Electric shavers aren't cheap. Expect to pay at least $60 for most models, and $150 or more for some. They're also expensive to maintain. You'll need to replace the head every six months to two years, at about $25 to $45 each. And once the rechargeable battery no longer holds a charge, replacing the entire shaver is often less expensive and easier than replacing the battery.
You don't have to agonize too long over which electric shaver to buy. All the models we tested offer a money-back trial of 30 days or more--a good idea, because some manufacturers suggest that your skin and beard might need a while to adjust to a new shaving method. If you switch from a razor blade to an electric shaver, or even from a rotary shaver to a foil type or vice versa, give yourself at least a three-week trial period. If you've chosen the wrong model, simply return it and try another or ask for a refund.
How we tested
We bought samples of foil and rotary men's shavers and asked 16 male panelists to test the type of shaver they usually use. The panelists tried each shaver at home for a week. At the end of each week, they shaved in our lab and let our sensory staffers feel their faces, using sandpaper as a reference. The closest shave made the panelists' faces feel like fine, 1,000-grit polishing paper. We also judged noise and ease of cleaning, and we measured how quickly the batteries ran down.
Men's electric shavers come with either foil or rotary cutting blades. Each type of electric shaver has its devotees. (We haven't tested any women's models lately because they've consistently performed relatively poorly in our tests. But then, there's no reason why women can't use a men's shaver.)
Foil shavers have floating heads designed to glide over facial contours, with cutters that oscillate behind a perforated screen. The last time we tested closeness of shave, the men's foil shavers, on average, beat the men's rotaries by a whisker.
Rotary shavers have three or four floating heads designed to glide over facial contours, with cutters that spin behind a fine grid. They tended to be quieter and easier to clean than foil shavers in our tests.
Current models offer a wide variety of convenience electric shaver features. Check the shaver's instruction manual for details.
A full battery charge might take anywhere from 1 to 12 hours and should provide at least seven shaves. Some models allow a five-minute emergency charge, good for one shave.
A charger that shuts off automatically when the battery is fully charged is a convenience. With some, you need to pull the plug as soon as the shaver is fully charged, or overcharging might reduce the battery life.
A charge indicator or recharge light on some models warns you when the battery is low.
Some models let you shave by plugging in the electrical cord, a useful feature if you neglect to recharge the battery.
Ease of cleaning
Most shavers come with a small cleaning brush. Some models can be rinsed clean. And some have a self-cleaning system that pumps a sanitizing liquid through the cutters.
Most shavers have this feature for trimming sideburns or other long hair.
Wet and dry shaving
Some models let you shave in the shower.
U.S. and international voltage
You can use some shavers abroad without a converter.
Most of the electrics shavers we test are name brands that are familiar to most consumers. Use these profiles to compare electric shavers by brand.
Braun, Kronberg, a German subsidiary of Procter & Gamble (which is based in Cincinnati, OH), makes shavers and epilators, hair dryers and stylers, kitchen machines, mixers, coffee makers, and steam irons.
Panasonic Corp. of North America, based in Secaucus, NJ, makes shavers, body groomers, hair trimmers, ear/nose groomers, epilators, and cosmetic groomers.
This company (of which Norelco Consumer Products Company is a subsidiary) is based in Stamford, CT, and makes electric razors, beard and moustache trimmers, and hair clippers.
Remington is a subsidiary of Spectrum Brands, which is based in Madison, WI. The company manufactures men's shavers and groomers, women's hair-care products, women's shavers and epilators, and travel accessories.
Wahl Clipper Corp., based in Serling, IL, makes shavers, trimmers, clippers, massagers, and hair appliances.