Wet vs. Dry Electric Shaving

Two electric shaver razors that work for both shaving wet or shaving dry

Over the last year or two, electric shavers have started including the option of shave wet. This is a huge shift. For a long time, the conversation over “wet or dry shaving” was identical to “should I use a traditional razor or an electric one?” Electric shavers were synonymous with shaving dry. They’re still basically the only (non-horrifying) option for people who don’t want to lather up.

Why shave wet?

There’s a reason we spent hundreds of years shaving wet. When you soak your hair in water, you soften it, making it easier to cut. Adding shaving gel, foam, or soap as a lubricant makes the whole process easier.

And who wouldn’t want that process to be easier? You’re dragging a sharp blade–possibly multiple blades–across your skin. Anything to diminish the danger and discomfort involved with that is a plus. You don’t want to cut yourself, nor do you want to irritate your skin. You also don’t want the knife to just grab the hair and start yanking it around instead of actually cutting it. Shaving wet helps to prevent all of those things.

Why shave dry?

Most of the reasons for shaving dry are tied to electric razors–primary among them being you save time. You also don’t have to buy or carry shaving cream. You have to keep the razor powered up, but when you travel, you generally wind up carrying less shaving gear around. The shave isn’t as close, but it gets the job done quickly and easily.

What’s the deal with electric wet shaving?

For some people, particularly those with tougher beards, the looser shave of an electric shaver can be a less difficult, less painful experience. But electric shavers have their own drawbacks. For one, they tend to irritate your skin, especially if you’re working with a less high-end razor. Bringing water and lather back into the mix can cut down on irritations and breakouts. Moreover, a lot of the things that drive people to electric razors in the first place–like thick, strong hair–stand to benefit from water.

Are there downsides?

Well, for one thing, wet/dry electric shavers are a small subset of the world of electric shavers. They’re not as expensive as you might think. In fact, some are downright affordable. But generally, wet/dry shavers tend to be newer, and you definitely don’t want to put a regular electric shaver onto a wet face. That’s a good way to ruin lots of things at once.

But moreover, the fact that electric shavers don’t cut as close means that putting shaving cream on your face might actually be an impediment. We mentioned that the wet/electric combo is great for people with thicker beards. That’s very true. But if you have thinner, straighter hair, it’s nowhere near as helpful. In fact, it’s possible for your whiskers to simply get lost in the foam so that you barely get a shave at all. If you consistently have skin irritation, by all means, find a light cream or gel. Just be aware that you’ll want a thinner layer for better results.