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The Electric Razor vs. Wet-Shaving Debate

November 2010 By Luke 2 Comments

When I was 16, my parents bought me my first electric razor — a small Philips 2 head shaver.  I thought at the time that this was the greatest gift ever.  No more shaving cream.  No more gillette disposable razors.  No more nicks and cuts.  The enthusiasm lasted about 15 minutes, a.k.a. the time it took be to complete my first shave.  While I expected a miracle device, in the end this razor left my face raw with razor burn as every hair required multiple passes in every direction to prevent leaving patches of growth behind.  While I stuck with this little electric shaver for a few years, I dropped it when I discovered real wet-shaving.  Armed with a badger hair brush, quality shaving cream/soap and a Merkur HD, I was in heaven.  While the time it took to shave seemed to increase, I found (and still find) the wet-shaving experience to be incredibly therapeutic, leaving my face smoother and more refreshed then ever before.

As a result of my wet-shaving fanaticism, I was slightly apprehensive lately when I was given the chance to shave with a new top of the line electric shaver, the Panasonic Arc IV Wet/Dry shaver (ES8249).  Sure, my old electric razor couldn’t shave in the shower, nor did it clean itself, but surely these features wouldn’t prevent the nasty razor-burn I have come to expect from an electric razor.  Then I tried it.  Even dry, this razor left my face feeling much more relaxed that I remembered from my old electric, and the shave was measurably smoother.  Combine this with an automatic cleaning process, I was instantly impressed.  You could even combine this shaver with a good wet-shaving preparation (badger hair brush and all); perhaps my distaste for electric razors was misplaced.  It was time for me to re-weigh the pros and cons of electric razors vs. wet-shaving.

Electric Razors

Pro:

  • Due to reduced amount of preparation (no shaving cream, lather, etc.) and clean up, electric razors are undoubtedly faster to use overall than a wet-shaving set up.  New razors even lift the hairs before cutting, giving a closer shave in fewer passes.
  • Because of the lack of shaving cream and other accompanying accessories, electric razors are often more portable for short trips.
  • Additionally, because they don’t require water, you can use them anywhere, provided you have access to electricity every couple weeks.
  • Because there are no creams are razor blades to replace regularly, electric shavers can be cheaper in the long run.  Watch out for required cleaning solutions and mandatory replacement of shaving heads, however.
  • They contain trimmers for sideburns, around ears, and neck, making them in some sense a 1-stop shaving solution.
  • Reduces nicks and cuts caused by traditional shaving gear.

Cons:

  • There is a significant up-front cost.  The Panasonic mentioned above costs over $300 at my local Best Buy.
  • For longer trips, the portability “pro” is turned to a “con,” as one must consider packing along the charger and cleaning equipment.
  • The shave is not as close as with a DE razor.  With an electric razor, I feel like I must shave every day, whereas I can usually get by wet-shaving every other day.
  • Razor burn, razor burn, razor burn, particularly in the first few weeks as your face adapts to the lack of moisture.
  • Certain models can only be used dry, meaning you can’t use them in the shower, or even immediately after while your face is still wet.
  • Your bathroom will have yet another electrical cord messing things up.
  • While some models have automatic cleaning units, others require meticulous cleaning after every shave to keep them in optimal condition.

Wet-Shaving with a DE razor

Pro:

  • DE razors, while costing $30-$60 up front, afterwards only require new blades at roughly $.50 a piece, making them an extremely inexpensive long-term shaving option.
  • By shaving with the grain, one can prevent ingrown hairs.
  • Their minimalist and traditional appearance instantly classes up the appearance of your bathroom.
  • Leaves your face feeling moisturized and refreshed.
  • Fast and straightforward to clean.
  • It worked for your grandfather.

Con:

  • Takes considerable time to shave, particularly if one uses a badger hair brush for lathering rather than directly applying canned shaving cream.
  • Require a water source (that said, if world war one soldiers could do it in the trenches, surely we can find a way).
  • DE razors have a learning curve before one easily obtains a nick-free shave.
  • Even after becoming an “expert,” nicks and cuts are still more likely than when using an electric.
  • Due to their exposed blades, can be dangerous around children and pets despite their “safety razor” name.

Seems like the verdict is still out.  As for me, I might move away from 100% wet-shaving, and grab the electric on those 5am mornings when a cup of coffee and the paper seems more appealing than spending more time in the bathroom.  I’ll also grab it in those circumstances when the wife is hogging the bathroom and I’m relegated to the hallway for my morning preparations.  That said, I will continue to wet-shave regularly, as I feel I still obtain a closer and better feeling shave.

If you’re currently stuck in an electric shaving rut, check out our article on tools for wet-shaving, “The Perfect Tools for a Perfect Shave.”  If you’re a wet-shaving fanatic who wants to try out a quality electric, there are lots of good wet/dry shavers out from brands like Philips, Braun, and Panasonic to name a few.  I have been incredibly happy with the Panasonic Arc IV.  Dozens of reviewers on Amazon agree with me.  While the price is steep, I’m hoping that it is a long term investment.  And if you don’t like its space-age design, hide it behind your shaving mug and brush!

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2 Comments »

  • Coupon Mole said:

    This isn’t even a debate for me. If you have a thick beard, an electric razor doesn’t do much. I agree with you. Sure, an electric is nice and convenient, but it doesn’t give you that close shave look. It looks like you always have a 5 o’clock shadow.

  • Saman Soleymani said:

    I have never achieved as close a shave with an electric razor as I do with my Gilette Fusion. It leaves my face feeling healthier, and my skin less irritated

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Keywords: bathroom, cleaning, disposable razors, dry shaver, electric razor, electric razors, electric shaver, face, lack, miracle device, preparation, razor burn