April 19, 2014 5:41 PM   Subscribe

I beard easily; even a straight-razor barbershop shave leaves me with a bit of five o'clock shadow. I also have sensitive face-skin so I tend to have a beard. I want to try staying "clean" shaven for a while. Is an electric razor a worthwhile investment?

I've heard electric razors are bad for the skin but that sounds like one of those things people say. Are they, in any significant way?

Also, if they're okay, what's the best kind to get that is reasonably priced? I've seen them go up pretty high (hundreds of dollars) but I have no idea if that's reflecting considerable differences in quality or just Sharper Image infrared light magic nonsense.
posted by griphus to Health & Fitness (19 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
To get a decent shave, I have to wet shave with, across, and against the grain. I have thick dark facial hair. If a barbershop shave leaves you with a five o'clock shadow, in my experience an electric will fail to give you a decent shave in the first place.
posted by drpynchon at 5:51 PM on April 19, 2014 [4 favorites]

I used an electric razor for a few years while I was working at a bank. It was great. It shaved closer than a razor, and only irritated my skin the first couple times. It was more convenient because I didn't have to use any shaving cream or even have any water. It was quick and easy, and didn't cost much to get a good one. If you're the sort of person who needs to shave several times a day to maintain a clean look, then I think an electric razor would be good, because you could just toss it in your bag or glove compartment and whip it out throughout the day when you need a quick clean-up.

Now that I think about it, I'm not sure why I stopped using it. It was probably because it was too easy, so I felt like it was weakening my spirit or something.

It doesn't cost much to get a decent one, so unless you're counting every penny I don't see any reason to not get a cheap one and try it out. In fact, you'll probably save money, because you won't have to buy razors and shaving cream.

I should point out that my facial hair is thin and somewhat sparse, so maybe my experience wouldn't translate to someone whose hair is thick and coarse.
posted by sam_harms at 5:55 PM on April 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

My experience was pretty much the opposite of sam_harms's; the best an electric razor could do was give me a rough stubbly shave, I never felt clean shaven for the few days before I gave up on the thing. Maybe I had a shitty razor or maybe I was doing it wrong, but it didn't work for me at all.

(I have dark but not terribly thick facial hair.)
posted by ook at 6:17 PM on April 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

I used to shave with an electric razor, but have up years ago. What worked for me was a safety razor, less irritation than whatever multi-blade is currently being hocked as the new best thing.
posted by arcticseal at 6:25 PM on April 19, 2014 [3 favorites]

Just NB: I don't care if it shows some stubble; I can't actually clean shave so it's a lost battle. As long as my face gets somewhat smooth faster/more idiot proof than with a regular cartridge razor.
posted by griphus at 6:30 PM on April 19, 2014

I use an electric razor and have tried many different brands. The Norelco always worked best for me. Overall, it does a good enough job on smooth surfaces like the cheeks and area under the side-burns. But I find it struggles in the high neck area and under the chin. In my experience I get the best shave with the electric razor if my face is freshly washed and very dry. Dry is key. For me, the smallest amount of perspiration or dampness renders the electric razor almost non-functional in that high neck area. And I have actually resorted to shaving in the car with the AC blasting in "emergency" situations during summer.

So overall, I give shaving with an electric razor a middling no thumbs up/no thumbs down--not the best shave--but convenient and fast.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 6:31 PM on April 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

My husband's bristly beard succumbs best to the triangular Norleco electric with 3 rotary heads in it.
posted by Cranberry at 6:33 PM on April 19, 2014

Somewhat like Seymour Zamboni commented.
posted by Cranberry at 6:34 PM on April 19, 2014

And just another note. The worst electric razor I ever bought was a Braun. I find that style of razor takes a lot longer to shave with and doesn't even cut as well. The Norelco 3 head style has a much larger surface area of contact and gets the job done in much less time.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 6:39 PM on April 19, 2014

I just bought a norelco 3 head razor with 3D pivoting of the heads.(one of the couple hundred dollar expensive ones). I hope that it will last multiple years and I am happy with it so far. It is super quiet. I use it on my face and legs with great success.

I transitioned from a 30 dollar ladies electric razor and I hated it. Before that was venus manual razors.

In my experience the electric shave is not as smooth, but a smooth shave does not last that long anyways and now I get less irritation. It is easy to use out of the shower which is great. The cleaning station I have for it will hopefully make it easy for razor to stay clean and lubricated without much work on my part so that it will stay sharp. I have owned this for 1week.
posted by Jaelma24 at 7:58 PM on April 19, 2014

I use a Norelco 3 head razor. It works great. DRY SHAVE ALWAYS, or maybe a slight amount of pre-shave for electric shaving. Don't bother trying to shave after a shower.

I once tried a Braun shaver. It was awful.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:06 PM on April 19, 2014

I don't have much of as beard, but I love electric razors, and have tried several. Fyi general consensus is that the circle heads get closer, the "bar" styles irritate less. This has been my experience, too.

In terms of money, the sweet spot seems be between 100-200. Less than that gets you noticeably crappier razors, more is jus paying for doodads.

I have tried all the major brands, preference is very personal. My current favorite is Panasonic, they regularly have massive discounts and it's given me the closest shave of any of the bar style. Check Amazon before buying in a store, they are often way over priced in store.
posted by smoke at 8:06 PM on April 19, 2014

I have the same issue. What I do is use a beard trimmer to get it down to stubble for most days. If I have a job interview or a customer meeting I use a Schick 3 blade razor and lots of a aftershave lotion. And I just accept that the price I pay for a clean shave is my face will be raw.

I do that about 2 hours before the meeting. No earlier.

I have actually cut myself with an electric razor. I've tried a few of them. None worked for me.
posted by BenevolentActor at 10:49 PM on April 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

I will nth the comments here that Braun razors kind of suck. I bought one because GERMAN QUALITY but they have a reciprocating design that just sort of shears the hair off. It doesn't work too well and can actually cut you if you have ingrown hairs, etc.
posted by werkzeuger at 1:08 AM on April 20, 2014

My face is like yours. If you're ok with permanent five o'clock shadow, your face will get used to the electric. It will never give you a clean shave, though. I gave up on it after too many before? after? why do I even bother? episodes.

I have to use a straight razor (actually, a handle that holds a disposable blade, no sharpening/stropping nonsense.) At first it took a long time and irritated my face, but it seemed like my face toughened up and now it works great. And with practice, it now only takes me a few minutes, no longer than a cartridge would.
posted by ctmf at 10:20 AM on April 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

I would recommend getting it from a place that will let you return it after using it - my boyfriend wanted to switch to electric, and tried out a few different styles before finding out that they just don't work on his face. Happily, we were able to return them so we weren't out a lot of cash to discover this. I even did an askme about it.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 9:34 PM on April 20, 2014

So, embarrassingly, my moustache is like your beard. In that, even after a shave, I'll have a five-o'clock shadow on just my upper lip. I think this is due mostly to the fact that I have very little beard hair to speak of, otherwise it'd be my whole face. (I believe it's because my skin is rather fair, as when I have a slight tan, it's much less notice-able, and even my upper lip feels smooth, it just doesn't look it).

Anyway, my solution is that I shave the rest of my face (about twice a week) with a razor and shaving cream in the shower. And I use an electric razor for my moustache daily or twice-daily, since I get a lot less irritation, and it actually shaves that part of my face closer than I can get with a razor. But I use the much maligned Braun kind that is flat across instead of the round Philips ones. I imagine the round is good for full face beard shaving, but for my purposes the Braun is great.
posted by Grither at 4:29 AM on April 21, 2014

I like Braun shavers. I have the kind that cleans itself when you put it back in the charging stand. I think I've had two in the last 12 years or so.

I get stubbly quickly, but don't actually grow a real beard. I also have very sensitive skin on my face that has a tendency to break out -- going from a razor and shaving cream to the electric shaver did wonders for that.

I prefer the flattened 'bar' shape Braun uses to the Norelco style of three floating rotary heads -- its much more precise and controllable. The Norleco might work if you wanted to shave your face uniformly, but I like to shape the stubble.

Not sure what Phillips is like.
posted by snuffleupagus at 6:23 AM on April 21, 2014

FYI good special on this model at amazon currently. I reccomend you try out a friend's if possible.
posted by smoke at 1:40 AM on April 25, 2014

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