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 letting it slip against the skin) can be particularly dangerous.
- Reasonable cost of ownership. Refillable manual razors require replacement blades/cartridges that drive up the cost, and a year's supply of disposable razors can cost even more. 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; if those aren't available, you'll need to replace the whole shaver.
Know before you go
How close a shave do you need? Manual razors deliver silky-smooth, hairless skin in a flash. Electric shavers and epilators may leave some tiny hairs behind.
Do you prefer to shave wet or dry? Manual razors should be used in the bath or shower. Electric razors and epilators can be used dry (and some are waterproof, too).
Are you tired of shaving frequently? Epilators pluck out hairs by the roots, promising smooth skin for one to four weeks.
How's your pain tolerance? This is the downside to epilators: They hurt. You can do things to lessen the pain (like using numbing cream or holding your skin taut), and users say the discomfort lessens every time you epilate.
Are you prone to shaving nicks or razor burn? 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. Sensitive skin usually suffers less irritation with an electric razor, too.
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 minimize that need.
How often are you willing to throw away your razor? Disposable razors tend to go dull faster than refillable cartridges. That might be acceptable if you're willing to toss your razor every few shaves -- but that does mean stockpiling more spare razors and sending more waste to the landfill.
Do you travel frequently? You might prefer to keep some disposable razors on hand, as there's no need to carry a charger, batteries or additional refill cartridges.
How much noise can you tolerate? If you're very private or otherwise noise sensitive, you might want to avoid epilators -- they tend to be quite noisy. Electric shavers make less noise. Razors, of course, are completely silent.
What are your bikini-line needs? Some women prefer to trim their bikini area (which avoids the danger of ingrown hairs), while others prefer to use a manual razor (or special narrow bikini razor), electric razor, or epilator to make a clean sweep.
The dollars and cents of it
If you're looking for the most budget-friendly women's shaver, don't let the initial low cost of a manual razor -- $6 to $9 each – sway you. You'll need to buy refills, which can run $100 per year or more (depending on how often you shave and how quickly the blades go dull), in addition to shaving cream. Disposable razors are even cheaper initially, as little as 20 cents each, but they tend to go dull even faster, reviewers say. All factors considered, manual refillable or disposable razors are actually among the most expensive hair-removal options.
Electric shavers cost $20 and up, but cost less over time than manual razors, even though you'll have to replace the foil-and-blade assembly (or the whole razor, if replacements aren't available) every 6 months to a year. Epilators cost the most up-front -- $35 to $125 for the models discussed in this report -- but have no maintenance needs to speak of beyond regular cleanings. Electricity costs (or battery costs in some cases) are minimal with all types of women's shavers.