Those of us with sensitive skin know all about the challenges of buying jewellery, especially earrings. If we’re not careful, the wrong earrings will leave our ears feeling itchy, inflamed, sore or worse. But what’s causing this irritation? It all comes down to the type of metal in the jewellery.
Jewellery is made from many different types of metal including gold, silver and stainless steel. But not all of them are good for sensitive skin. Hypoallergenic earrings, however, have been crafted so that they’re trouble free for sensitive ears. But what exactly are they and how can you shop them?
What Are Hypoallergenic Earrings?
In a nut shell, hypoallergenic earrings are made from materials which are the least likely to cause an allergic reaction when they come into contact with the skin. If you suffer from sensitive skin or a metal allergy there will be a specific metal that you’re sensitive to. Whilst everyone is different, nickel is the most common metal that causes people problems. In fact, up to 15% of us have a nickel allergy. Copper is another common culprit that should be avoided if you have sensitive ears.
So what about hypoallergenic jewellery? To qualify as hypoallergenic, earrings should be nickel free or contain only tiny, trace elements of nickel that won’t react to the skin.
It’s good to have an understanding of exactly which metal is causing your irritation. That way you can ensure those hypoallergenic earrings you’ve got your eye on don’t contain any materials you’re allergic to.
What is the Most Hypoallergenic Metal for Earrings?
Most jewellery is crafted from what is known as a metal alloy. An alloy is a mixture of at least two different types of metal that have been combined together. One reason for doing this is to make the earrings more durable. Pure gold and silver, for example, are too soft to wear for any length of time so jewellers will add different metals to give them more strength.
The best hypoallergenic metals for sensitive ears are those that do not contain troublesome alloys such as nickel or copper. The four best metals for this are platinum, niobium, stainless steel and titanium. Here’s the lowdown on each.
Earrings made from 316L grade stainless steel are great for those with sensitive skin as it contains only a trace amount of nickel that’s way under the amount deemed safe to wear by the European Union's Nickel Directive (more on this later). But it’s true that not all brands of stainless steel jewellery have this high standard.
Luckily, all our hypoallergenic jewellery is made from 316L grade stainless steel which is one of the most hypoallergenic metals on the market and the same grade used for medical implants.
Titanium is one of the best metals for those with sensitive skin as less than 0.6% of people are allergic to it!
Implant grade titanium earrings are what we call biocompatible – meaning the body won’t reject it – which makes it perfect for piercings. And because it’s a non-reactive metal, titanium won’t lose its sparkle by tarnishing over time either.
Our collection of titanium earrings features high quality titanium cartilage studs, glam half hoops studs and classic titanium studs in a cute range of shapes.
Are Stainless Steel Earrings Hypoallergenic?
As mentioned above, 316L grade stainless steel is considered to be hypoallergenic and safe to wear by those with sensitive skin according to the European Union's Nickel Directive.
The European Union's Nickel Directive, which sets a limit on the amount of nickel that can be released from jewellery, states that jewellery should release no more than 0.5 micrograms of nickel per square centimetre, per week. 316L grade stainless steel releases a whopping 10 times less than this at only 0.02 micrograms of nickel per square centimetre, per week.
All our stainless steel earrings are made from 316L grade stainless steel which is why 95% of our customers are able to wear them without irritation. We’ll even offer you a free refund in the very unlikely event that they don’t work for you.
Are Sterling Silver Earrings Hypoallergenic?
The short answer is no. The longer answer is slightly more complicated.
Because 100% pure silver is too soft to use in jewellery without getting scratched or bending out of shape, jewellers will add different metals to form an alloy that’s more durable. Which means sterling silver earrings are actually made up of 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% of another metal. It’s this additional 7.5% that makes sterling silver allergies common.
Because nickel looks very similar to pure silver, is can sometimes be the alloy of choice to create sterling silver jewellery. Copper is also very common. Which is why people often experience itchy, tender or swollen skin when they wear it; it’s the alloy they’re reacting to, not the silver itself. Worse still, once you’ve experienced a reaction, your immune systems becomes more sensitive to nickel. So it could get worse each time you wear a piece that contains it.
If you have a metal allergy, it may be possible to find sterling silver earrings which have been created using an alloy which doesn’t cause you problems. But more often than not, the metal alloy used is hard to determine. So it’s best to avoid if you have very sensitive ears.
Are 18k Gold Earrings Hypoallergenic?
Shopping for gold earrings can be very problematic as the term “gold jewellery” is used widely to refer to many different things. For example, the purity of gold is measured in Karats; the maximum being 24 which is considered pure gold. Anything below 24k means that the gold has been mixed with another metal to form an alloy. Like pure silver, pure gold is too soft to be used in jewellery so 18k is considered to be the highest usable purity.
18K gold jewellery is made up of 75% gold and 25% of something else (possibly nickel or copper). In theory, this should be a high enough combination for most people to avoid an allergic reaction but those with very sensitive ears should still be careful or avoid altogether as irritation is still possible. There’s also the added problem of price. Because of it’s purity, 18k is expensive. Which is why most affordable jewellery is 14K. But remember, the lower the purity, the higher chance of a reaction.
Are Gold Plated Brass Earrings Hypoallergenic?
No! Gold plated earrings are popular because they are cheaper than solid gold. But these are definitely NOT suitable for sensitive ears. That’s because gold plating metals like brass simply means that a thin layer of gold has been applied over the top. This can cause irritation straight away or over time as the thin gold plating wears away, exposing your skin to the copper or nickel containing brass underneath.
Luckily, there is still a way that those with sensitive skin can wear gold jewellery without breaking the bank. Most of our hypoallergenic jewellery is available as gold PVD (Physical Vapour Deposition) coated pieces suitable for sensitive skin. So whether you’re after a knockout gold chain and matching gold bracelet, or a pair of stylish gold huggie hoops, Solace has got you covered.
Where Can You Buy Hypoallergenic Earrings?
You’ll find jewellery self-labelled as “hypoallergenic” all over the internet but it’s hard to know what you’re getting from some suppliers. Some, for example, may say that their earrings are hypoallergenic because they’ve had a coating applied to them. But the metal underneath could still contain nickel which may become exposed over time causing irritation.
From our stud earrings to our ear cuffs, anklets to our pendants, we only use the highest quality 316l stainless steel or titanium to create our on-trend jewellery. And we’re constantly checking our competition to make sure we’re keeping our promise to provide you with the largest range of allergy-safe jewellery in the UK.
We’re so convinced that you’ll be 100% happy with our products that we even offer free returns in the very unlikely event our jewellery doesn’t work for you. Shop now to join the 95% of our customers who re-found their love of earrings thanks to Solace.
We have a 100% happiness guarantee, in the unlikely event you have a reaction, or simply don't like the earrings after trying on you can send back for a refund.