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Scanning electron microscopic images of the rotary shaving head of a Philishave (Philips, Eindhoven, the Netherlands) (A) and an old Braun (Global Gillette, Rijswijk, the Netherlands) shaving screen (B).

Scanning electron microscopic images of the rotary shaving head of a Philishave (Philips, Eindhoven, the Netherlands) (A) and an old Braun (Global Gillette, Rijswijk, the Netherlands) shaving screen (B).

Table. Component Composition and Metal Findings of Evaluated Shavers*
Component Composition and Metal Findings of Evaluated Shavers*
Research Letter
October 2006

Electrical Shavers as a Possible Risk Factor for Metal Exposure

Arch Dermatol. 2006;142(10):1361-1362. doi:10.1001/archderm.142.10.1361

In recent decades, the number of materials used in medicine and dentistry has increased enormously. As a consequence, the number of health effects due to implant materials has increased as well. For that reason, the Academic Center for Dentistry Amsterdam (ACTA) founded in 2003 a referral clinic for patients suspected of having adverse reactions to dental restorative materials. To evaluate possible adverse health effects of metal exposure from dental restorative materials and other medical devices, it is essential to investigate other sources of possible exposure. Besides the well-known sources such as jewelry and coins, a relatively unknown source of daily exposure is contact with electric shaving devices. Such devices have rotary shaving heads or shaving foils, which can be made of metals with high allergenic potency. Moreover, they are frequently coated with precious metals.


A nickel spot test (dimethylglyoxine; van der Bend, Brielle, the Netherlands) was performed on the rotating shaving head of a Philishave electric razor (Philips, Eindhoven, the Netherlands) (Figure, A), on the shaving foil of a Ladyshave (Philips), and on an old and a new shaving foil of a Braun electric shaving device (Global Gillette, Rijswijk, the Netherlands) (Figure B). To reveal the alloy composition of the shaving heads in depth, an energy-dispersive x-ray analysis was carried out under a scanning electron microscope (XL20; Philips).

To show whether metal particles originated from wear of the moving parts of the shaving head, a 2-sided carbon conductive adhesive tape (Agar Scientific Ltd, Stansted, England) was pressed to the devices' shaving heads, and then the device was turned on for 5 seconds. The tape was screened for the presence of metal particles by scanning electron microscope and energy-dispersive x-ray analysis.


The results are listed in the Table. While the Philishave shaving heads were found to be made from an iron-chromium alloy, the shaving screen of the Philips Ladyshave was composed of nearly pure, uncoated nickel. The new Braun shaving screen was composed of pure nickel, while the old Braun shaving screen was pure nickel coated with a thin layer of palladium and platinum.

Due to the wearing action of the cutter against the shaving foil during use, many particles were produced by both the shaving head and the cutters. Many pure nickel particles were found on the new Braun and Ladyshave (average size, approximately 1 μm), while the particles originating from the cutter blocks were much larger.


Skin contact with a nickel-containing shaving head may result in 2 types of metal exposure: exposure to dissolved metals and exposure to wear particles. The nickel spot test demonstrated a clinically relevant amount of free nickel release from contact with nickel-containing shaving screens, even when the screens were coated with a precious metal layer. The scanning electron microscope revealed the production of many small nickel particles during function of the shaver. The small pure nickel particles were freshly cut and therefore not yet oxidized, making them highly reactive. It may be expected that they would directly dissolve in the sweat of the shaved skin and enter the body. As a consequence, the person using the electrical shaving devices that contain nickel experiences chronic exposure to small metal particles containing nickel and possibly chromium (and palladium and platinum if applicable), which represents, in sensitized persons, a daily attack on the immune system. With this publication, we want to make readers aware of this fact. In addition, we have incorporated a question on the use of shaving devices in our standard allergic anamnesis form and have found that this might yield valuable information for assessing a possible sensitization to nickel, chromium, palladium, or platinum.

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Article Information

Correspondence: Dr Feilzer, Department of Dental Materials Science, Academic Center for Dentistry Amsterdam, Louwesweg 1, 1066 EA Amsterdam, the Netherlands (a.feilzer@acta.nl).

Financial Disclosure: None reported.