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1. Why do my ears get infected when I wear earrings?
Your ears may react to unclean earrings, or you may have a metal allergy.
If you are sure, your earrings are clean and pose no problem to hygiene, then the best guess is skin allergy to metals.
Not all metals play nicely with our skin.
Some metals may cause irritations like rashes, color change, swelling, itches, blisters, etc.
This is named metal sensitivity or hypersensitivity.
Metal sensitivity is not limited to jewelry metals, which are in contact with the skin.
It includes undesired reactions to dental and orthopedic implant metals too.
Hypersensitivity is a fairly common issue which affects about 1/8th of the word.
Studies show that around 10-15% of the population has a sensitivity to a least one of nickel, cobalt or chromium.
2. What are the best earrings for sensitive ears?
The best earrings for sensitive ears are made of pure metals, which are hypoallergenic.
Hypoallergenic metals are gold, silver, palladium, platinum.
These metals are safe for jewelry.
Although it cannot be guaranteed, they are less likely to cause any allergic reaction.
Besides these “pure” metals, there are hypoallergenic alloys too.
Alloys are made of more than one metal.
For example, as pure gold and silver are too soft for jewelry, we mix them with other metals to reach a harder and more durable material.
18-karat gold is a gold alloy with 18 parts in 24 gold purity.
Probably the most-used silver alloy in jewelry is sterling silver.
Also known as 925 silver, sterling silver pieces contain 92.5% silver.
The remaining 7.5% part comes from cheap metal like copper to increase hardness.
These are two examples of popular metal alloys used in jewelry all around the world.
Nevertheless, there is more to the story: the added metal parts in alloys may contain trace amount of allergic metals like nickel.
Nickel is the unfamous metal to cause all sorts of skin irritations.
Thanks to its bad reputation, it has been named Contact Allergen of the Year for 2008 by the American Contact Dermatitis Society(ACDS).
So, even if the dominant material in the alloy is hypoallergenic, you should make sure that the earring or other jewelry does not include any allergic substance.
There are earrings and jewelry made from metals, metal alloys and plated metal pieces.
While the first two consist of the same material inside out, the latter is different.
On day one, while the coating is in contact with your ears, it may wear off.
And then, the inner -and probably cheaper- metal will come to sun light.
If this core includes allergic metal, it may cause undesired sensitivity responses as an allergenic piece.
3. What are hypoallergenic earrings?
Hypoallergenic earrings are earrings made of hypoallergenic materials.
Hypoallergenic metals for jewelry are gold, silver, sterling silver, argentium silver, platinum, palladium, titanium, rhodium, aluminum, surgical stainless steel, tungsten carbide and niobium.
Gold is the king of precious metals.
It has been used as money for centuries.
Gold has also found a place in dentistry for teeth as it is highly biocompatible.
However, pure gold’s performance does not pass over directly to all its alloys.
As fine gold which is 100% yellow gold is too soft for jewelry, we use harder alloys.
Other metals are added to gold to increase strength and durability.
Many are much cheaper metals like copper.
In these added metals, there might not be nickel, yet, even so, they may contain traces of nickel.
These small amounts may cause irritation on sensitive ears.
If you prefer gold jewelry and have sensitive skin, you may choose higher purity gold pieces.
Gold percentage in jewelry is measured in karats.
1 karat is one in 24 parts gold.
Thus, 24 karat or 24k gold is 100% pure gold.
12-karat gold is 50% gold.
The remaining part comes from cheaper metals, like copper, to increase strength and give the desired color.
The smaller this part is the lower the trace nickel could there be.
Choosing 18K or higher gold pieces will reduce the probability for allergic reactions.
This is mainly for yellow and rose gold because in these types of gold is in direct contact to the skin.
With the other member of the gold family, white gold, things may be different.
White gold is often coated with rhodium.
This coating protects the inner gold alloy and gives a more shiny uniform look to the jewelry.
Rhodium is a hypoallergenic metal which is very unlikely to cause any reaction contact dermatitis.
Rhodium plated white gold earring is a good pick for sensitive ears.
Nevertheless, one must never forget that rhodium is brittle and the coating may wear off after a while.
When this happens, the inner alloy will start to touch the skin.
This opens the door to allergic reactions.
When this occurs with a rhodium coated white gold earring, a visit to the local jewelry store should be scheduled.
A short re-plating session will restore the coating and shine of the piece, and let you wear your earrings with comfort.
Are gold-plated earrings safe?
As gold is an expensive precious metal, the jewelry industry has produced gold-plated items.
These earrings are made of a core part coming from cheaper metals.
Then, this is covered by a thin layer of gold.
By this way, the overall price of the gold piece becomes much cheaper than 100% gold one.
The downside is if the gold layer does wear off with time, the inner part will come in contact with the ear.
And if it contains any harmful metals like nickel, you might experience unease.
Many people prefer these pieces because of their attractive price, but they should be aware of the risks.
They should pay attention to the condition of the layer and avoid wearing damaged gold-plated earrings.
Silver, Sterling Silver and Argentium Silver
Just like gold, pure silver, which is 99.9% fine silver, is too soft for jewelry.
Jewelry needs durability thus silver alloys are used for making bling.
The first alloy we should look into is sterling silver.
Sterling silver is a 92.5% pure silver alloy very widely used in jewelry.
The remaining 7.5% may contain nickel or traces or nickel, which may cause metal allergies.
If you want sterling silver earrings, make sure they are nickel free.
If you experienced irritation when wearing a sterling silver jewelry, but still prefer silver, you may consider argentium silver.
Argentium silver is a nickel-free silver alloy type.
It is also richer in silver than 925 sterling.
It has 93.5% or 96% silver in its composition.
These two alloys are named Argentium 935 and Argentium 960.
Argentium silver is brighter than 925 silver.
It is also easier to main as it has a higher tarnish resistance than sterling.
Thus, argentium silver is a good choice for hypoallergenic earrings.
There are seldom seen silver alloys like 835 and 850 silver.
These have 83.5% and 85% silver in their composition, respectively.
835 and 850 silver are not immune from nickel and other allergenic metal inclusions.
Make sure your earrings do not include any allergic metals, starting from nickel.
Platinum is a rare and precious metal.
As it is hypoallergenic, it is a good choice for earrings and ear piercings.
Platinum does not corrode, and it has strong tarnish resistance.
The downside is that it might be a little expensive for most budgets.
Palladium belongs to the Platinum Group Metals with rhodium, ruthenium, osmium and platinum.
Palladium earrings have very low risk of allergy as it is hypoallergenic.
It has strong corrosion resistance and it is safe for sensitive skin.
Titanium is a hypoallergenic metal, which is very biocompatible.
It is used to produce surgery equipments, dental and orthopedic implants.
Implant quality titanium earrings can endure high levels of tension and stress without causing any negative response from the human body.
This makes it a excellent choice for critical bone replacements, such as leg or shoulder implants.
So, if it is safe enough to replace bones and piercing, it is good enough for sensitive ears!
Rhodium is another member of the Titanium Group Metals.
It is widely used in jewelry in white gold pieces.
White gold jewelry is often coated with a thin layer of rhodium.
By this way, the inner white gold alloy is protected for a longer life, and it gains a more uniform look.
This thin hypoallergenic layer may wear away with time, causing the skin to contact the gold core.
While rhodium does not cause any harm, the inner metal may include trace amounts of nickel, which may cause irritations.
In this case, you should apply to your local jeweler for a rhodium re-plating session.
This is a short and easy task which will restore the initial look back to your rings, earrings and other pieces.
Aluminum has no nickel, which is the first guess for galvanizing metal sensitivity.
This means your ears are very unlikely likely to have any undesired reaction to aluminum earrings.
Aluminum does not tarnish, and it does not rust.
Generally speaking, aluminum jewelry has lower price tags compared to other metals.
It is also very light, which gives more comfort for daily wear.
Thus, aluminum is a light, good and safe choice for earrings.
Tungsten is one of the hardest metals on the planet.
It is often alloyed with carbon making it into tungsten carbide.
While tungsten is hypoallergenic and safe in its pure state, the alloys are different.
Make sure your tungsten carbide earrings are free of nickel and other metals which hypersensitive skin may react negatively.
Niobium earrings is another safe choice for sensitive ears.
It is hypoallergenic.
Niobium can be anodized and given many colors, yet it is not the most widely available choice on jewelry stores.
Another good choice for sensitive ears is 316L stainless steel earrings.
Steel is an iron alloy, used everywhere we look from construction to kitchen appliances.
While there are many different alloys, not every stainless steel is a good fit your ears.
316L type surgical steel is a very good candidate as it is even safe for surgery equiptments.
Surgical level stainless steel is not likely to cause any irritation for sensitive ears.
4. What types of metal to avoid for sensitive ears?
The short answer is people with sensitive ears and skin should avoid any metal that causes irritation and other allergic reactions.
You can determine the metals you are allergic to with a hypersensitivity test.
Assuming that a very small percentage of jewelry lovers will take the road of an allergy test, let’s give the easy, general answer.
The top three metals causing irritation are nickel, cobalt and chromium.
If you make sure your earrings are free from these three and if not, you know that you have no sensitivity to the metal, you’re probably good to go.
5. How to keep wearing your best earring without the rashes
You have a pair of earrings, which causes redness, itching or blisters but cannot let them go.
Check this solution: cover the post part of the earrings with clear nail polish.
This layer will prevent contact with your ear and end allergies!
1. Is sterling silver OK for sensitive ears?
Silver is a hypoallergenic metal and safe for jewelry.
Sterling silver is an alloy of silver with 92.5% purity.
While this part is safe, the remaining 7.5% may include trace amounts of unsafe metals like nickel.
Make sure your sterling silver earrings are nickel free.
2. Is surgical steel good for sensitive ears?
Surgical level steel like 316L is a safe choice for sensitive ears.
This type of surgical stainless steel is used in production of surgery equipment.
Other lower quality steel alloys may irritate your ears.
Make sure you pick 316L stainless steel for enjoying wearing earrings pain-free .
3. Is Sterling Silver safe for nickel allergy?
Sterling silver is a silver alloy with 92.5% purity.
The second 7.5% part comes from cheaper metals, which is often base metals like copper.
However, this latter part may include nickel, even at trace amounts.
And when nickel gets into contact with the ears, it may cause allergy signs like color change, itches etc.
So, if you want silver earrings, make sure you validate that they are nickel-free or choose a higher-quality silver alloy like argentium silver.
Argentium silver is nickel-free and has a much higher tarnish resistance than sterling silver.
4. Does 14k gold have nickel?
14k gold is a gold alloy with 58.3% gold purity.
The remaining 41.7% comes from cheaper metals like copper in order to increase hardness and durability.
This second part may include nickel, which may cause allergies.
However, this is not sure fact and there are many 14k gold earrings, which are nickel-free.