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Jewelry Rash: How to Avoid It

BY Peter Vey    |    25 August, 2022
Do you have redness, itchiness or irritation from your favorite jewelry? Here's why these rashes happen, and the best ways to avoid them. 

A jewelry rash is annoying at best, and a serious allergic reaction at worst. So why do some jewelry pieces cause these unwanted reactions, while others are perfectly safe to wear with no issue? The problem lies with the base metal of the jewelry. Let’s discuss why and how these rashes develop, and the best ways to get rid of them fast. 

 

What is a jewelry rash and who gets it?

Jewelry Allergic Reaction

 

If you’re experiencing your first jewelry rash, you might be noticing itchiness, redness, and general irritation. Some rashes tend to look like an outbreak of poison ivy. If not treated, the rash can develop from a few small splotches, to blisters, swelling and spreading, and potentially an infection. Of course, if the rash develops to this extent, make sure you visit a doctor as soon as possible.

Even if you’ve been wearing the same type of jewelry for years, a sudden allergic reaction may occur. Essentially, the body interprets a metal in your jewelry as a potential threat, and triggers an immune response. Something as simple as excess sweat around your ring can make the itchiness and rash begin. However, chances are that you’ve known for some time that certain kinds of jewelry cause an annoying itch. 

 

What metals cause a jewelry rash? 

Arrangement of Rings

Nickel is the number one culprit when it comes to outbreaks caused by jewelry. Nickel is a common component in the fashion jewelry you might find at chain clothing outlets. Although this jewelry is inexpensive and convenient, it’s usually the worst kind of jewelry when it comes to skin health. If you’re having an allergic reaction to your jewelry, chances are it’s made out of nickel, or has nickel as a major component.

 

What kind of fine jewelry has nickel in it?

Unfortunately, nickel isn’t just present in fashion jewelry. It’s can also be found in stainless steel jewelry, and even the higher end jewelry made of gold. As pure gold is too soft for most jewelry production and wear, an alloy is often formed by combining gold with other metals. Essentially, the lower the karat number, the more potential your jewelry has to cause an allergic reaction. For instance, 18k gold is a safer option than 10k. White gold especially has nickel components as part of its alloy, and sensitive jewelry wearers should take this into account.

 

Can copper in jewelry cause a rash?

While it’s certainly less common than a rash caused by nickel, some women may find that copper also gives them a breakout. While some do wear copper jewelry, the more common exposure to copper is with brass jewelry (copper + zinc), and rose gold jewelry. The distinct warm hue of rose gold jewelry is created by combining pure gold with copper. While the trendy rose gold engagement rings and bracelets are perfectly safe for most women, consult with a doctor if you notice an allergic reaction. 

 

Can you still wear your jewelry and avoid a rash? 

If your rash is severe, it’s best to avoid the problem jewelry altogether, at least until you’re able to figure out a potential solution. If it’s a mild reaction, antihistamine medication and hydrocortisone cream may act quickly and clear it up. 

When wearing jewelry that may be risky for your skin, always maintain proper hygiene and give your finger or wrist room to breathe. It’s best not to wear your jewelry pieces 24/7, but only for specific periods of time. Sweating can be one of the main triggers that ignites your rash, so do what you can to keep the area with jewelry clean and dry. Of course, this means washing your hands periodically (without your jewelry on, of course!)

 

Can plating my jewelry help to avoid allergies?

Plating is one potential solution that can minimize rashes in people with mild allergies. Plating involves adding a thin layer of a finer metal, such as gold, platinum or rhodium, to your ring or other piece of jewelry that’s made of a lower base metal. This is a good option if you have jewelry you can’t give up, such as an engagement ring, and want to avoid an allergic response. 

For lower quality pieces and fashion jewelry, one makeshift solution is to apply a few layers of nail polish to the back of your jewelry. Adding nail polish where your finger touches your ring can help to protect the skin from the metal irritants. As the nail polish wears off, make sure to reapply.

To learn more about plated jewelry, check out our blog here

 

Which precious metals are hypoallergenic?

Platinum is your number one choice when it comes to hypoallergenic metals. Pure platinum will not cause an allergic reaction even on the most sensitive skin. Of course, because of its rarity, beauty, durability and hypoallergenic properties, expect to pay a little more for platinum than your other precious metals. For someone who suffers from skin allergies, upgrading to platinum is definitely worth it. 

Gold, especially purer forms of gold, are usually safe for most people in terms of allergies and very rarely cause an immune response. However, since pure 24k gold is too soft for jewelry, gold isn’t as hypoallergenic as platinum. While white gold and rose gold can rarely be problematic for certain people, yellow gold is usually a great choice. 

While silver is generally a good option for most people, look out for “silver plated” jewelry and other inexpensive alternatives. Once the silver plating starts to strip off, your skin may come in contact with the base metal underneath, which can contain copper, nickel or brass. 

Photography by Hovents

 

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As a general rule of thumb, the more expensive precious metals tend to be hypoallergenic, while the “costume” jewelry metals like brass, copper, and nickel tend to cause allergic reactions. If your reaction is mild, you don’t have to necessarily stop wearing fashion jewelry pieces altogether. Instead, take extra precaution with your hygiene and take care of any rash quickly with the help of a doctor. With the right steps, you can go back to wearing your favorite pieces in no time.

 

 

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