Metal Allergies: The Problem With Accessories

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( — That an accessory is the touch that over-does an outfit or fails to make it pop may be a minor problem. A studded watch may fail to reel in a lady, but the wearer can catch something else, like allergic contact dermatitis (ACD). This condition involves adverse effects from contact between an allergen and the skin. Jewelry dermatitis is what many call ACD when it is prompted by accessories. And a growing number of cases of are being found.

Most of the the metals used for accessories are mined for industrial purposes. Their primary use is not to adorn humans. If more people knew this and they knew the properties of these metals, there would be less surprise that accessories can be allergens.  The metals most commonly associated with ACD are nickel, cobalt and chrome, with nickel topping the list. Nickel is widely used for stainless steel and alloys, and it is also used as a costume metal for jewelry.

Jewelry dermatitis can result from well known metals such as silver, platinum and gold too. ACD caused by gold has been noted to last longer than the episodes from other metals.  As people are continually experimenting with more obscure metals, such as tungsten and palladium, for accessories, it should comes as little surprise if we witness an increasing number of the rarer allergies in the future.


If you have a metal allergy, it may be revealed through a wide range of symptoms, including itching and flaking of the skin. You may experience swelling, soreness and burning.  A rash or weeping wounds may develop. For some, the sight of the allergy becomes dry and crusted over.

Some people experience skin discoloration when the metals in their jewelry come into contact with a substance on their skin, such as cosmetics. If this ever happens, you shouldn’t panic because it usually isn’t a permanent effect. You should be able to wash the discoloration off. But, this should serve as confirmation that metals can produce real and visible effects.

The severity of symptoms vary. Some people simply note a bit of redness or a slight itch after contact with a certain metal. Other people can experience  multiple symptoms to a much severer degree. The longer you allow exposure to continue and the more times you attempt to deny the signs and wear a metal you’re allergic to, the greater your chances of the allergy getting worse.

Allergies can be seasonal. When this is the case, the allergy tends to appear during hotter weather. Some believe this is due to leaching of the metals prompted by increased perspiration.

Avoiding and Protecting ACD

Women should realize that they are more prone to ACD than men. Furthermore, there appears to be more cases among younger ladies, who are coincidentally getting more piercings and starting to accessorize themselves at younger ages.

Though a person can experience jewelry dermatitis in a number of places, earrings are believed to be the leading cause, so it is common to find the problem arising on the ears and neck. For some people, this will be the only site of allergic reaction. For others, the allergy can manifest itself elsewhere. Piercing is another factor that is associated with increased risks of jewelry dermatitis. This may be   because the metals going through the ear have access to epidermal tissue and fluids.

When wearing costume earrings, it’s best to make sure that the posts are hypoallergenic, which generally means they are made with surgical grade stainless steel. Another alternative is to get 24 karat gold. This rules applies with accessories for other areas prone to allergic reactions.

Some people will likely force the issue and aim to continue wearing items they are allergic to. In these cases they should try to prevent contact with the metal. One way to do this is to coat the accessories  with clear fingernail polish. However, some would argue that fingernail polish shouldn’t come into contact with the skin either.

Another option, for those who have pricey costume jewelry or who find themselves allergic expensive metals such as gold or platinum, may consider plating the items with rhodium. This decision works for some people, but not for everyone. Since rhodium is porous, it is not an effective barrier in all cases.

Even when people are aware of their allergies and try to avoid items containing those metals, there EW many points of contact that are commonly overlooked, such as:

  • Zippers on shoes and boots or eyelets on sneakers
  • Handheld office supplies such as scissors and pens
  • Garter straps
  • Bobby pins
  • Tool handles
  • Buttons/snaps on jeans
  • Metal bearing beauty supplies such as eyelash curlers