Having coarse, thick facial hair can be a good thing.
You can grow a majestic beard and even after just one or two days of growth it won’t look patchy like the facial hair of a high-school boy that just hit puberty.
But that is pretty much where the silver lining ends.
As you can see, it mainly has to do with those times when you don’t actually have to shave.
When it comes down to it, a heavy beard is more challenging regardless of whether you’re using a razor blade or an electric shaver.
To get a close and comfortable shave you must — among other things — make sure you’re using the right tool for the job.
Therefore, in this article we’ll take a close look at some of the best electric shavers for coarse hair.
Table of Contents
- What qualifies as coarse hair?
- The importance of assessing your beard type
- What are the qualities of an electric razor suitable for coarse hair?
- Best electric shavers for coarse hair [updated 2021]
- Final word
What qualifies as coarse hair?
Determining your beard thickness is pretty simple and straightforward.
A thick beard tends to have that short, dark, dense look and grows back pretty quickly.
A visible 5 o’clock shadow in the same day is also common for men with thick and dense beards.
Thick facial hair can sometimes appear patchy in certain areas — like on the cheeks — and very dense around the chin, upper lip and neck.
Apart from the visual cues mentioned above, another indicator of a heavy beard is how fast it grows back after a clean shave.
If you need to shave daily and your face feels rough to the touch after just one day, then you most likely have coarse hair.
The importance of assessing your beard type
When choosing an electric razor it’s important to have a clear picture of your needs in order to find a suitable product.
Men with thick facial hair are probably aware of this particularity. And that’s important because the coarseness of your beard should be an integral part of your search for the right shaver.
Not all electric razors are suitable for coarse hair. You could basically use any shaver to get the job done, but that won’t necessarily result in a comfortable, smooth, close and enjoyable shave.
Nobody wants to spend money on products that will cause discomfort, frustration and unsatisfactory results.
A bad shaving experience with one particular razor that wasn’t right for the job could even determine someone to stay away from electric razors altogether.
So let’s see how we can avoid this.
What are the qualities of an electric razor suitable for coarse hair?
An electric razor fitted with a more powerful motor will be beneficial in pretty much any situation, but they are particularly important if you have coarse facial hair.
The difference in cutting power between a decent, but basic razor like the Series 3 from Braun and an advanced one like a Panasonic Arc 5 is even more obvious in this case.
Cutting thick, dense stubble requires serious power and a motor that operates at very high speeds will perform significantly better and the actual shaving time will be reduced as well.
This one is pretty obvious as well. A dull blade can yank the hairs while the closeness of the shave will suffer as well.
It’s also worth mentioning that if you have a tough beard and need to shave very often the blades and foils will probably need to be replaced sooner than the manufacturer recommends, so make sure to do it when you notice a significant drop in performance.
Multiple cutting elements.
While more blades won’t always improve the shaving experience to a significant degree, they most likely will in the context of coarse facial hair.
Men with heavy beards almost always have very dense stubble, which means that during a shaving session there are literally more hairs that will need to be cut compared to a medium or light beard.
For this reason, I would say that a suitable electric razor will need to have at least three individual cutting elements.
Wet & dry operation.
This one is not a must, but I strongly recommend giving wet shaving a try, especially if you also happen to have very sensitive skin.
You can check out my tips for wet shaving with an electric razor here.
If using shaving cream with your electric razor doesn’t sound too appealing, the next best thing would be a pre-shave lotion that takes just seconds to apply and in most cases, it’s very effective.
Best electric shavers for coarse hair [updated 2021]
We all have the same reasonable expectations from an electric razor — a close and comfortable shave.
And the first step in achieving this is to choose an appropriate shaver.
Now that we know what to look for in a razor suitable for coarse hair, let’s check out some of the best you can currently buy.
1. Braun Series 9 9390cc
The Series 9 is Braun’s premium line of electric shavers and they currently represent the best that the company has to offer.
Update: Braun launched a slightly more powerful Series 9 Pro in 2021, but the standard one still remains a solid option, and it also costs significantly less.
An evolution of the iconic and extremely popular Series 7, the Series 9 is a beefed-up, more powerful and more advanced razor that should satisfy even the most demanding users.
Available in both wet & dry or dry only variations, the Series 9 can also come with an automatic cleaning station.
My personal pick would be one of the cc variations like 9390cc for the excellent (and practical) cleaning station.
It also seems to cost lower than other similar Series 9 models.
Further reading: You can check out a comprehensive comparison of all Series 9 variations here.
So what makes the Braun Series 9 suitable for coarse beards?
First of all, we have a torquey motor and an excellent cutting system.
These features work together to provide a smooth and enjoyable shave even if you have a very tough beard and shave after three days of growth.
I personally don’t think there is any other shaver at this moment that can outperform the Series 9/Series 9 Pro as a whole; the comfort, speed, and effortless operation are excellent.
If you are “blessed” with sensitive skin and a thick beard like I am, the Series 9 would be a perfectly suitable choice.
As for the downsides, the Series 9 is definitely not cheap, so if you’re looking for a Braun shaver that offers better value for money and still works well with tough whiskers check out the Series 7 or 5.
Also, while the Series 9 should be good enough for most men when it comes to closeness, it’s actually not the best in class, being edged Panasonic’s Arc 5 shavers.
2. Panasonic Arc 5 ES-LV65-S
Just like the Series 9, the Arc 5 is Panasonic’s high-end line of electric shavers.
In terms of shaving performance, all Arc 5 razors are similar, so the difference comes down to design, price and the inclusion of an automatic cleaning base.
Since a cleaning station is not really necessary in the case of Panasonic shavers as they’re very easy to clean manually, it makes sense to recommend the ES-LV65-S over other models.
If the cleaning base is a must-have for you, there is the more expensive ES-LV95-S Arc 5 variant that includes one; other than that they are exactly the same.
The Panasonic ES-LV65-S is fitted with an extremely fast 14 000 CPM motor and very sharp blades that are honed at an aggressive 30 degrees angle.
This allows them to cut thick hairs extremely close, fast and efficiently.
The massive shaving head with the 5 blades can cover very large surfaces with ease, reducing the number of strokes and the shaving time to a minimum.
Personally, I would place Panasonic’s Arc 5 line in the first spot with regards to the closeness of the shave.
While Braun’s Series 7 and 9 are more comfortable out of the box, in my own personal and subjective experience, the Panasonics are better at providing a closer shave.
However, the Arc 5 works best when used more often (when the hairs are shorter). The Series 9 works better when shaving every few days and the difference is even more noticeable if the hairs stay flat on the skin.
But generally, if you are mainly concerned with getting the closest possible shave, I recommend the Arc 5 over Braun’s Series 9.
3. Philips Norelco S9000 Prestige
Rotary shavers also fare very well with thick stubble and according to some, they are even superior to foil shavers.
I think this can be the case with entry-level foil shavers; the more advanced razors like the ones in this article will probably perform just as well.
One of the best rotary razors in terms of performance is the Philips Norelco S9000 Prestige (official product page).
It is an evolution of Norelco’s former premium line, the Series 9000 (with models like the 9300 and 9700).
The new Prestige line features new cutters and combs and comes with a premium brushed aluminum body.
As a result, its performance is among the best you can expect from any rotary shaver.
It’s particularly impressive at how well it can handle longer hairs, being very effective at catching and cutting them in fewer strokes.
So if you are a rotary shaver type of guy, definitely check this one out.
Unfortunately, the S9000 Prestige doesn’t come with a cleaning station and the price is pretty high compared to the other shavers on this list.
For all the details, make sure to also check out my in-depth review of it.
4. Panasonic Arc 4 ES-LA63
The older ES-LA63 from Panasonic’s Arc 4 line is a personal favorite of mine and a razor I recommend quite often.
The reason for this is pretty simple: it’s a very capable, versatile and solid shaver that offers excellent value for money.
The ES-LA63 includes some of the features found on more expensive Panasonic electric razors like the Arc 5.
It has the same 14 000 CPM motor, 30 degrees nanoblades and 4 individual cutting elements.
These features ensure excellent results even when dealing with very coarse stubble.
With a competitive price, the Panasonic ES-LA63 represents a very compelling and cost-effective option for men with coarse facial hair.
For more details, you can check out my detailed review of the ES-LA63.
An equally good alternative to the ES-LA63 would be Panasonic’s ES-LF51-A from the same Arc 4 line. Unfortunately, the latter is becoming increasingly more difficult to find nowadays.
5. Panasonic Arc 3 ES8103S
Finally, the (arguably) best option for the budget-conscious user is Panasonic’s entry-level Arc 3 line.
Basic electric shavers usually can’t match the performance of the more advanced and much more expensive razors.
However, the Arc 3, or at least some variations of it, manage to punch way above their price.
And if you have a tough beard you’ll definitely want a more capable shaver.
There are a lot of models in the Arc 3 family, old and new, most of them still available for purchasing. When choosing one you should be looking at two things: power output and price.
The Arc 3 models that are fitted with the powerful 13 000 CPM motors are the ones you’ll want.
The difference compared to the less powerful shavers that come with the 7 600 – 10 000 CPM units is night and day.
The ES8103S Arc 3 is one of the best options out there at this moment.
It’s reasonably priced, comes with the punchy 13 000 CPM motor and features the same high-quality blades as the more expensive Arc 4 and Arc 5 shavers.
As a result, its performance is outstanding at this price point.
An equally good alternative would be the Panasonic ES-LL41-K Arc 3. While the design is more modern (and comes with a travel lock and two trimmer attachments), the performance is pretty much identical, so I recommend you simply buy the one that costs less.
In my opinion the 13 000 CPM Arc 3 shavers are the ones to have in the entry-level segment if you have a coarse beard.
The offerings from the competition, like Braun’s Series 3 or Norelco’s Series 5000 just aren’t as good on thicker facial hair.
In order to get the best results, I recommend using the Arc 3 more often (daily or every other day).
Before wrapping up, I want to point out that in order to get the most out of your shaver, the single most effective thing you can do is to set up an appropriate pre-shave routine.
A few simple and easy-to-implement steps can significantly improve your results.
And since coarse hair makes things that much difficult for an electric razor, prep work should not be skipped.
If you have any other questions, make sure to post them in the comments section below.