How Often Should You Replace the Blades and Foils of an Electric Shaver?

By | Last update:
How Often Should You Replace the Blades and Foils of an Electric Shaver?

You likely remember your first shave with a brand new electric razor: the smoothness, comfort and closeness provided by the sharp cutters were incredible.

But it’s all downhill from here as the blades and foils will begin to wear and will eventually need to be replaced with new ones.

The good part? This is a very gradual process and there are also a few things you can do to prolong the life of the cutting block.

There’s a lot of confusion and misinformation surrounding this topic, so in this post we’ll cover everything related to changing the blades and foils, when you should do it and how to get the most out of them.

Why you need to replace your foils and blades

A sharp edge that constantly executes a cutting operation will eventually become dull.

Unlike a chef’s knife, you can’t sharpen the blades of an electric shaver due to physical limitations and the precision needed for the operation.

As a result, your only option is to change the blades with new ones.

Apart from the blades becoming dull, there’s another aspect that’s specific to electric shavers: the wear and stress induced to the metal.

The shaving head of an electric shaver is made out of parts that are machined with great precision and low tolerances. This is needed in order to provide a very close shave.

The Panasonic Arc 4 ES-LA63-S has two inner blades and two more integrated into the foil assembly

The oscillating inner blades of a foil shaver will actually touch the foils, especially when pressed against the skin.

The same goes for the cutters of a rotary shaver that rotate inside a metal guard/comb.

A cutter and guard pair from a Philips Norelco rotary razor

The friction will generate heat and will induce stress to the metal, causing it to warp and deform. I’ve seen blades that have eaten through the foils. You can imagine how dangerous this is and how it can easily cause serious injuries.

Remington MS2-390 wear

Remington MS2-390 foil wear. Don’t let it get to this stage.

When the blades become dull and the foils start to wear the performance of the shaver will suffer.

When should you replace the blades and foils of an electric shaver?

The correct answer is whenever they need to be replaced. The manufacturer’s recommendation should only serve as general guidelines as in real life this depends on various factors:

  • How often you shave
  • How coarse and dense is your facial hair
  • The quality of the foils and blades
  • How well you care for your shaver
  • The use of mineral based pre-shave talcum (this will accelerate the wear)

As a result, you may need to replace the foils and blades after a few months or after a couple of years.

For example, Braun recommends changing the shaving head called a cassette (which encompasses both the blades and the foils) every 18 months.

The 4 blade shaving head of a Braun Series 9 9290cc

Depending on the factors outlined above, you may need to buy a new cassette after one year or even sooner. Or you can even go past the 18 months if you’re lucky.

The 52s cassette used by the Series 5 line of shavers from Braun.

So how do you know when it’s time to buy new parts?

Well, there are a few signs that usually signal precisely that:

  • The closeness of the shave starts to suffer. If you found yourself constantly going over the same area repeatedly and pressing harder in order to get a close shave, it probably has something to do with the blades becoming dull.
  • You begin to experience some pulling and tugging. If the shaver starts to yank on the hairs this is usually caused by the wear of the cutting block.
  • The shaving head gets excessively hot. This is a sign of advanced wear of the foils and blades, caused by the increased friction between the deformed metal parts.
  • The comfort of the shave suffers. This is a direct consequence of the additional passes, pulling and excessive heat. Completing your shave will also take longer and cause the shaving head to become even hotter.

If you notice at least one of the signs above and nothing else in your shaving routine has changed, it’s probably time to buy new parts for your shaver.

Even though some manufacturers like Panasonic offer the possibility to buy just the blades or the foils, I highly recommend changing them both every time.

Panasonic foils and blades. Unlike Braun, Panasonic also offers them separately.

If for example you only change the inner blades as upon a visual inspection the foil seems to be in good shape, it has most likely suffered from wear and has warped, even though it’s not that obvious.

As a result, the new blades won’t fit perfectly inside and as you begin using the shaver they will wear a lot faster and the shaver won’t perform at its best from the get go.

I guess you could buy just the blades or the foils in the case of an accident for example when only one of the parts was damaged and the other is still practically new.

Other than that, do yourself a service and change both of them.

How to care for your blades and lengthen their life span

I will assume that you’re not looking forward to spend money on new replacement parts very often. I know I’m not.

Luckily, there are a few easy to implement steps that will help you save money and also improve the quality of your shave.

1. Lubricate your shaver.

This is by far the most important and often overlooked operation you can do in order to prolong the life of the cutters and foils.

Regardless if you’re using a spray or a light oil, lubrication will minimize the friction between the moving metal parts. This reduces the wear and generates less heat.

A properly lubricated shaver will perform better and the blades and foils will last longer before needing to be replaced. Here’s my detailed guide on how to do it.

2. Clean your shaver thoroughly.

Hair clippings, dead skin, dirt buildups and other nasty things will have a negative impact on the performance of your shaver.

It’s highly recommended to clean your shaver after every use according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Most of today’s shavers can be easily cleaned with liquid soap and hot water.

If yours also includes a cleaning station that’s even better as it will take care of the lubrication as well.

3. Handle your shaver with care.

The cutting parts, particularly the foils, can be easily damaged by mechanical shocks.

Avoid anything that could damage them like tapping too hard on the countertop or using hard objects to clean them.

For example, you can’t use the included cleaning brush directly on the foils — that’s how sensitive they are. Also, always use the protective cap or a hard case when traveling.

Buying new parts is no fun, but regularly changing the blades and foils of your electric shaver is a necessity.

Hopefully after reading this post you’ll have a better understanding on the importance of this operation, when to do it and how to keep the foils and blades in top shape for a longer time.

2 comments on “How Often Should You Replace the Blades and Foils of an Electric Shaver?

Leave a comment
  1. Yves

    Dear Ovidiu,
    I have just purchased a Panasonic ES-LV65 shaver which currently sells at half of the price of ES-L6N. I believe it is still the top of Panny Arc 5 line, pretty much identical besides a few minor improvements such as a different lock/power button etc. And the top of the shaving head/outer foil area has undergone a bit of a change (in their newer models such as ES-L6N) by incorporating those two golden elements. However, I suspect at least the replacement blades are identical in both mentioned models. Are also the outer foil parts identical?
    Of course, the manufacturer would not want their customers replacing their ES-L6N/L9N foils with (now) much cheaper ES-LV65 ones, or owners of ES-LV65 upgrading their outer foils with the more advanced ES-L6N spares. I could not tell much by simply (visually) comparing spares packs WES9032Y and WES9034Y as the pictures of respective outer foils that I could find on the Internet have apparently been taken from different sides. Can you please advise? I am not going to ask the manufacturer as their reply would be logical and rejecting the idea…

    Reply
    1. Ovidiu Nicolae Post author

      Hi Yves,

      You are absolutely correct. The outer foil and inner blades of the newer ES-LV6N/ES-LV9N will fit the older Arc 5 shavers. Also, the older foils and blades (like the ones on the ES-LV65) can be used on the newer ES-LV6N/ES-LV9N. And I totally agree, the ES-LV65-S is a fantastic shaver for the (current) price.

      Sincerely,
      Ovidiu

      Reply

Please leave a comment below.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *