One of the most disputed topics among shaving enthusiasts has to be the electric shavers vs manual razors debate.
There are undeniable benefits and shortcomings with both and there are no definitive rights or wrongs here.
That’s why in this article we’ll take a step back and present an objective overview of the advantages and drawbacks of electric and traditional shaving.
If you’re on the fence about which one will better suit your needs, this post is for you.
Let’s get right to it.
Pros of Electric Shavers
1. Convenience and speed.
One of the main reasons for switching to electric shavers is the practical side of it: no more lengthy, thorough prep work, no more lathering and no more hassle to clean and take care of your shaving arsenal.
You just grab your electric shaver and get straight to shaving.
After that, you can simply toss it into the automatic cleaning and charging station and that’s about it.
And even if the shaver doesn’t come with a cleaning station, most modern shavers can be easily cleaned by simply rinsing them under the tap.
Electric shavers are also more convenient for shaving on the go.
Traditional shaving implies the use of an exposed sharp blade and that inherently comes with some risks.
Careful prep work and proper technique can greatly diminish these risks, but only up to a point and for some less fortunate men a razor blade just isn’t an option.
Normally, using an electric shaver will provide more comfort, less irritation, and no nicks and cuts. All of these while still offering an adequately close shave.
Most men with sensitive skin that is prone to irritation, razor burn, ingrown hairs and bumps will likely benefit from switching to an electric razor.
3. You don’t have to give up wet shaving.
In fact, you really shouldn’t as the addition of a nice shaving cream can greatly improve the closeness and comfort of your shave.
Most of today’s electric shavers are waterproof and can be used with shaving creams and gels.
This may seem like defying the whole purpose of an electric razor, and that’s completely legit.
After all, one of the main advantages of electric shavers is not having to deal with the messy lathering and cleaning that are usually associated with traditional shaving.
But if you got an electric shaver just for the extra comfort, a wet shave can further improve your experience. You can also check out my extensive guide on how to choose a quality shaving cream.
Wet shaving gives you that barbershop feeling and you can still enjoy that on weekends for example if you’re constrained by time during the week.
The best part is that you’ll still be able to enjoy your favorite shaving creams, soaps, oils, aftershave and so on plus the added comfort of an electric razor.
4. Electric shavers can be economical.
The initial purchase cost is usually pretty high (even though you can find excellent razors at a very reasonable price), but in the long run, it will definitely be a good investment.
With proper care, a quality electric razor will last for many years. It will however require replacing the blades and foils (usually once every year).
Even so, when compared to blade refill cartridges that are expensive and won’t last too long, you can easily see that you’ll be saving money.
However, as far as costs go, an electric shaver can’t match a double-edge razor that runs on dirt cheap single blades. But those do come with their own specific shortcomings as we’ll see later on.
Cons of Electric Shaving
1. Electric shavers don’t shave as close as a blade.
Even though high-end shavers like the Panasonic Arc 5 and Arc 6 can get very close performance-wise to a blade, they still can’t match it.
This is a personal and subjective matter to some extent, as many men claim to get shaves that are just as close by using an electric razor. Your mileage may and will, of course, vary.
Moreover, a blade will also exfoliate the skin by removing the top layer of cells and that’s also beneficial (it’s recommended to exfoliate your skin twice a week if you’re using an electric razor).
However, the closeness of the shave is part of a compromise you’ll be accepting when switching to electric shaving. And getting comfort for a slightly less close shave is not a bad deal at all.
2. It takes time for the skin to adapt to it.
When using an electric shaver for the first time, you will most likely be somewhat underwhelmed by the results (you may even experience some razor burn, patches of hair left behind, etc.).
But before sending it back or returning to your old manual razor you should allow your skin at least 3 weeks to adapt before making that decision.
Also, it takes practice to get used to it and your technique will get better. You can also check out my tips for getting the most out of your electric shaver.
3. Purchase price and upkeep can be expensive.
High-end electric shavers (Braun Series 9/9 Pro, Panasonic Arc 6, Philips S9000 Prestige) are expensive.
Also, the replacement parts and cleaning cartridges can be pretty costly.
You don’t necessarily need a top-of-the-line electric razor in order to get very satisfactory results, so make sure to check out the reviews section to help you find the right shaver.
Pros of Traditional Shaving
1. The closest possible shave.
Regardless if you’re using a straight, double edge or even a cartridge razor, a blade will almost always shave closer to the skin compared to an electric shaver.
Also, proper prep work, quality shaving products, and the right technique can yield great results in terms of both comfort and closeness.
This mainly holds true for double-edge razors that use a single blade.
They are sharp, inexpensive and will last longer compared to refill multi-blade cartridges.
3. There’s something unique about old-school shaving with a blade.
Hot water, a soft badger brush, a vintage DE razor, and wonderfully scented shaving cream — these are some of the things that make traditional wet shaving such an enjoyable ritual.
You’ll never look this cool while shaving with your flashy electric razor.
Cons of Traditional Shaving
1. It’s time-consuming, it requires extensive prep work and a handful of tools that also need careful maintenance and cleaning.
Just think about traveling and having to deal with a sink full of water, razor, blades, shaving cream, shaving brush, pre-shave oil and alum as opposed to carrying just one item.
2. Manual razors have a steep learning curve.
Having a steady hand takes time, especially when using DE and straight razors. And this leads us to the next point.
3. Traditional wet shaving increases the chances of getting nicks, cuts and razor burn.
Shaving with a blade can also lead to more serious issues for men with sensitive skin, like ingrown hairs and razor bumps.
There are ways to vastly improve your experience (by using the right products and technique), but sometimes it’s simply not enough and electric shavers are the only viable option.
4. Refill cartridges are expensive and you need plenty as the blades tend to go dull pretty quickly.
If traditional is your preferred way of shaving, I think the use of DE razors and blades that work well with your skin and technique is far superior to any manual razors with cartridge refills.
They’re a lot cheaper in the long run and once you learn how to properly shave with one, the results will also be better.
A DE razor is not as forgiving as a cartridge razor like the Mach 3, so you must always be careful and thorough.
The electric shavers vs razors battle seems to have segregated the shaving community into two camps.
However, the best shaving method is ultimately the one that works best for you, regardless of your reasons for choosing one over the other.
It can be dry electric shaving for its convenience and time efficiency, it can be wet electric shaving for comfort and closeness or it can be traditional shaving for the best closeness and pure enjoyment (if your skin can handle it).
Pick your poison and enjoy your shave!
If you’d like to share your experience, please leave a comment below.
33 thoughts on “Electric vs Traditional Shaving: Pros and Cons”Leave a comment
Q1- I have a hard shave. Will electric shaver work for my kind of beard?
Q2- Philips has wide variety of electric shavers. Which one do you recommend for best performance for hard beard?
Yes, an electric shaver can definitely work on a coarse beard. Not all of them though — usually the cheap, basic shavers will lack the power needed to effortlessly shave a thick beard.
Regarding Philips shavers, the best one I’ve tried so far is the S9000 Prestige (you can read my review of it here). However, it is also very expensive. The regular Series 9000 9300 is also a very good razor, it comes with a cleaning station and it’s usually a lot cheaper (but it’s not as comfortable as the Prestige models). If you must have a Philips electric shaver, these two are the ones I’d recommend for a tough beard.
If you’re willing to consider other brands as well, the Panasonic ES-LV65-S Arc 5 is probably the best bang for the buck. It’s very powerful and shaves extremely close. There’s also the Braun Series 9, another very good option. It is more comfortable than the Panasonic and works better on a longer beard (like 3 days or more), but it is more expensive and the Panasonic is a bit better with regards to closeness.
Hope this helps.
Hello, I was considering to switch from traditional (GIlette) to electric, I am considering (Panasonic Germany eS – LV9Q S803 Premium with Ultraflexiblem 5D Clipper Head Electric Shaver For men, beautiful Wet and Dry Razor + Cleaning Station, Silver).
However I have a really hard beard and I am shaving it twice – once down the beard, and once against – to get the closest shave. My skin is not sensitive and I don’t have any problems with that.
Also, I don’t mind to use an electric with gel under the shower.
So, my questions is, is it worthy to try it? Because the Panasonic is quite expensive compared to analogue Gilette and also if I purchase it from Amazon Germany (I live in Bulgaria), and I am not pleased, it could be quite hard to use the return option.
The third generation Arc 5 (like the ES-LV9Q you’re considering buying) would arguably be the most suitable choice for a very coarse beard. Also, because you don’t have sensitive skin and I suppose you will be shaving regularly, you should get excellent results. If this shaver can’t make it, I highly doubt any other current electric shaver will.
It is a pricey model, but the money spent on Gilette cartridge razors can add up over time as well. It’s really up to you to decide if the convenience of using an electric shaver is worth paying a rather high purchase price. For example, I can’t really see myself going back to manual razors, shaving cream and lengthy, painful wet shaving.
I find my neck to be a challenge with an electric. It is difficult to tell if I got them all and I usually end up with irritated skin.
Why not use both?
Lately, I’ve been doing just that. Before I shower, I shave quickly with the electric. Then immediately after showering, I wet shave with the safety razor.
This has been working out great! When I was wet shaving only, I was making four passes and I would sometimes end up with irritation and nicks. Now, the wet shaving is just a two-pass cleanup.
I end up with a really close shave and have little or no irritation.
That’s great, Jamie. The best solutions are the ones that work and your approach clearly gets the job done in this case.
I don’t know what to do again, I have both sensitive skin and coarse beard. My wahl Electric shaver is not giving me what I want…not lasting long, damaging my skin and all that. In fact I’m considering going to traditional blade shave but I’v not used it before. And I’m afraid of getting irritations and bumps…what do I do please?
Wahl shavers aren’t ideal in my opinion for someone with sensitive skin and coarse hair. I would consider a Braun shaver like the Series 7 or even the Series 9 if it’s within your budget.
I prefer the safety razor but should I use the foil in between the next wet shave:
1. A black slime appears on the lather after each stroke.
2. My face will be sore?
I don’t recommend using an electric and safety razor alternatively as the results won’t be optimal. A razor blade shaves off a thin layer of skin cells which triggers the body to produce scar tissue. It takes a few weeks for the body to get rid of it. During this time you won’t get the best results with an electric shaver. Some men however don’t seem to be affected by this, but as a rule of thumb, it’s best to pick one and stick with it.
Also, that black slime when you use an electric shaver comes very fine hair clippings that mix with water and lather, creating that black slimy thing. You don’t need to worry about it.
A well balanced commetary, as you say it’s largely personal. I started electric, because of my father. However because of puberty, could not carry on. I found it’s just as quick to wet shave with a fatboy and feather blades whilst washing. SIMPLES!!
Thank you for your comment. I was actually quite into wet shaving before switching to electric shavers. I started with cartridge razors and canned foam, then educated myself and moved to safety razors and nice creams and soaps. But despite using proper technique, a mild razor and trying lots of blades, I would still get razor burn and even ingrown hairs and bumps on my neck. For me electric shavers are by far the best option as I’m able to get a reasonably close shave quickly and without any discomfort.
Hi. I have sensitive skin. I currently wet shave with the Wilkinson sword hydro 5 and tinned shaving foam. I cannot shave daily, o can only manage every other day, my hairs are really thick. I shave in the evening so my face can heal overnight, but by morning I have stubble already.
I’m currently looking at any options or recommendations so I can get a comfortable shave, daily. I don’t mind the time or the mess. Thank you
Canned foam and cartridge razors are not ideal for sensitive skin. If you want to stick to traditional shaving, a quality shaving cream and a mild safety razor would be far better. However, I would try an electric shaver suitable for sensitive skin like the ones from Braun (the Series 7 or 9 would be the best options). I posted a guide on this topic as well. Electric pre-shave lotions also help with sensitive skin.
Thank you for your quick response.
I’m assuming when you say safety razor your refering to a double edge razor?
I have been looking at some, but there are also so many options available.
I almost like the sound of it, but also the electric with the saving cream.
You are welcome, Mark. That is correct, I was referring to a DE razor. I know there are many options, but you can’t go wrong with something like an Edwin Jagger DE89 (great build quality, reasonable price, mild and suitable for beginners). It was my razor of choice back in the day. Pair it with a good shaving cream and you should see an improvement. Electric + shaving cream is another winning combination in my opinion and you’ll be getting the best of both worlds.
Hi to all the community!! Having the same thoughts with you as I first shaved for years with Gillette (a good cartridge then ,perhaps the best then) had a very sensitive skin and have quite a lot irritation as most of my schoolmates then..About 10 years ago my dentist saw in my face the little redness and he suggested me to proceed for electrical shaving as he also in my age had exactly the same “problem” and it came over only with electric as he said.. I bought a Braun (quite expensive then) and shaved and after 2 weeks as you say in your great articles and he suggested also my stiches and tiny acne disappered!! Now after many years don’t have acne bombs in my face at all many years, I turned to DE shaving it’s a whole world to discover and unfortunatelly to constantly buy more and more… So I alter DE shaving ,electrical shaving and cartridge shaving as far as I want and as time is available for me..Best for Sensitive skin as mine is similar I suggest Philips Aquatach S5420/06 I have it and its next models are not expensive!! Great for dry and wet shave (washable of course) !! Happy shavin, the secret for me is don’t press, let the razor or electric do the work!! keep up the good work!!Great site!!
Many thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. Glad you found the information useful. Happy shaving!
I’m actually using both:
traditionnal multi blade for a quick shave with cream (cut the longer hair)
and then I finish with a Braun M90 (under my noze and on my chin, I can’t get a close shave with traditionnal) very inexpensive portable electric razor.
I’d like to make it faster so I’m looking for a high end electric shaver as I have some money to spend (I have to shave for my work as I’m a fashion model).
Thank you for your article !
Thank you for your comment. I would consider a more powerful foil shaver that still has a slim shaving head so you can easily shave those problem areas. The Panasonic Arc 3 ES8103S would be a good option or any other model you can get that comes with a 13 000 CPM motor.
Hi, I’m looking into electric shavers for my fiancee as a in between cleanup tool. He currently shave with a vintage safety razor which works great but he does tend to miss spots and not have time for it everyday. We both prefer a clean shaven face so I was thinking an electric razor would work for days he doesn’t have time and make it easier to go back to touch up spots he missed. Does this seem viable or should he stick to his usual routine. He does not have a particularly heavy beard.
It can be useful to have an electric shaver as a second/backup machine for a quick cleanup. Since he also has a lighter beard, I think a basic foil shaver should be good enough. I would look into a Braun Series 3 ProSkin like the 3040s or a Panasonic Arc 3 ES8103S.
I have found this site very interesting but I am further baffled by the vast range on offer.
I am looking to buy a Christmas present for my husband (of 25 years) who has always wet shaved with a throw away razor (and soap!)
He has coarse hair that grows very rapidly and he shaves every 2-3 days leaving loads of rough stubble most days. I would love him to feel smoother more often so I thought a more convenient electric shaver would work.
But where to start??
Can you recommend a couple of models – I don’t want to spend too much up front in case he absolutely hates it!!
Many thanks for your comment. It’s totally understandable to be puzzled by the plethora of models and you’re definitely not the only one. I wrote a guide on electric shavers suitable for coarse hair where I also recommend a few models at various price points. I think you may find it useful. You can check it out here.
My teenage son will soon need to start shaving and I’m keen to make his experience positive. I’m thinking electric may be better to avoid getting infected spotty skin… But… Perhaps starting with a blade and foam may be more cost effective to see if he likes that method and if it works for him. I don’t know yet if he has sensitive skin or not. His beard is still light at the moment. Any suggestions?
Teenagers’ skin is usually sensitive in the context of shaving. You can start with (disposable) razors and shaving cream since the cost is low, but make sure he’s taking his time and doesn’t rush through it. There are various video tutorials about traditional shaving on YouTube, so you might find those useful. If you decide to go with an electric shaver, here‘s a guide I wrote on the best ones for beginners. I wouldn’t invest in an expensive shaver because even the basic ones should easily be good enough for a teenager.
I have acne-prone skin, as I usually do close cuts (baby face) which causes breakouts every now and then. What do you recommend… Razor or electric shaver/clipper? And which types? Thanks
In these cases, it’s usually recommended to use an electric shaver that doesn’t cut the hair extremely close to the skin, which can worsen the problem. If getting a reasonably close shave is important, I would consider a Braun Series 7 (older generation like the 790cc) or a Series 9. Another option would be a beard trimmer like the Philips OneBlade that will leave a bit of stubble (very short). I would also recommend discussing this with your doctor/dermatologist.
No contest! I have had the same Norelco Electric shaved for almost 20 years. Even it only lasted a few years, it still would be better. Regular shaving irritates the skin and is time consuming! Electric needs no water, creams, etc. And, I get a shave that is about 85-90% as close as regular shaving. But, it is very close and a tiny compromise using electric!
Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment, Larry. I totally agree, it’s a compromise worth making.
Thank you as always for your great website, Ovidiu.
Just one quick comment about razor blade vs. electric shaver.
It seems to be almost universally agreed that the razor blade will shave closer than the electric.
However . . . . let me suggest an important (crucial) variable that has caused me to reconsider that blanket formula. Even if we accept some theoretical advantage to the blade in terms of closeness, in my experience any such advantage is erased in real-world shaving (perhaps even closeness-advantage to the electric).
I have sensitive skin and a tough beard. With a blade, I DO NOT (really CANNOT) shave to the limits of the razor’s potential. (Whenever I do let loose and with the blade razor and shave as closely as possible, my skin takes a hell of a beating.) So, with a blade, I COMPROMISE on closeness v. comfort. I just have to.
Not so with my electric. With an electric shaver I can shave directly into the grain (a total “no-no” for me with a blade . . . and, yes, that’s trust even after multiple-pass, gradual reduction, blah blah blah). I can use the electric shaver right up to its maximum closeness potential. I do not “hold back” on a close shave with my electric.
So, in REAL-WORLD, PRACTICAL APPLICATION . . .I find my electric to be at least as close (maybe closer) as a blade. And I can say that’s true regardless of whatever theoretical potential the blade might carry to shave closer. Because, even if the blade CAN shave closer, I never actually shave that way because any such super-close blade shaving slices me up too much.
Just food for thought in the whole: “Blade is closer than electric” dogma. It just isn’t so, in my case.
Absolutely, I agree 100%. I can also relate since I was pretty much in the same situation, I could only use a mild DE razor, doing a single pass with the grain, and being extra careful while the closeness was the least of concerns. The statement in the post is more about the physical limitations of the two when ideally a blade shaves the closest.
Thank you for the comment, much appreciated.