The Torah states in Leviticus 19:27: "Do not cut the hair on the corners of your head; Do not cut the corners of your beard."
We discussed the first half of this verse here.
The Talmud teaches us the latter half of this verse prohibits using a razor to remove hair from five points on the face. Due to the difficulty of shaving around the five points, Jewish men commonly wore beards for many hundreds of years. With the introduction of depilatory powders, Jews who did not apply razors to their faces now had the possibility to be clean shaven, or to sport a goatee or moustache. The electric shaver has made the clean-shaven look accepted in non-Hassidic circles (Hassidim do not shave) as the shaver acts like scissors when the razor in the shaver cuts against the shaver's guard (metal against metal) instead of against the skin.
Trimming the facial hair with scissors was always permissible but not very aesthetically pleasing since it left an unseemly stubble, until the newly designed scissors of the electric shaver were invented.
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