It is true, metal allergies are slowly, but surely invading the global population and that is an overwhelming fact to know. According to NCBI’s statistics (National Center for Biotechnology Information), up to 17% of women and 3% of men deal with metal hypersensitivity, mostly caused by nickel, chromium and cobalt. Nickel is the prevalent allergen that is commonly found in jewelry, watches and hand-held devices, such as smartphones and tablet computers. Redness and itchy skin are just some of the undesired skin reactions that sometimes, can hardly affect one’s lifestyle. Keep reading to find out how to put an end to troublesome metal allergies and enjoy your favorite jewelry for a lifetime.
» Red, swollen or itchy skin
» Blisters of dry skin
» Dermatitis manifested as hives and rashes
» Chronic inflammation
» Chronic fatigue
In most cases, these symptoms appear in a time frame of 24-48 hours after the skin has come into contact with the specific metal.
WHAT JEWELRY METALS ARE PUT ON THE “BLACKLIST”?
Nickel is the leading metal that is responsible for causing an array of skin conditions. According to the medical reports, this metal is a “big issue” in the US, due to the fact that there is a vast exposure to it. Even children come into contact with nickel-plated objects, such as toys and video game consoles. Nickel is a silvery-white metal with a faint golden tint. The main reasons for which it is used in jewelry are its outstanding hardness and corrosion resistance that help making the soft metals more durable. Common skin reactions caused by exposure to nickel are itching, redness and watery blisters on the affected area. Apart from jewelry, this metal is also largely used in transport, marine, aerospace, architecture and technology.
When copper and zinc are mixed together, the final outcome is brass – a metal that can feature a silvery white, golden yellow or reddish gold appearance. To make a particular jewelry piece, brass is used as a base metal that is coated with either gold or sterling silver. Brass jewelry is a low-cost alternative for those who cannot afford fine gold or silver jewelry and that is the explanation why there is a high risk of experiencing an allergic reaction to this metal. Skin that turns green is actually, the easiest way to detect the presence of brass in jewelry. Usually, those who are allergic to brass are very likely to be allergic to copper too. The ultimate benefit of brass is corrosion resistance. It has a low melting point and it is one of the oldest metals used in jewelry, ever since 500 B.C.E.
Copper is next in the row of metal allergies that “rule” among jewelry consumers. It is a soft, ductile metal with a reddish-orange color; hence, the look of rose gold jewelry. This could be quite disappointing for women who adore the feminine flair of rose gold, but are unfortunately, prone to copper-induced skin allergies. Basically, rose gold blends yellow gold and copper to obtain the signature pinkish hue. However, the presence of copper comes in very small amounts, which gives a leap of hope that an undesired skin reaction can be still avoided. Copper, also known as the “red metal” has a number of uses, ranging from building construction to machinery and electronics.
Often neglected for its genuine, dynamic properties, cobalt is also alleged to be a source of metal allergies, mostly related to contact dermatitis. It is one of the three metals that lead to this particular skin condition, along with nickel and chromium. Cobalt is quite a solid material with an attractive metallic-gray hue. In jewelry, it is largely used in the making of men’s jewelry (wedding bands, fashion rings, earrings, bracelets and necklaces). It can be used as both a base metal or an alloy. Cobalt alloys are the recommended alternative for people with hypersensitive skin who want to avoid metal allergies. When cobalt is added to other elements, like nickel, tungsten and samarium, it forms a so-called “super alloy”.
Chromium is a gray, lustrous, steel-like metal with an exceptional hardness. All these characteristics give it a range of important uses in many industries. The jewelry industry is certainly one of them, but the sad news is that chromium is also considered a cause of metal allergies. The good news, however, is that this metal is less likely to irritate the skin in comparison with the other “blacklisted” metals. When chromium is expertly polished, it looks expensive and too captivating to be resisted. The two most significant uses of chromium in jewelry craftsmanship are related to the making of stainless steel and chromium plating, where it is applied as a main ingredient.
HOW TO PREVENT METAL ALLERGIES?
Logically, the best solution is to opt for hypoallergenic metals, such as:
» stainless steel
» fine silver
» sterling silver
» 18K/24K gold
OTHER TIPS TO FOLLOW:
» Purchase a nickel spot test kit to detect the presence of nickel in your jewelry.
» Before making the purchase, look for the words “hypoallergenic”, “nickel-free” or “surgical”.
» Opt for palladium-alloyed jewelry, because palladium has some outstanding hypoallergenic properties.
» Stick to pure metals.
» Clean your jewelry regularly.
» Stop wearing the jewelry pieces that have already caused you a skin problem.
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