Switching to electric shavers can offer quite a few benefits — convenience and comfort being among the most compelling ones.
Electric razors, as you probably know, come in two flavors: foil and rotary. Personal preference aside, there are some specific advantages to using one or the other.
And in this article, I’ll go over what I consider to be the most important traits of foil shavers.
We’ll also take a close look at some of the more popular models in 2022 and hopefully help you decide which one would be the best foil shaver for you.
Table of Contents
- What is a foil shaver?
- Advantages of foil shavers
- Finding a suitable foil shaver for your needs
- What are some of the best foil shavers? [updated 2022]
- The disadvantages of foil shavers
- Final word
What is a foil shaver?
Remington was actually the first company to use the micro-foil: a thin, perforated metal screen that covered the blades and vastly improved the comfort during use.
The design has been constantly refined throughout the years, but the basic principle remained the same.
New machining techniques allowed manufacturers to come up with very thin foils, allowing the shavers to cut the hairs very close to the skin.
Foil shavers use sharp reciprocating (oscillating) blades that move sideways at very high speeds behind a protective screen, cutting the hairs that poke through the perforations in the foil.
Most of today’s modern electric shavers feature at least two micro-foils, but also include specially designed cutting elements that are able to capture and trim longer, flat-lying hairs.
The more advanced electric foil shavers can have two or even three specialized cutting elements besides the regular foils.
Let’s check out some of the more popular approaches.
Below you can see two different implementations of a 4 blade cutting system.
On the left, the Braun Series 9 uses two trimmers flanked by two regular foils. One is designed to capture hairs that grow in different directions, while the other one (colored in gold) lifts and cuts flat-lying hairs.
The two foil cutters will then cut the remaining stubble at skin level.
The Panasonic Arc 4 ES-LF51-S on the right uses only one trimmer for tackling longer hairs and a third finishing foil for cutting hairs very close to the skin.
As a result, the Series 9 is better at shaving longer, flat-lying hairs that grow in different directions, while the Panasonic generally offers closer shaves, but it’s not as good at shaving those longer whiskers.
While having more blades doesn’t necessarily translate into a massive performance bump, foil shavers that feature 4 or even more individual cutters are usually top performers.
They generally have more powerful motors, superior flexing capabilities of the shaving head, and are more feature-rich.
The Arc 5 line from Panasonic for example features a 5 blade shaving unit.
Below you can see a closeup of the Panasonic ES-LV65-S shaving head, comprising of 4 foils and one middle trimmer.
The recently launched Panasonic Arc 6 takes things to the extreme with 6 individual cutters.
It uses 4 foil elements and two slit trimmers that capture and cut difficult long hairs.
As mentioned previously, Panasonic’s take on the foil electric shaver shows an emphasis on closeness, while Braun’s razors excel in comfort and shaving longer, wiry hairs.
We’ll take a closer look at the different models later on.
Advantages of foil shavers
Foil shavers differ dramatically in the way they operate from their rotary counterparts, but both can yield excellent results.
This difference leads to specific advantages in the case of both, making them more or less suitable for a particular situation.
Let’s see what are the pros of foil electric razors.
Foil shavers offer the closest shave.
This seems to be generally accepted among men that use electric shavers and it also reflects my personal stance on this matter.
I’ve been using electric razors for more than 15 years and have come across quite a few, both rotary and foil.
At least in my particular case — coarse facial hair and sensitive skin — I almost always get better results in terms of closeness when using foil shavers.
The reason for this is probably the micro-foil itself, being extremely thin.
The metal combs found on rotary razors are usually thicker and they act as a physical barrier between the blades and the skin.
The thinner the barrier, the closer the shave.
There are of course men who prefer rotary razors and actually get better results using them and that’s perfectly fine as well. Always use whatever works best for you.
They’re better suited for sensitive skin.
This is another case of a generally accepted idea in the electric shaving community: foil razors seem to work better for sensitive, irritation-prone skin than rotary shavers.
Some rotary shavers, particularly the ones in the lower-end segment, tend to pull the hairs and even pinch the skin.
I find them to be less forgiving than a decent foil shaver, especially when you’re a bit sloppy with your technique.
Again, this may not always be the case and your mileage may vary. Anecdotal findings should be considered a starting point, they’re not by any means absolute truths.
Foil shavers are easier to clean manually.
A cleaning station can be very practical for cleaning, sanitizing and lubricating your razor after every use.
However, not all electric razors come with one; plus, some of these stations aren’t as good as others and the cost of ownership can go up pretty high.
In this case, your only option is manual cleaning.
Rotary razors require a thorough cleaning that must be performed every once in a while; this implies completely taking apart the shaving head and individually cleaning each cutter.
This is a fiddly and time-consuming operation; also, the cutter and comb pairs must not be intermixed since they are matching pairs and doing so will affect the performance of the razor.
Things are usually a lot simpler with foil razors.
For the majority of foil shavers, a manual clean is very easy and straightforward, implying just some liquid soap and rinsing under warm tap water.
However, some foil shavers are easier to clean than others.
For example, in the case of most Panasonic and Remington shavers, you can separate the inner blades from the foils and you have great access to clean them thoroughly.
On the other hand, Braun uses these so-called cassettes, with the blades and foils merged into a single piece, offering limited access and making it difficult to remove hardened dirt buildups.
In the above image, you can see the outer foil of a Panasonic Arc 4 (left) vs the cassette of a Braun Series 9 (right).
That’s why regularly cleaning your shaver is so important, it will make your life easier in the long run.
Also, I consider Braun stations more practical and actually useful to have compared to Panasonic for example, particularly in the case of more advanced models that also come with more complex cassettes.
I will get into more details about the stations and their pros and cons when we’ll take a look at the actual shavers.
Foil shavers are better for touch-ups and finesse work.
A straight edge allows you to have more control when shaving tricky areas, like around your sideburns or goatee.
Also, by using straight, shorter strokes as opposed to circular overlapping motions you have more precision compared to a rotary razor.
This very straightforward operation also makes foil shavers an excellent choice for beginners.
A wider selection of brands and models.
While your only viable option for a rotary razor is Philips Norelco, there are a lot of options from Braun, Panasonic, Wahl, Andis, and Remington in the case of foil shavers.
Finding a suitable foil shaver for your needs
The best foil shaver is ultimately the right foil shaver.
When deciding which electric razor to buy, you should consider things like the coarseness of your beard, how often you shave, budget constraints, or if you have sensitive skin that is prone to razor burn and irritation.
In the next section, I’ll go over some of my favorite foil shavers; for each one I will try to point out its key features and what exactly makes it a suitable option in a particular situation.
What are some of the best foil shavers? [updated 2022]
1. Braun Series 9 9390cc
While the Series 9 is probably the most comfortable shaver you can buy today, the performance difference between it and the Series 7 couldn’t justify the premium price tag of the Series 9 a few years ago.
However, the price of the Series 9 has seen a drop lately and it now represents an attractive option (even though the S7 still offers better value for money).
With an additional cutting element, a powerful motor and a more advanced flexible shaving head, the Series 9 is a beefed-up Series 7 that will have no issues mowing through a few days of growth with ease.
This is in my opinion the greatest asset of the Series 9 and its main advantage over the Series 7 and most other foil razors.
Braun’s implementation of specially designed trimmers makes the Series 9 better at dealing with longer, flat-lying hairs than any other foil razor.
The Series 9 that I reviewed a while back is also the most comfortable electric shaver I’ve used so far. It’s an ideal option for men with very sensitive skin.
If you have very coarse facial hair, you don’t shave very often, want one of the most comfortable and fast shaves and the price is not an issue, then the Series 9 is the one for you.
Also, it’s one of the better choices for men who also shave their head and don’t want a separate tool for that.
The closeness is very good, but again, not quite the best among high-end shavers.
The Panasonic Arc 5 and Arc 6 are still the best when it comes strictly to the closeness of the shave, but the comfort of the Series 9 is unmatched.
For a detailed comparison between the Series 9 and the Arc 5, you can check out this article.
I would personally go for a variation of the Series 9 that includes a clean & charge station, like the 9390cc/9385cc or even one of the older models like the 9290cc/9291cc (whichever you can find at a better price).
These models are usually widely available in many countries and the price is also pretty reasonable compared to other similar variations.
However, if you can’t get this particular model, you can safely opt for another 92xx or 93xx Series 9 as the actual performance is identical.
It also comes with the same, very useful cleaning station.
As we’ve seen, manually cleaning a Braun shaver is not as easy and the station is a very welcome addition in this case.
And if you follow a few simple steps, the cleaning solution will last a very long time.
You can even take the refill cartridge out of the station, put the cap back on and store it for future use.
You cannot do that with a Panasonic station for example.
As for why I chose the standard Series 9 over the latest Series 9 Pro, that’s simply because the former can usually be found for less money and the performance difference isn’t significant.
Precisely, the standard S9 is a bit more comfortable, while the Pro models seem slightly more powerful and faster, with a small tradeoff in comfort. But again, these differences are subtle.
Braun Series 9 Pro 9465cc
If however you can get the Series 9 Pro for only a few dollars more, it is an excellent option as well that will be suitable in exactly the same situations as the regular Series 9.
For a comprehensive overview of all the different Series 9 models and the differences between them, you can check out this guide.
2. Panasonic Arc 5 ES-LV65-S
The Arc 5 is a premium line of electric shavers from Panasonic, the other big name in the foil shavers camp alongside Braun.
And until the launch of the Arc 6 in 2021, it was Panasonic’s most advanced foil razor.
Currently, there are three generations of Arc 5 shavers and they’re all still available.
While they are different in terms of design, price and included accessories, the performance is similar, especially regarding the closeness.
The newer generations bring along a host of improvements, like an all-metal body for several models and two golden comfort rollers, but the price of the shavers and replacement parts is still high at this moment.
It costs a whole lot less, but it’s still very similar performance-wise, particularly with regards to the closeness of the shave.
First of all, due to the fact that it doesn’t include an automatic cleaning station, it costs significantly less than other Arc 5 razors that come with one.
And to be perfectly honest, you don’t really need one.
Panasonic shavers are extremely easy to clean manually and even include a special cleaning mode that makes the blades vibrate extremely fast, dislodging any stubborn hair strands or dirt.
I’m personally not a fan of Panasonic cleaning systems because of the way they handle the cleaning fluid.
They use this open tray where you mix the concentrated detergent with water and you cannot store it safely like you can with a Braun cartridge.
There are also almost no third-party alternatives to Panasonic’s cleaning detergent. With Braun, there are quite a few, very affordable and you can even make your own from scratch.
I never end up using Panasonic stations, so I personally just buy the single shaver variations and also save some money doing that.
Again, there’s nothing wrong with the station, it’s very effective and works flawlessly, I just don’t consider it as practical or necessary.
The area where the Panasonic Arc 5 shavers excel is shaving performance, particularly the closeness of the shave.
With a very fast 14 000 CPM motor, 5 cutting elements and blades that are honed at a very aggressive 30 degrees angle, this Panasonic ES-LV65-S is capable of providing extremely close and fast shaves.
In my personal experience, Arc 5 shavers outperform even the Series 9/Pro when it comes strictly to the closeness of the shave. On the other hand, Braun has the edge in terms of comfort.
I would like to point out that the Series 9 is also better when used on longer facial hair, especially if your whiskers tend to lie flat on the skin and grow in different directions.
Therefore, the Arc 5 performs the best when used on shorter facial hair, making it ideal for shaving more often. For example, daily or every other day.
It actually depends on how fast your beard grows, so you can get great results even if you shave every few days.
The ES-LV65-S is a great choice for men who want very close and fast shaves. The powerful motor and very sharp blades make it ideal for coarse hair.
The massive shaving head covers large surfaces with ease and can be successfully used for shaving your head as well.
Also, the new outer foil of the latest Arc 5 models is actually backward compatible with the ES-LV65-S, so you can give it an upgrade when it’s time to replace it (here’s a complete guide on Arc 5 foils & blades).
3. Panasonic Arc 6
As mentioned earlier in this post, the Arc 6 is now Panasonic’s flagship shaver.
Initially a Japan-exclusive release, the Arc 6 is finally available in the USA as of June 2022.
The official global launch was delayed for unknown reasons as it was initially set for April 2022.
The two available models are the ES-LS8A-K (no cleaning station) and the ES-LS9A-K (includes an automatic cleaning station). The performance of the two is identical.
And while the Arc 5 was really pushing it with its 5 blades, the Arc 6 features a massive shaving head with 6 active cutters.
Yes, it is overkill and they probably could have achieved similar performance with fewer blades, but that doesn’t mean it can’t work well.
In fact, it shaves amazing and the Arc 6 is Panasonic’s best shaver yet.
That said, there are a few reasons why most users should probably stick to the aforementioned Arc 5, at least for the time being.
First of all, the availability was limited and you had to import it from Japan. At least that’s what I had to do before the global launch.
It’s an expensive shaver and you’ll have to pay shipping and customs fees as well. And while the availability it’s not an issue anymore in most countries, the Arc 6 still has a premium price tag.
Also, after using an Arc 6 for almost 3 months and alternating between it and an Arc 5, I can safely say that the main improvement the Arc 6 brings is in the comfort department.
It is noticeably gentler and more forgiving than let’s say an ES-LV65-S.
So men with irritation-prone skin will benefit from using an Arc 6 over the Arc 5, especially when shaving dry.
The Arc 5 can come across as too aggressive if you have sensitive skin.
If you don’t have that problem, then you probably should save some money and get the Arc 5.
If however you want the closest possible shave and need a comfortable razor as well, the Arc 6 is arguably the best out there right now.
Granted, it’s not as comfortable as a Series 9 or even the Series 9 Pro, but it can cut the hairs closer to the skin, particularly if you have a dense and coarse beard.
I can definitely notice a smoother shave, especially below the nose and on the chin.
I would rate the closeness on the same level as the Arc 5 though, so I don’t think it’ll be an upgrade in that regard.
It will however achieve the same closeness while being gentler to the skin.
The foils also remain cool to the touch provided they are regularly lubricated.
Where the Arc 6 falls short, especially when considering the supposed upgrades it brings in that area, is when shaving longer, flat-lying hairs.
It is more effective than other Panasonic shavers with its two slit trimmers, but still nowhere near as good as the Series 9 or Series 9 Pro.
If you tend to shave twice a week for example, I think the Braun would be a better choice. You will work harder with the Arc 6 in order to get those longer, flat-lying hairs, especially on the neck.
So definitely consider a Series 9 or Arc 5 before splurging on the Arc 6. Depending on your needs, those could actually be better and more economical options.
The Arc 6 will be coming to the USA in April, which should make the cost go down as well.
4. Braun Series 7 790cc
The Series 7 790cc from Braun is an electric shaver that ticks pretty much all the right boxes.
It’s a great all-rounder and there are only a few situations where the 790cc wouldn’t make an excellent choice.
As one of the best-selling electric razors in recent years, it was often regarded as the benchmark in terms of performance and comfort.
Tip: If you can find a similar Series 7 for less money, you can confidently get that one instead. The performance throughout the Series 7 range is pretty much identical.
For example, the 7865cc is a great alternative, especially in Europe/UK, where it tends to cost a lot less than the 790cc.
Let’s see what makes the 790cc/7865cc one of the best foil shavers on the market.
Comfort during the shave.
The Series 7 is notorious for its gentle and smooth operation, making it a prime candidate for men with sensitive skin.
The Series 7 790cc is capable of providing very comfortable shaves without major trade-offs in closeness.
It’s not the closest shaving razor in this price range — the Panasonic Arc 5 and even the Arc 4 are still the best in this regard — but most men will be perfectly satisfied with it.
Excellent cleaning station.
Braun’s cleaning stations use an alcohol-based solution that cleans, sanitizes, and lubricates the shaver.
While Braun ditched the induction heating mechanism for all the Series 7 currently being manufactured, it still works excellent and you’ll probably want the station as it’s very practical — just like in the case of the Series 9.
Who shouldn’t buy the Series 7 790cc?
In my opinion, the 790cc is one of the best foil shavers in this price range especially for being a great all-rounder.
However, it won’t always be the best choice.
First of all, if your budget is limited, there are more affordable options below, like the Series 5 or the Panasonic Arc 4.
Secondly, if you shave every three days or so and have wiry, flat-lying hairs that grow fast, a Braun Series 9 will be more suitable.
And finally, if the closeness of the shave is particularly important to you, there are other shavers that will outperform the Series 7 for roughly the same money, like a Panasonic Arc 4 or a second-generation Panasonic Arc 5 like the ES-LV65-S.
Important: there’s a 2020 Series 7 generation as well that is in fact a downgrade in performance from the previous one like the 790cc.
5. Panasonic Arc 4 ES-LA63AA
The ES-LA63 is a very popular electric razor from Panasonic and the reason for that is quite simple: it represents a very compelling package.
It comes in two color options: ES-LA63-S (silver) and ES-LA63AA (blue).
As of 2022, the silver variation that I got doesn’t seem to be available anymore. The performance of the two is however identical.
This Arc 4 provides very close and fairly comfortable shaves, has the same 14 000 CPM motor as the more expensive Arc 5 and Arc 6 shavers, uses the same 30 degrees nano-blades and is generally reasonably priced.
The Arc 4 in its name refers to the 4 cutting elements, still plenty enough for anyone’s needs.
Moreover, this shaver has a second motor inside the actual shaving head that causes the foil to vibrate, making the hairs stand up for a more efficient shave.
It doesn’t seem to make a notable difference compared to other Arc 4 shavers that lack this feature, but it is there.
The performance of the ES-LA63AA is remarkable for its price, making it a great deal in terms of cost and performance.
You will not get a cleaning station, but as mentioned previously, Panasonic shavers are dead easy to clean manually.
Being an older model, you can often find it at a discounted price. However, if the cost is similar to an Arc 5 ES-LV65-S, I recommend going for the latter in this case.
For more details, make sure to check out my Panasonic ES-LA63 review.
6. Braun Series 5 5140s
The Series 5 from Braun is a very interesting line of electric shavers.
Performance-wise, they’re right up there with the Series 7, even though they lack some of their features, like the personalization modes and the micro-pulsations technology.
However, given the fact that they are very reasonably priced and the performance is still excellent, they represent a viable alternative to the Series 7 if you have a limited budget.
The 5140s is probably the pick of the Series 5 range as it’s widely available and cheaper than other Series 5 models (that performs identically).
My previous favorite Series 5 used to be the 5190cc as it came with the cleaning station, but unfortunately the price has spiked and you’d be better of with a Series 7 790cc for roughly the same money.
Just like the Series 7, the Series 5 shines when it comes to comfort, being very gentle and forgiving, perfectly suitable for men with sensitive skin.
The foils remain cool during use and you shouldn’t experience any razor burn or hairs getting yanked.
If you’re mostly interested in the closeness of the shave, the Panasonic Arc 4 would be a better option.
Keep in mind though that the Arc 4 isn’t as good with long, flat-lying hairs as the Series 5.
You can read my detailed review of the Series 5 here.
Important: there’s also a new Series 5 generation that is in fact worse than the previous one. I would definitely recommend getting one of the older models like the 5140s or 5145s (whichever is cheaper).
7. Panasonic Arc 3 ES8103S
If you’re looking for a very capable, but inexpensive wet & dry foil shaver that you’ll be using daily for the majority of the time, then the Arc 3 line from Panasonic represents a very solid option.
As it’s the case with the Arc 5 family, you have quite a few razors to choose from in the Arc 3 category.
My personal pick would be the older ES8103S or the ES-LL41-K because they offer the best performance for the money.
There are other newer Arc3 shavers as well, but apart from a different color, design and a fancier LED display, the performance is very similar.
You also have the option of getting the latest iteration of the Arc 3 line, but I won’t be referring to them as they can be more expensive, the shaving head is unnecessarily large and as I said in my review of the ES-LT3N-K, the performance is identical.
The comfort and especially the closeness of the older Panasonic ES8103S are very good.
You’ll still get an impressively fast 13 000 CPM motor and Panasonic’s sharp nano-blades.
It’s worth pointing out that you’ll get the best results with this electric razor when shaving daily.
Men that don’t have very thick facial hair can get away with using it every other day or every two days.
You can read the full review of the Panasonic ES8103S here.
8. Braun Series 3 ProSkin 3040s
The Series 3 ProSkin represents Braun’s alternative to Panasonic’s entry-level Arc 3 line.
With a reasonable price, good performance and excellent comfort during use, the Series 3 represents a very attractive package, especially when you have a limited budget.
The foil shavers from the Series 3 are available in several variations that cater to different needs. Therefore, we have dry-only shavers, wet & dry shavers and optional cleaning stations.
However, all of them use the same shaving head and the performance is identical. Picking one comes down to the features you actually need.
My personal favorite is the 3040s that I reviewed a while ago.
It is a wet & dry razor that works great for daily use and it’s usually very affordable. It also has an integrated slide-out trimmer (not all Series 3 models have it).
The shaving head only needs to be replaced once every 18 months and costs half the price of a similar Panasonic Arc 3 foil & blades set.
In my personal experience, the Panasonic is slightly better in terms of closeness.
The Series 3 is however more comfortable and better suited for sensitive skin.
It’s also better with longer hairs, even though you can’t really compare it to a Series 5 in this regard. A full comparison between the Arc 3 and the Series 3 is available here.
I would also like to point out that both the Panasonic Arc 3 and Braun Series 3 are entry-level foil shavers.
This means that while the results are quite good for shaving daily, they cannot match the speed and performance of the more powerful, advanced razors presented above.
The disadvantages of foil shavers
So far I have only talked about what makes a foil shaver great and I haven’t mentioned anything about their disadvantages.
That’s not to say that there aren’t any, so let’s get right to it.
First and foremost, foil shavers are definitely noisier during use; a rotary shaver is generally very quiet due to the slower speed of the motor and the lack of vibrations (caused by the reciprocating blades in the case of foil shavers).
Also, the straight edge of the shaving head makes shaving certain portions of your face a bit more difficult; I am talking about the jawline and other nooks and crannies.
Rotary razors, especially the more advanced ones, have cutters that can flex and tilt inward and maintain constant contact with the skin. This can be beneficial for men with very prominent facial features.
Some may also argue that rotary razors are better for coarser facial hair.
While this may be the case with entry-level, basic foil shavers, I haven’t found rotary razors to be significantly better in this regard compared to an advanced foil shaver.
Entry-level rotary razors do seem to fare better with hairs that grow in different directions.
Finally, the blades and foils tend to wear out faster. There’s a lot of friction, the foils are very thin and the blades move at a very fast rate. That’s why is vital to lubricate a foil razor regularly.
You also can check out my guide on how and when to lubricate an electric razor.
By the time you finish reading this article you’ll hopefully have a clearer picture of what makes a particular foil razor better than others in a given situation.
Don’t forget to check out the reviews section as well for thorough, in-depth reviews of more foil shavers.
If you have any other questions make sure to post them in the comments below.