Are you Allergic to the Nickel in Your Accessories?
If you have problems with a skin rash, redness, swelling, itching or burning in areas where you are wearing jewelry, you may have a nickel allergy. Nickel is commonly used in most jewelry, since it’s cheap and strong, but around 15% of the population is allergic to nickel. If you’ve recently gotten your ears or body pierced and are experiencing allergic symptoms, you may have become sensitized to the metal your jewelry contains. White gold and other gold that is less that 14 carats can bring on a reaction, since white gold is made with nickel and other forms of gold contain some amount of nickel as a hardening agent. Sterling silver is plated with nickel, which stays shiny and bright when silver might tarnish, and so is frequently used in silver jewelry.
Causes and Symptoms of Nickel Allergies
If you’re wondering about the cause of nickel allergies, keep on wondering. Some people never develop sensitivity, but those who do may find symptoms appearing up to ten days after their exposure to the allergen. After you’ve experienced your first reaction, you will have become sensitized to the nickel and will react to it in 24-48 hours forever after. If you have an especially ferocious reaction, you may find yourself at the dermatologist: some doctors prescribe cortisone cream to alleviate skin related allergy symptoms. But once you’ve determined that it’s the nickel that’s causing problems, it’s better not to get prescription creams: they have side effects. Just stop wearing the offending jewelry.
Getting a Rash From Your Jewelry?
Many people find that certain jewelry leaves them with a red, itchy rash. This is typically due to a reaction to the nickel that is used as a hardener for other metals. With the popularity of piercings and costume jewelry, this can be a huge problem for some. Careful consideration of the materials and metals that are used in your jewelry can often avoid the problem entirely. Better metals typically cause far fewer reactions. Unfortunately, not everyone can afford pure gold for their “ornaments!” Sterling silver jewelry is one type of jewelry that is affordable, beautiful, and nickel-free. Sterling silver will not cause you to have that nickel reaction or rash, allowing you to wear the jewelry longer or more often. While some people complain that silver will tarnish, a quality piece of jewelry will require only occasional polishing to stay beautiful and shiny!
How to avoid nickel allergic reactions
What to do? There aren’t any vaccinations: your best bet is to avoid nickel. If you have a recent piercing, making sure to use only stainless steel posts, and once the symptoms are gone, pay strict attention to the kind of jewelry you’re buying. Replace your jewelry with pieces guaranteed to be nickel free; remember, you can suffer allergy symptoms from rings, necklaces, bracelets, earrings, belts or body jewelry. 18 carat gold should be all right; platinum is also known as hypoallergenic. Nickel free or alloy free white gold is made with palladium, a type of platinum, which costs more that the white gold made with nickel.
Nickel-free jewelry does exist for allergy sufferers
The down side of having a nickel allergy is that nickel free jewelry often costs more, making you more difficult to shop for. If you usually shop in fine jewelry stores, you probably won’t have a problem, but if like many of us, you buy your earrings in drugstores or kiosks, you have to pay special attention to make sure you get items labeled as hypoallergenic or nickel free. Stainless steel earrings and other piercing items are available in a wide range of styles, and they’re inexpensive.
If you have a piece of jewelry that causes you allergy problems but you can’t bear to part with it, you can try coating the whole piece in a couple of coats clear fingernail polish. Some people find that the polish prevents contact to the extent that they don’t suffer the allergy: others have to give up the jewelry or endure swelling, itching and burning—all of which make wearing jewelry somewhat pointless, since your skin will look so awful that people won’t be able to truly admire the sexy new studs in your ears, lips, belly or tongue.