The Best Safety Razors For Sensitive Skin: What To Look For And Why
Sensitive skin is a condition that affects a large percentage of the population. Characterized by a heightened response to certain triggers, sensitive skin can be a real challenge to deal with. While the condition can affect anyone, it’s most common in people with fair skin.
In this article, I’ll take a look at what sensitive skin is, what causes it, and which razors are least likely to cause problems.
Wait. Just What Is “Sensitive Skin?”
Sensitive skin is a condition where the skin is more prone to reacting to the environment. It can be the result of genetics and lifestyle choices and it can be aggravated by external factors, such as harsh chemicals, exposure to certain metals, or the sun.
The term “sensitive skin” is often used to describe skin that is easily irritated. This can manifest as itching, burning, pain, redness and swelling after topical use of products. It’s important to know that not everyone experiences these symptoms and they can vary in intensity from person to person.
Unfortunately, there is no official test or diagnosis for “sensitive skin”–it’s generally based on a person’s self-reported symptoms.
Therefore, you may hear people use the adjective “sensitive” rather than the medical term “sensitive skin.” In any case, if you’re experiencing any unpleasant sensations after using a product on your skin, it’s best to consult a dermatologist for advice.
The face is more prone to having sensitive skin due to its thinner, more delicate skin. Additionally, the condition may be an ongoing one that worsens over time or gets worse with certain treatments.
While “sensitive skin” is largely an unofficial diagnosis, there are a number of different causes that create the symptoms that are generally described. Let’s dive a little more into it.
Sensitivities vs. Allergies vs. Intolerances
Sensitivities are neither intolerances nor allergies.
Intolerance usually applies to food, not grooming products, and involves the absence of an internal chemical that is necessary to digest or absorb a given food constituent. An example would be lactose intolerance.
Allergies involve a specific type of immune reaction. These reactions only occur after a second exposure to a given triggering chemical (or food). In the first exposure, the perceived-as-harmful substance (called an antigen) triggers the immune system to begin producing antigen-specific antibodies that will, upon later exposure, facilitate a cascade of immune processes, which usually result in symptoms. Sponsored Links
Allergic reactions occur rapidly after exposure to the trig, usually within an hour or so ( sometimes longer) though often immediately.
Sensitivity reactions can manifest more slowly in time windows ranging from immediately (for some localized skin reactions) to up to 72 hours (for more systemic reactions). Another key difference between allergies and sensitivities is that an allergic reaction may be triggered by a very small amount of the allergen (such as in people with peanut allergies, who may have a life-threatening reaction to consuming a non-peanut food that is merely processed in the same facility as peanuts).
Sensitivities are usually dosage dependent. The greater the exposure, the more likely there will be a sensitivity reaction and the stronger it will likely be. There is often also a reaction threshold in sensitivity reactions, below which there will be no symptoms.
For a more thorough understanding of the differences click/tap here to read Is Shaving Making You Sick? Sensitivities to Grooming Products
Causes Of Sensitive Skin
There are a number of conditions that can result in skin sensitivity. The most relevant to this discussion are:
Irritant Contact Dermatitis (ICD)
ICD is the most common cause of sensitive skin. It is the result of a reaction to a substance which is normally tolerated on the skin but which causes a reaction when applied to the skin.
The most common irritant contact dermatitis is contact dermatitis from detergents and soaps. Frequent washing of the skin can lead to dry skin and increased sensitivity to detergents.
Allergic Contact Dermatitis (ACD)
ACD is characterized by an acute inflammatory reaction to contact with a chemical, and is often preceded by a non-specific or vague skin reaction. The most common site of reaction is the face.
There are four different forms of ACD. One ACD is Physical Urticaria, characterized by wheals (an area of the skin which is temporarily raised, typically reddened, and usually accompanied by itching) that develop on the skin following physical (mechanical) irritation (like shaving!).
This is usually a reaction to something that the person had handled and then scratched. As the person scratches he or she will feel intense pricking, stinging, burning or tingling sensation. When the person stops scratching, the rash disappears and the skin is dry.
How Is Sensitive Skin Diagnosed?
A dermatologist usually diagnoses skin sensitivity by a clear history, noting the type of product that causes dermatitis, the time it takes for the reaction to develop, the symptoms on the skin and whether the person is sensitive to certain foods or drinks for example.
The dermatologist may also perform a patch test A patch test is the application of a substance to the skin and then a follow-up visit to see if there is a reaction. This is especially useful for people who have an allergy to something they are using or wearing.
OK But Back To Razors For Sensitive Skin
As you might guess from the preceding discussion, there are a lot of variables when it comes to the cause of “sensitive skin” from shaving. Are you sure the reaction is from your razor? It might be:
- Face washing soap
- Pre-shave oil or gel
- Shave cream or soap
Or some other product in your shave routine.
But let’s say you’ve eliminated those possibilities and it’s narrowed down to the razor. But what is it, specifically, about the razor? There’s:
- Razor handle/head material (plastic, Zamak/alloy, stainless steel, etc.). Razor metals less likely to cause a skin reaction include stainless steel and copper.
- Blade edge material (usually a form of stainless steel, though carbon steel is available)
- Blade edge coating (platinum, tungsten, chromium, various “non-stick” coatings)
- Lubrication strips or reservoirs
- The number of blades mounted in the head/cartridge and the angle they are set to
- Other design aspects of blade edge exposure to the skin.
Then there’s razor/shaving technique: you simply might be over-shaving the area.
Narrowing Things Down
From the razor/blade variables above, I think I can narrow down the characteristics of a razor/blade that may reduce the likelihood of getting a “sensitive skin” reaction:
- A razor material less likely to cause a reaction
- No lubrication ingredients
- Fewer blades
- Shallow blade angle (“mild” shave)
What Is The Best Safety Razor For Sensitive Skin For Men
Combining all the science, variables, and interactions above, here are some suggested safety razors specifically for “sensitive skin” (in no particular order):
[Note: Amazon, geni.us, OneBlade, PAA, and Supply links are Sharpologist affiliate.]
Oneblade Genesis Or Hybrid
Sharpologist has covered OneBlade extensively. Click/tap here for a detailed discussion.
Supply Single Edge V2 In Stainless Steel
Although the Supply Single Edge “Version 2” in stainless steel is no longer made, they may be available on the secondary market (look for one with the “mild” base plate). However their new “SE” model, while made with a Zinc alloy, is certainly worth a look, too.
Supply razors use a single “Injector” type blade.
This single-blade, double edge razor is well-designed and well-built but has a reputation as being very mild. You may want to use a high performance “double edge” blade for best results.
The Feather All Stainless is in its second generation now (that’s where the “D2” comes from). You may find a range of prices for the AS-D2 set. This is partly because there are slight variations in the “kit”–some include a custom stand or a special gift package for example. You can find the razor alone for less but be sure you’re comparing apples-to-apples when shopping.
The Rockwell 6S single blade, double edge safety razor is made from Stainless Steel. It features a set of three “flippable” base plates to provide six different levels of shave aggressiveness.
PAA Copper Ascension Twist
The Phoenix Artisan Accouterments Copper Ascension Twist is a single-blade, double edge safety razor that features copper materials, an adjustable blade setting, and a “self-lubricating” head design (click/tap here to learn more about “self lubricating” razors).
Edwin Jagger 3One6
The Edwin Jagger 3One6 single blade, double edge, stainless steel safety razor is a follow-on to Edwin Jagger’s enormously popular “DE86” line of safety razors.
Karve Christopher Bradley
The Karve “Christopher Bradley” single blade, double edge safety razor is available in a number of materials including stainless steel, copper, and brass. Similar to the Rockwell razor, it is available with several different base plates for a milder or more aggressive shave.
Finally, for something less expensive and widely available, consider the Gillette SkinGuard. While it does have a lubrication strip it is specifically designed for those with sensitive skin.
No discussion about razors for sensitive skin would be complete without mentioning blades. Many beginners think “a blade is a blade” and while blades may all look similar there can actually be fairly significant differences in the way a blade is made. Metallurgy (the metal or combination of metals used to make the blade), coatings, and grinding specifications (the blade’s “sharpness”) can all play a part in the razor blade production process.
Take the time to experiment with a number of different blade brands to find the one(s) that work best for the razor you’re using and your skin.
Some shaving vendors sell “sample packs” or “blade samplers” to make the process easier: you get a few blades of many different types. After you decide which one(s) work best you can then buy your favorites in bulk.
Shaving “efficiently”–that is, without over-shaving–can help deal with sensitive skin.
Shaving “against the grain” can cause irritation and razor burn, and can lead to ingrown hairs and razor bumps.
Think twice about shaving against the grain if you are a man-of-color, have very curly hair, are predisposed to ingrown hairs, or have sensitive skin.
In conclusion,the best safety razor for sensitive skin is the one that has fewer blades and a skin-friendly design. This is because the more blades there are, the more likely it is that your skin will get irritated. Being knowledgeable about blades and shaving technique will help, too!