3 Tips to Prevent Sensitivity from Earrings
One of the biggest questions I get is if my earrings hurt or are good for sensitive ears. It is most likely the first thing you might think of when buying a pair of earrings.
If you have sensitivity to earrings, and have either completely stopped wearing them all together or very sparingly, these tips are for you!
TIP #1: Sensitivity vs. Allergy
The number one thing is to first learn if you are truly just sensitive to a metal or allergic to it.
The common symptoms are redness, itching, soreness, swelling, and possible bleeding. Most, if not all, symptoms should subside soon after taking your earrings out.
Allergic to Metals
Common symptoms of this is reddening of the skin, blistering, rash, swelling, and pain. It is a contact allergy, which means that a reaction will only occur once your body is in contact with the metal. The allergy may not occur immediately but can develop over a period of time. Many people can wear earrings for a long time with no issues, then seemingly develop a reaction overnight.
What to expect now?
“If you see ‘hypoallergenic’ on makeup or a skin care label, it means that that maker claims it’s product causes fewer allergic reactions than other ones. That doesn't necessarily mean it is allergy-proof or gentler for your skin,” says WEBMD when you google the definition of hypoallergenic.
Approximately 17% of women and 3% of men are allergic to nickel. If you have dermatitis, the prevalence of a metal allergy is even higher. With that knowledge, there is a high population of people that are going to have an allergic reaction to metals.
Nickel is added to a lot of earring posts and hooks, because it is strong and has a smooth finish. The next replacement for that is Zinc. It is another metal that is better and more hypoallergenic, but still a lower quality metal and has a higher percentage of causing sensitivity or an allergic reaction.
Tip #2: Which Metals that are Best for Sensitive ears
From what we learned above, the vast majority of people just need to steer clear of nickel. Most reactions are caused by that specific metal. It can be hard to know if the earrings have nickel in them, unless the shop or business you are buying from, claims that they are nickel-free. Nickel is easily mixed into other metals though, so it’s hard to truly know if the shop you purchased from knows if it is or not.
Besides that, there are ways to know which metals are best:
- Hypoallergenic/Nickle-Free: If you are sensitive to earrings, make sure your earrings are hypoallergenic, and even nickel-free. Just steer clear of nickel at all times! It will leave your skin green and usually cause a reaction at some point.
- Zinc: Zinc is the next ‘nickel’. It is a metal that is cheap, durable, and smooth, and normally mixed with other metals. While it is a better metal than nickel, it has a higher rate of causing sensitivity.
- Brass: Brass is copper and zinc mixed. Copper in its pure form is quite strong and very durable. The zinc balances the color. It can cause irritation, The con to this metal is it does tarnish easy. While it is easy to clean, it is one downturn to the metal.
- Sterling Silver: 92.5% is silver, and 7.5% of this is other metals. It is normally copper, but can easily be mixed with nickel or zinc. Contact whomever you buy your products from to confirm the metals they mix with the silver. It could simply be that it is mixed with a cheaper metal that causes a higher percent of sensitivity.
- Stainless Steel: Be aware of people using the term “surgical”. The only difference is that “surgical” may claim that the metal is in its pure form, Some stainless steel can be mixed with other metals, so if you purchase it from someone, be sure it is pure and not mixed. It is very strong, easy to clean, and should not cause a reaction in its pure form. A lot of hospitals have stainless steel materials for a reason. It doesn’t tarnish, and lasts for a long time.
- Titanium: Titanium might be claimed as the best metal for earrings because it is almost always sold in its pure form, again ALWAYS check with your supplier or shop owner. Less than 1% of people are allergic to it, and will not irritate sensitive skin. It is more pricey but strong and lightweight, which is perfect for jewelry. It will never corrode, tarnish or rust.
- Platinum: Similar to titanium, it’s a non-reactive metal and a great option for earrings. However, it is extremely expensive and not an affordable option for most shops. Again, another great option for individuals with metal allergies.
Gold: Gold in its pure form is 24k. You won’t see 24k gold often because gold is a very soft and malleable metal. 14k or higher, nickel-free and approved for biocompatibility are approved for sensitive ears. Anything less than 24k gold, is mixed with other metals, to make sure the metal becomes stronger. Know what those metals are! They can be mixed are normally mixed with metals listed above. It can easily be nickel if you’re not confirming it with your shop or supplier.
- Gold Plated/Vermeil vs Gold Filled: When a shop claims that they have gold plated or filled jewelry, it basically means that the outer part of the jewelry is gold (14k is less gold, 18k is more, both are mixed with other metals). The inner part of the jewelry is another metal like brass, sterling silver, stainless steel, etc. Again, I’ll say it to those in the back, ALWAYS check to see what metal they have on the inner part. Gold that is plated or filled, will wear if the metal is not taken care of. Plated will chip away sooner than filled.
- Overall: Gold plated and filled are both good options, as long as the metals mixed with the gold are not nickel. If you are sensitive to those types of earrings, they are most likely mixed with a cheaper metal.
TIP #3: Shop with Knowledge!
There is no regulation for businesses to share what their earrings are made of. Businesses may also share only a portion of what is in the product to market it in a more appealing way.
Ex. “18K GOLD FILLED EARRINGS” – The average consumer wouldn’t even know what that meant. All they read is gold. They might think they are getting straight gold earrings!
It’s important to be aware of what you are buying when you are sensitive or allergic to metal. Now that you know the different meanings behind certain metals, shop with knowledge! There is so much power to knowing exactly what you are getting. Some brands can charge an arm and a leg for crappy product, just because they are a well-known brand.
HIGH-END ≠ QUALITY
Those popular brands you love? Yeah, they abuse their fame to get consumers to pay more for their products. Hate to be the one to say it, but it’s true.
Thank you for taking the time to read this! If you liked what you read, let me know in the comments below! Share your own experiences with finding earrings that work for you. What did you learn? Know that most people with sensitive ears DO have options! Don’t lose hope! There are many options that you can try if you are sensitive or allergic to metals. Hopefully this blog helped clear some air and gave you the knowledge you needed to know about metals and jewelry.