One of the things for which electric shavers get a constant beating, especially from wet shaving purists, has to be the closeness of the shave.
You’ve probably heard or read in some forums or message boards that electric razors can’t even dream of matching a razor blade in terms of closeness. The funny thing is that the vast majority of these statements come from men that have only used an electric shaver once or twice. I’m also going to assume that their technique was probably not the best and didn’t know some of the basics of electric shaving.
There are pros and cons to anything and I’ll be the first to admit that the benefits of electric shaving mean some sort of a trade-off in closeness. But as you’ll see later in the article, with a few easy to implement steps we can reduce this trade-off to a minimum and actually get a shave that is close by anyone’s standards.
Is closeness an inherent limitation of electric razors?
Traditional wet shaving, where a blade is used to cut the hair at skin level or even slight below, is the benchmark in terms of closeness. It’s a fact and there’s really no point in arguing over this.
Electric razors on the other hand use cutting elements that oscillate or rotate behind a perforated thin foil or guard. This means there’s a physical barrier between the skin and the actual blades, so the very design and operation of electric shavers cause this limitation.
Manufacturers have constantly tried to compensate for this drawback and today’s electric razors are capable of providing excellent results. But that alone is not enough in order to get the closest possible shave with an electric shaver.
For this reason, in this article I have compiled a list of what I consider to be the most important things you can do in order to improve the closeness of the shave. I’ve written quite a few general guides in the past regarding electric shaving and I definitely recommend reading those as well, but here we will only focus on the closeness part.
How to get a close shave with an electric shaver
1. A pre-shave routine is as important as the actual shave.
I know it’s probably the least exciting part, but it’s the foundation of a comfortable and close shave. It’s quite astonishing how simply getting the basics right can impact the final results. My recommendation? A simple and effective pre-shave routine. Do not skip this part.
2. Use an electric shaver that is up to the task.
It’s true that there are quite a few electric razors that offer excellent performance for the money. It’s also true that an entry level shaver that’s great for daily shaving can’t compete with a premium razor like the Braun Series 7 or the Panasonic Arc V ES-LV95-S when it comes to performance. If closeness is more important than getting the most bang for your buck, then a powerful and more advanced razor is mandatory.
As a side-note, I get a subjectively closer shave when using a foil razor as opposed to rotary. I also recommend checking out this article for some in-depth thoughts on some of the best electric shavers you can buy today.
3. Use shaving cream.
Wet shaving with an electric razor can vastly improve the comfort and, of course, the closeness of your shave. A quality shaving cream will soften the hair and provide lubrication, allowing the razor to cut the stubble efficiently and close to the skin. The added comfort means that you can get away with more passes and a bit more pressure than usual, again contributing to the closeness of the shave. The lather also acts as a lubricant for the blades, minimizing the friction and the heat and simply makes shaving more forgiving.
If shaving cream is not an option for you then skip this step and check out the next one.
4. Use an electric pre-shave lotion or powder.
This is probably the next best thing if wet shaving is not your thing. Dry shaving requires your skin to be as dry as possible, but the moisture and oils of the skin make things more difficult. Moreover, the razor also has to deal with flat lying hairs. An electric pre-shave product will provide a layer of lubrication, absorb the moisture and cause the hairs to stiffen up and stand straight. Using one can contribute to a closer and smoother shave.
5. Make sure the razor is fully charged.
This definitely has to be on your checklist of things to take care of before shaving. In my personal experience, I get the closest shaves when I use a fully charged razor. While many manufacturers state that their shavers can maintain peak performance right until the moment the battery is fully drained, in practice things are quite different.
The loss in power is not massive, but enough to have an effect on the final result. You’ve probably noticed that a fully charged razor even sounds faster than one with a battery level of 50% or less. Again, we are only concerned with the closeness here and you’ll want to take advantage of the full cutting power of your razor.
6. Replace dull blades.
This one is pretty self-explanatory. Depending on the frequency of shaving, the blades and foils must be replaced every year or so. This is not only important for closeness, but for safety and comfort too. Do not wait until the blades have worn through the foil and always buy parts recommended by the manufacturer.
7. Work on your technique to get a closer shave.
Adjusting the pressure, angle, direction and the length of the strokes are necessary when shaving certain areas, like your neck, chin or the jawline. Always go against the direction of growth and adjust accordingly. Sometimes you may also have to stretch the skin with your free hand so the razor can cut the hairs more efficiently. Do not apply excessive pressure as this will only lead to irritation.
I also recommend starting your shave with the most difficult areas as they require more time, attention and patience. If you’re just starting out, it may take some time until you will master shaving with an electric razor. But you will definitely progress, so just stick with it.
8. Be patient and thorough.
Getting the closest possible shave with an electric razor also means more effort. There’s prep work and then there’s the actual shave. But these extra steps will definitely be worth it in the end.
How close can an electric razor shave if everything’s done right?
Short answer? Pretty darn close. I may be accused of being biased as a longtime proponent of electric shaving, but when using the right shaver and following the steps above (I sometimes skip a few, I’m only human) I am able to get a shave that is almost as close as the one I used to get from a safety razor. It is a bold statement, but that’s just my personal experience and that wasn’t always the case. However, my knowledge and technique have improved throughout the years, and so have modern shavers.
As I said earlier in the article, electric razors have a limitation due to their construction, being designed to prevent the cutting elements from actually touching the skin. This ensures great comfort during use, but can negatively affect the closeness. But with the right shaver and these simple adjustments to your shaving routine, you can significantly improve the results.