Cutting edge

As most men will testify, achieving a clean shave with an electric shaver is never easy. All too often, there is some residual stubble or skin irritation.

An electric shaver seems a perfect solution when dealing with the top lip or the point of the chin, but less so underneath the chin or on the cheeks. Eventually, shaving takes longer than with a bladed razor and many of us to revert to that traditional method (with all the cost and risks of laceration that entails) or simply grow a beard.

A common problem when using an electric shaver is that the blades are either not positioned close enough to the skin and leave the job half done, or are too close, causing redness and irritation. This is further complicated by the different areas which need to be shaved using a single device. The same device must be able to shave along the cheek, where skin is soft and also around and under the jaw bone where skin is tougher.


What is needed then, is an electric razor that can truly adjust to the user’s face, allowing it to shave equally close on softer areas as on more rigid, accessible areas. This could involve a highly complex set of springs able to adjust depending on the ‘terrain’ they’re on – or even a shaver with different ‘gears’ or settings depending on which part of your face you’re shaving. Whatever the solution, it needs to be affordable and have significant advantages over using an old-fashioned razor.

The idea we have in mind will be revealed in the August issue of Eureka! Until then, see what you can come up with. Submit your ideas by leaving a comment below or by emailing the editor:


The solution to July’s Coffee Time Challenge of how to provide an electric razor able to shave as well along the cheek, where skin is soft, as around and under the jaw bone where skin is tougher.

To address this problem, one of the world’s leading makers of electrical goods – Philips – has been experimenting with smart materials.

A smart material is one that can change its characteristics in response to environmental changes. For example, a smart material may increase or decrease in length when an electric potential is generated across it, or when it comes into contact with a particular chemical.

Until recently, shape-changing smart materials have been largely used in academic research projects and their use is often regarded as experimental. They can also be costly to apply, which has prevented their widespread use in domestic products. However, recently granted patent EP 3197649 B1 shows how a smart material can be used in a personal grooming device to adjust how close the blades are to the skin.

This patent was brought to our attention by patent attorneys Withers & Rogers.