One of the reasons why electric shavers get a constant bashing, 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 on point or the shaver wasn’t suitable for their particular needs.
However, with a few easy to implement steps we can reduce this trade-off to a minimum and actually get a shave that’s close by anyone’s standards.
Is closeness an inherent limitation of electric razors?
Traditional wet shaving, where an exposed blade is used to cut the hairs at skin level, is the benchmark in terms of closeness. That is a fact and there’s really no point in arguing over it.
Electric razors on the other hand use cutting blades that oscillate or rotate behind a perforated thin foil or metal guard.
This means there’s a physical barrier between the skin and the actual blades, so the very design and operation of electric shavers are the cause of 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.
With that in mind, 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 your shave when using an electric razor.
How to get a close shave with an electric shaver
1. A simple and effective pre-shave routine is as important as the actual shave.
I know it’s probably the least exciting part of this list, but it’s the foundation of a comfortable and close shave.
It’s quite astonishing how getting the basics right can massively impact the final results. My recommendation? A simple and effective pre-shave routine.
The linked guide above will provide you with all the details, but here’s an actionable summary:
- Don’t wash your face or take a shower if you’ll be shaving dry; you’ll want to have the skin as dry as possible as any moisture will likely affect the quality of the shave;
- Do use plenty of warm water and a thin layer of watery leather if you will shave wet with your electric razor.
2. Use an electric shaver that is up to the task.
There are quite a few electric razors out there that offer excellent performance for the money.
If closeness is more important than getting the most bang for your buck, then a powerful and more advanced razor is a must.
I also recommend checking out this article for some in-depth thoughts on some of the closest shaving 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 hairs 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 strokes 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 the razor more forgiving.
Quick tip: only apply a very thin layer of slick, watery lather. I find using my hands and working the lather into the stubble to work best.
So the approach here is a bit different than in the case of traditional wet shaving where you would use a brush to build that fluffy, rich lather.
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.
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 lotion will provide a layer of lubrication, absorb the moisture and cause the hairs to stiffen up and stand straight.
Using one will often contribute to a closer and smoother shave.
5. Make sure the razor is fully charged.
This definitely has to be on your pre-shave checklist. 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 a bit 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 of the shave here and you’ll want to take advantage of the full cutting power of your razor.
If you’re concerned that this will affect the lifespan of the battery, you can rest assured that it won’t.
Modern Li-Ion batteries that are fitted to electric razors aren’t susceptible to the problems of the older NiMh or NiCd batteries.
For more information on this topic check out this post.
6. Clean and lubricate your razor.
Apart from being a very welcoming environment where bacteria can thrive, dirt buildups will affect the performance of an electric shaver.
Also, lubricating the blades and foils on a regular basis will minimize the wear and reduce heat generated during use.
Some brands like Panasonic include a small bottle of lubricant in the package. However, you can use either refined mineral oil that’s cheap and readily available.
For more details on how to do it and a few recommended products, you can check out my guide on lubricating electric shavers.
7. Use a spray cleaner and lubricant
A cleaning spray specifically designed to be used on electric shavers can also be used instead of (or alongside) the cleaning and lubricating method above.
In fact, I highly recommend you to get one as it will make a massive improvement to the performance of your shaver, especially if you don’t have or you don’t use an automatic cleaning station.
A spray cleaner and lubricant will clean, degrease, remove dirt and break down mineral buildups from your shaver’s foils and blades, reducing the friction and minimizing the stress on the motor.
I personally use Remington Shaver Saver and I can honestly say that it’s a fantastic product.
If your shaver doesn’t cut as close as it used to, just trust me on this one and get it. You won’t regret it.
8. Replace dull blades.
This one is pretty self-explanatory. Depending on how often you shave and the coarseness of your beard, the blades and foils must be replaced every year or so.
This is important not only for closeness, but for safety and comfort considerations as well.
Do not wait until the blades have worn through the foils and always buy the parts recommended by the manufacturer from a reputable vendor.
Again, I find a spray cleaner and lubricant to significantly extend the lifespan of the cutting elements and it’s a lot cheaper than buying new replacement foils and blades.
9. Work on your technique to get a closer shave.
Adjusting the pressure, angle, direction and length of the strokes are necessary when shaving certain areas, like your neck, chin or jawline.
Always go against the direction of hair growth and adjust accordingly.
Sometimes you may also have to stretch the skin with your free hand so the razor can cut the hair more efficiently. This will also cause the flat-lying hairs to stand upright.
Do not apply excessive pressure as it will only lead to irritation. Some razors are more forgiving and you can get away with it, so try it gradually and see how it goes.
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 see progress, so just stick with it.
10. 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 am able to get a shave that is pretty much as close as the ones I used to get from a safety razor (minus the nicks and rashes).
It is a bold statement, but that’s simply my personal experience and trust me, it wasn’t always the case. Luckily, my technique has improved throughout the years and electric shavers kept getting better and better in this regard.
As I mentioned in the beginning, electric razors have this limitation compared to a razor blade, being designed to prevent the cutting elements from actually touching the skin.
This ensures great comfort during use, but can negatively impact the closeness.
Fortunately, with the right shaver and these simple adjustments, you can significantly improve the closeness of your shave without any major tradeoffs in comfort and without adding too much overhead.