Electric Shavers FAQ: Top 25 Questions Answered

Electric shavers represent a practical and convenient alternative to traditional wet shaving.

And while there is a lot of information available on how to choose, use and care for an electric razor, there are still quite a few questions and myths surrounding this topic.

As a result, we’ve put together a comprehensive list of commonly asked questions regarding electric shavers.

Feel free to use the content table below to jump straight to the part that interests you the most.

1. Do electric shavers cut as close as manual razors?

Because there’s a physical barrier between the actual blades of an electric razor and your skin — in the form of a micro-foil or a comb — a manual razor will usually provide a closer shave.

However, traditional wet shaving also comes with its own (significant) drawbacks and modern electric shavers have a come a very long way with regards to closeness and comfort.

As a result, most users will likely be perfectly satisfied with the closeness provided by a high-quality electric shaver. And with a few adjustments to your technique and shaving routine you can improve your results even more.

2. Do electric shavers cause less skin irritation?

The short answer is yes, generally an electric shaver will be more comfortable and thus better for sensitive skin compared to using a blade.

Some electric razors are better than others in this regard, being gentler, more forgiving and less prone to cause irritation or razor burn.

Braun foil shavers are almost unanimously considered to be the most comfortable out of the big three brands (Panasonic and Philips Norelco being the other two).

3. Do electric shavers exfoliate the skin?

To a very small degree, yes. You cannot compare it however to the exfoliation you’ll get from using a razor blade.

Small bits of skin can poke through the perforations in the foils or combs and a very shallow layer of skin cells will be scraped off as well.

But it will be very spotty and in some cases, this can result in razor burn if you press too hard.

As a result, it’s a far better approach to only use light pressure and exfoliate your skin twice a week using a gentle facial scrub.

4. Do electric shavers cause ingrown hairs?

Shaving can sometimes lead to ingrown hairs and even razor bumps regardless of the method you choose.

However, it is less of a problem if you use a suitable electric shaver and exfoliate your skin regularly.

Because electric shavers don’t shave quite as close and the hairs are also cut clean and straight, there are fewer chances of them curling back into the skin and becoming ingrown.

If you’re already dealing with acne or razor bumps, an electric shaver will arguably be a better and safer choice. You don’t want an exposed blade to be dragged over infected bumps.

5. Do electric shavers make the hair thicker or the skin darker?

No, they don’t. This is yet another myth that only has to do with appearance.

A razor blade will often cut the hairs at an angle, while an electric shaver will cut them straight, making the hairs appear thicker and darker when they start growing back.

It’s scientifically proven that shaving does not affect the thickness, density or color of the hair follicles, regardless of the method of shaving.

6. Can you shave your head with an electric razor?

Yes, absolutely. In fact, it’s arguably a faster, safer and overall better method of shaving your head.

You can use a regular electric shaver for this, be it foil or rotary, or go for a dedicated head shaver like the ones from Skull Shaver.

7. Do electric shavers work on legs/pubic hair/armpits?

Electric shavers are designed to cut short, coarse hair. As a result, they’re not ideal for shaving body hair.

You could theoretically use an electric shaver provided that the hair is very short, but you’ll be better off with a body trimmer.

8. Do foil shavers give a closer shave than rotary razors?

Generally yes, foil electric shavers will shave closer.

While there are men who get excellent results with rotary shavers and they swear by them, most users will have a better chance of getting a closer shave using a foil shaver.

The micro-foils are a lot thinner than the metal combs found on rotary razors, meaning there’s a thinner barrier between the skin and the actual blades. This often results in foil razors providing a closer shave.

9. Do electric shavers need shaving cream?

No, electric shavers do not require shaving cream.

You can optionally use shaving cream/gel with your electric razor if it’s suitable for wet & dry operation.

Some users do get improved results in terms of closeness and comfort, so if your particular shaver can handle wet shaving, you can give it a try and see if there are any improvements to your results.

10. Can electric shavers cut you?

Yes, an electric shaver can still cause small nicks and even some nasty razor burn. It’s a lot less likely to happen compared to using a razor blade, but it’s definitely possible.

The best way to avoid this is by not pressing too hard.

If you apply excessive pressure, tiny bits of skin tissue surrounding the hair follicles or other small imperfections in the skin will poke through the holes and slots and get cut by the blades.

11. Can you use an electric shaver in the shower?

If your electric shaver is waterproof and explicitly marketed as suitable for wet/dry use, then yes, you can safely use it in the shower.

12. Should you wash your face before shaving with an electric shaver?

If you’re going to shave dry (and most users will), then you should NOT wash your face or take a hot shower right before your shave.

This will have a negative impact on your results. A pre-requisite of a great dry shave is to have your skin as dry as possible.

13. Can electric shavers be shared between users?

Just like manual razors, electric shavers are intended for personal use only and should not be shared between users.

Skin infections and bacteria like Staphylococcus aureus can still be transmitted. Also, some germs can be present in the skin without any obvious signs of infection, so never share an electric razor with someone else.

14. Are electric razors faster than traditional shaving?

In most cases, yes. A decent electric shaver will shave faster than a blade, especially if you shave dry.

With electric shavers, the prep-work is virtually non-existent: no washing your face with hot water, no showering or lathering required. An electric shaver is also a lot more forgiving, allowing you to shave faster.

You also don’t have to constantly rinse the razor or re-lather your face.

Mid-range to high-end electric shavers are fitted with very fast motors and have multiple cutting elements. As a result, they will usually shave very fast, even in the case of coarse facial hair.

Entry-level electric razors will require more strokes in order to get a clean and close shave. They also work best on short beards, so they should only be considered a viable option for daily use or if you have light to medium facial hair.

15. Do you still need to use an aftershave with electric razors?

You don’t need an aftershave, but it’s highly recommended to use one regardless if you’re shaving with an electric or a manual razor.

Post-shave treatment should be an integral part of your routine as the skin needs to be moisturized and hydrated after subjecting it to a potentially irritating process.

16. How often should you change the blades on an electric razor?

The answer is as often as you need to.

All manufacturers will recommend a default interval to replace the blades and foils/combs, like every year or every 18 months.

However, this is highly dependent on the coarseness of your hair, how often you shave and how well you take care of your shaver (cleaning, lubrication).

As a result, you may need to replace the parts sooner or later than what the manufacturers say.

When you’ll notice a performance drop that will gradually become more noticeable — the closeness of the shave is not as good anymore, the foils get excessively hot, the hairs are yanked and you’re getting razor burn — it’s probably time to get new blades and foils.

17. Can electric shavers be sharpened?

The short answer is no, the blades of an electric shaver cannot be sharpened by the user.

Even if someone would have access to the highly specialized tools required to perform this operation, it would still be futile.

And that’s simply because the wear caused by the friction between the blades and the foils or combs makes any refurbishing attempts impossible.

The blades and foils of an electric shaver are machined with great precision and have very small tolerances.

With use, the metal will wear out, warp and the gap between the blades and foils will gradually increase, thus affecting the closeness and leading to the hairs getting yanked. Trying to sharpen the blades will actually make this worse.

The only viable solution is to replace them with new ones.

18. Can you clean an electric shaver with water?

If the shaver is waterproof, yes, you can and you should clean it with water. And most modern electric shavers are waterproof.

Using warm tap water to clean an electric razor will be very effective, especially if you add a bit of liquid soap too.

You should find very detailed instructions in your user’s manual on how to properly clean your shaver.

19. Do you need to oil an electric razor?

Yes, it’s highly recommended to lubricate your electric shaver in order to ensure optimal performance and to prolong the life of the blades.

If your shaver comes with an automatic cleaning station and you use it on a regular basis, there’s no need to lubricate the blades manually since the cleaning solution also acts as a lubricant.

Otherwise, you should use either a light oil (clipper oil, sewing machine oil) or an electric shaver cleaner and lubricant spray.

Some manufacturers like Braun and Panasonic also include a small bottle of lubricant with some models, but that’s generally not the case with most shavers.

Here’s a complete guide on how and when to lubricate your electric shaver.

20. Can you use an electric shaver while it’s charging?

Most dry only electric razors will allow you to shave with the cord plugged in.

This can be convenient if the battery is completely drained or when it can’t hold a decent charge anymore.

Wet & dry electric razors will only work cordless as a safety precaution. However, most of them have a 5-minute quick charge function that will allow you to complete one shave.

While the batteries aren’t user replaceable in most cases, you can often find the compatible batteries and replace them yourself.

Keep in mind though that doing so will likely compromise the waterproofing of your shaver and void any remaining warranty.

21. Do you have to discharge an electric shaver (through use) in order to maximize battery life?

Most of today’s electric shavers are fitted with modern batteries that don’t require complete discharge cycles in order to prolong their lifespan. This was known as the memory effect.

Li-ion batteries, the type most commonly used in electric razors, have a finite number of charging cycles. However, a partial cycle only counts as a partial cycle, so charging a shaver more often is not a problem anymore.

Some older or entry-level shavers like the Braun Series 3 are fitted with NiMh batteries that do require a complete discharge every 6 months or so, but that’s about it.

22. Why do electric shavers have different plugs?

Because electric shavers are sold in different parts of the worlds, a particular model can come with different plugs depending on your location.

However, you can for example use a USA electric razor in Europe with a simple plug adapter.

That’s possible because pretty much all electric shavers are fitted with automatic voltage converters, allowing you to charge your shaver anywhere in the world.

This information will be explicitly listed on the box or in your user’s manual.

23. Are electric shavers allowed in carry-on luggage on airplanes?

Yes, an electric razor is allowed in hand luggage and checked baggage as well.

If your electric shaver is fitted with a travel lock, make sure it’s activated.

It’s also a good idea to have a hard travel case that offers protection in case of mechanical shocks since checked baggage is often handled roughly.

If the manufacturer didn’t include one with your razor, there are often third-party cases available for the most popular shaver models.

24. Why do you have to wait three weeks for your skin to adapt to an electric shaver?

You must have come across something like this when browsing through your shaver’s user guide.

Manufacturers assume that you’re probably switching from a manual razor and advise you to wait at least three weeks before drawing a conclusion.

As we know, using a razor blade will also scrape off a tiny layer of skin cells, which in turn triggers your body to produce scar tissue.

Since it takes a few weeks to get rid of that scar tissue, during this time your results with an electric shaver won’t be the best.

So that’s the reason why you should wait for approximately three weeks and allow the skin to get used to the new shaver.

25. Can you return an electric shaver?

Most manufacturers offer the possibility of returning an electric razor after using it if you’re not completely satisfied with its performance.

The terms and conditions can vary quite a lot among different manufacturers, different countries and different shaver models. Also, a particular trial offer can only apply to shavers bought within a specific period of time.

The terms are subjected to change quite often, so make sure to do some research before buying a particular shaver model.

You’ll usually get between 45 and 60 days from the date of purchase to apply for a refund.

Article by

Hey. I’m Ovidiu, the founder and editor of ShaverCheck. I independently buy and test electric shavers and I’ve been sharing my findings on this site for more than 10 years, hopefully helping others choose a suitable shaver.

If you found the information useful, consider subscribing to the ShaverCheck newsletter as well. It’s free and I only send a few emails a year. Unsubscribe at any time.

27 thoughts on “Electric Shavers FAQ: Top 25 Questions Answered”

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  1. Hi, thank you for the informative article
    I was really satisfied after reading through your website, you gave very detailed review on almost everything i want to know about electric shaver.
    I owned a phillips S5420 aquatouch for the last 3 years. I shaved dry. The results are mixed. Most of time can shave well but not as close enough especially below the jaw and neck area. Lately the blade already blunt

    I was thinking of changing the blade or upgraded to panasonic arc 5.
    Still undecided about this
    Do you have any opinion?

    • Hi,

      Thank you for your kind comment, I really appreciate it.
      For most users, a Panasonic Arc 5 will provide a noticeable improvement in closeness compared to a mid-range Philips shaver like your S5420. I also think that it would be more comfortable (I personally get much better results using foil shavers). The only thing to keep in mind, especially when shaving your neck, is that if you have lots of flat-lying hairs that grow in different directions, Panasonic shavers are not as good at catching them as Braun for example and will require additional strokes. This is mainly a problem if you shave less often and the hairs are excessively long.

      Hope this helps.


      • Thank you for your response
        I shaved dry and i am a hairy person, and need to shave everyday.
        However my beard and hair are just normal.
        My main concern is to upgrade to a shaver that able to get close shave, easily maintain and able to get spare parts replacement in the future.
        Do you suggest braun or Panasonic arc 5?

        • You are very welcome. If you shave daily and the closeness of the shave is very important, I’d go with the Arc 5. Sorry for the late reply, for some reason I wasn’t notified of your comment.

          • Hi Ovidiu, thanks for your reply. In my country the only arc 5 model available is es-lv6q and es lv9q
            I am thinking to buy lv6q. The price around 190 to 200 usd.
            I want to ask regarding the foil and blade replacement? It is easy to get and it is expensive?

  2. Another question is i found fron the website that the replacement outer foil should used wes 9177,inner blade wes 9170 and whole set wes 9036.
    Is there any other option? If not mistaken you mentioned that all arc 5 are backward compatible. It is true?

    • Between the ES-LV6Q and ES-LV9Q I would also go for the former. The station is not really necessary and you’ll also save some money. Regarding the replacement parts, those are indeed the correct part numbers for the foils and blades that come with the ES-LV6Q/ES-LV9Q, but there are other compatible parts as well, including the ones of the slightly older revision A and revision B Arc 5 models (the set has the part number WES9034P). Also, the set of the even older second generation Arc 5 will fit (part number is WES9032P). So you basically have 3 options to go for (depending on price and availability).


  3. Hi, I can only find Wes9032p in the market but nk wes 9034p or 9036 available. Would you suggest any particular website i can find these foil
    I am just worried in 1 to 2 years when i decided to change the foil, i might find difficulty finding the replacement

    • These are still fairly new parts, so the availability is a bit scarce right now. But I’m sure they will become more prevalent in the next few years. For example, the 9036 set is available on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2Ic3oGx

      So I wouldn’t worry too much about it.

    • Actually i am still undecided now
      I intent to upgrade from phillips aquatouch s5420 to a shaver with good performance, able to get close shave and long lasting
      I was considering between arc 3, arc 4 or arc 5
      Arc 3 most probably will have same performance with my phillips
      Arc 4 unfortunately not available in my country Malaysia
      Arc 5, only 2 models available in my country lv6q and lv9q
      Was thinking of buying lv6q as you recommended
      The only thing I worries is regarding the replacement part and durability of the foil. From.
      1.FROM Your experience how long the foil can last before need replacement?
      I have moderate beard, not very coarse and shave almost daily

      • With proper cleaning and lubrication, they should last at least one year of constant use. I highly recommend a cheap spray lubricant (like Remington Shaver Saver or Braun spray cleaner), they really make a difference to the performance and longevity of the blades.

  4. Again great site! Another question I’ve been sometines asked is a comparison of the “green” aspect of DE shaving compared to an electric, and my personal opinion is that it’s a wash. With a DE there’s the issue of disposal of blades, which in some areas is considered regulated medical waste. In any case there is the ongoing problem of dumping sharp (they should be in a sharps container of some sort), potentially contaminated razor blades into commercial waste, and collectively it can add up to a lot. With an electric, you’ll dispose of the head every year or two – plastic and steel, but not usually considered hazardous waste. On the other hand, the shaver itself with its (probably) lithium ion battery must be disposed if every three years or so (likely a lot longer, but the usual warranty), so that becomes an issue depending on local laws for disposal of Li-ion. You pays your money and you takes your choice, but either option – electric or traditional DE blade – is not completely “green.” I suppose the true environmentalist would use a straight razor, but there’s that extra cost for emergency room visits….

    Doc H.

    • Thank you, Allan. That’s a great question and some great insights on this matter. I completely agree with your stance on this.


  5. Some store people at Target and Best Buy told me that they don’t make plug-in razors anymore. And that they are also trying to discontinue razors you can use while you are charging them. Is this true? My Remington razor is at the point where it struggles to make it through one shave between charges. I’m beginning to think I should go to a second-hand shop for an old electric razor that is plug-in only. I saw one at Value Village, but it looked like it had a european plug. When they say “corded vs. cordless” is that only referring to the ability to charge without a cord, or to the ability to shave while plugged in?

    • Hi Billy,

      Yes, unfortunately that is the trend right now. The vast majority of electric shavers currently being manufactured can only be used cordless. And that’s what the term means, it doesn’t have anything to do with charging the shaver without a cord. It’s just about the ability to use it while it’s connected to the mains.

      Some older models can still be bought (look for “dry only” models, those can usually be used while charging). You should be able to use a shaver with a Europlug with a simple plug adapter since most shavers come with a Universal Voltage Converter.


  6. I noticed you mention that blades cannot be sharpened, but I have successfully sharpened my rotary Philips H9 blades for years with success using the Vollco sharpening system. Unfortunatly they do not have a solution for the new Prestige 9000 blades. Do you know if the technique of using polish on a mirror works for these?

    • Hi Adrian,

      Thank you for your comment. I was mainly referring to sharpening the blades of a foil shaver, but I guess I forgot to mention that. I think you should be able to sharpen the Prestige blades with a mirror and some fine paste just like you would with any rotary blades. In fact, it should be even less complicated since they don’t use that Hyper Lift & Cut system, so there’s actually a single row of blades, not two.


  7. Hi Ovidiu,

    Thinking of talking a chance on a pre-owned Arc 5 on ebay.
    Do you know of any way sanitizing a used shaver (maybe boiling water)?
    Or would you suggest a new set of foil and blades, at a minimum?
    Or just stay away altogether and buy new?

    Thanks Bill,

    • Hi Bill,

      When it comes to electric shavers, I think the best option (by far) is to simply buy a new one. In my opinion it’s well worth the extra cost. Also, most Arc 5 models (apart from a few new Japan-exclusive models) are cordless-only and batteries do degrade in time.
      If your budget is very limited and your only option is a pre-owned shaver, a new foil and blade set would be highly recommended. However, Arc 5 parts are pricey, so again, buying a new shaver would make more sense. Some models like the ES-LV65 or ES-LV67 can be found at a reasonable price.

      Finally, regarding the cleaning part, I would use warm tap water and liquid soap and in addition to that, 70% alcohol for the foils and blades — again, if I absolutely had to go with a pre-owned shaver (which I do not recommend).


    • Hi Derek,

      The risk of being anything wrong with the shaver is low since they are usually examined in detailed when returned. If the previous buyer didn’t shave with it, there’s really no risk. Otherwise, there is the potential risk associated with any personal care item that’s been used by another person.



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