Difference Between Beard Trimmer and Electric Shaver: Cut to the Point

It’s time to upgrade your shave, and you’re looking for the perfect shave. There are so many products out there; it’s hard to decide what to use. Should you get a beard trimmer or an electric shaver? Are they the same thing? Most importantly, you need to know which one to buy for your face. I looked into the issue and discovered everything there is to know about these two very different shaving products.

What Is A Beard Trimmer

A beard trimmer, in brief, is a tool designed to maintain the style of your beard. While you can get a pretty close trim. In fact, you’ll get a closer trim than you ever could with a pair of hair clippers because of the way the blades are set up. However, you will not get a smooth ‘clean-shaven’ effect with trimer blades.

You can find great beard trimmers either corded or portable. One of the best hand-held beard trimmers you can pick up from Amazon is the Wahl Stainless Steel Lithium Ion+ 9818. Click Here to check it out. Wahl is a well-known and trusted industry leader. The 9818 has interchangeable heads, it holds a charge for up to four hours, and it recharges quickly. 

The Trick With Guards

Trimmers typically come with either interchangeable guards or a dialable guard that is adjustable. Unfortunately, most people misuse the guards. It’s not that the guards are challenging to figure out. The mistake is much simpler.

Beard trimmers are made to be used gently, and most people push too hard. The result is cutting more hair than you intended because you’re forcing the guard into the skin, hence shortening the distance to the blades. It’s not the guard misrepresenting the length but rather a case of user error.

Other Techniques & Tips for Trimmers

  • Always wash and dry your beard before you begin your trimming. It’s a good idea to give it a brush or comb too, depending on the length.
  • When trimming a new style, always consider how much time it will take to maintain that look. If you’re short on grooming time, don’t choose a look with a lot of intricate details. Instead, go for a more basic look that suits your facial shape.
  • A beard trimmer is ideal for manscaping in other areas of your body. If you’re looking to get the most out of your money, consider a multi-use kit like the Roziapro 6 in 1 Trimmer from Amazon. It’s waterproof and has a USB charger for when you’re traveling. Click Here to check out prices.
  • Don’t be afraid to use a guide to shave a clear line on your cheeks. Too high, and you’ll shorten the look of your face making it more round, too low, and you’ll look unnecessarily jowly, so aim for somewhere just below your cheekbones.
  • Start at the neck. Make sure you define below your jawline, so you don’t look shaggy and unkempt.
  • Take your time. Make smaller passes because you can always take more hair off, but growing it back takes time.
  • Comb against the natural growth of the hair and cut against the grain to get loose flyaway hairs on longer beards. Comb down and trim with the grain to maintain a shorter style that doesn’t take much upkeep.
  • Always tidy up your edges with scissors, a razor or tweezers to catch those last few stray hairs that aren’t perfect.

Cleaning & Maintenance

Cleaning and disinfecting a beard trimmer is an essential part of maintaining both your equipment and your best look. Hair and other debris, along with dead skin cells, can catch on the blades and other parts of your machine. If you want to get the most out of your beard trimmer, you have to keep it in good working order.

Different styles of trimmer have slightly different needs. A waterproof trimmer can be rinsed under the tap to remove most of the mess from shaving. You can use a couple of drops of mild liquid soap on washable trimmers. If your trimmer doesn’t specifically say washable or waterproof, please don’t get it wet. Regardless, most trimmers come with a brush for cleaning out the tiny spaces. If yours doesn’t, then you can use a toothbrush to do the same job.

Cotton swabs and toothpicks make great impromptu cleaners for some areas. Plastic toothpicks like those found at the end of most dental floss sticks are often ideal, as well. After you loosen the trapped particles, use your brush again. In a pinch,  canned air like you might use to clean a keyboard can also be a good solution. Use the straw attachment to blow out the small areas.

Make sure you oil your trimmer according to the instructions. If you can’t find the instruction booklet, then you’ll almost certainly find a how-to video on youtube or a copy of the directions elsewhere online. Check the company website for whatever brand you choose. Most have digital copies of their instructions online.

It’s best to clean your trimmer after every use. Spending a few minutes tidying up can help keep it from excess wear and make sure you get the best trim as well.

Everything You Need to Know About Electric Shavers

There are two types of electric razors, but they do the same job in similar ways. A foil razor has a thin layer of metal mesh (foil) over a moving set of blades that either vibrate back and forth or rotate. This allows hair to pass through but keeps skin out so that you don’t get cut.

Conversely, a rotary is a pair or set of round heads (still called foils, but don’t get confused) with rotating blades below. These round heads are on springs for more adaptability. The heads work just like a foil razor with slits to let your hair in and keep your skin out of the way while it cuts.

Unlike a beard trimmer, you get a completely hairless shave with this type of hair cutting tool. Whether you’re thinking of getting a ‘foil’ or a ‘rotary’ model, the end result is the same, a clean shave. You generally can’t use an electric shaver to maintain a beard style because it will just cut it off. However, an electric razor may be ideal for the cheeks, sideburns, and neck area around a longer beard.

The Problem With Skin Irritation (and How to Solve it)

The only real downside to electric shavers is that they can irritate your skin. Because no guard system can be perfect without keeping the hair out too, skin can get inside. It’s not as bad as it sounds.

The amount of skin that reaches inside is nearly microscopic. If it gets nicked, it’s not even deep enough to bleed because it doesn’t break enough of the skins’ surface. The result is typically mild irritation. There’s a simple solution to the problem too — more on that in a moment.

Who Needs a Foil

A foil razor is fixed in position. It doesn’t adapt to the shape of your face. If you have especially tough or very smooth skin or you aren’t prone to a little razor burn, then grabbing a great foil like the Surker Waterproof Electric Wet-Dry Foil Shaver with Sideburns Trimmer and LED Display on Amazon is a fantastic and cost-effective solution. Click Here to get yours. Make sure you use a good aftershave and a creme to prevent ingrown hairs. Otherwise, you should be okay with a foil.

Who Should Use a Rotary

If you have dimples, wrinkles, or older skin, you may want a good rotary. Likewise, if your skin is overly susceptible to razor burn, a rotary may be a little more gentile. A high-quality rotary shaver will adapt to the shape of your face and allow you to handle that textured skin more easily. Click Here for the Philips Norelco Wet-Dry Rechargeable Shaver 4500 from Amazon

Proper Use

The biggest ‘trick’ I can teach you for using an electric shaver, and avoiding skin irritation, is also the most simple. Find a good shaving creme and use it. Shaving creme helps lubricate the path of the blades and your skin. It also provides a thin barrier between your skin and the blades to help avoid those micro-cuts.

When choosing a shaving creme for use with your electric razor, there is one major thing to keep in mind; get a water-based shave creme. There’s nothing wrong with oil-based shaving creme if you’re using a cartridge or other manual razor. On your electric, the oils will contribute to buildup and other problems that affect the life of the machine.

Skin already has natural oils called sebum, and men’s skin produces more sebum than women. That’s not necessarily a bad thing since men tend to have better-hydrated skin, and they stay looking youthful a little bit longer on average. However, the trade-off, in this case, is that the oils help ‘gunk up’ razors faster.

Electric Razor Maintenance

Some electric razors claim to be self-cleaning. Regardless of what yours says, you still need to do some cleaning and maintenance to extend the life of your razor. Learning to do some basic upkeep will save you money in the long run because it keeps the equipment functional for longer before you need to replace it. An excellent electric razor can last you years, so they’re worth the investment both monetarily and in terms of cleaning time.

Every time you shave, you need to clean out your razor. If you only shave rarely or are very forgetful, then make sure you clean it weekly, at least. Preventing the buildup of hair, dead skin cells, and sebum (skin oil) will make sure your machine is running at peak efficiency.

Tips for Cleaning Electric Razors

  1. If your razor came with a manual, read it. It may seem like a razor is a razor, but different companies have different ways of designing the internal and external components. You’re better off at least knowing what they have to say about their own product than wasting money because you didn’t know something.
  2. Always turn off the power. If your razor is corded, then unplug it. Otherwise, remove the batteries and replace the case.
  3. Remove the cutter head. Clean both the head you removed and all the parts you can reach inside with a cleaning brush. Most come with an included brush, but if not, or if you lose yours, get a good toothbrush. You may want both a toothbrush with nice firm bristles and a soft bristle brush.
  4. If any other parts are removable, then disassemble the razor and clean them with the brush as well.
  5. Use hot water and a mild soap or special cleaning fluid to clean off the parts.
  6. Let the razor air dry completely before reassembling.

Sharpening Electric Razor Blades

Some men prefer to simply leave well enough alone and replace their shavers or blades with new versions regularly. There’s nothing wrong with that. However, if you’re crafty or thrifty, then you can do it yourself to save a little money and get the satisfaction of knowing you maintain your own equipment.

Why Bother

With a manual razor, you can get some extra life out of it by going over the same area a few times. You might be able to pull off the same trick with an electric, but you shouldn’t. Dull razor blades aren’t just inefficient. They’re a danger to your face. Dull razors are more likely to cut you. More importantly, a dull razor that cuts your skin does more damage than a sharp blade that makes a clean cut.

How to Sharpen Rotary Blades

Oddly enough, ‘dull’ isn’t quite the right word for rotary blades because they technically don’t get ‘duller’ over time. Instead, what’s happening is a buildup of oxidation on the edges. The great news is that all you need to do is remove the oxidation, and you have ‘sharpened’ your blades.

Cordless wet-dry rotaries are probably your best choice for shaving and sharpening. This may seem silly, but the method is incredibly simple. Apply toothpaste to a clean, dry razor blade, put the cap-head back on, and run it for a minute or two. Then clean as usual to remove the toothpaste residue. Remember to point it at the sink, so you don’t make a mess.

This works so well because toothpaste has a fine grit in it to help clean teeth. You could buy jewelry cleaning paste or any number of fancy kits, but there’s no reason to do so. Your regular toothpaste will clean and ‘sharpen’ those blades perfectly.

Sharpening Foil Razor Blades

Generally, when it’s time to sharpen a foil razor, you also need to replace the foil itself. The blades and foil work together in a way that is like a hundred tiny scissors cutting the hair. I found no functional solution to the foil issue. However, some users claim you can use a sharpening stone and sharpen the blades the way you might sharpen a knife.

You need a good sharpening stone and a razor with a cord or full charge. Remove all the safety guards, and turn on the blades. Place it against the stone, making sure to move it around to get all edges and viola! At least, that’s what some guys say.

*Please note, I have not tried this and it sounds dangerous. Rather than hurting yourself, perhaps you should buy replacements or switch to a rotary style.

Alternative Depilation Techniques

Hair removal has a name. According to the Mirriam-Webster dictionary, the medical definition of ‘depilation’ is; the removal of hair, wool, or bristles by chemical or mechanical methods. Technically razors and every other form of hair removal, except pulling it out by hand, is depilation.

Over the centuries, humans have found some ingenious ways to get the hair off their bodies. Some of these are probably familiar to you, while others are likely to be a complete mystery. These are the other ways to remove your head, face, or body hair.

  • Depilatory Creme, Gel, Powder, Spray or Roll-On

Regardless of the form and how you apply it, the depilatory liquids (or powders), all have some things in common. Namely, they remove hair by chemical means. Essentially they destroy the protein bonds in your hair, making it come apart and come off. Lots of people are sensitive to these methods because human skin is made from protein, as well.

Risk aside, depilatory liquids and powders are highly effective. They use ingredients like sodium thioglycolate, calcium thioglycolate, and strontium sulfide to turn hair into a jelly-like goo, which can then be wiped right off your body. The ease of use is what draws many people to these products.

  • Tweezers

Everyone has seen tweezers. If you’re unlucky, you’ve had to remove a few splinters in your life with a pair. Whether you prefer the scissor-like version or more of a conjoined and flattened chopsticks variety, the use is the same. Tweezing hair out is painful and time-consuming, but it’s long-lasting and allows for a lot of precision by removing single hairs.

Because hair removal by pulling traumatized the follicle, your hair grows from it takes a while to grow back. Over time using tweezers or a similar hair removal method may cause you to produce less hair at that site. You can see this frequently happens when women pluck their eyebrows too thin and too often.

  • Waxing

Hot wax can be kind of sexy if you’re into a mild pain, but having swathes of hair ripped out of your body by applying hot wax and sheets of fabric or paper is not so much fun. Sure, it provides a lovely smooth, clean surface quickly, but the pain factor is more than many people can handle. Then again, there’s a booming industry of professional waxers and do it yourself kits for the folks who can handle it.

There’s not much to the technical aspect of waxing. Hot wax flows around the hair and then hardens around it as it cools. The hair is trapped inside the wax. That forces the hair to go wherever the wax goes. Hence pulling the wax off pulls the hair along with it. This does not work if the hair is too short because there’s not enough surface for the wax to trap and remove.

  • Depilation Sponge

A depilation sponge or similar item is mainly fine grain sandpaper for your body hair. Some people swear by them, and others find them extremely difficult to use. While it’s not super common, you can even sand your skin if you rub too hard or often on the same patch.

A similar product exists without the spongy part. It’s just a larger version of an emery board with much finer sandpaper. Literally, this is sanding the hair off at the skin level.

Using a grain that fine does more damage to the hairs than the skin at first because the hair sticks out and is easier for the fine grit to grab and abraid. If you’ve ever sanded anything, you’ll know that whatever sticks out the most wears down first. Only after that do the layers below see significant effects from the sanding.

  • Depilation Machines

These are electrically corded or battery-powered hair rippers. Typically they use a fine wire coil and rotation mechanism to trap and yank out the hair wherever you use them. Like tweezers or wax, they can be extremely painful. Also, like tweezers or wax, they leave a clean, smooth surface that lasts a lot longer than regular shaving.

  • Threading

The method known as threading is very true to its name. Threading off hair involves twining thread around your body or facial hair and then pulling it out of the socket. As you might expect, it’s just as painful as other ripping related forms of hair removal. This is an ancient practice and more common in other countries, but you can get threading machines online. Alternately you could just use thread, but it seems like a skill that could take a while to learn and master.

  • Manual, Disposable, Cartridge or Safety Razors

A manual, cartridge, safety, or disposable razor refers to the non-powered razors sold in grocery store aisles and online. Though they have some minor differences, they are similar enough to work the same way.

You’ll find manual razors with one to five very thin blades on a head with a handle for a secure grip. You probably own at least one. The different numbers of blades tend to increase the effectiveness as you add more razors. Some come with a comforting gel strip that helps smooth the skin after you shave.

These razors are the most commonly used shaving or hair removal methods in the USA. Every year around a hundred and sixty-two million people buy disposable razors. That’s a little less than half the 327.2 million people in America buying razors.

  • Straight Razor

Plenty of barbershops still offer straight razor shaves, but most often, these are associated with old fashioned shaving from earlier eras. A straight razor blade is typically three to four inches long and set into a sheath-like handle that they unfold from. Because they are more dangerous than safety razors or other methods, lots of men shy away from them.

If sharpened and appropriately used, shaving with a straight razor has the exact same result as any other kind of shave. Mixing up some shaving foam with a brush and using a straight razor is very classic and takes a bit of skill, but it isn’t hard to learn. It’s never a bad plan to learn to shave in a way that uses no power in case you ever end up somewhere the power is out, and you have no batteries.

  • Scissors

As unlikely as it seems, even scissors can e used to ‘shave.’ It takes a lot of patience, and you won’t get the hair as close-cropped as you will through other methods. Certainly, you’ll never have bare skin. Regardless, you can use scissors to trim all your hair down to stubble, so I included them on this list.

Do I Need a Trimmer or a Razor

Choosing how to maintain your beard is simple enough. If you want a completely clean shave, then you need an electric razor. Otherwise, you should get a beard trimmer. Since electric razors only have one setting, you can’t use them to vary the length of your beard. Many electric shavers are also too large to help maintain fine lines.

Choose a smaller electric razor if you don’t want to touch up your cheeks and neck area manually. If you have a beard to maintain, then a beard trimmer is the better choice, but realistically you should have both around if you need them. After all, you can’t maintain a car with just one tool, and your body is far more complicated than any vehicle.

Keep all the tools you need to do the job. Your face will thank you for it. Additionally, when you look better and more put together, people will sit up and take notice.

Final Thoughts

There was a time when any kind of hair removal was weird. A bald bodied person or a man without a beard was probably just too young to have grown their adult hair. Even people who are genetically predisposed to develop less body hair still grow pubic and armpit hair. These days things have changed. Modern man (and woman) has the tools to control how our bodies look and how we want our hair to grow.

Whether you’re using your shavers for your body, face, or head, less hair is the new normal. Removing excess hair helps keep us cooler in warm weather, and it takes away a surprising amount of surface area where we collect odors, germs, and bacteria. In short, it’s good for your health and likely to make you smell better.

Choose the hair removal method that works best for you. After all, proper grooming is good health and an excellent first impression. Plus, we all feel great after a nice trim or shave.

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