Even More Questions Asked and Answered

What Is Nickel Allergy?
Nickel allergy is the condition of getting a red and painful skin rash when you wear or handle items containing nickel.  It is not the only type of Allergic Contact Dermatitis, but it is one of the most common. 

Where Did My Nickel Allergy Come From? 
No one is born with a nickel allergy. Nickel is likely to enter the bloodstream through a new piercing at any age, or the allergy can develop after years of exposure to the metal. Your exposure may have begun in the workplace, especially if you work in an industrial environment. Nickel allergy can even begin by eating too much certain foods that contain nickel (such as chocolate milk and beans), and it can begin as a result of common fidget-habits such as chewing on a pen.  

It is likely to be months or even years after the initial exposure before a rash or other physical symptoms occur. This can make the source especially difficult to track down. 

How Common Is Nickel Allergy?
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, there has been a 40% increase in the number of people with nickel allergy in the last five years. Women get it more frequently than men, but men are also getting it in increasing numbers. One of the suggested causes of this rise is the growing popularity of piercings for either gender, any age, and across cultures. 

What Harm Can Having a Nickel Allergy Do? 
Besides causing an uncomfortable rash, your nickel allergy is lifelong. The rash will go away if you stay away from nickel, but you will always have the allergy. Nickel is a toxic chemical which can have other detrimental side effects as well. It is a know carcinogen if inhaled (which can happen in many industrial workplaces), and it can cause other chronic health conditions. Your nickel allergy is a medical condition should report on any future medical records. 

I Don’t Have a Nickel Allergy - Why Should I Care? 
Everyone can benefit from choosing nickel-free jewelry. Nickel is a common allergen, but it continues to appear in jewelry and many other every day items. A nickel allergy may not become visible in the form of a rash until years after the initial exposure. This can make the source of the allergy especially hard to track down. A nickel allergy can become active at any age, and even if you’ve worn jewelry for years, you may begin to notice a nickel allergy rash. 

In addition, even if you don’t have the allergy, there is a good chance that someone you love does. Do them a favor, and don’t make your gift of jewelry into a gift of a rash. See my blog post on this topic here. 

I Don’t Wear My Nickel Jewelry That Often - Only Sometimes
It’s tempting to do this little trick. You tell yourself that if you just have a little rash, it’s worth wearing the jewelry you want for a short time. What you should know is that the more you irritate your rash, the more severe your allergy will become. The only way to avoid a nickel allergy is to avoid nickel, and letting your rash become irritated, even for a short time, is not a good idea. If you have earrings that are painful to wear, it is also possible to switch the earwires for ones that are allergy safe. 

What Do I Do, Now That I Know I Have Nickel Allergy? 
For starters, stop wearing the jewelry that’s bothering you. If you continue to irritate you allergy,  you will actually make your allergy more severe. Please, allow me to say that again. If you continue to wear the jewelry that is causing your rash, your rash will not only “not go away,” your allergy will actually become more severe. 

If you have an active rash, it is best to keep it clean (don’t use soap), and leave it alone until it heals. If your piercing is the source of your rash, be sure to continue to wear guaranteed non-allergenic earrings that you can leave in for a few days or weeks until the rash has improved. Do not continue to wear earrings or other jewelry that you know are irritating your skin, and do not allow your piercings to grow closed unless that is your decision.

Please bear in mind that many things can cause or irritate allergies, including perfume, soap, lotion, make-up, dyes, and various other things that may be part of your morning routine. 

I Have a Rash Right Now. What Should I Do? 
When you have an unexplained rash, it is always a good idea to visit your doctor. The main thing you can do at this point is to make the itching more tolerable until the rash begins to heal. According to information on the Mayo Clinic website, there are a few things you can do on your own: 

You can use Calamine Lotion or a wet compress soaked in Burow’s solution (this contains aluminum acetate.) Never rub your rash, but use the cloth gently to put the solution directly where you need it.  You can also use an over-the-counter Corticosteroid, or an oral antihistamine (such as Benedryl). Speak to your doctor about how long you can safely use these medicines. 

When you see your doctor he or she may write you a prescription for a similar medicine of appropriate strength. Again, these will not cure your allergy, but will help you to leave your rash alone while it heals. He or she may also do a patch test to test for specific allergies. 

How Do I Take Care of My Child’s Nickel Allergy? 
If your child has a nickel allergy, you can start by putting away any jewelry that is obviously causing a rash. If the rash is causing your child pain now, or they are unable to leave it alone, you could try to relieve the itching with Calamine Lotion, as mentioned above. It is recommended that your child see a doctor to be sure this is not a more severe condition. 

For the future, you will probably find it more useful for your child to have a few pairs of reliable earrings than a drawer full of cheap jewelry from the discount store. You should also let friends and family know that your child has a nickel allergy, and that they should be very selective if they ever buy jewelry as a gift for your child. 

Do Other Things Besides Jewelry Contain Nickel?
Absolutely. Here’s a list just for a start: belt buckles, paper clips, car keys, snaps on clothing, bra hooks, musical instruments, coins, batteries, eye glasses, cell phones, pens, zippers, dental fillings, and braces. It is used in a variety of every day objects because it is strong, it is shiny, and it is cheap. Ordinarily these every day objects will never bother you, but if you’re a cashier and handle change all day, or you discover you are allergic to your own braces, you may have a hard time getting away from the source of your allergy.

So Really, What Can I Wear? 
Take heart. Jewelry that is nickel free is available. In my shop, I use Titanium and Niobium, and also Argentium Sterling Silver. These are the only metals I will ever use that actually go through a piercing. Please see my metals page on this site for additional information. 

Should I Visit My Doctor? 
Yes. I am not a doctor and neither are you. I repeat this line a lot, and it is absolutely true (unless, you may actually happen to be a doctor). However tempting it is to diagnose yourself, a doctor or dermatologist can rule out the possibility that your rash may be caused by a more severe condition. It is also possible that you have more than one type of allergy, and your doctor can let you know the best way to keep your skin healthy, and repair any damage caused by your rash. 

What Should I Know About Nickel Allergy?
With all the things in your environment that do contain nickel, your jewelry does not have to be one of them. Nickel in jewelry is unnecessary and avoidable. You can choose nickel free jewelry with just a little information and some common sense. Everything in my shop is completely nickel free. You’ll be able to choose freely, and be able to wear your jewelry as long as you like. You’ll be amazed at how comfortable you can be.


Do you get a painful rash from the jewelry you wear? If you do, you may have a nickel allergy. In addition to causing a painful rash and a lifelong allergy, nickel is a common allergen that can have various chronic health effects. Everyone can benefit from choosing jewelry that is nickel-free.

Nickel is one of the most common causes of Allergic Contact Dermatitis. It appears in both women and men, and it can occur at any age. In general, the more exposure you have had to nickel, the more likely you are to become allergic.

Causes of nickel allergy vary, but the allergy commonly begins when ears are pierced, possibly at a very young age. The nickel enters the bloodstream through the fresh wound, which is your piercing. The rash itself will not appear until days, months or years later. It can even be difficult to sort out the symptoms of the rash from a possible earring infection. Nickel exposure is also common in many industrial workplaces, and it is present in many everyday items such as cell phones, paper clips, zippers, and more.

Continuing to irritate your allergy will only make it more severe. This is how allergies work. After an early exposure you may get a mild reaction, but each time the exposure is repeated, your reaction gets more intense. This is just the result of antibodies doing their job - to fight off an intruder, which in this case is your jewelry. 

Nickel is frequently used in jewelry because it is strong, shiny, and cheap. It has been used over the years, and is now so entrenched in the industry, it is unlikely that it will ever be completely removed. There are nickel free options in jewelry, but unfortunately it is up to the buyer to become educated and learn what to look for.

Once you have a nickel allergy, it will be with you for life, and the only way to avoid the rash entirely is to avoid nickel. Wearing jewelry is not quite as optional as people might think, though.  It is part of our social world, and is a part of how we define ourselves in the workplace or among friends. You should know, however, that nickel in jewelry is entirely avoidable.

It is not at all uncommon for people to observe that the rash "spreads" on your body over time. what started as an "earring rash" may appear much later with necklaces or bracelets. Some people eventually become so sensitive to nickel they have to change their diets or choose their cookware carefully.

The source of a nickel allergy can be remarkably difficult to track down. In the beginning, a little itch near your jewelry may not seem especially alarming to you. Even if you decide to set your jewelry aside and identify it as the source of your itch or developing rash, you may never quite know what it was that caused your discomfort. You also may not realize that you are already showing the visible sign
s of a lifelong allergy.

I would like to encourage you to wear jewelry again. It's not quite as hard as you think - you just have to know what you’re looking for. Nickel in jewelry is avoidable, and preventing the allergy by avoiding nickel in the first place is the best thing of all. All of the jewelry I make is nickel-free all way through. Now you don't have to be afraid of your own skin. It’s time to celebrate it. 

What Does The CDC Say?

It is not every day that I have a conversation with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Mike Fay is a Toxicologist with the CDC who was kind enough to answer my e-mails and to give me permission to credit him on my website.

My question was simply about whether nickel is more appropriately classified as a toxin or an allergen, and what the CDC’s stance is on this. I have been interested in the use of the word “toxin” to describe nickel, which in my understanding,  is an entirely different category than “allergen” which is commonly used. Mr. Fay is reassuring that “nickel in jewelry can be considered an allergen, and is not otherwise toxic.” The following is an excerpt from the CDC Toxicology website regarding Nickel Allergy:

“The most common harmful health effect of nickel in humans is an allergic reaction. Approximately 10-20% of the population is sensitive to nickel. People can become sensitive to nickel when jewelry or other things containing it are in direct contact with the skin for a long time. Once a person is sensitized to nickel, further contact with the metal may produce a reaction. The most common reaction is a skin rash at the site of contact. The skin rash may also occur at a site away from the site of contact. Less frequently, some people who are sensitive to nickel have asthma attacks following exposure to nickel. Some sensitized people react when they consume food or water containing nickel or breathe dust containing it.” 

source: http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/substances/toxsubstance.asp?toxid=44.

For myself, I consider all questions open as long as we are thinking, breathing creatures, and am interested in the opinions of various experts on this topic.  I am open to new ways of thinking, and want you to continue your own research as well, since information is always changing, and discoveries are always being made.