Sensitive Ears? Have No Fear: How to Find The Best Metals For Sensitive Skin

By Ellen Ricks

Jewelry is often a fun way to express your style and personality, whether it’s the perfect accessory for your outfit or a reminder of something (or someone) special in your life. However, there’s nothing fun about slipping on a bracelet and having it create a green circle around your skin, or putting in earrings just to have you itch all day. Ouch!

Unfortunately, many stores and online sellers use nickel, chromates, and cobalt to make jewelry, which often causes skin irritation. These metals are often used because they are cheaper and easily fuse with other metals.

You don’t have to live a jewelry-free life if you have sensitive skin. There are plenty of jewelry companies, like Cords Club, that create pieces with hypoallergenic and skin safe metals for everyone to wear. If you are someone with sensitive skin, or looking for a better quality of metal, read on!

Disclaimer: Before we get started, it’s important to remember that all skin allergies are different. If you have a severe metal allergy, it’s important to talk with your doctor and dermatologist to see what metals will work best for you before trying anything yourself.

What are Hypoallergenic Metals?

Hypoallergenic materials (usually cosmetics or textiles) are less likely to cause an allergic reaction in people. When talking about hypoallergenic metals, most are talking about metals that are nickel free, as 15% of the population has a skin relation to the metal. You may be wondering to yourself: if so many people are allergic to nickel, why is it in our jewelry? Well, most jewelry made today is created by alloys, a mixture of different metals created to strengthen jewelry for longer wear. When working with softer metals like gold or silver, nickel is used as a reinforcement to keep the jewelry safe and to withstand standard wear and tear.

The term “hypoallergenic metals” is sort of a buzzword that gets thrown around the jewelry world, as there is no set definition of what a hypoallergenic metal is. Hypoallergenic jewelry may have a small amount of nickel in them, and if you have a severe nickel allergy, this won’t do you much good. You may even have an allergy to a different type of metal that isn’t covered by the standard hypoallergenic label. If you have a certain skin sensitivity and aren’t sure if you can wear certain pieces, consider reaching out to the jeweler. They will be able to tell you what metals are used to help you make a more informed decision before purchasing.

Types of Metals for Sensitive Skin

When looking for metals, it’s important to look for those that are nickel-free or have a small amount of nickel since  it is the most common culprit for allergies. Let’s look at a few metal types that are considered the best for sensitive skin.

  • Stainless Steel: Stainless steel is a popular metal type since it’s one of the most durable metals you can get. It’s also tarnish and rust proof, making it easy to maintain, and can stay nice for a long time. Stainless steel, especially surgical-grade stainless steel, is great for sensitive skin, as very few people have had allergic reactions to it. It’s important to pay close attention when buying stainless steel. If you have a severe nickel allergy, stainless steel can contain a small amount of nickel if not properly sourced. However, if you have a mild nickel allergy or are not allergic to nickel, stainless steel is a great option.
  • Implant Grade Titanium: Implant-grade titanium is one of the safest options for people with common skin allergies, since it is hypoallergenic made without any nickel. Because only 1% of the population is allergic to titanium, it’s often used in surgeries and implanted in the body. It’s also tarnish-resistant and can be worn while swimming in a pool or ocean. Titanium is a lightweight metal that is still highly durable. If you are getting your ears pierced or trying earrings for the first time, consider starting with titanium.
  • Rhodium: Rhodium is a glossy hypoallergenic metal that has no nickel, making it ideal for sensitive skin. Rhodium jewelry is often sterling silver that is plated in rhodium. Make sure the metal under the rhodium plate is nickel-free for the safest option, as the plating can wear out over time.
  • Platinum: If you’re looking to truly invest in your jewelry, consider splurging on platinum jewelry that is hypoallergenic but on the pricey side because of how dense it is. In fact, platinum is usually more expensive than gold. However, it does have a greater wear resistance and durability, making it last a lifetime.

Is Hypoallergenic Jewelry More Expensive?

A common concern when shopping for skin safe jewelry is that you are going to be paying a lot more money. The answer is: it depends! If your skin is sensitive to metals with a high nickel content then you should probably stay away from the costume jewelry that you see in department stores. It’s true that high-quality metals are more likely to have a lower nickel content and high-quality jewelry costs a little more to make and produce. However, you don’t have to break the bank to get a good pair of earrings. It’s important to shop around and look for hypoallergenic products at a price point that works for you. Keep in mind that expensive jewelry doesn’t automatically mean that it is hypoallergenic. It’s still important to read the labels for metal content to make sure you’re getting a product that’s right for you.

Final Thoughts

If you love jewelry but hate how it can make you break out in a rash, look into metals that are safe for your skin. It’s important to read labels clearly and learn about what metals give you these kinds of reactions before making your purchases. When you know what metals are safe for your skin, you can shop with confidence as you discover your signature look. Remember, jewelry should make you look good and feel good. Good luck!

Ellen Ricks is a freelance fashion writer working in New York. When she’s not writing, she’s online window shopping and trying new hobbies.

You can find her online here:

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