Jewelry Allergy

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Mild Reactions to Jewelry

The mildest skin reaction to jewelry is a greenish stain on the skin. As it turns out, this has nothing to do with allergies or even skin sensitivities. “It is the oxidation process of jewelry, other than gold, that causes skin to turn green,” says David Herschthal, MD, a Fort Lauderdale dermatologist. “Fine jewelry, such as 18-karat gold, oxidizes far less, so the discoloring usually does not occur with those pieces.” Sweating, Herschthal adds, exacerbates the problem because salt contained in perspiration slightly corrodes the metal. “So if you really love that copper necklace,” he says, “do not wear it to the gym!”

Nickel Allergy

More severe skin reactions to jewelry are usually caused by nickel contained in the metal. A nickel allergy can occur at any age. It typically manifests 12-48 hours after first contact. The reaction may appear as an itchy, red rash with watery blisters. The affected area is usually restricted to the site of contact, although, it can sometimes be found on other parts of the body. Once a nickel allergy has developed, you will likely have this same reaction every time the metal touches your skin.

What is Nickel? And Where Is It?

Nickel is a silvery-white metal found in nature. It is usually mixed with other metals to produce alloys. For example, nickel-iron, which is used to manufacture stainless steel, is the most common nickel alloy. Other nickel alloys are used to make a range of things, such as:

  • Clothing items like bra fasteners, zippers, snaps, buttons, costume jewelry
  • Everyday items like coins, utensils, pens, paper clips, tools, keys

One way to sleuth out a nickel allergy is to figure out if you have reactions to these other items, as well. If you do, you can use substitutes made of plastic, coated or painted metal, or some other material.

What about your jewelry? Wonder whether your favorite opal ring contains nickel? 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. You can buy one of these kits online.

You Can Still Wear Jewelry

Even if you have had reactions, there is good news. There are ways to treat your jewelry so that you can wear it without adverse effects:

  • Stick to the good stuff .—Insist that all your jewelry be either sterling silver or at least 14-karat gold. That is the most effective remedy, albeit an expensive one.
  • Try stainless steel .—Try wearing stainless steel or plastic backs on your earrings, and purchase earrings that have stainless steel posts, as well. Although stainless steel contains nickel, it is bound so tightly that it does not leach out. If you think you are sensitive to metals and want to get your ears pierced, Dr. Robert A. Norman of Tampa, Florida suggests getting pierced with a stainless steel needle and using stud earrings that are nickel-free.
  • Try hypo-allergenic .—Some jewelry companies carry specially treated, “hypo-allergenic” jewelry. This jewelry causes fewer reactions in people with mild metal sensitivities.
  • Try clear nail polish .—Dr. Saida Baxt suggests painting jewelry with clear nail polish, so that the skin is never in contact with the offending metal. If that does not work, just put the jewelry away and save it as an heirloom.

About the Author: Mary Mihaly writes online articles for CVS Pharmacy

    Related Post: Nickel Allergy.To learn more about how to make your home a allergy-free haven, please sign up for our sponsor’s Free 10-Part Email Mini-Course on this page or click here to read more.

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