If you have a nickel allergy — which may affect up to 16% of women, and 3% of men — finding a safe razor blade for shaving is just one of many day-to-day problems you might encounter. In fact, there are so many, that I recently published a new book, The Metal Allergy Guide (pictured right), to address the many facets of this common allergy — including jewellery, make-up, diet and other considerations.
But when it comes to razors, you’ll find that blades are generally made from stainless steel, which contain varying, though low proportions of nickel. While nickel-free grades of stainless steel exist, none would be useful in a razor, because without nickel, a durable sharp edge is impossible. Titanium-covered blades appear to be the only option.
When it comes to electric shavers — for both men and women — there are a few choices.
Wet Razors / Blades
Titanium coating helps blades stay sharper for longer, but continued use will wear them down, exposing the steel — and hence low-level nickel — underneath. Change blades regularly. Also: consider using a plain oil (such as argan oil) as an additional protective layer under your shaving foam or gel. Bear in mind that it’s possible to be sensitive to titanium too — see my article here — but this is quite rare.
These razor blades are made from stainless steel, but are titanium coated, which effectively creates a barrier between the steel and your skin. Preserve say that the level of nickel in the steel they use is usually too small to be detected, and nickel allergy sufferers have reported they can use them safely.
In the UK, Planet Organic stock the triple blade and replacement razors.
Wilkinson / Schick
Like Preserve, they produce a few titanium-covered razor blades, although I’ve been unable to find any reports of success, which may suggest the underlying nickel content is greater in these than in Preserve’s. On the plus side, these are far more widely available, and may be a better starting point to see whether you can tolerate them.
In the UK, the Quattro Titanium parallel four-blade razors come in standard, precision and sensitive. Check them out here.
In the US, Quattro Titanium options are available under the Schick brand. Click here to view.
Is Australia, try the Schick website here.
The only double-edged blades I’ve been able to find which are titanium-coated come from Asia.
These, by SuperMax, pictured right, and stocked by Razor Emporium in the US, might be worth a try.
They’re harder to order from the UK, but there are a few vendors on eBay.
You may need the razor to hold the blade. Most will be made from stainless steel, and may leach nickel. Standard Razors in the US, however, use nickel-free aircraft grade aluminium alloy and told me they have several satisfied nickel allergic customers. See their website here, or find their Standard Razor with Stand on Amazon.
Electric Razors / Shavers (for men)
Panasonic Single Blade Travel Shaver
Model ES3831 or ES3831K (right) describes itself as ‘hypoallergenic’ and ‘nickel free’. The foil is made from a tungsten alloy.
Wahl Rechargeable Foil Shaver (US / Canada only)
Model 7339 from Wahl comes with a titanium foil head, “designed to help shaver bumps and for sensitive skin or those with allergies”. Replacement foil heads are available separately too.
I’ve been told their rotary shavers are nickel-free, but their foil shavers are not. I am trying to establish with Remington whether or not this generalisation is true, and have not yet verified this. Meanwhile, the most promising appear to be their range of titanium shavers.
Electric Razors / Shavers (for women)
I found the following options for women on Amazon, and all describe themselves as “nickel-free, hypo-allergenic”, although NB I’ve not been able to find them on the respective brand websites to confirm this.
Happy Hours Ladies Wet / Dry Shaver (US only)
Aenmil Ladies Wet / Dry Shaver (US only)
There are a number of hypoallergenic options for women on Amazon too, where you will find some ‘smooth and silky’ shavers which appear to be nickel-allergy safe.
And finally ….
If you’re unsure of the nickel status of any existing shavers and razors you have that you would like to test — or indeed other metal-based products you use or come into contact with — you might try using a cotton bud with a few drops of a solution of dimethylglyoxime — which turns pink when rubbed onto a metallic surface containing nickel.
There are a few options: the Delasco Nickel Spot Test (US), Nickel Alert (US) and Squarix Nickel Test Sensitive (UK). Use with caution and only according to instructions, though, as the solution can discolour surfaces and damage other materials.