What You Need To Know About Hypoallergenic Jewelry

Picture this—you have just purchased a new piece of jewelry and can’t wait to wear it. You put on a stylish outfit and accessorize yourself in your new treasure. Only, as the hours pass and you wear your jewelry, your skin starts to itch, redden and break out into a rash. We’ve all been there, and it happens when you wear jewelry that contains metals that aren’t compatible with your skin. In other words, you are having an allergic reaction to your jewelry.

What can be equally as troublesome is that you may have purchased jewelry labeled as “hypoallergenic,” and still had a reaction. Fact is, there’s ample misinformation swirling around when it comes to hypoallergenic metals.

Well, today we’re going to clear the air (and your skin, while we are at it), and ensure you know precisely what to look for when buying jewelry. Here’s everything you need to know about hypoallergenic jewelry.

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What’s In My Jewelry? Hypoallergenic Jewelry Definition

When your skin reacts to a jewelry metal, you may experience constant itching, redness, rashes, and even puss or oozing. Symptoms like these are a surefire sign that the jewelry metal you are wearing either contains nickel, a known allergen, or allergenic metal. To avoid this unfavorable experience, most buyers purchase hypoallergenic jewelry.

Most jewelers define hypoallergenic jewelry as safe metals that won’t cause a reaction. These metals do not contain known allergens, most notably, nickel. The problem with nickel is that it’s a frequently used metal in jewelry alloys because of its strengthening properties; the addition of nickel strengthens softer metals that would otherwise damage or misshape with daily wear.

The Problem With Nickel

While nickel is a durable metal, it has one major drawback. Most problematically: 15% of the population has a nickel allergy. The solution? Hypoallergenic jewelry. But it’s not so cut and dry. You might think that the removal of nickel from metal would clear any potential allergic reactions, right? Well, many people agree, and “hypoallergenic” has become synonymous with “nickel-free.”

The thorn on this rose is that hypoallergenic metals still contain small quantities of nickel. Jewelry metals don’t have to be utterly void of nickel to be hypoallergenic. Doesn’t this seem problematic? As it turns out, when jewelry metals are hypoallergenic, they contain such a small amount of nickel that they are labeled “below normal.”

For people with sensitive skin, this is a significant issue. You may purchase a hypoallergenic jewelry item only to find yourself itching and scratching a budding rash. While the label helps ease a buyer’s worry, there are no regulations or enforced standards for what makes something hypoallergenic. With this in mind: there has to be a better way of deciphering safe metals from unsafe metals, right? Fortunately, there is!

Hypoallergenic Jewelry Metals That Are Safe

Instead of looking at confusing labels, let’s get acquainted with the safest jewelry metals available, as well as which ones to avoid if you have sensitive skin. The first order of business? Let’s talk about purity.

As a rule of thumb: the purer metal is, the less alloy it contains.

Take gold, for example. The higher the number of karats, the purer the gold. People with metal sensitivities should opt for 18K gold and above, which only contains 25% of alloyed copper and silver. In other words, you may have to spend more on purer metal, but you’ll avoid a reaction. And gold isn’t the only metal that’s safe:

  • Titanium: Because titanium is not an alloy metal but an element, it’s naturally nickel-free. Titanium is one of the most popular jewelry metals that is hypoallergenic.
  • Niobium: Like titanium, niobium is a natural nickel-free element ideal for jewelry use.
  • Surgical Stainless Steel: While this metal isn’t entirely nickel-free, you can buy nickel-free surgical stainless steel that contains other alloys that are safe for sensitive skin.
  • Platinum: As one of the purest jewelry metals, platinum is a highly popular and valuable option. When you buy platinum jewelry, you can rest assured that you won’t have an allergic reaction to this naturally hypoallergenic metal.
  • Argentium Silver: The whitest metal on the market, Argentium silver is a recycled material made from silver, eco-friendly and free of metal allergens.
  • Sterling Silver (for most people): Many people wonder, “is sterling silver hypoallergenic?” and for a good reason. Sterling silver is one of the most popular and common metals in the market, and most people have no issues with wearing it. That’s because sterling silver is a pure metal comprised of 92.5% pure silver, with the remaining 7.5% containing alloyed zinc or copper. Most sterling silver is nickel-free, but you want to be vigilant and ensure this fact before you make a purchase.

Jewelry Metals That Cause Allergic Reaction

You may come across a jewelry item you love and adore, but what if it contains one of the following materials? The truth is, you may risk an allergic reaction if a jewelry metal contains:

  • Nickel: If we haven’t made this explicitly clear, nickel is one of the most common jewelry metals to cause an allergic reaction. If you have sensitive skin, it’s best to avoid all jewelry that contains nickel, and if you are unsure, ask the retailer before you buy to ensure the item is nickel-free.
  • White Gold: We talked about hypoallergenic gold jewelry and the role purity plays, but what about 18K white gold? Yellow and rose gold don’t have a top coat to alter their coloring. The very feature that makes white gold so attractive–its brilliant brightness–is the enhancement that can cause an allergy. Rhodium Plating adds a protective layer to limit the interaction of nickel on your skin. However, the plating wears off over time, exposing the material underneath to your skin.
  • Costume Jewelry: Costume Jewelry, also called Fashion Jewelry, contains inexpensive base materials that are not hypoallergenic. Most often, these items have nickel fillers that are notorious for causing allergic reactions.
  • Copper: There’s some confusion about the green residue copper leaves behind on the skin. This is a natural, chemical reaction that most often washes off easily. It’s unlikely to have an allergic reaction to copper, rather a simple oxidation effect from chelated copper mixing with skin sweat.
  • Brass: Lastly, brass is another known culprit causing skin allergies. Brass metal contains alloyed copper, zinc, or nickel, and is not hypoallergenic.

Buying Allergy Free, Hypoallergenic Jewelry

While several known allergens infiltrate the jewelry market, you now have the knowledge to discern which metals to buy and which ones to avoid altogether. Time to say goodbye to rashes and hello to radiance. Fortunately, there’s no shortage of stunning, unique, and hypoallergenic jewelry items available for you!

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