Understanding Nickel Jewelry Skin Reactions

Jewelry has always and will always be an object of allure and self definition. Whether you are a silver person, antique or all gold person, the jewelry pieces you wear help solidify your look, build connections and relationships with people you come across. Sadly, not everyone gets the chance to adorn themselves in jewelry because 1. they are not generally jewelry people (which is okay) or 2. they have experienced skin reactions from jewelry causing them to stay away from jewelry completely. Today, I am going to talk about point 2 because it is a really common problem for some people who want to wear jewelry but can’t for fear of a nasty reaction.

First what is Nickel?
Nickel is a silvery-white lustrous metal with a slight golden tinge and is commonly used with other metals to produce stainless and heat-resisting steels. It is also used in other common everyday items like coins, zippers, belt buckles etc. Due to its hardness it is also used in inexpensive costume jewelry to obtain a bright finish. In precious metal jewelry, nickel along with other metals such as zinc, manganese, and palladium are added to gold in varying amounts to alter the base color of gold to produce white gold. In addition to being a whitening agent for white gold, nickel also increases the durability and strength of the piece.

Causes of Nickel skin reaction
When you wear jewelry having nickel in them, e.g. earrings, as the salt in sweat from your skin comes in contact with the jewelry, it corrodes the top coating on it causing exposing the nickel to your skin. This then sends signals to your immune system, giving them the impression something really harmful is attacking your body. In your body’s defense your immune system tries to protect you from it by building defense against nickel.

Every one reacts differently depending upon tolerance and susceptibility but the common signs to look out for are:

  • earrings make your earlobes itch or your necklace leaves a rash around your neck, or rings leave a bluish tint/patch
  • you’ll usually see symptoms 6 to 48 hours after you’re exposed. They include itching, redness, rash, dry patches, and swelling of the skin, sometimes followed by blisters. The blisters may break, leaving crusts and scales.
  • if left untreated, your skin may become dark, leathery, and cracked. Usually, the rash is only on the part of your skin in direct contact with the nickel. In serious cases, the rash may spread. Sweating may make it worse.

How Do I know If I’m Allergic to Nickel!?
The reaction from nickel usually happens to people with very sensitive skin. There are people who could wear the same piece of jewelry but never have an issue so if you have never experienced any of the symptoms above, you may not have to worry about this but if you want to still know try these steps:

  • To know if you are allergic, you can visit a doctor to do a patch test
  • Try wearing your new jewelry for up to 48hrs to see if your skin reacts to the jewelry
  • You can test it yourself using a nickel spot test, which safely tests your jewelry and other suspected metallic items for the presence of nickel. Please visit your dermatologist for suggestions on which test kit to buy.

Avoiding A Nickel Skin Reaction
Unfortunately, you cannot tell if you will react to a piece of jewelry by just looking at it but before you give up on wearing jewelry or buying that gorgeous piece you saw online or on display at the mall, consider these options:

  • If a good piece of jewelry that you wear daily, such as a wedding ring or your favorite stud causes a reaction, ask a jeweler about having it plated in a less allergic metal, such as platinum.
  • You could also coat your jewelry in clear nail polish to create a barrier between your skin and the jewelry
  • Substitute cheap or costume jewelry for surgical-grade stainless steel or either 14-, 18- or 24-karat yellow gold (white gold may contain nickel). Other nickel-free metals include pure sterling silver, copper, platinum, and titanium. Polycarbonate plastic is okay.
  • If you must wear earrings that contain nickel, add plastic covers made specifically for earring studs.
  • Keep your skin dry where your skin touches the metal.
  • Look out for labels such as “nickel free”, “hypo-allergenic”
  • Take your jewelry off when you do not need to be wearing it.
  • Don’t wear jewelry do the gym
  • Use jewelry coat like Jewelry Shield (buy on Amazon.com)

jewelry shield

All OYINDOUBARA pieces use nickel free materials unless otherwise stated. I hope this post has helped you understand the cause of skin reactions from nickel jewelry and how to protect yourself from it.

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Add yours →

  1. this is such useful information! thanks for sharing, great post!
    xx Vera & Rony

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