Metal Allergies: The Problem With Accessories

Two women talking to each other while standing near the kitchen

( — 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

How To Choose A Doctor

african american smiling male doctor Choosing a primary care provider can be a confusing exercise, but it’s very important to feel that you are receiving care from someone with whom you can feel a certain level of comfort and trust. With some research and a modicum of effort, you can find a primary care provider that can serve your needs well for years to come.


When considering finding a doctor or other provider, most people probably think first of the limitations that will be imposed by their insurance. Most insurance companies have very long lists of providers within their networks. These are generally listed by specialty, geographic area, and other helpful parameters.

MD, PA or NP?

In these days of broader choices, you are not limited to only being seen by a medical doctor. Nurse Practitioners (Masters-prepared nurses who can prescribe treatments and medications but are supervised by a doctor) and Physician Assistants (Masters-prepared “mid-level” providers with equal prescribing and diagnostic powers of Nurse Practitioners) can also serve as primary care providers under the rules of many insurance companies. While an MD may be preferable to some individuals, others might be more comfortable, for instance, with the nurse-based training and approach of a Nurse Practitioner. (And as of 2014, NPs will be required to earn a PhD, and will then confusingly be referred to as “Doctors of Nursing Practice”, or a DNP.)

Like any aspect of this process, it is a personal choice that can only be informed by experience and exposure to various types of providers.

What Type of Provider?

Many doctors who serve as primary care physicians have subspecialties within that category. Some may be “internists” specializing in the care of adults, while others may be doctors of “family medicine” who see both children and adults. Still others may have specializations in geriatrics and focus primarily on the elderly.

Likewise, some Nurse Practitioners are specially trained to work with children, adults, families, women or the elderly, so it’s important to understand your own needs.

Perhaps you would like the same doctor to see you, your spouse, your children and your elderly parent. If this is the case, you would need a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) or a doctor who specializes in family medicine.

Other Considerations

Whether you choose an MD, PA, or NP, there are many other aspects of this choice to bear in mind:

Location: Is the provider’s practice conveniently located for you? If you don’t have a car, is there easy access to public transportation?

Reputation: What is this provider’s reputation among friends, colleagues, and others? Does the office itself have a positive reputation? You can also check websites like Administrators in Medicine ( to see if there have been complaints lodged against this provider.

Appointments: Are there readily available appointments for new patients? Also, what is the office’s policy about urgent appointments?

Staff: Stop by the office. Is the staff friendly and helpful? How are you treated?

Office: Is the office comfortable? Is it clean and organized? Is it warm and inviting or cold and clinical? Are there contemporary magazines available, or is there a television blaring in the corner?

Hospital affiliation: What hospital(s) is the provider affiliated with? Do you like that facility enough to have it be the place you go when you need hospital-based treatment?

Supervising MD: If you choose a PA or NP as your primary provider, who is the supervising MD for that provider? Will they be available to you as needed? Can you also meet with them?

On-call: What is the on-call policy of the practice? Who responds to you—and how quickly—when the office is closed?

Insurance: If the provider accepts your insurance, do they process the claim, or do you have to pay up front and be reimbursed (this is uncommon these days).

Cash: If you are paying out of pocket, are the charges relatively reasonable?

Subject to Change

Like any other decision, the professional you use as your primary provider can always be changed. It isn’t always possible to do a thorough check prior to making that first appointment, so if you eventually feel that your provider is not meeting your needs or has a personality or style that doesn’t suit you, it is your prerogative as a health care consumer to seek another provider at any time. Remember that this is your health care, and you can always be in charge of who cares for you and your family.