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Many people experience discomfort in their ear piercings when they wear earrings. This can be as minor as a slight itchiness or as major as pus and blood. While we normally tend to the blame earrings in general, they aren’t the culprit. The cause of this issue is the metal your earrings are made of, so the best way to avoid this is to choose your earrings carefully.
Not all metals are made equal, so in this guide, we’re going to outline your best options for earrings for sensitive ears.
What Causes Sensitive Ears?
Sensitive ears are typically caused by wearing earrings containing metals that can cause allergies. Nickel and cobalt are the typical culprits that cause issues for people with sensitivity to metal and unfortunately, these metals are in many of the alloys used to create jewelry.
While most cheap, costume earrings contain nickel, even precious metal alloys like gold and silver can contain nickel (more on this below) and can also cause reactions. Most people think they’re allergic to silver or gold when this happens, but in actuality they’re only allergic to the nickel.
If your ears are sensitive to metal allergies, you may experience swelling, redness, crustiness, oozing, itchiness, bleeding and pain in your ear piercings when you wear certain types of earrings. Being selective with the metals you choose for your earrings is the best way to avoid this issue.
What are Hypoallergenic Metals?
Hypoallergenic earrings are for people who experience skin reactions to particular types of metals.
To be sure that the earrings you’ve chosen will not irritate your ears, ensure that you choose the right metal. Below are listed the best metals for earrings for sensitive ears.
This is an issue for gold with under 14k gold purity. It’s best to stick with karatage above 14K like 18K and 22K gold as these contain more gold and very little nickel. You can opt for 100% pure gold with 24K but note that this will be less durable as it is quite soft and will also be expensive.
24K gold studs will never give you allergies. See these on Etsy.
Platinum is hypoallergenic and durable. See these here.
Sterling silver (92.5% purity) is also an excellent choice but it may contain traces of nickel, although this is often negligible. Some people can tend to get reactions to sterling silver so it has to be chosen with care. If you’re extremely sensitive to nickel, it’s best to ask the jeweler if the sterling silver alloy contains nickel. They should be able to tell you this information.
Sterling silver is a great choice for sensitive ears. See these on Blue Nile.
As an aside, some jewelers label their items as pure sterling silver. This is a marketing tactic and basically means that the silver is 92.5%.
To learn more about sterling silver vs. fine silver, check out our article here.
There are many stainless steel alloys, some of which contain nickel, but opt for grades 316L and 316LVM which are considered the best for sensitive ears.
316L SSS earrings are ideal for newly pierced and sensitive ears. See these on Etsy.
Titanium is an affordable, bio-compatible option. See these on Etsy.
Earrings made of hypoallergenic nobium wire. See them on Etsy.
Earrings with plastic posts. See it on Etsy.
Wood earrings are a unique way to get around metal allergies. See these on Etsy.
Metals to Avoid for Sensitive Ears
What Are Hypoallergenic Earrings?
You’ll often find inexpensive fashion earrings labeled ‘hypoallergenic’. What this means is that the earrings are not highly likely to cause metal allergies, but it doesn’t guarantee that they won’t.
Unfortunately, in the jewelry industry, there is no standard for hypoallergenic earrings. Any jeweler can slap on a hypoallergenic label on their products. Usually, a hypoallergenic label simply means that the earrings may be coated to avoid nickel contact with skin but when the coating wears off, it’s likely that you’ll experience discomfort.
These kinds of earrings are fine to wear every now and then. But for regular wear, choose a better metal.
How to Wear Earrings Without Irritation
If you aren’t ready to get rid off your favorite costume earrings, you don’t have to. Here are some tips to make those allergy-causing earrings wearable.