Do I want an electric shaver?
May 20, 2022 2:09 PM   Subscribe

I was given a foil shaver for my 16th birthday and it didn't work worth a damn. Ten years later I tried a more expensive model and it didn't work a lot better. I've spent the 25 years since trying to come to terms with needing a razor and the best solution I've found is shaving only twice a week. But now I have to shave every day. It looks like electric razors has advanced a bit maybe?

I have tried every variation on a blade from 7 blade monstrosities to Merkur safety razors with a badger hair brush, even learned how to use a cuthroat razor. Tried every combination of blade, face prep, cream, etc etc etc. I still have shaving. I hate dealing with facial hair enough that I've considered laser hair removal, but it's pricey and a long way from guaranteeing I won't have to touch a razor again.

My problem with blades is razor burn and ingrown hairs. Best case I'm raw for the next day or two. (Or poorly shaven. Or both.) I also get the best shave by far in the shower, which is a criminal waste of water.

My beard is thick, coarse, curly, and tends to lie flat against the skin. Foil shavers always missed a ton. And if it missed it one day, it was too long to pick up the next day. I'd always have to use a blade anyway.

Now a confluence of things mean I have to shave every day. I'd like something that works as well as electrics seem to in their advertisements, but a little more comfortable (and less water waste) than blades.

Can I get that from an electric (if so, which one)? Or should I just stick with the blades and quit complaining?

(I've read The Wirecutter's reviews, but they don't really compare electric against blades, just other electrics.)

(And no, I can't grow a beard right now for the same reasons I have to shave every day.)
posted by Ookseer to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
My beard is similar and when i was using an electric the bar foil style with a series of holes were useless but the rotary head style where the heads have little radial slots worked ok with minumal burner after a short adjustment period (not anywhere as close as in the shower though with a good quality multi blade). Cleaning the heads every day helped.
posted by Mitheral at 2:28 PM on May 20, 2022 [1 favorite]

I really like the Norelco OneBlade. I can use it to get from any length of hair to a sorta-stubbly shave with dry skin in under a minute. Then if I do need a closer shave, I'm starting from almost done so a razor is a quick touchup.
posted by john hadron collider at 2:42 PM on May 20, 2022 [4 favorites]

I've had one of the inexpensive Norelco rotary head shavers for 10 years. Replaced the blades once. Works fine. Don't ever get the heads wet as I think they oxidize and lose their edge.
posted by LoveHam at 3:02 PM on May 20, 2022

Similar for me and a safety razor after a shower is the only way I can consistently stay clean shaven.

You mentioned trying a safety razor, but did you try different blades? I highly recommend getting a "sampler" pack with a variety of blades off eBay or Amazon and trying them out. Gillette Silver Blue blades work best for me.
posted by hankscorpio83 at 3:19 PM on May 20, 2022

Pardon me if you've already tried this, but Shave Secret under the shower and a safety razor with a new blade every three shaves is the only thing that works for me.
posted by blnkfrnk at 3:25 PM on May 20, 2022

I pretty much didn't have to shave at all until I was about 30, so pretty sensitive face and rarely do the shave every day thing. More like once every couple of weeks. The Norelco OneBlade is nice for getting anything down to a bare bit of stubble and can be used wet with whatever shaving lubricant you like. And yeah, if I want baby butt smooth it's a safety razor but a pretty easy shave. Second getting a variety pack of blades to try. The best shaving lubricant I've found is King of Shaves, it's a low foaming gel and more like coating your face with personal lubricant and you can always just splash a bit of water to keep it slick as snot.

I've never had any sort of luck with the foil or rotary style electrics.
posted by zengargoyle at 3:52 PM on May 20, 2022

When I used a Norelco rotary shaver, I found it worked best if I splashed some Lectric Shave on my stubble and let that soak in for 15-30 seconds before having a go. Even so, I found the shave suboptimal and I needed to rinse out the blades regularly.

These days I use blades (Gillette Mach 4) with Proraso cream and the hottest water I can stand to put my hands in. Soak the stubble by splashing hot water, put a dab of Proraso on my fingers, rub my hands to get a good lather, and lather the stubble. Then rinse off my dominant hand, dip the razor in the hot water, do one stroke with the grain of the hair, then dip razor in hot water and repeat. After I've done my whole face, I'll use the remaining lather on my non-dominant hand to relather my face and do a second pass.

It helps to use a denim or leather strop on the razor every few days (yes, you can use a strop on a disposable blade).
posted by brianogilvie at 5:50 PM on May 20, 2022

My beard is similar to yours and I've also struggled with ingrown hairs and all the other problems you mention. The only thing I found that worked was single-blade razors -- until recently, when I got a sample pack of the Gillette SkinGuard cartridges. I also use Bump Patrol for the (now much rarer!) times when I get an ingrown hair, compared to when I was still struggling with (non-SkinGuard) multi-blade razors. Unfortunately I haven't found an electric alternative that works.
posted by Theiform at 8:11 PM on May 20, 2022

The tech has improved. I think it's worth trying one of the well reviewed ones.

With a blade or electric, what's helped me with what I believe to be similar facial hair is to not try to get too short or close to the skin. If it's a blade, do one pass with the grain. If it still looks like a 5:00 shadow, well, that's just how your face is.
posted by J. Wilson at 8:28 PM on May 20, 2022

I second Shave Secret. I use it after the shower and rewet my skin a few times as I go. It forms a lubricating emulsion that makes for very smooth against-the-grain shaves. Nothing can prevent some irritation but everyday shaves with this are consistently good. I use a Gillette Atra with proprietary Kroger-brand cartridges and Neutrogena aftershave.

YMMV, but this combination completely changed my shaving game after 30-ish years with canned foam.
posted by conscious matter at 9:54 PM on May 20, 2022

Have you tried Norelco OneBlade? It's a combination electric razor where it's basically a small foil shaver in the flat area, but the edges also act as cutting surfaces. Personally it's not as close as a real razor like, say Harry's, but it's good for touch-ups, then you do the full shave on weekends.

I had rotary shavers too, too much of a pain to clean, IMHO.
posted by kschang at 1:18 AM on May 21, 2022

I tried a OneBlade. I’m not joking when I say I was better off not shaving. To the extent that the OneBlade cut any hair whatsoever, it cut only the slightest bit, and shaped it into an extremely sharp point. I couldn’t touch my face all day because I was afraid of slicing my finger. A piece of paper would give you a closer shave.
posted by kevinbelt at 7:32 AM on May 21, 2022

Nthing the Norelco OneBlade. I have an extremely tough beard that grows at an acute angle to my sensitive skin. This has meant that the usual rotary and foil electric razors didn't do much for me and traditional wet razors, including everything from single blade and multiblade cartridges to safety razors to Rolls razors to straight razors, left me with razor burn and numerous nicks. The OneBlade is the only product that has allowed me to shave every day when that is what I want to do. Now it's true that an electric razor won't shave as close as a wet razor, and the OneBlade is no exception in this regard. No electric razor will get you as smooth as non-whiskered skin the way a wet razor can. But your skin will pay the price for that super-close wet razor shave, to an extent that you probably won't want to shave for several days. So it's all a trade-off. I do like a super-smooth shave, but it's just not something that's sustainable for me on a daily basis.
posted by slkinsey at 8:07 AM on May 21, 2022

The thing that made the biggest difference for me was switching to a brush and shave soap with a single blade safety razor.
posted by aspersioncast at 8:06 PM on May 21, 2022

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