Nickel Based Jewelry…
Has anyone out there ever experienced irritated skin after wearing certain jewelry? Ever since I was a little girl my ears would become sensitive to certain earrings that I would wear. As I got older and my family would buy me more expensive jewelry for special occasions, I realized that I could wear my finer jewelry without any issues…so as any teenager would do, I made sure to let my family know that I was allergic to cheap jewelry ;).
I later would find out that I had a metal allergy or “Allergic Contact Dermatitis” from an irritant called nickel. Although metal allergies can refer to a lot of different types of metal, most people share my allergy to nickel. Repeated or continued contact with nickel can weaken the body’s natural resistance in people who are susceptible to this allergy. Beware of jewelry containing nickel when getting a new piercing because when the ear is pierced, an earring stud is usually left in the ear to hold the hole open until the skin around it heals. Since nickel is known to dissolve with exposure to moisture, and since the piercing is essentially an open wound until the skin heals, the nickel salts are able to enter the bloodstream and break down the body’s natural resistance. Ear piercing may be why this allergy is much more common in women than men.
In the case of pierced ears, symptoms of nickel allergy usually include the earlobe to swell around the piercing, itching and turning red. Although piercings often become infected due to other reasons, consistent symptoms and infections that occur after wearing the same earrings may indicate this metal allergy.
For people with this metal allergy, it is possible to still wear jewelry (even cheap jewelry) but a little research and ‘trial and error’ is necessary. Cheap jewelry almost always contains nickel so beware and look for a label on the jewelry that states ‘nickel free’. The companies who have undergone and passed nickel and lead testing are proud to put, ‘hypoallergenic’, ‘nickel-free’, and ‘lead-free’ into the label. However, if the label simply states that it is ‘hypoallergenic’ does not guarantee that it is nickel free but it does mean that it is far less likely to cause your skin any issues. In some places even jewelry that is marketed as gold or silver may contain nickel, as this metal is often added to gold and silver to harden them. Sterling silver contains at least 8% of nickel. Always ask.
Fortunately for me, this problem has only caused me issues for my ear lobes but for many people it can be much more extreme. In some, more severe cases, the nickel in some buttons on jeans, certain foods, drinks, makeup, certain musical instruments, dental instruments and even the equipment used on braces can cause an allergic reaction. There are ways around having to come in to contact with metal completely these days. For example, if you have braces ask your orthodontist to use nickel free appliances and dental instruments when working in your mouth.
There is no medication that can cure a metal allergy, but precautions can be taken to minimize or prevent the discomfort. Any time you notice a rash developing, the cause must be removed as soon as possible and cleaned with alcohol. Emollient creams offer another a form of treatment, but all they can do is relieve the itching of the rash, not prevent it. Also, plastic covers can be purchased for earring studs to enable someone to wear cheaper earrings. There is also a common approach of painting earring studs or necklace chains with clear nail polish but this is not advised, as sweat and moisture will quickly dissolve the polish and soon the nickel.
For me, I would rather not put something in or on my body that causes it to become irritated. So, I have tried a number of brands and stores and I have found what works for me, meanwhile still looking fabulous! But trust me sometimes it is still hit or miss.
Here are some online options and tips for affordable, yet beautiful nickel-free jewelry:
*Macy’s Earrings: Whenever I am looking for cheaper jewelry I go to Macy’s and go nuts because there are usually 25 different sets I can’t live without. I don’t buy hypoallergenic because 95% of the time I don’t have a problem with any brands at Macy’s EXCEPT GIVINCHY. I bought a handful of this brand one day and every single pair bothers me! The brand at Macy’s that I can always count on is Eliot Danori! Beautiful. ‘cheaper’ jewelry that is gorgeous and doesn’t irritate my ears at all!
Claire’s also has a surprising number of inexpensive nickel-free earrings. They are usually labeled and kept on a separate rack somewhere in the store.