woman covers face with hands

Implant-grade steel is one of the most common metals in body jewelry. It’s inexpensive, it’s an approved material by the Association of Piercing Professionals, and it’s durable. Unfortunately, it also contains nickel.

Although other metals can cause skin irritation, nickel elicits the most skin irritation. Because of this, a large number of people can’t wear steel body jewelry. Before giving up on the idea of getting a body piercing, you should know that there are alternatives to steel that don’t contain nickel and won’t cause irritation. Here’s everything you need to know.

Causes of Irritation

Steel isn’t pure. In fact, all metals used in jewelry are some sort of alloy—a mixed metal. Sometimes, metals are added to make a material stronger (like in gold), and other times, it’s added to make it more malleable. There are tons of reasons why alloys might be added, but the bottom line remains: some metals are purer than others. 

Nickel is a common additive for its strength and silver tone. Unfortunately, it also causes contact dermatitis—a skin reaction caused by contact with nickel. Contact dermatitis can occur after prolonged exposure to nickel, so even if you’ve never had an issue in the past, you could still develop a nickel sensitivity. 

If you can’t wear steel, it’s likely because of the nickel mixed in. Unfortunately, all steel contains nickel, so you’re not going to be able to wear any steel jewelry without having a reaction. The good news is that there are alternatives to steel that don’t have nickel.

Shop Nickel-Free Jewelry

Symptoms of a nickel allergy

Before you start shopping for nickel alternatives, you need to determine if the symptoms show a nickel allergy. Here are some signs:

  • You develop a rash around the jewelry
  • Your skin feels dry and itchy
  • Redness around the jewelry
  • In extreme cases, you might develop blisters and oozy skin

Nickel appears in all sorts of metal, from zippers to belt buckles, so if you start to develop these symptoms in other areas of the body where you have constant contact with metal, then it’s a good sign that you have a nickel allergy. If not, then you might be experiencing some other type of chemical irritation.

Alternatives to steel

Luckily, there are tons of steel alternatives so that you can avoid piercing irritation altogether. Simply, choose a silver metal that doesn’t contain nickel.

Implant-grade titanium is a popular choice. It’s inexpensive, and it’s one of the purer body jewelry materials out there. In terms of cheap jewelry, titanium is probably the way to go.

However, we believe that your body deserves the celebrity treatment. Titanium is fine, but it just doesn’t stand up to quality options. 14k white gold offers a lustrous silver glow that titanium can’t achieve. While some 14k white gold still contains nickel to achieve its silver tone, FreshTrends’ white gold is rhodium-plated and contains no nickel. Rhodium is one of the most expensive metals in the world, and it offers a silver tone like none other.

Another option is 950 platinum. Platinum is one of the purest metals that you can get. It’s also quite strong; in fact, many are now opting for platinum wedding rings over gold for its durability. 950 platinum means that it’s 95% platinum and 5% another alloy (usually rhodium, copper, palladium, iridium, or titanium) to make it more malleable. As an incredibly pure material, you aren’t likely to experience any irritation, and you’ll have a jewelry piece that you can wear for decades to come. 

Nickel irritation is a bummer, but it doesn’t mean the end of your piercings. Simply find jewelry made from nickel-free materials, and ideally, choose high-quality metals that will never irritate your skin and will last a lifetime.

3 Comments

  • Sam M

    Reply
    December 2, 2014at1:39 am

    The only thing I do not like about this article is suggesting that someone take out their jewelry if they think there is an infection. Jewelry should not be removed except by an experienced piercer or doctor. This is because if it is done improperly skin could form over the hole but the infection can get trapped inside.

    • Nora Newman

      Reply
      January 30, 2018at6:28 am

      You are so right Sam M. You should not remove it because it helps it drain till its changed.

  • Aviva Guttmann

    Reply
    June 18, 2018at11:12 am

    Very helpful. In fact after 3 months when my pierce refused to heal my dermatologist determined I was allergic to the surgical steel and told me to change my earring to 18 k gold. Seems like he may have been right as so far the scanning and itching has stopped.

Post a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.