For the history of electric razors, the choice between rotary and foil designs rested on two considerations. If you were less than perfect in shaving every day or had sensitive or easily burned skin, a rotary design was the choice for you. If you always shaved every day and your skin could take a little more punishment, you could choose a foil razor and enjoy the closer shave the foil design delivered. Now, with the Braun 3 Series 380S-4 Wet & Dry Shaver, this equation has been turned on its head.
The Braun 380S-4 is a foil type electric razor. This means that it uses several pairings of a foil and an oscillating cutter to lift the hairs away from your skin and cleanly cut them away. This design allows for a closer shave than a rotary design.
The 380S-4 features three foil/cutter pairs with the middle one specially designed to cut longer hair. This has long been a failing of the foil design. It has always been a poor performer with multiple days of growth. Braun has come up with the first razor that can give the close shave promised by foils to men who don’t always shave every day.
It is completely sealed so it can be used in the shower. You can also use a shaving foam or gel which may give you an even closer shave while offering extra protection for your skin. Built in skin conditioners also help prevent irritation and razor burn, making it more comparable to a rotary system in the skin protection area.
The Ni-MH battery is designed to prevent “memory” issues where a rechargeable battery slowly loses the ability to hold a full charge. This extends the life of the razor since, due to the ability to use it in the shower, it cannot be operated with the cord plugged in. The fully charged battery gives you about 45 minutes of shaving time, which should come out to about one and a half to two weeks per charge. The included charger automatically switches from 110V current (standard in the US) to 240V (used in most of the rest of the world) so it comes travel ready even if you find yourself in a foreign country.
Features and Benefits
• The combination of Braun’s optimized foil design and three cutting elements allow the 380S-4 to cut multiple days worth of growth, something foil razors have always been poor at.
• A precision pop up trimmer is included to allow quick trimming of side burns, mustache, or beard.
• The razor is fully sealed to allow it to be used in the shower and/or with shaving foams and gels.
• The battery is a Ni-MH design that gives approximately 45 minutes of shave time between charges.
• A quick charge feature allows you to plug it in for five minutes to charge it enough to finish up if the battery runs out in the middle of a shave.
• A LED display indicates the amount of charge remaining to allow you to plan accordingly.
The Braun 380S-4 stands in rare company as on of the few shavers to clear the fifty percent five star rating hurdle. It has been awarded five stars by 62% of reviewers and a huge 80% gave it at least four stars. This is a sign that Braun has hit on a near perfect combination of features and price with this model.
As expected with a foil shaver, the shave was reported to be very close. Some users even claim that it is competitive with disposable blades for a close shave. This is exceptional performance for any electric which while more convenient and quicker usually fail to shave as close as a blade.
The battery gives plenty of shaving time at about 45 minutes with a full charge. It also only takes about 45 minutes to recharge. One reviewer went to the trouble of documenting the run time on each full charge over two years and reported a loss of about two minutes over that time. This is excellent performance for a Ni-MH battery.
Since it is completely sealed and fully immersible, it is easy to clean. Just rinsing it under the running tap cleans it up nicely. This is important since cleaning foil razors after each use is a very important practice and a habit you will want to get into from the very beginning.
Another unique feature is a blade locking system that allows you to retract two of the three shaving surfaces to allow for an easier, closer shave under your nose without the other foils irritating your lip.
All of this and Braun seems to have solved the problem of foil shavers being noisy. Several reviews praised the 380S-4 as a quiet shaver, not usually a description used for foil razors which tend to be noisier than rotary designs.
The cons list for this razor is pretty short. It is said that it will pull if you try to shave too fast especially with longer growth. If you are coming to this razor from a rotary shaver, you will have to make a conscious effort to slow down to avoid any pulling and the resulting discomfort that may include ingrown hairs.
Several people complained of the lack of a snap on cover for the foils. Others point out that this functionality is covered by the included neoprene pouch which they say gives you plenty of protection.
The last complaint I found is more of a warning. When the foils start to wear out, the shaver will chew up your skin if you continue to use them.
The foils and cutters are considered disposable parts and should be replaced at around eighteen months or when they start show signs of excess wear. Luckily, they are easy to find and are inexpensive, so replacing them is not a burden.
All in all, the Braun 3 Series 380S-4 Wet & Dry Shaver is easily one of the best shavers available and is recommended even to rotary shaver users who would like to experience the close shave only available with foil razors.