Electric shaver vs beard trimmer: what's the difference?

Do you want an electric shaver or is it a beard trimmer that you need? Read on to find out

Electric shaver vs beard trimmer
(Image credit: Getty)

Electric shaver or beard trimmer? The difference is pretty vast and to make sure you get the right one for your needs it's important to see how they differ.

While one is ideal for facial shaving, to get that closer finish, the other is more suited to trimming already long hair to keep it well-kempt. But then it can get more complicated, with some electric shavers offering longer hair trimming options and beard trimmers with fine enough settings to be used as a rough shaver. 

So it's worth thinking, before you decide on which is for you, what do you need it for? Do you want a do-it-all, face and body shaver that gives a close finish? Or are you going to be simply trimming and won't need that, where a wet shave may do the job using a manual razor?

Read on to find out everything you need to know about the best electric shavers versus the best beard trimmers.

Electric shavers offer a closer finish

No matter the crossover between electric shavers and beard trimmers, it's pretty clear that the former is always going to offer you the closest shave. This is thanks to a foil system which pushes against the skin, propping up the hairs, before cutting them in a scissor-like slice. The result is a very skin-close finish.

Beard trimmers, on the other hand, use an oscillating head which trims the hairs as it meets them, but can't be pressed into the skin without causing damage. So while this can still get a fine stubble finish, it'll never get as close as a dedicated electric shaver.

Electric shaver

(Image credit: Braun)

Beard trimmers are best for body and head hair

Beard trimmers might not get down to the fine finish that their electric shaving siblings offer, but they are better for longer hair. That means for trimming beards, head hair, body hair and anywhere else you can think of hair appearing – this is the ideal option. That said, they're not hair clippers, which are built for longer hair. These are more for trimming the ends rather than tackling a regular haircut.

The beard trimmer is fine enough to cut in on your face to get clean lines, but it's also powerful enough to cut through some hair, on your head or body. With many also offering adjustable lengths it's possible to vary the finish you want for the different areas you're working on.

Some shavers do beards too

It's worth noting that some shavers have a pop up oscillating blade tool which can be used to trim in on longer hair. This is a fine detailing tool so it's more about finishing the edges of your hairline as it meets your face than beard trimming. But in a pinch, it'll do the job of tidying up those stray hairs. 

Some also offer varying head attachments, with beard trimmer style cutters. These all-in-one options may suit, though it's often the case that a dedicated tool will do a better job than one that tries to do many.

So you can have a close shave using the shaver part and then if you need to trim, this can do that too albeit at a far smaller scale than a beard trimmer can manage. Ideal if you're travelling and spot stray hairs that need a trim, then.

Beard trimmers offer comb attachment detailing

Unlike electric shavers, beard trimmers often come with comb attachments. This allows you to control the depth of the cut. This can mean trimming your beard to the same length each time, or it could mean working on a transition from beard to the hairline.

By using comb attachments it becomes possible to control the varying length of your hair, which can mean styling. For those that are into it, you can even cut in and offer haircuts with intricate grading for a professional finish. Beard trimmers are particularly good at trimming around the ears on the finest setting.


(Image credit: Braun)

Trimmers last longer than shavers

A trimmer will usually feature self-sharpening blades which are made to last a long time. As long as you service your trimmer regularly, by keeping it clean and oiled, it can last many years.

An electric shaver, on the other hand, offers a fine shave but will go blunt after a few years and need replacing. This isn't generally an expensive replacement but it's something to keep in mind when you're looking at upfront and long terms costs.

Electric shavers vs beard trimmers: Which is best?

There is no clear one or the other as beard trimmers do one job, keeping hair kempt, while electric shavers are there to offer an easy way to get a close shave.

While you might be able to get away with an electric shaver to trim a bit of fine hair, it's not going to be a beard management option. 

So, in short, beard trimmers are best for beards and body hair kept grown, while electric shavers are best for close facial and body shaves done regularly.

If you're in the market for either of these devices, check out T3's guides to the best beard trimmer and best electric shaver.

If you want to remove the hair from your head, check out the best hair clippers, and, if you want to upgrade your oral hygiene, these are the Best electric toothbrushes.

Luke Edwards

Luke is a former freelance writer for T3 with over two decades of experience covering tech, science and health. Among many others Luke wrote about health tech, software and apps, VPNs, TV, audio, smart home, antivirus, broadband, smartphones, cars and plenty more. In his free time, Luke used to climb mountains, swim outside and contort his body into silly positions while breathing as calmly as possible.