Hypoallergenic Metals in Jewelry: Best Jewelry for Sensitive Skin

Hypoallergenic Metals in Jewelry
Hypoallergenic Metals in Jewelry
Hypoallergenic Metals in Jewelry

Are you a fashionista that's prone to allergies? If so, hypoallergenic jewelry is your new best friend! Hypoallergenic jewelry is specially designed and manufactured in a way that minimizes the risk of allergic reactions. Whether it's from nickel or other metals, these jewelry pieces can help make sure you look your best without any of the uncomfortable side effects.

What is Hypoallergenic Jewelry?

The term hypoallergenic is unregulated, so it's hard to tell if a jewelry piece that claims it is truly hypoallergenic. Still, the term can be helpful in figuring out what type of metal will work best for you.

"Hypoallergenic jewelry" typically does not contain common allergens known to cause skin allergies and irritation (such as nickel and zinc). Hypoallergenic jewelry materials include titanium, stainless steel, sterling silver, platinum, and gold, and they are less likely to cause a jewelry allergy.

Alloys generally cost less than pure metals because they include inexpensive options like nickel, zinc, iron, tin, etc. While alloys work great for some jewelry designs, they can cause problems for people with metal allergies.

So, Does That Mean Costume Jewelry is Unsafe?

Does your finger swell underneath your new ring band? Do you have itchy earlobes after trying on a new pair of earrings? If you are experiencing rashes, itchiness, red marks, swelling, dry patches or blisters, chances are that you have a metal allergy or sensitivity. Everybody has different body chemistry, but some common metals are more likely to irritate.

Here are some of the most common allergens:



What is a Nickel Allergy?

The most common jewelry allergy is to nickel, a natural white metal that is often mixed with other metals to create an alloy. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that up to 20% of Americans are allergic to nickel, which is commonly used in costume jewelry. It is a popular component in inexpensive jewelry because, as a base metal, it has a nice shine, is resistant to corrosion, and is relatively low-cost.

Unfortunately, people allergic to nickel often develop contact dermatitis after wearing costume jewelry. This type of allergic reaction occurs when the skin comes into contact with an allergen, such as nickel content. For people allergic to nickel, it causes redness, swelling, itching, burning, and blistering of the skin.

Most people who have a nickel allergy aren’t born with the condition. It develops after a lifetime of exposure. Currently, women more commonly have nickel allergies. Only 2% of men have an allergy to nickel, while 15% of women do.

Is Nickel-Free Important?

If you have a nickel allergy, wearing nickel-free jewelry is important to prevent skin reactions and further sensitization. It is important to note that even if a piece of jewelry is labeled "nickel-free," this doesn't guarantee that it is hypoallergenic. Most nickel-free jewelry may still contain trace amounts of the metal and thus could cause skin sensitivities to flare up.

If you experience a skin reaction after wearing jewelry, you should see your dermatologist or allergist. They can do an allergy test to determine the severity of your jewelry allergy.

Also, beware, as some other unexpected "mislabelled" metals can cause allergic reactions. For example, German silver, sometimes called nickel silver, is so called because it looks like silver, not because it contains any silver at all. So steer clear of this at all costs if you are allergic to nickel.

Other Types of Metal Allergies:

Nickel isn’t the only material that triggers jewelry allergies. Other metals, specifically zinc, chromium, and cobalt, can trigger skin reactions. However, an allergic reaction to these metals is usually rare.

Hypoallergenic Jewelry Metals:

Fortunately, certain metals are hypoallergenic such as pure gold, fine silver, rhodium, etc. So if you’re looking for jewelry that won’t cause an allergic reaction, these are your safest bets.

1) Pure Silver:

Pure silver is 100% hypoallergenic and safe for sensitive skin but is one of the softer metals, which is why most silver jewelry on the market is alloyed. For example, sterling silver is 92.5% pure metals (silver) and 7.5% alloys, usually copper.

This leads to the next question, "Is sterling silver hypoallergenic?" The answer is generally yes, but it depends on the individual and what other metals are in the alloy mix. Sterling silver doesn't typically contain any nickel, which is the #1 cause of allergic reactions.

2) Pure Gold

Pure gold is an excellent choice for hypoallergenic jewelry as it is 100% gold with no other elements mixed in. Plus, because of its low reactivity, it won’t cause any skin reactions.

However, pure gold is a very soft metal, so it needs to be mixed with other materials to increase its durability. That is why most gold jewelry on the market is alloyed or gold-plated.

3) Platinum:

Platinum is another metal considered hypoallergenic and it's even more durable than gold. It is lustrous, silver-colored, and highly corrosion-resistant.


4) Palladium:

If platinum is out of your price range, try palladium. This new precious metal does not tarnish and has a purity rating of 95%.

5) Titanium:

Titanium and tantalum are similar in strength and durability. This natural element is non-toxic, corrosion-resistant, and biocompatible, making it safe for people with metal sensitivities. It’s a good choice for findings (like earring posts) and daily-wear jewelry. 

6) Rhodium:

One of our favorite hypoallergenic metals is rhodium. Rhodium is an extremely shiny, nickel-free metal.

Generally, rhodium-plated jewelry is made of sterling silver. Rhodium plating will offer protection against a reaction to nickel regardless of the base metal. However, the metal beneath the rhodium should also be hypoallergenic because, over time, the plating will fade and need replacement.


7) Argentium Silver:

Argentium silver is a higher-quality metal than sterling silver. While sterling usually has a purity of 92.5%, Argentium silver must have at least 93.5% purity. It does not tarnish, so it is easy to maintain. It is always nickel-free and is a highly durable metal, making it a top choice for daily-wear jewelry.


What Can You Do About Jewelry Allergies?

The best thing to do to prevent jewelry allergies is to simply switch your jewelry metals to the hypoallergenic options listed above. You will also want to stay away from plated pieces such as German silver, nickel silver, and most costume jewelry. These materials tend to rely heavily on nickel as a filler element.

Another method is to keep your jewelry clean and free of tarnish that can cause allergy symptoms to appear. If there are pieces you just can’t get rid of and you know they cause a rash, try wearing them for shorter periods of time. While wearing these pieces, also make sure the skin it will encounter is kept dry.

For extra protection, reach out to your jeweler to see if they can add a layer of metal or film to the parts that will touch your skin. That way, your skin will be protected and not react when it is exposed to allergens.

Finally, if you are looking for a quick solution, many people add a coat of clear nail polish to their jewelry, which acts as a protective barrier and prevents irritation to the skin. However, the layer of clear nail polish may errode with time, so this is a solution that requires reapplication.

Wrapping Up

Hypoallergenic jewelry is designed to minimize the risk of skin reactions. When shopping for jewelry, it’s important to research what metals are used and understand which ones can cause allergic reactions. Choosing the right type of metal can make all the difference in your skin’s comfort level.

Palladium, titanium, and pure silver are some of the best-hypoallergenic metals. Remember to always check for markings like .999 or 915 on jewelry items that contain these metals so that you know exactly what you are getting. With a little bit of research, you can find the perfect jewelry piece without risking your skin health.