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If you put on your favorite pair of earrings one day and by evening, your ears are itchy, red and swollen, then you're likely allergic to nickel. This frustrating allergy has become far more common in recent years and creates serious issues for jewelry aficionados everywhere -- because the vast majority of jewelry contains some degree of nickel. Fortunately, if you have a nickel allergy, you still have accessory options. You will just need to be a little more diligent when you purchase jewelry than your lucky nonallergic counterparts.
A lot of jewelry is labelled "hypoallergenic," and it can be tempting to assume that this term will always indicate jewelry you can wear with a nickel allergy. However, that is not always true. You need to look for the additional descriptors "nickel-free," "titanium," "18-karat yellow gold" or "nickel-free 14-karat yellow gold." White gold and cobalt often contain nickel, so avoid these metals in your jewelry.
Stainless-Steel Body Jewelry
Most body jewelry is made from stainless steel, but not all stainless steel is nickel-free. Ensure any bellybutton rings, nose rings or other piercing jewelry is labeled "nickel-free stainless steel" if you have a nickel allergy. This type of stainless steel may also be called "surgical grade," but be aware that while it is considered hypoallergenic, it is not always so for people with nickel allergies. Also, if you are getting a new piercing, verify that the needle as well as your new jewelry is stainless steel.
Gold and Silver Jewelry
A lot of gold and silver jewelry is made with nickel to keep costs down and make the metal alloy stronger. However, if you have a nickel allergy, this hidden cost-cutter could really make you squirm. Gold needs to be marked "18-karat" or "14-karat nickel free" and silver must be marked "sterling silver." In general, avoid white gold all together.
Polycarbonate plastic jewelry is currently quite trendy. If you have "gauged" ears, then you may already be familiar with this option, as many people use colorful plastic plugs to stretch their ear piercings. You may need to shop at a specialty store or order online to get more conventional jewelry like earring studs made of polycarbonate plastic, but you can rest assured that they're entirely nickel-free and very fashionable.