What the best women's shaver has

  • A close, clean shave. The best shavers (and razors) remove all hair cleanly in a single pass, without leaving razor burn or bumps behind.
  • A handle that's easy to hold, even when wet. Many women shave in the shower, where dropping a razor or shaver can be particularly dangerous.
  • Reasonable cost of ownership. Most manual razors require replacement blades/cartridges that drive up the cost. Remember to factor in shaving cream or gel as well. Electric shavers need replacement blades and foils at least once a year to keep performing at their best.

Know before you go

  • How much noise can you tolerate? If you're very private, you might want to avoid epilators -- they tend to be quite noisy. Electric shavers make less noise. Completely silent manual razors are the most private option of all.
  • Are you prone to nicks and cuts? For those who are prone to nicks and cuts -- or for whom nicks and cuts can be dangerous because of medication or a health condition -- an electric shaver may be the safest option.
  • How do you feel about shaving cream? You can use an epilator or electric shaver without shaving cream. Most razors require shaving cream or gel, although a few have built-in gel bars to eliminate that need.
  • Do you travel often? A disposable razor is the best option for traveling, there's no need to carry a charger, batteries or additional cartridges.

The dollars and cents of it

At first glance, manual razors look like the least expensive hair removal option. They cost just $6 to $12 each, and often come with an extra refill cartridge to boot. But you're going to have to buy more refills, which can run you anywhere from $75 to more than $100 per year, depending on how often you shave and how quickly the blades go dull.

Factor in the cost of your favorite shaving cream (prices vary widely) and surprise! -- manual refillable or disposable razors are actually among the most expensive hair removal options. You can sometimes save, however, by buying cartridges in bulk. Be careful when doing this online; we found dozens of reviews on Amazon.com warning about fake Gillette blades.

Electric shavers cost $30 to $35 but, even considering twice-yearly foil and blade replacements (about $36 per year), still cost less overall than manual razors. And finally, epilators represent the largest initial outlay -- $50 to $60 and up -- but have no maintenance needs to speak of beyond regular cleanings (although you can and should replace the tweezing heads -- around $15 -- if performance falters).

What's to come

Razor manufacturers are constantly creating new gimmicks to spur sales; one of the latest is vibrating, battery-powered razor heads. Manufacturers say vibrating razors impart a closer shave, but this claim doesn't necessarily hold water in tests. Most reviewers are not impressed.

"The vibrations are useless; I get the same quality shave whether it's turned on or off," writes an Amazon.com user about the Venus Vibrance, a vibrating version of the very popular Gillette Venus line. "The vibrating didn't seem to have any impact on the actual shaving experience... I just couldn't see or feel any difference," according to one tester in a joint Gizmodo/Lifehacker Australia review of the Schick Hydro Power 5 (a men's razor).

We say skip the vibrating head and save the money you would have spent on batteries for refill cartridges instead.

Manufacturers are also packing more and more blades into every razor; while three-blade models are common, you'll also find razors with four or five blades. Go ahead and try them if you want to, but keep in mind that the more blades a razor has, the more friction it generates and the better your chances of getting razor burn. For most reviewers, three blades seems to be the sweet spot between comfort and hair-clearing performance.

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