Foil vs Rotary Shaver [Key Differences]

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Written By Logan Adler
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At some point, you’ve probably wondered about the difference between a foil and rotary shaver. You may have even Googled “Foil vs Rotary Shaver” to get to this article.

To the untrained eye, it is difficult to tell what sets the two apart. However, they are important distinctions that set these grooming tools apart. 

Don’t worry if you can’t chose between the two. We’re here to assist you in selecting the best shaving instrument for your needs.

Table of Contents:

What is a Foil Shaver?

A foil shaver is an electric shaver made of thin mesh-like metal sheets known as “foils.” These foils are wrapped around a number of “cutters,” or blades. Between your beard and the blades, the foil acts as a barrier.

They move upwards and downwards as you run the shaver across the surface of your face. The foils are perforated with tiny holes that catch the hairs and allow the blades beneath them to cut.

what is a foil shaver

As an electric shaver, it is powered by a high-speed motor that lets you cut your hair as precisely as possible. This is why it’s the shaver of choice for guys with sideburns and delicate skin, as it allows them to shave very close without risking nicks.

Our Recommended Foil Shaver

Recommended Foil Shaver
Braun Series 9 9477cc
  • New Braun Series 9 Pro is the world’s most efficient electric shaver*, now better with a flexible new ProHead that can cut 1, 3 or 7-day beards even in tricky areas
  • Innovative ProLift trimmer captures and cuts flat lying hair, with Braun’s unique Sonic Technology that helps to shave up to 10% faster
  • With the world's first PowerCase: charge anytime & anywhere you go with this portable shaver charging travel case
  • 5-in-1 SmartCare center that intelligently selects a cleaning program, hygienically cleans, lubricates, dries, and charges your razor
  • Made in Germany & designed to last up to 7 years

From Amazon
03/11/2024 07:46 am GMT

How to Use a Foil Shaver

The foil shaver “traps” your hair in the tiny holes in its foil when you set it on your skin. As the hair enters the openings, the blades beneath the foil will begin to cut it.

It’s worth noting that foil shavers, like lawnmowers, can only cut when the cutting motion is linear.

Who Should Use a Foil Shaver?

A foil shaver was designed for fine hair and is ideal for men who desire the closest possible shave that an electric razor can give. In comparison to their counterparts, they are also designed to capture hair more softly. So, if you have sensitive skin, a foil shaver is the way to go.

The disadvantage is that you’ll have to learn how to use a foil shaver because it can only cut hair in a linear path. It will take some getting used to, but it is the greatest option for the closest cut possible.

What are the Pros and Cons of a Foil Shaver?

Before we dive into foil vs. rotary shaver, it’s important to know why a foil shaver may (or may not) be the best device for your beard. Let’s take a look at some of its advantage and disadvantages.


Gentle on the skin

Perfect for last minute shaving

Precise sideburn shaping

Low maintenance

Ideal for everyday use


Somewhat noisy

Hard to follow shape of face

Not great for long beards


Here’s what you can look forward to every time you use a foil shaver:

  • Gentle on the skin. The foil has a mesh-like pattern that traps hair rather than tugging it. It’s ideal for a pain-free experience. The blades are additionally shielded by thin foils to prevent your skin from burns, bumps, and other irritations that can lead to breakouts.
  • Perfect for last-minute shaving. Foil shaver blades can spin up to 14,000 cycles per minute. So they’re ideal if you’re always grooming at the last minute!
  • Guarantees precise sideburn shaping. If you have sideburns, foil shavers are your best bet because they allow you to cut crisp, clear lines every time. If you’ve ever tried to style your beard with a standard shaver, you know how difficult it can be!
  • Cuts a wide range of hair types. A foil shaver can cut hair that would otherwise be hard to shave with any other shaver, whether you have fine, coarse, or curly hair. This is because the foil has perforations that allow the blades to cut hairs of various lengths.
  • Low-maintenance. All you have to do to clean a foil shaver is wash it under running water and you’re good to go! 
  • Ideal for everyday use. Do you shave on a daily basis? For frequent shaving, invest in a foil shaver, which allows you to cut as close and consistently as possible, allowing you to keep your clean-cut look throughout the week. They’re also gentler on your skin, so you won’t have to worry about irritation from regular use. 


We can’t have a foil vs. rotary shaver comparison without addressing the disadvantages. Here are the disadvantages of a foil shaver:

  • Noise is a problem. Although noise isn’t a deal breaker, you should be aware that the motor is quite loud and can irritate anyone in the same room. If you shave every morning, you’ll most likely wake up others, and they won’t be pleased!
  • Can’t follow the face’s natural contour. It can be difficult to use if you want to shave every inch of your face, including the curved curves. Foil shavers have another drawback: they can only shave in one way. A rotary shaver is ideal if you prefer to shave in a circular motion.
  • Not the best for long beards. If you have longer beard hair, a foil shaver will be difficult to use since your hair will get stuck in the apertures, perhaps damaging the blades.

What Is a Rotary Shaver?

Rotary shavers are electric razors with spinning circular “heads” that shave hair. They have foils, just like foil shavers. These foils are often divided into three to four circular “heads” that spin while cutting the hair. They also have a series of holes that capture hair before it is chopped by the blades.

what is a rotary shaver

Dividing the blades into three to four heads lets you to move about more freely and really cover every angle. Rotary shavers allow you to shave every inch of your chin, cheek, and neck.

Our Recommended Rotary Shaver

Recommended Rotary Shaver
Philips Norelco Shaver 3800
  • Enjoy a clean shave that follows your face's contours with 5-directional pivot, flex and floating movements
  • Get a convenient dry shave or a refreshing wet shave with gel or foam, even in the shower
  • Rounded caps shield 27 self-sharpening blades to gently cut hair just above skin level and help the shaver glide smoothly over your skin
  • Pop-up trimmer for mustache and sideburns
  • 60 minutes of cordless shaving from a 1-hour charge

From Amazon
03/06/2024 03:26 am GMT

How to Use a Rotary Shaver

Using a rotary shaver is relatively simple. Make sure you shave in a circular motion to get every inch of hair, especially the longer ones.

All three to four rotaries on the rotary shaver will pull your beard hair towards the blades as you glide it across your face. Hair is “caught” beneath the metallic section before being chopped by the built-in blades.

Who Should Use a Rotary Shaver?

Get yourself a rotary shaver if you want a shaver that you can glide across your face with no effort while still looking your best. A rotary shaver is an ideal option if you don’t need your beard to be absolutely perfect, if all you need is a “good enough” shave so you can get on with your day

In short, it’s a convenient choice for guys who don’t have the time to shave their beards to perfection but still want to look as good as possible. 

What are the Pros and Cons of a Rotary Shaver?

Now that you know what a rotary is, let’s take a look at its pros and cons below:


Great for quieter shaves

Perfect for last minute shaving

More freedom of movement



Doesn’t cut as close

Harder to clean

Not great for detailed shaves


A rotary can be expensive. Fortunately, they have plenty of advantages. Here are they:

  • Great for silent shaving. Rotary shavers are quiet. When comparing the foil and rotary shavers, the rotary definitely comes out on top in the quietness department.
  • Designed for longer hair. This shaver will not let you down if you wait until the fifth day to shave. Even if your beard is “overgrown,” it won’t be difficult to remove long hairs.
  • More freedom of movement. Do you have hair on the back of your neck? With ease, a rotary shaver can take care of the hard-to-reach spots. It was created to follow the curves of your face and can also be used on other parts of the body, such as the legs. 
  • Ideal for taming “wild” hair. Does your hair grow in “wild” directions? These shavers have circular rotaries that can cut hair, no matter how unpredictable it may be. 
  • Versatile. Since a rotary shaver can cut coarse hair, you can use it to trim the hairs on the back of your neck or other areas of the body where thicker hair is prominent.


There are downsides to using a rotary, too. Here are the following:

  • Can’t cut as close. You’re not going to get a clean-cut shave with a rotary shaver. You’ll have to go over your face several times, which is inconvenient if you have sensitive skin. You will, however, be able to have a little stubble, so opt for a rotary if that’s the appearance you want!
  • Harder to clean. Compared to their foil counterparts, rotary shavers are more difficult to clean. You’ll need to disassemble the rotary, clean the parts one by one, and then put them together. This can be time-consuming and risky, if you don’t know what you’re doing. 
  • Not ideal for detailed shaving. It’s designed to be handled in a circular manner, so you won’t be able to draw fine lines or precisely shape your beard or sideburns

Foil vs. Rotary Shaver: Which is Best for You?


Foil shavers are ideal for guys who want to shave their beards and sideburns with accuracy, as they allow for crisp, clean cuts.

As a result, they’re ideal for small parts of the face like the chin. This isn’t to say that the rotary version can’t shave well – it can – but you’ll end up with some stubble.


A foil shaver can make precise cuts, whereas a rotary shaver can make circular cuts. In comparison, this allows the rotary to cut more hair at a time and cover a larger surface area.


A common misconception is that rotary shavers are faster than foil shavers.

This seems logical as they have three or four heads, compared to a foil’s one. Having more heads, however, does not provide the ability to move faster. In fact, it can actually slow things down.

Foil shavers have a charge rate of up to 14,000 cycles per minute, making them perfect for quick shaves. That’s also why you don’t have to repeat the process.


If you have sensitive skin, invest in a foil shaver made specifically for fine hairs.

Purchase a rotary if you have tough skin (literally) and a thick beard.


Prices vary by model, but a wet-dry foil shaver from a respected brand like Braun will cost around $300, and a rotary shaver from Philips Norelco costs between $60 and $300.

As you can see, a foil shaver is more expensive, especially when purchased from a reputable manufacturer.


When it comes to noise, the rotary shaver beats the foil shaver. The vibrating blades on the foil shaver make it louder than it’s counterpart.

If you prefer a more peaceful shave, opt for a rotary shaver.

Foil vs Rotary Shaver: The Verdict

Two of the most significant aspects to consider when deciding between a foil and a rotary shaver are how often and how clean you want your shave to be.

If you shave every day (to keep your clean-cut sideburns), invest in a foil shaver, which is less likely to irritate your skin. Buy a rotary shaver if you want that “scruffy” look with a little stubble. A rotary is also appropriate for males who want to shave the backs of their necks.

We can’t say which shaver is “supreme” because it depends on your preferences. This is merely a guide to assist you in determining what works (and what doesn’t) for your grooming requirements.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Foil vs Rotary Shavers

Which shaver is designed for sensitive skin?

If you have sensitive skin, invest in a foil shaver. It can prevent you from things like skin irritation and acne. The reason for this is that foil shavers have a foil that functions as a barrier between your skin and the blades, as the name implies.

Which shaver is ideal for everyday use?

Foil shavers are great for regular usage, but a rotary shaver is your best bet if you have thick hair that grows back quickly.

Should you change the blades on a shaver?

Over time, the blades on your shaver will no longer be as efficient as they were when you first bought them. That’s why many brands recommend changing the blades every 12 to 18 months. However, if you have thick hair, you may have to change the blades earlier than that.

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Logan Adler
I enjoy good bourbon, cool gear, and well-made clothing. When I'm not writing for The Bullfighter, you can catch me playing chess or practicing jiu-jitsu. Happy to connect on Instagram or drop me an email at

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