Jewelry has always been a huge part of self-expression, fashion, and beauty. With the rise of alloy earrings, which are usually more affordable than precious metals, one can only ask, “Are alloy earrings hypoallergenic and safe for sensitive skin?”
There is no short answer. However, depending on the material involved, certain metals within an alloy can cause reactions in some individuals.
Let’s talk about the advantages and disadvantages of alloy earrings and the different types of hypoallergenic alloys used in jewelry.
What Are Alloy Earrings?
Alloys are made by combining two or more metals to achieve a material with desired qualities. The metals are usually melted together and may go through a purification process to remove any impurities that may impact the final product.
The most common metals used in alloy earrings are copper, nickel, and zinc.
Advantages of Alloy Earrings
Alloys are used in earrings and other types of jewelry for several reasons.
Affordable: Alloy earrings are generally less expensive than other types of earrings. This is because the metals used in alloys are abundant and relatively inexpensive, making them a cost-effective option for jewelry making. Alloys can also be mixed with expensive precious metals, such as pure gold and pure silver. For this reason, alloy earrings sell at a more affordable price than their pure metal counterparts.
Lightweight: Alloy earrings are lightweight, making them comfortable to wear for extended periods. Certain alloys can become more durable than any of their original metals.
Versatile: Alloy earrings can be made in a variety of styles and designs. Moreover, different alloys have varied characteristics. This means that alloy earrings can offer a wider range of colors, finishes, and textures to reflect the wearer’s personality. There is a greater variety of pieces available to jewelry makers, allowing them to easily create many pieces of jewelry.
Disadvantages of alloy earrings
Over time the color will change: Alloy earrings may tarnish or change color over time due to exposure to air, moisture, and other environmental factors.
It may tarnish, depending on the alloy: The degree of tarnishing depends on the specific mixture of metals used in the alloy.
Tends to cause skin allergies:
Some metals tend to trigger allergic reactions more than others. If you notice your earrings making your ears uncomfortable, it could be due to one or more of these metals:
Brass – this is an alloy of copper and zinc, and is classified as a low-grade base metal
Nickel – It is common in jewelry because it strengthens the base metals.
The most common metal allergy comes from Nickel. It may cause contact dermatitis. This condition is characterized by itchy rashes or bumps on the skin, redness in the area where the jewelry was used, and dry patches that resemble skin burns. In severe cases, contact dermatitis can also cause blisters and draining fluids from the skin.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 10-20% of the population have various sensitivities to nickel. In the study, it was stated that repeated exposure to nickel may cause sensitivity to the metal and may trigger an allergic response.
In addition, some people who may be exposed to nickel content in their food or water may also have an allergic response to it. In rare cases, people who developed a sensitivity to the element may also experience asthma attacks upon exposure.
To prevent nickel allergies, artisans had to find ways to lessen or eliminate the use of nickel in their jewelry. Thus, they started developing hypoallergenic jewelry through the use of alloys in their crafts.
However, alloy earrings can be hypoallergenic. Depending on the metals involved and the specific wearer of the jewelry, they are options that can lower the chances of causing skin reactions.
If your ear becomes red, irritated, or painful after wearing a certain piece of alloy earring, you could be allergic to one or more metals present in it. If you want to be on the safe side, a skin patch test can help you determine which metals can cause contact dermatitis for you.
What Is Hypoallergenic Jewelry?
Hypoallergenic means: “A substance that causes few allergic reactions.” It does not mean materials that are completely anti-allergy.
The thing is, allergies vary widely from one person to another. It would therefore be too hard to identify a product as being anti-allergy.
Here are the most safe and common types of metals used to make hypoallergenic earrings for sensitive ears:
Titanium is an inert metal, which means that it doesn’t react to oxygen and water. In pieces of jewelry, titanium alloys are well-tolerated by the human body, making them less likely to cause any skin irritation. According to a study, titanium allergies are rare, occurring in about 0.6% of the population.
Additionally, their inert nature also prevents the earrings from oxidizing, thus making them highly resistant to tarnishing and corrosion. This is suitable for those living in humid environments, or those whose regular activities require exposure to different weather elements. It's a durable metal that will last a long time.
Aside from being hypoallergenic, titanium alloy earrings are lightweight, which causes less strain on the earlobes. Their lightweight properties also allow for a wide range of designs and sizes, making it possible to be worn for extended periods.
There are different grades of titanium. Grade 1 and 2 titanium is the purest form and contains no other metals. It is a safe choice and a great option for people with high metal allergies. But read product descriptions carefully to be sure to get the right grade.
Niobium is highly hypoallergenic, tarnish-free, and corrosion resistant. This metal is a safe choice for anyone with metal allergies. Niobium is biocompatible just like titanium.
Niobium is available in a variety of colors due to its anodization process. Anodizing is a chemical process that creates a protective oxide coating on the surface of metals like niobium. This coating can create shades such as blues, greens, purples, reds, browns, etc., giving to earrings a unique aesthetic appeal.
Surgical Stainless Steel
Surgical stainless steel is one of the most widely used alloys for hypoallergenic earrings. Surgical steel is a type of stainless steel that contains less nickel than other stainless steel alloys. This makes it less likely to cause an allergic reaction and is a good hypoallergenic option.
Many people believe that stainless steel is nickel free, but most stainless steel alloys (even surgical stainless steel) contain 8-12% nickel. On the other hand, stainless steel retains nickel molecules better, and that is why many people are fine with stainless steel jewelery. In addition to this, surgical steel gives off a glossy look which makes it attractive when used in jewelry.
For anyone sensitized to nickel, nickel-free earrings are good options to go with. However, remember that nickel-free jewelry means no nickel was used in the plating, although traces may be present in the jewelry.
Nickel-free alloys are made by replacing nickel with other metals such as copper, zinc, or silver. The metals chosen in making the alloy are used to keep the same properties as nickel without using it.
However, some nickel-free alloys resemble other metals like silver, white gold, or stainless steel. These alloys will have different properties depending on their specific composition.
Other safe metals that can be used in earrings include platinum, fine silver, copper, and argentium. Platinum is a rare and expensive metal that is highly resistant to tarnishing and corrosion. Fine silver is a type of pure silver that contains 99.9% silver, making it an excellent choice for people with sensitive skin. Copper is a soft and malleable metal that is often used in jewelry making because of its affordability and versatility. Argentium is a type of sterling silver that contains germanium, which makes it more resistant to tarnishing than traditional sterling silver. They are all a good choice for hypoallergenic jewelry components and jewelry pieces.
There are also plastic earrings that eliminate the use of metal. They may be the best way to avoid metal sensitivity.
What Can You Do If You Have Contact Dermatitis?
If you recently wore a piece of jewelry and experienced an allergy or contact dermatitis, you may likely be allergic to a specific metal in the jewelry.
No worries; there are several things you can do at home to treat it!
After cleaning the area with water and mild soap, you can apply cortisone or calamine cream to the affected area. This helps calm down the skin and relieves itching. Additionally, moisturizing can also help repair your skin.
However, if the symptoms worsen or don’t disappear after a few days, it’s best to consult a dermatologist. After that, it’s best to stop wearing the same type of jewelry to control jewelry allergies.
Another way to hinder allergic responses is by painting a few layers of clear nail polis on the part of the jewelry that comes in contact with your skin. Doing this prevents the metals from leaking out of the jewelry once they come in contact with your sweat or body heat.
If you intend to purchase hypoallergenic jewelry, ensure that the pieces you go for are free from any metal you’re allergic to. Let’s go ahead and check out some hypoallergenic collections on my website in the next section.
Alloy earrings allow people allergic to nickel and other metals a chance to stylize without compromising their skin health. With careful consideration, manufacturers and jewelry designers can create different alloy compositions that demonstrate hypoallergenic qualities.
These days, there are several options to choose from, like surgical stainless steel, known for its biocompatibility, titanium earrings for their lightweight properties, or brass earrings for their aesthetic appeal.
Ultimately, choosing the right alloy earring depends on the individual’s compatibility with its composition and preferences. After all, with the limitless options available, everyone can express themselves with the earrings of their choice.
Best-Selling Hypoallergenic Earrings
For Rebel Skin offers a large range of pure titanium and niobium earrings. We love making jewelry for people who enjoy accessorizing but have sensitive skin.
Our products won’t cause any skin irritation or discoloration and are also resistant to corrosion and staining.