An electric shaver is neater to use than a razor blade and shaving foam, and the fact that its blades are hidden behind a foil may also make it less irritating to the skin than a razor. But like any powered device, shavers also generate heat — and, with repeated strokes, that heat can be terribly irritating to skin.
So the German shaver–maker Braun GmbH has devised the world’s first shaver with a built–in chiller, which mimics the sensation of dragging an ice cube across the skin with every stroke, in an effort to reduce irritation.
Called CoolTec, the new Braun shaver debuted this summer, and I recently face–tested a review unit myself.
The “Tec” in CoolTec is thermo–electric cooling technology derived from satellites and space crafts, which are built employing the same technology to keep mechanical parts cool in high temperature environments, Braun says. But, of course, satellites are comparatively huge, so it was no easy feat to create a cooling system small enough to fit inside a shaver, the company says; the entire effort consumed six years of research and development.
There are two main components: an aluminum “cooling bar” in the shaver’s head (between the shaving foils and next to the central trimmer), which actively cools the skin and transports heat away from it to a thermo–electric cooler, which in turn removes the heat energy from both the skin and the cutting system.
Braun says the system lowers the cooling bar’s temperature a full 20–degrees Celsius within two minutes.
Like Shaving With An Ice Cube
To be sure, Braun measured this temperature drop on the cooling bar off–skin, and the CoolTec user’s manual warns that every person may perceive it differently depending on “personal and environmental factors” such as skin and ambient temperature — like the difference between the actual air temperature displayed on a thermometer and a “real feel” temperature determined by humidity and other factors.
“For best cooling performance,” the manual advises, “we recommend to wait a few seconds after the cooling function has been activated. Then continue shaving as usual.”
In my own test, the cooling effect was palpable. It truly felt as if an ice cube was being dragged across my face alongside the shaver’s blades — and the promise of less irritation was kept.
But the chilling sensation is there only if the cooling bar actually touches the skin. I had difficulty consistently positioning the CoolTec shaver on my face so the cooling bar would always make contact with my skin — negating the value of the feature some of the time.
Additionally, the benefit comes at a cost: shortened battery life. So Braun also made CoolTec a user–selectable feature that is switched on or off separately from the shaver’s motor. With CoolTec off, the shaver provides up to 45 minutes of shaving. With CoolTec on, this is reduced to a maximum of only 15 minutes. (Recharging the shaver’s fully drained Lithium–Ion battery takes only one hour.)
Other Shavers Perform Better
As a shaver, the CoolTec is only a mid–range model. Comparable to Braun’s Series 3 models, it has a three–stage cutting system — two outer–edge blades beneath flexing foils plus the central trimmer — but it lacks a pivoting head that follows the contours of the face and neck. And like the Series 3, it has only a moderately powerful motor driving those blades.
This means the CoolTec will require more strokes to match the results of a better equipped shaver, such as Braun’s Series 5 and Series 7 models.
Although Braun’s Series 5 shaver models won’t chill the skin, for instance, their pivoting heads will shave closer in challenging contours of the face and neck. Meanwhile, Braun’s flagship Series 7 shaver models cut hair substantially faster and closer thanks to their pivoting heads and sonic technology (10,000 micro vibrations of the head per minute) that helps lift facial hair to prepare it for the blades. The quicker shaves afforded by both of these Series shavers afford less time for skin irritation to develop — offering a counterbalance to the benefit of the CoolTec technology.
Pricing And Availability
Lower temperatures also come at a higher price. With a manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) of $199.99, the CoolTec model CT4cc shaver that I tested costs $70 more than the comparable Braun Series 3 model 390cc–4 (MSRP $129.99), $30 more than Braun’s better Series 5 model 550cc–4 (MSRP $169.99), and slightly less than Braun’s lowest–priced Series 7 model 720S (MSRP $229.99).
The CoolTec arrived in stores in August. Retailers can be found at www.braun.com.