Summer is the perfect season for refreshing your accessories, but what if the only thing holding you back was a painful nickel allergy? No one wants red, itchy, irritated skin. Studies show that nickel allergies are more common than ever, which is why some people steer clear of cheap earrings. Nickel is a naturally occurring element in the environment, which is why it is so hard to avoid. Not to mention that some plating practices, such as electroplating, don't give lasting protection for your ears. So how can you avoid it?
Nickel is in a lot of things. It's cheap, available, and easy to manufacture. Famously, nickel is used in the five-cent coin (also in most coins); it's a good choice for lots of consumer goods and jewelry because it is both tough and 100% recyclable. There are over 3000 nickel alloys used in everyday items, making it one of the most important metals in the modern world. However, exposure to nickel can lead to allergic reactions in a growing number of people. Here are some ways to limit contact with nickel when buying earrings.
1 Check the Label
If the earrings have a label, check the metal the earrings are made with. But beware of terms like:
- Certified Nickel Safe
- Nickel-Free Stainless Steel
These terms don't mean anything since Canada and the US doesn't actually enforce what it means to be "nickel-free." If the earrings are unusually light, they might just be shiny plastic. If they are metal but it doesn't specify which, they are most likely stainless steel. Also think of the brand, retail brands like Target, Walmart, and Claires may not have truly safe earrings whereas boutique stores have staff who should be more knowledgeable but are not usually well-informed about metal allergies. (Check out the 2021 Guide to Metals)
2 Chemical Test
For those who have nickel allergies but are not super sensitive and only have issues after a couple of hours, there is also a chemical test. Nickel testing kits from reputable sellers won't damage the jewelry and can detect extremely low amounts of nickel. Within a minute, you can know for sure if the earring has nickel and can either return them (if possible) or gift them to a friend.
No More Painful Ears
As summer comes, people with nickel allergies are at risk to suffer more. That's because when we perspire, our sweat carries the nickel ions from the jewelry or metal item to our skin. With long enough exposure, we get the familiar pains: itchy rash, bumps, and redness. Titanium earrings don't do this at all. Titanium is biocompatible, meaning it doesn't react to the human body which is why it's used in medical implants. You also don't have to worry about corrosion or skin irritation when hypoallergenic jewelry that made from medical-grade titanium. Go get those summer earrings!