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Trimmer vs Shaver: Which Should You Use?

When you’re new to grooming, all of the different technologies can be confusing. Well, be confused no longer! In this trimmer vs shaver showdown, I explain the difference between the two tools and I make it crystal clear which one is better for which situation. 

Table of Contents

What Is A Trimmer?

A trimmer is a type of electric facial hair shaver. It’s designed like an electric hair clipper but on a smaller scale, to trim hair to a specific length. Trimmers have two flat blades with pointy teeth, stacked one on top of the other. The top blades act as guides, while the bottom blades move side to side to trim the hair. 

Most commercial trimmers cut hair down to 0.5 mm by default, which is called a “stubble shave.” Some can be adjusted to cut shorter or longer with the help of a lever built into the trimmer, while others come with comb guards that make it easy to trim down longer lengths. This makes them a popular option for men who want to shape and groom their facial hair, rather than achieve a basic shave.  

In barbershops, barbers often set at least one of their trimmers to a zero-gap, which allows the trimmer to cut down nearly to the skin. They do this to get crisper outlines, usually, rather than to shave down facial hair. 

What Are The Pros And Cons Of Trimmers?

To quickly summarize, these are the factors that make trimmers unique, for good or bad. 


  • Trimmers are excellent for beard shaping. They make it easy to adjust the length at which you cut, for a totally customized beard shape. 
  • When set to cut at shorter lengths, they’re excellent for precision work like outlining your beard or creating a fade. 
  • When they’re used without combs or length adjustments, they can give a stubble shave which can be nicer for men with sensitive skin. 


  • Trimmers are not suitable for a close shave, and they’re not a good replacement for a manual razor.
  • When used for major trims or shaves, trimmers have to be rinsed or wiped often, since they tend to get clogged more quickly than shavers.  
  • The vast majority of trimmers cannot be used for wet shaving – only dry shaving. This might be an issue if you have sensitive skin and need the added protection of shaving cream

What Is A Shaver?

A shaver is an electric razor that cuts hair very close to the skin, for a nearly clean shave. It’s an alternative to a traditional razor blade, for men who want a faster and easier way of achieving a clean shave. 

There are two main types of shavers: foil shavers, which give an extremely close shave but require a bit more precision, and rotary shavers that are easier to use and can cut hair in every direction. If you’d like to learn more, you can check out my rotary vs foil shaver comparison. 

Historically, electric shavers could only be used for dry shaving, but nowadays, there are a lot of options that also work well for wet shaving. 

What Are The Pros And Cons Of Shavers?

Shavers may not do a lot of different things, but what they can do, they do extremely well.


  • Shavers are the true alternatives to razors. They can give a very close shave, and they’re perfect for keeping you clean-shaven on a daily or near-daily basis.  
  • Many electric shavers can be used for both wet and dry shaving, so they’re an excellent choice if you have sensitive skin and need added protection.  


  • Shavers are not very versatile – they can be used for shaving a little bit of growth, but not much else. 
  • Shavers are often more expensive than trimmers and other types of shaving implements, although budget options exist. 
  • Shavers are not designed for major changes. They struggle with longer growth, so you won’t be able to use a shaver to transform yourself from bearded to clean-shaven. You’ll also have to use your shaver quite frequently (at least a few times a week). 
  • As is the case with any implement that’ll give you a close shave, shavers can be somewhat irritating to the skin. 

Trimmer vs Shaver: Final Verdict

Both trimmers and shavers have their place in the grooming world. They’re very different tools that do very different things, so consider your personal needs when deciding which will be right for you. 

If you’re after an alternative to your regular manual razor, a shaver is the better choice. Electric shavers are designed to do just one thing – to shave. They don’t provide quite as close of a shave as a razor, but they can come close (especially foil shavers). They are very fast to shave with, and they come with a smaller risk of cuts or razor burn

Trimmers are the more versatile option, and they’re definitely better for men who like to keep their facial hair neat and well-groomed. With the right trimmer, you can shape your beard, refine its outline, and even shave down the hair on your neck (although probably not as closely as you could with a shaver). 

For men with sensitive skin who want a clean shave, a trimmer can provide a more gentle alternative that’s less irritating to the skin than a foil shaver. However, it won’t cut as closely. 

In some cases, you may even want to own both, especially if you’re the kind of person who changes his facial hair often. If you tend to maintain a beard but you like your neck and cheeks extra smooth, that’s another good reason to buy both a trimmer and shaver. You can use the trimmer for styling your beard and an electric shaver for getting that clean shave on the neck.

Miles is a professional men's grooming analyst who believes that to look good a man just needs to take good care of himself. He’s all about wet shaving, sustainability, and evidence-based grooming - an obsession he’s ready to share. Miles is known for his in-depth analysis of men's grooming products, brands, and best practices you can't find anywhere else.