werecommendyouoptforanyPhilipsNorelcomodelratherthanoneofthemanyinexpensive—andface-mangling—three-orfour-headedknockoffspopularonAmazonandeBay.

WeinitiallywantedtolookatWahl'slegendary5Starshaver;themaroon-coloredmodelisbelovedbybarbers,whohavenicknamedit"TheBrick."Butsinceit'sgenerallysoldviaprobarber-supplysources,weoptedforaclosecousin,thecompany'sCustomShave.TheCustomShaveisaboutasgeneric-lookinganelectricshaverasyoucanfind—ataperedhunkofblackplastic,withanon-floatingheadandanon/offswitch.Itcomeswithatrioofinterchangeablefoils:oneforstandardcloseness,oneforsensitiveskin,andanotherfor"ultracloseness."Thefoilsarevisiblydifferent—smallerholesmeanaless-aggressiveshave—andWahlspokespersonStevenYderecommendsthatowners"neverbeginwiththeultrahead."Ydewarns:"Itwilleatyoualive."AcoupleofourtestersreallylikedthebasiclookandfeeloftheWahlandfoundthattheshavercutpowerfullyandsmoothly.Thatsaid,youcan'tcleantheWahlsunderwater(youuseabrush),andtheydon'thaveaterriblygoodreputationforlongevity,accordingtoAmazoncustomerreviewers.

We'vealsotriedafewoddballelectricrazors.TheseincludeHitachi'swell-regardedbutnot-available-in-the-USS-BladeRM160,ashaverthatfeaturesauniquecuttingtechnologythat'sasortoffoil-rotaryhybrid:There'sarotatingbladeunderneathafoilhead;thecutterspinslikeanold-fashionedpushlawnmower,ratherthanlyingflat,asthecar-wax-buffer-likedisconPhilipsrotariesdo.Wealsotestedthesub-$10AokaiT01andthesub-$10KemeiClassicalMultifunctionModel5600.Thesecheapiesshowedusthattechnologyandcraftsmanshipdomatterandthatthere'salimittohowlowinpriceashavershouldgo.Bothofthesemodelsdipsignificantlybeneaththatwaterline,thoughtheKemeigetsafewgoofballstylepointsbecauseit1)hasafake,stitched-leatherfinish;2)lookslikeanoversizecigarettelighter;and3)hasabuilt-inmirror(weespeciallylovedthebuilt-inmirror—whatagreatidea,wethought,except,ofcourse,thatyoucan'tactuallylookintoitwhileyou'reshaving).

Finally,simplyforstyle—they'regorgeous—weboughtacoupleofvintageshaversoneBay:anoriginalSchickfromthe1930s,aswellasRonsonandRemingtonmodelsfromthe1960s.Aslovelyasthesevintageshaversare,electricshaversrequireregularmaintenance,sobuyingausedoneisgenerallyadeadendbecausereplacementpartssimplyaren'tavailable.

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