What Earrings are Hypoallergenic? Buying Tips for Sensitive Ears

Best earring material for sensitive ears

Ear sensitivity can be the worst nightmare for fashionistas who like sporting trendy jewelry every day. Your skin might be allergic to the jewelry metal which can cause your earlobes to turn red and splotchy. However, hypoallergenic metals can act as your nirvana in such a scenario. Since jewelry is made from a variety of metals, some yield better results in dealing with sensitive skin than others. Today we are going to discuss hypoallergenic metals so that you can choose the best pairs for your sensitive ears.

What is hypoallergenic jewelry?

Nickel allergy is the most common type of allergic reaction experienced by people. A variety of metals are used in jewelry for delivering additional strength. Nickel is the most common addition that reinforces softer metals such as gold or silver. However, nickel is infamous for triggering an allergic reaction among 15% of its wearers. Your jewelry can be branded as hypoallergenic if it doesn’t contain enough nickel to trigger a skin reaction or contains no nickel at all. There are no specific criteria to determine what makes jewelry hypoallergic as something that comes off as allergic to you might not cause any reaction when worn by your friend. It depends on a person’s type of allergy and the severity of the allergy. Knowing which types of metals can increase the likeliness of an allergic reaction and the ones that are deemed to be safest for your skin can help keep you safe as you try out different earrings.

What is nickel allergy?

If you have a nickel allergy, then your skin might develop dry patches, or turn red and tender on coming in contact with nickel. People mostly develop dermatitis from nickel at their earlobes courtesy of the soft and thin skin. Nickel allergy can be seen in 2% of males and 15% of females. In case of higher sensitivity, your skin can react by coming in contact with the nickel in door knobs, keys, cloth buttons, or even a belt buckle. Prolonged exposure can increase your sensitivity and make your allergic to nickel later in life.

Should you shop for nickel-free jewelry?

If your skin is sensitive to this metal, then it’s important to shop for nickel-free jewelry. Having a small percentage of nickel in your jewelry is considered safe. You should refrain from wearing jewelry with high nickel content if you have a nickel allergy. It is advisable to visit a dermatologist to determine whether your allergy is caused by nickel or any other metal if the jewelry is triggering a skin reaction. Often jewelry is described as “nickel-free” but this refers to no nickel in the metal plating. Thus, once the plating wears off, the jewelry won’t be nickel-free anymore.

Can other metals cause allergies?

While other metals can also trigger reactions, they aren’t as common as nickel. Chromium and cobalt are metals used in jewelry making that have been linked with a rare allergy. But chances are higher that you might come in contact with them from a material like cement at a job site rather than jewelry.

What metals are hypoallergenic?

  • Rhodium is one of the best hypoallergenic metals and rhodium jewelry has a lustrous finish that is devoid of any nickel. Though you can get any metal with rhodium plating, nickel-free sterling silver is the best option. Irrespective of the base metal, rhodium plating delivers excellent protection against nickel sensitivity. Over time, the rhodium plating will wear out and require replacement. Thus, it becomes imperative to ensure that the base metal is also hypoallergenic.
  • Sterling silver is a silver alloy containing other metals which impart greater strength than pure silver. While some sterling silver is nickel-free, others aren’t. Often nickel constitutes a small part of sterling silver but this percentage isn’t a cause of concern for most people. The copper content in genuine silver will cause it to tarnish. However, you can prevent the same with regular wear and cleaning. 925 is an authentication mark describing the percentage of silver content. Inferior grade silver jewelry with a smaller percentage will have a higher nickel content.
  • Despite being hypoallergenic, platinum is one of the priciest jewelry options on our list. Nickel doesn’t cut when platinum is combined with other metals for jewelry making. A platinum alloy is created with metals like iridium, ruthenium, and cobalt, all of which are hypoallergenic.
  • Though stainless steel isn’t hypoallergenic, it is an excellent option if you have very mild nickel sensitivity or don’t have a nickel allergy. The best thing about stainless steel is that it is resistant to heat and corrosion and also retains its shine.
  • 24k gold is hypoallergenic but isn’t hard enough for jewelry which is why other metals are added to it for increasing its durability. 14k and 18k are common alloys although 18k has a higher percentage of pure gold content compared to 14k. Since 14k gold contains a small amount of nickel, you can wear it without experiencing any reaction. However, if you develop skin irritation, then you can try either 18k, 24k, or other hypoallergenic options such as rose gold. It is imperative to note here that rose gold is a combination of pure gold and copper with neither metal being a trigger of allergic reaction.
  • Vermeil is sterling silver with an 18k gold plating. Since gold contains some nickel, it isn’t entirely hypoallergenic. However, it is an excellent option for sensitive skin.
  • Titanium has aluminum and vanadium alloys making it hypoallergenic. Since titanium is corrosion resistant, it can be worn in the pool or ocean. Titanium is very soft in its pure form which is why it is mixed with other metals to enhance its durability and strength. Being lighter weight and less expensive than gold or silver, it is a preferred choice of people.
  • Copper is hypoallergenic provided it isn’t reinforced with nickel. It’s rare to hear about copper allergies. You can also try out brass which is a combination of zinc and copper that is hypoallergenic. However, neither brass nor copper is of high quality, and this sacrifices their longevity. Your skin might turn green on coming in contact with copper. This isn’t an allergic reaction but the direct effect of oxidation which happens when the metal comes in contact with chemicals or sweat.
  • White gold is made from yellow gold alloyed with white metals like silver, nickel, or palladium which imparts a white color. You can opt for the palladium alloy as this won’t trigger any skin problems.

What to do if you are allergic to earrings or other jewelry?

  • Costume jewelry has high nickel content. If you have a nickel allergy, then it’s advisable not to wear cheap costume jewelry. Rather you should invest in pieces that can withstand the test of time while being kind to your skin.
  • The first step in determining whether or not you have a nickel allergy is visiting a dermatologist.
  • Purge your nickel jewelry collection as if your skin is sensitive to this metal, wearing jewelry containing nickel is bound to create a negative experience.
  • Plastic can serve as an affordable option making it the ideal choice for people having sensitive skin. However, plastic earrings tend to have a cheap look and are limited in designs.

How to wear earrings without irritation?

  • Coat the earring posts with two to three layers of clear nail polish. This will act as a buffer between the metal and your ears without affecting how your earrings will look. Don’t forget to reapply the coat every week as the nail polish will wear off over time.
  • Alternatively, you can apply Vaseline to the metal as this trick works perfectly for most people. Just rub some petroleum jelly on the metal parts of the jewelry which come in contact with your skin. Vaseline acts as a protective barrier just like nail polish. However, you will have to reapply Vaseline every few hours to keep the effect functional.

Contrary to popular belief, hypoallergenic jewelry isn’t always more expensive. However, they have lower nickel content to reduce the chances of a reaction. Thus, your skin might react to the heavy nickel content in costume jewelry yet not cause any reaction to the small percentage of nickel present in 14k gold jewelry. Wearing jewelry can be a fun way to complement your look. But wearing some types of jewelry can be a less than pleasant experience for some people. It might be a necklace causing rashes on your neck or a pair of earrings making your earlobes itch. The reaction might occur immediately after contact or gradually after repeated exposure. Irrespective of how it happens, metal allergy can be the ultimate culprit.

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Cheryl Carter

After completing her master's degree, Cheryl Carter started her career as a content writer. She has completed 8 glorious years in content writing. She believes that everyone needs a wee bit of fashion knowledge in their life. Hence, she joins Looksgud to share the latest fashion and style tips to look trendy and stylish in every sense.