How To Shave With An Electric Razor – A Practical Guide

In the past I’ve written comprehensive articles on pre-shave routines, post-shave treatments and various tips for wet and dry shaving.

However, I never tackled in detail the actual shaving with an electric razor, so it’s time to address that.

This post will be focused entirely on shaving technique.

While beginners should benefit the most from these tips, I think seasoned users of electric shavers will find a few useful bits of information here as well.

Let’s get right to it.

The three pillars of a quality shave

I’ve been using electric shavers exclusively for the past 20 years and have tried pretty much everything in terms of technique and electric shavers.

My conclusion? The key to a close, comfortable shave is to get the basics right and to keep it simple.

We can divide shaving with an electric razor into three distinct parts, all of them equally important.

  1. Preparation
  2. The actual shave
  3. Post-shave treatment

As you might have guessed, in this post we’ll take care of the second part, the shave itself.

I highly recommend reading the other two resources linked above as they’ll have a major impact on your results.

With that out of the way, let’s see how to shave with an electric razor without irritation while still getting an adequately close shave.

Also, because foil and rotary shavers are different in the way they work and the way we use them, I’ll address each separately.

How to shave with a foil shaver

Panasonic Arc 6 and Braun Series 9 Pro, two high-end foils shavers.

Foil shavers use sharp blades that move sideways extremely fast behind a thin, perforated metal screen.

The hairs enter through the perforations in the foil and are then cut clean by the blades.

Aside from the perforated foils, almost all modern foil shavers include at least one trimmer designed to cut longer hairs to a more manageable size.

The Panasonic Arc 3 and Braun Series, two foil shavers with 3 cutting elements.
The Panasonic Arc 3 and Braun Series, two foil shavers with 3 cutting elements. The middle cutter cuts longer hairs down to size.

And speaking of which, the Achilles’ heel of almost all electric shavers is long facial hair. In my experience that can be anything from a 3 to a 7 days beard, depending on how fast the hai grows.

Therefore, a prerequisite of a good shave using an electric razor is to have reasonably short stubble, especially if you are using a foil shaver.

And that’s because foil shavers tend to handle longer hair worse than rotary shavers, at least in the case of lower-end models.

If for any reason you shave every three days or more and your shaver is struggling a lot, it’s a good idea to trim your beard with a regular face trimmer before shaving.

1. Use short, controlled strokes against the direction of hair growth while applying very little pressure.

This is probably the most important aspect of shaving with an electric foil shaver.

Use your free hand to determine the direction your beard is growing and always shave against it.

Failing to shave against the grain will result in a poor shave in terms of closeness and will likely leave some stray hairs behind.

After some time you’ll have a mental map of the grain direction of your beard and you’ll no longer have to feel it with your hand.

2. Hold the razor perpendicularly to the surface that’s being shaved and adjust the angle accordingly.

Your electric shaver performs optimally when held at a 90 degrees angle and in permanent contact with the skin.

You will need to adjust it when for example you get from the cheeks to the jawline and neck and make sure the head is flat on the skin.

3. Use your free hand to stretch the skin for a closer shave.

This will cause the hairs to stand straight and thus be easily captured by the shaver and will also make the skin tighter, minimizing the risks of cuts.

You can tilt your head back while raising your chin up when shaving the neck or right below the jawline.

You can also use your tongue to press against the inside of your lips or cheeks. This counter pressure is a very effective way to stretch the skin above your upper lip for example.

Keeping the skin taut is beneficial regardless if you shave with a foil or rotary razor.

4. Alter the length and direction of the strokes.

Depending on the direction of the grain and the area you’re shaving, shorter, more vigorous strokes may work better.

For example, if you’re shaving a large, relatively flat area like your cheeks you can get away with longer strokes, especially if the grain direction doesn’t vary too much.

When shaving an area with many growth patterns of the whiskers you’re better off with very short strokes, constantly adjusting the direction or even the pressure. Which leads us to the next point.

5. Flip the shaver upside down.

The shaving head on most foil shavers is tilted towards the front of the shaver.

The third generation Panasonic Arc 5 (2021).

You can use this to your advantage when shaving certain areas.

For example, I always flip my razor (and hold it with the back facing up) when shaving right below the nose. I also tilt it more towards one of the two outer foils.

This allows just one foil to stay in contact with the skin without any of the other cutting elements getting in the way.

This is a more advanced technique that can definitely improve the closeness of the shave in certain tricky areas.

6. Apply a bit more pressure if needed.

This goes against the first point, but your tolerance to pressure tends to depend on skin sensitivity and the particular shaver you’re using.

Some are more forgiving than others (for example a Braun Series 7 or 9 is more gentle to the skin than a Panasonic Arc 4 or Arc 5) and you can try to increase the pressure in very small increments in order to get a closer shave.

Try and experiment to see what works better for you, but I cannot stress enough that you should only do it gradually and if you don’t experience any discomfort.

Small cuts and nicks can happen if you press too hard as small bits of your skin actually enters through the perforations in the foils and a very thin layer of skin cells is scraped off.

7. Always take your time when shaving and start with the trickiest areas.

You should also start your shave with the most difficult and irritation-prone areas, like your neck.

These require more attention and effort, so it’s a good idea to get them out of the way first.

Again, this applies to electric shaving in general, regardless of your preference for foil or rotary shavers.

How to shave with an electric rotary razor

Rotary shavers.

The rotary shaver was made popular by Philips (Norelco) and uses circular blades that rotate behind metal guards.

These guards feature holes and slots to capture short stubble and longer hairs that are then cut close to the skin by the inner rotating blades.

The SH71 cutter (left) next to a rotary cutter with two rows of blades.
Rotary blades.

The vast majority of modern rotary shavers come in a configuration with three individual shaving heads.

How we should alter the shaving techniques presented above is the direct result of the design and functioning of rotary shavers.

1. Use circular, overlapping motions, both clockwise and counterclockwise when using a rotary shaver.

A rotary razor held in hand.

The reason behind this is simply to catch more hairs efficiently.

While the circular motions will make up the bulk of your shave, you aren’t limited by any means to them.

In fact, you should probably use (and I highly recommend you to) up and down and sideways strokes as well to make sure you get all the hairs that grow in different directions.

2. Don’t limit yourself to only using circular motions.

Use whatever works best for you. Even though I touched on this subject above, I think it’s important to explicitly say it again.

All the articles I’ve come across univocally say that you should only use circular patterns with rotary razors.

However, if you follow this strictly you may be doing yourself a disservice and limit how much you can improve your shave.

Change things up and experiment with different strokes to get the best results.

3. Use little to no pressure at all and let the shaver do all the work.

This is particularly important with rotary shavers as they seem to be less forgiving than foil shavers when applying more pressure.

While in the case of foil shavers pressing a bit harder can help you get a smoother shave, it doesn’t seem to work the same with rotary shavers and most of the time it will only lead to more discomfort.

A light, gentle stroke is definitely the way to go.

4. If you use shaving cream make sure to regularly rinse your shaver, just like you would do with a disposable razor.

Philips Norelco 8900 wet shaving.

Excess lather and hair clippings will clog the shaver and negatively impact the quality of the shave. The same goes for using a foil shaver with cream or gel.

Final word

Shaving is a very personal thing and even if you implement all the tips and recommendations you stumble upon, getting that smooth, close shave will almost certainly take some trial and error.

Some of the techniques outlined here may work better for you with some adjustments.

Don’t be afraid to change things up if you are not satisfied with the results.

But always try to start small with the changes and go from there; this is definitely the safest approach.

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.

22 thoughts on “How To Shave With An Electric Razor – A Practical Guide”

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  1. Hi
    You say we should lubricate the shaver before every use (in case of cleaning it with soap & water).
    You also say our skin must be dry for an effective dry shave.

    However if the foils might be slightly oily, won´t that prejudice the quality?


    • Hi Pedro,

      That is an excellent question. When lubricating an electric shaver with oil (a spray lubricant is also an option), a little bit goes a long way. A single droplet on each foil will suffice and after letting the shaver run for a few seconds, the oil will be evenly distributed, coating the blades with a thin film. As a rule of thumb, you should gently pat the foils with a paper tissue to absorb any extra oil. This will ensure that there’s no excess oil that will interfere with your shave.


      • Hello Ovidiu.

        I’m having trouble shaving the area right under the jawline with foil shaver.
        It’s really tricky to shave as the beard direction is just parallel to the jawline and it is curved due to the jawbone.
        As a result, I find that area always unsatisfying – either not shaved cleanly enough, or shaved cleanly but with much irritation – even inflammations -.

        It would be really helpful if you post your skill to shave the area right under the jaw.

        Thank you.

        It would be really helpful

        • Hi,

          Thank you for your comment. That’s actually a tricky area for me as well as I have the exact same problem.

          First of all, I always find it much easier to shave using a shaver with a slimmer head. For example, I’ll have to do a lot of extra work using a Panasonic Arc 5 as opposed to a Braun Series 7. The latter has only 3 cutting elements and thus it’s a lot smaller and easier to maneuver compared to the 5 blade Panasonic. The Series 7 (and Braun razors in general) are also better than other foil razors at catching difficult facial hair, like the ones that stay flat on the skin or grow in different directions.

          Secondly, I try to tilt my head as much as possible in the opposite direction, just to open up that area so I have more room for my shaver. After that, to get the remaining hairs, I use my free hand to pull the skin down, so the hairs that are right below the jawline will travel down toward the neck, making them more accessible. I hope this makes sense. I also try to stretch the skin in the opposite direction, pulling the skin on the cheek up (right above the jawline).

          You may need to alter the direction of the troke and how you hold the shaver in your hand. Always move the shaver against the grain. Also, doing shorter, more controlled strokes will be more efficient when shaving this area.

          I hope this helps.


  2. Just got my first electric razor. Rotary heads. How long should I keep trying it before making a decision to accept or not? I am “senior” with no beard

    • Hi Bob,

      I’d say about three weeks should be enough to get better results. During this time you may need to try different things and see what works best for you (for example, shaving more vs less often, wet or dry, the length and direction of the strokes and so on).


  3. I switched from a blade to foil razor about a yer ago and was guided by your articles. I’m pleased with the shave experience I get but I’m wondering if you have an opinion about speed? Do you think there is any difference between slower, more deliberate movements or rapid strokes when using a foil razor?

    • Hi Joseph,

      It can definitely make a difference in several situations. For example, you will likely see some benefits from using slower strokes if you’re using a less capable or a more aggressive shaver. Also, when the facial hair is longer, it’s more likely to experience some hairs getting pulled if you’re using rapid strokes. Again, this is more likely to happen with less capable shavers, regardless if they’re foil or rotary.

      Finally, going slower over the more sensitive area can also be easier on the skin. I think you should try both slower and faster strokes depending on the area you’re shaving. For example, I always use slower, controlled strokes on my neck as it’s quite sensitive and the hairs tend to stay flat on the skin, making it more difficult for the shaver to catch them. So going slower over that area is definitely better. On the cheeks I can go a lot faster without any problems.


  4. Dear Ovidiu,
    I am a great fan of your articles. I find them very helpful, interesting, and professional. After reading your articles, I bought my first electric shaver: Braun 7899cc. (it was a serius hesitation between series 7 and 9). My question is: have I something to do with the new shaver before the very first use? I think, I have to charge it, but should I clean it or lubricate etc.?
    Thank you for your help.
    Best regards,

    • Hi Antal,

      Thank you for the kind words, glad you found the site useful. Regarding your question, just make sure your shaver is fully charged and you can go right ahead and shave. There’s no need to clean or lubricate it before the first use. Hope you’ll enjoy shaving with the Series 7, it’s still one of my go-to shavers after all these years.


  5. Hi. I’ve started an electric shaver. It’s been just 10 days and I’ve shaved 3 to 4 times. I’m improving with every shave but my neck area is a little stubborn. i always miss the hair on my neck. though I’m not trying to press hard to avoid any irritation. is there any guide to improve my neck area? I’m using Braun Series 7 new. Thanks

    • Hi Sheraz,

      Most of the time it’s a matter of constantly adjusting the direction of the stroke so that you’re always going against the direction of hair growth. The neck is usually an area where the hairs grow in different directions. I would also try to get a clean shave on a smaller area and then move on to the next one. The neck has this cylindrical shape, so only a part of the foils stays in (optimal) contact with the skin.

      Also, try using your free hand to stretch the skin. This helps with lifting any flat-lying hairs that are more difficult for the razor to capture.

      You can also check out this guide, I think you may find some helpful tips there as well.


      • Thank you very for your suggestion. I’ll follow those steps and hopefully, I’ll get a good result. You are a Savior

  6. “You can also use your tongue to press against the inside of your lips or cheeks. It’s a very effective way to stretch the skin above your upper lip for example.”
    My two cents. Fill the area (cheek, upper/lower lip…) with air (the amount of air is related to the intensity of the stretch) and hold it wherever you want (100% mobility) compressed between the teeth (with or without your tongue pressed against the inside of them) and the flesh.

  7. I own a Braun 340s-4 wet/dry foil rechargeable shaver (this is 7 years old) that still has the original “cassette” (foil/cutter as I didn’t change it for a new one all these years), a Philips 1000 dry rotary rechargeable shaver that is 3 and half years old (also with the same original blades), and a Braun series 3 300 dry foil shaver (this is just one year old, it’s rechargeable but also can be used plugged in in a socket)’
    very useful is to clean your shaver (foil or rotary) after every shave, or every 2 days, and give it a good cleaning and lubrication once a month; if you use your shaver in the “wet” mode, lubricate your shaver at least twice a week to keep the sharpness and good condition of the blades, doing this, you will keep your shaver in tip-top conditions and the blades will last you much longer, also drain your shaver batteries (depending on the type of battery the shaver has) every 5 months and then charge back the shaver to full.
    do this and you will see how long your shaver will last, giving you excellent shaves and saving you money along the way, this I can tell you will work.

  8. What do you think of the moronic design of the latest generation shavers, where the power switch is no longer on the back, nor slides, but is on the front, and clicks, and is placed under the user’s thumb?
    I’m fed up with inadvertently switching it off, and then back on again, ten times a shave, so I’m in the process of returning my defective-by-design Philips S5000 for a refund, and hoping to purchase a base model Remington with a slide switch, albeit on the front. Not only that, the Philips rotary screens/blades now are horribly fiddly to re-insert correctly (unlike older designs) and the head itself is tricky to re-affix without closely inspecting it.
    Why are there so very many defective shavers on the market these days? Or is it just another symptom of the inexorable decline and inevitable collapse of civilisation so evident in all areas of life?

    • Hi Matt,

      Thanks for the comment.

      I’ve used dozens of shavers and found only a few with really poor placement of the power button. Apart from a few models (like the BaBylissPRO FOILFX02) almost all of them have the switch on the front like you said. But most of the time it’s placed a lot lower than the thumb rest and it’s not usually a problem. But you are right about the S5000, the button is prone to be pressed by mistake when shaving.

      Manufacturers are always trying to cut down production costs, sometimes at the expense of ergonomics, usability and maybe even durability. There are still decent, fair shavers out there though and I’ve always tried to present them in the most genuine, unbiased manner. I’m just a regular user so I value the same stuff as everyone (good performance, reasonable costs and reliability).


  9. Hi Ovidiu,

    I just switched to an electric razor (rotary) and want to know if you recommend
    a pre-shave treatment such as “Lectric Shave” or anything else?

    • Hi Scott,

      I generally recommend them with both foil and rotary razors. But I would use a slicker pre-shave lotion like the Lectric Shave you’ve mentioned or even Lab Series and Speick. I would stay away from the ones that have a very strong drying effect on the skin (like the Tabac pre-shave) as those seem to make the large rotary head get stuck and not glide as easy.


  10. Hi! I am using a Braun series 8. It provides an excellent shave at the chin, cheeks and under the nose. The problem is the neck, especially under the chin.. Εven though i try pulling the skin with the other hand , the shave is uneven.. One reason may be that I am very skinny and the shaver can not glide smoothly? Or is it because of the shaver? Should i try a new one, like the old series 7 which has very good reviews?


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