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Nickel Allergies: Body and Ear Piercing

By HERWriter
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Many of us with pierced ears have experienced redness, irritation and tenderness after wearing inexpensive earrings. Nickel is a common component in jewelry and is likely responsible for the allergic reaction experienced. Nickel is the most common skin allergen that causes allergic contact dermatitis (ACD).

Historically, women have had a greater incidence of nickel allergies than men due to wearing more jewelry. Approximately 14 to 20 percent of women are allergic to nickel, though one study showed that over 30 percent of women under the age of 18 patch tested positive for nickel sensitivity. In recent years, more frequent ear piercing by men and body piercing by both men and women are thought to contribute to an increase in the incidence of nickel allergies due to more exposure in multiple body sites.

Unfortunately, once a person develops a nickel allergy and is sensitized, then a reaction can occur more easily and possibly develop during other unanticipated times.

Nickel exists in a variety of surprising sources, such as belt buckles, coins, paper clips and even door knobs, but usually contact can be avoided even if one is forced to wear gloves. Health problems, however, have potential to arise because in medical applications, nickel can be present in orthopedic joint replacements, dental appliances such as braces or crowns, prosthetic heart valves and pacemakers. I read an article where a little boy fell asleep with his hand on a bed frame that had nickel in it and woke up in the morning with a painful rash on his palm.

If you know you already have a nickel allergy or sensitivity, take precautions to reduce your exposure:

1. If having ear or body piercings performed, make sure nickel-free stainless steel is used or 18 karat gold (14 karat can still have nickel in it) and observe the areas closely for infection.

2. If you already know you have a nickel allergy, wear only jewelry that is nickel free. Simply whispers at www.simplywhispers.com are a source of nickel-free jewelry.

3. If you find that you are having more frequent reactions, you can buy an AllerTest Ni Nickel Detection Kit from either at Amazon or dermadoctor.com to test suspect metal in the items you come in contact with. You can also try to coat the nickel object with clear nail polish or, the mother in the above article backed her son’s buttons and buckles with duct tape to avoid skin contact.

Nickel allergies will not reverse themselves but hopefully with care, you can avoid unnecessary exposure and prevent frequent outbreaks.


Add a Comment9 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

This article has some great info on metal allergies as they relate to piercing.


January 7, 2015 - 6:09am
EmpowHER Guest

I have an online handmade jewelry shop especially people who have nickel allergies. I use mostly Niobium or Argentium Sterling Silver - and only metals guaranteed to be nickel free. I do not use Surgical Stainless Steel, as it does contain up to 12% nickel.

I started my business because it was so hard to sort out information about allergies - and I found the information was useless if I couldn't get jewelry that didn't give me a rash. I've been in business for over a year now, and have shops at Zibbet and at ArtFire. I also have loads of allergy information there. Check it out!

Donna Jo Wallace

August 26, 2011 - 6:17am
EmpowHER Guest

I think there are many many hypoallergic jewelry websites, naming a few are those selling mainly stainless steel, titanium, tungsten carbide and the latest and trendy material cobalt chrome.
(Links removed by EmpowHER moderator.)

December 6, 2010 - 7:02am

Thanks for it from my side too . I am quite impressed dear thanks for such a nice share .
appreciate you .

December 19, 2009 - 11:12am
EmpowHER Guest

Diane P:
Could I recommend a product to help your family? Its called Nickel Solution, by athena allergy. I dont have any relationship with them other than trying out and loving their product. I was having a horrible reaction to my belt buckle until I applied NS to it. No more rash. Its kinda like nail polish, but engineered to be applied to metal. Hope it helps

October 22, 2009 - 7:33am
(reply to Anonymous)

Anon, thank you so much! I appreciate this and I will pass it along to my sister. She'll be so grateful if it works. Thanks again.

October 22, 2009 - 10:20am

My sister's girls are all allergic to nickel. And they found out early on, when they tried to wear necklaces or pierced ears. They long ago learned what to avoid, and they barely even thought about it anymore.

However, her son kept having an itchy rash on his stomach, near his waist, and it was making him miserable. My sister changed laundry soap. She changed his bath soap. She changed his sheets. She tried a dozen things, but she couldn't figure out what was going on until she realized that it didn't happen when he wore his shirt tucked in. He is allergic too, and was reacting to the metal in the backside of the snaps at the waistband on his jeans or shorts.

They are trying different things to avoid this, such as painting clear nail polish over the metal. But you are right in telling people to suspect metal allergies early on. It seems more ubiquitous than ever.

October 15, 2009 - 8:23am
EmpowHER Guest

simplewisper is good for gold and silver. But I cant wear either, I break out when I wear those too. I can only wear titanium, 316L stainless (surgical grade) etc. I know there are a lot of places that sell nickel free jewelry, but I can only speak from personal experience. www.steelyourstyle.com has been great to work with, plus I think the website is easier to navigate. they have rings and necklaces which I wear the most, but they even had nickel free necklaces for my cross pendant.

October 13, 2009 - 2:01pm
EmpowHER Guest

This article contains great information. There are some other inert materials that are also safe for ear and body piercing. To learn more about them and about all aspects of body piercing read The Piercing Bible--The Definitive Guide to Safe Body Piercings (Random House press) by Elayne Angel. http://piercingbible.com/main.html

July 14, 2009 - 10:17am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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