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Foil vs Rotary Shaver: To Which Will Your Beard Hair Yield?

Last Updated on: May 10, 2024

All right, let’s get down to brass tacks.

Foil vs. Rotary shaver? Which comes out on top?

As it turns out, none.

That’s because they’re built to handle different needs. One allows for more flexibility. The other — a cleaner shave.

Which? You’ll find out in this article.

But at a basic level, these razors are similar. They both have their versions of a foil. Both of which are very thin and filled with holes. Hair gets through these perforations and the blades behind the foil cut the hair.

Now, let me give you an overview of the major differences. Before you get into the meat of the article.

Main Differences Between Foil Vs. Rotary Shaver

The main differences between foil vs. rotary shaver are:

  • Foil shavers are easy on sensitive skin, whereas rotary shavers are a bit harsher
  • Foil shavers are best for precision shaving, whereas rotary shavers are best for shaving large areas
  • Foil shavers cut in horizontal or vertical motions, whereas rotary shavers cut in circular motions
  • Foil shavers make a bit of noise, whereas rotary shavers are quiet

How The Blades Work

This is the first point of difference you need to be aware of. That’s because it’s the foundation for all other characteristics of each electric shaver. So let’s get into how a foil and rotary shaver work.

How Foil Shavers Work

The heads of a foil shaver have thin sheets of metals called foils.

These foils have lots of tiny holes in them and are perfect for catching fine facial hair. Underneath these foils, the blades swing left to right. 

The motion of these blades cuts facial hair that gets into its tiny openings. How fast these blades move is their shaving efficiency or micro-vibrations. But what about rotary shavers?

How Rotary Shavers Work

Weed whacker

Think of a weed whacker. When you activate it, the nylon cutting cord spins rapidly. And when you bring it close to the grass—it levels it. This is the principle behind rotary shavers. 

They will usually have 3-6 round cutting heads. Each of which has a foil cover and a spinning blade. These heads don’t follow the same rhythm. They move in different directions—independent of each other. 

On these heads, there are also metal shields with numerous holes. These are there to trap hair as it enters the rotary electric shavers and meets the blades.

Now you know how the blades work. This factor is important as it affects…

How You Move With Them

Because of their design, each razor type requires a different range of motion. Let’s start with…

How You Move With Foil Shavers

You know how you use safety or cartridge razors, right? You can only move up and down or left to right. That’s how it is for a foil shaver too. It’s limited to horizontal and vertical motions.

Foil shavers can feel more natural for you if you’re used to safety razors. There is one problem, however. These motions don’t match the curved contours of your face. So you might struggle a bit to reach particular spots without giving yourself razor burns.

How You Move With Rotary Shavers

Rotary Shaver

But this is where a rotary shaver comes out on top. This electric shaver requires that you move its head in a circular motion when you shave. This allows it to cover a range of directions independently (remember, they don’t all move in rhythm with each other). 

These rotating heads flex and bend as they rotate, allowing them to accommodate the contours and curves of your face and reach hard-to-shave areas like your neck and the underside of your chin.

This design allows rotary shavers to capture and cut long, flat-lying facial hair that grows in different directions. Take caution, though. Don’t move the electric shaver up and down or left and right. You’ll give yourself some very bad irritation.

All aside. There is one characteristic they share in common during operation.

What Both Electric Shavers Require

Always make sure you hold the electric shavers at a 90° angle to your skin and pull on the skin area where you’re shaving. This will help you get a cleaner cut while avoiding nasty burns.

Now you know about mobility. And a bit about how it relates to the contours of your face. But let’s discuss specifics.

Navigating Your Facial Contours

Male undergoing light facial contouring process

Which spots can you easily reach with these two electric shaver types?

The Foil Shaver

Navigating tight contours is a deal-breaker for these electric shavers. It’s difficult to do with it. Particularly when you’re shaving around the nose. Expect to make different passes to get the clean shaves you want. Or use a separate cartridge razor.

The Rotary Shaver

You get flexibility here. Rotary shavers can navigate tight contours and areas around the nose. That’s due to their small, circular heads. All you need to do is move them in circular motions around the contours of your face, head, and neck.

But don’t go on and think the rotary shaver is better because of this. There are points where the foil shaver is better. It all depends on a few factors.

Here’s the rest of the major stuff you need to know about foil vs rotary shavers:

Advantages Of The Foil Shaver

  1. It’s gentle on the skin. This is mainly because of the foil. It acts as a barrier between the blades and the skin. Because of this, there’s no hair pulling. So you can get a close cut without irritation, nicks, or bumps most especially if you use either a trimmer or shaver. This is perfect if you have sensitive skin.
  1. Precision. The foils allow for close shaves. This is because very tiny hair can get into the razor. So you can get accurate results. Especially when styling your sideburns.
  1. Daily trimming. The foil shaver is best for men who want a clean-shaven look every day. Its gentleness and precision allow for it.
  1. Fast shaving. The blades of a foil razor can go as fast as 14,000 cycles per minute. So if you need to groom in a hurry, this is truly perfect.
  1. Great for all types of hair. That’s because of the holes in the foil. They usually have a hexagonal or wavy pattern. Hence, different lengths and textures of hair can make it to the blades easily.
  1. Maintenance is a breeze. Especially if it’s waterproof. All you need to do is run under a tap to get rid of hair, let it dry, and lubricate it.

Drawbacks Of The Foil Shaver

  1. As we’ve mentioned, a foil electric shaver only moves in one direction. They’re difficult for shaving normally hard-to-reach spots but not impossible
  1. They make a good deal of noise. This is because of the vibrations of the blades.

So you see. Depending on your preference, the advantages may outweigh the disadvantages. But let’s see what the rotary razor has going for it.

Advantages Of The Rotary Shaver

  1. Flexibility. You can easily maneuver the curves and contours of your face with this shaver. And even your neck too. This is because their heads rotate in different directions. So they can bend to the contours of your skin
  1. Perfect for shaving large areas fast. That’s because can cover more surface area quickly.
  1. Great for cutting thick, fast-growing hair. No matter how wild your hair is, this razor can handle it. This is also great if you don’t like to shave every day
  1. Enjoy quiet shaves. Rotary technology allows you to get a clean shave without making a lot of noise.
  1. Best for wet shaving. This is because the rotary shaver can capture more shaving cream foam in its system. So you avoid too much smearing.

Drawbacks Of The Rotary Shaver

  1. They don’t cut as closely as a foil shaver. You might have to go over some areas a few times. Naturally, this can lead to razor bumps because the spinning motion makes hair curve into your skin (ingrown hairs). Then your skin reacts to these hairs to form bumps.
  1. Poorer precision. Because of their circular motion, they can’t give you the precision shaving you want for your beards and sideburns.
  1. Difficult to clean. You’ll have to disassemble it to do that. But that’s not the bad part. If you don’t put it back together in the same the manufacturer arranged it…your razors durability will take a nosedive

Like I’ve said, in choosing between foil and rotary shavers. It all depends on your preferences and needs.

Watch This!


So if you want precision shaving, have sensitive skin, and are looking for speed. Go for the foil shaver. It’s also great if you shave daily, and don’t mind the noise it makes. Just remember that you can only move up and down or side to side with this shaver.

But what about the rotary shaver? Well, it’s best for you if you have thick, coarse hair and don’t like shaving daily. If you’re shaving large contoured areas. And if your skin isn’t so sensitive. Just don’t move in vertical or horizontal directions with this shaver. Keep your motion circular.

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