You have a nickel allergy. Let's talk.

More specifically about how to make life easier.

I’m not sure if I’ve had this problem my entire life, but it has certainly gotten worse. I remember as a tot, my ears would break out into rashes if I wore cheapie costume jewelry. I didn’t know why, I just knew when my mom bought me silver jewelry, my ears were fine when I wore it. My mom’s reaction to this news was: “All right, no more earrings for you.”

So now I’m in high school, working crappy jobs, and can afford my own damn jewelry. Of course, mind you, there is nothing better for me to spend my money on than clothes and jewelry. Nothing. But then the rashes are getting worse. The buckle on my watch is causing my inner wrist to break out into itchy little bumps, necklaces are chafing my neck, if my belt buckle touches my skin for too long, I become irritated, the little brad inside of my jeans causes problems. In fact, to this day, I have a dark, circular spot beneath my navel which is permanent scarring from nickel ruining my skin.

I actually went a long time not knowing what I was allergic to, and then eventually (thanks to the internets!) learned that I had a nickel allergy, which is not at all uncommon.

I’ve picked up on a few things that make life simpler. Some things are easy, like don’t buy jewelry with nickel in it. In general, don’t buy things with nickel in them. Duh, right? But still, even knowing this, not everything you buy discloses its nickel content. Moreover, sometimes nickel is just damn near impossible to get away from. Am I never supposed to buy jeans again unless the brad inside is gold-plated? I’ve started editing my pants by sewing a piece of cloth over the brad so that it doesn’t irritate my skin. I don’t buy belts whose buckles are so wide that any part of it will contact my flesh, as doing so is far easier than tracking down a belt whose buckle contains no nickel.

So, you handsome devils, please feel free to share nickel allergy tips, advice, horror stories, or any other anecdotes, but most specifically, tips and advice.


Well, it sort of depends on the item in question, but putting a coat of clear nail polish over earring posts, the inside of rings/watches, etc. will stop much of the reaction. All if you use a couple of coats but you will need to reapply.

I’m not sure what the brad in a pair of jeans is - is that the inside of the button? The nail polish might work on that too.

Wait, what? Clear finger nail polish is the answer to all my problems?!

Two things. I probably am not using the proper terminology, but the little metal circle inside your jeans opposite the button on the outside is what I mean by “brad,” so yes. Second, what are earring posts? Are those the stoppers behind your earlobe that keep the earrings in place, or the shaft that goes into your ear? If the latter, is that okay to put something covered in nail polish in your ear? What about when the polish flakes off?

It will certainly help. I would absolutely give it a try with the brad (I never knew what that thing was called).

As a yoot I had quite an affection for hideous, cheap, nickel based earrings and slathered them all up with clear nail polish with no apparent ill effects. The post is the bit that goes through your ear - you can buy inexpensive stainless steel backs in bulk at drugstores, which is what I did. If you see polish obviously flaking I would remove that coat and reapply, but honestly I’ve worn earrings so cheap that actual bits of metal are flaking off and it doesn’t seem to cause any issues.

FWIW, when you pierce your earlobe it tends to heal quite completely - as long as you don’t have an active infection in the hole I don’t think a bit of nail polish will hurt. Obviously if you polish your nails and have a hangnail polish can get in there and it doesn’t do much - I think it’s pretty benign.

You are not alone! I’m also allergic to nickel. I have been since my mother noticed little red circles on my little baby tummy from the snaps on my pajamas. I don’t have any horror stories, which is probably a good thing, but I will gladly share what experience, tips and advice I do have.

I’ve tried the nail polish trick on a watch, but it always seems to wear off in a couple days. My best solution is to just avoid nickel. Allow me to introduce you to your new favorite website, Simply Whispers. Everything on the site is nickel free. They have a lot of jewelry, as well as jewelry parts like clasps and ear wires. You can make your own jewelry, or replace the more problematic bits of jewelry you already have. They even have body jewelry. Most importantly, though, they have watches! Not a great selection, but they are guaranteed not to irritate you. You might also try gold or silver plated jewelry components. Most craft stores should have the basics (ear wires, clasps, etc) and you can get more specialized items online or in beading stores. They might contain nickel under the plating, and supposedly the plating does wear off eventually, but I’ve never had a reaction to it.
Another resource is No Nickel. They have belts, watches, and and rivets that you can put in your jeans. This site also has a kit that you can use to determine whether a piece of metal contains nickel.

What you call “editing your pants” sounds like a good solution. It might actually be easier than replacing the rivets.

In general, unless you know something doesn’t have nickel, assume it does. Yellow gold doesn’t, sterling silver doesn’t, items specified as nickel-free don’t. I’ve read that it’s usually nickel that makes white gold white, but I’ve worn white gold and never had a problem with it, so it might depend on how sensitive you are. I don’t trust “hypoallergenic” labels on jewelry, and stainless and surgical steel do contain nickel.

I don’t know what styles of jewelry you wear, but I have a single sterling silver chain and several pendants that I can choose between. It does get a little annoying to have to change the pendant all the time, but it’s better than a red, scaly, itchy neck, and it’s cheaper than buying a bunch of silver chains. The pendants themselves rest against my shirt, not my skin.

I also have two other ideas for watches. First- sterling silver watched do exist. I’ve seen them on ebay. Make sure to read the descriptions carefully, because sometimes the back of the face is stainless steel- that was the case in the one I ordered. I did look back at the description after I got it, and it specified the parts that were silver, so it was my fault for not reading closely enough. The second idea is Swatch. Even most of their plastic watches have a small metal circle on the back, but there are some that are completely plastic.

Places like Kohls and JCPenney carry sterling silver jewelry, and they sometimes have pretty good sales. I once got a nice silver ring for around $8 at Kohls.

And, lastly: IANAC (I am not a chemist) but I think the mechanism by which the nickel irritates your skin has something to do with your sweat slightly dissolving the metal next to it, causing the nickel to escape and get to your skin. This means that if the metal is touching part of your skin that doesn’t get too sweaty then it won’t irritate you as much. Obviously this depends on how sensitive you are, but you might be able to get away with some regular nickely jewelry or a watch in the winter, or in a very air-conditioned environment.

Anyway, that’s all I can think of right now. I hope something here helps. Good luck!

I wear camis… a lot.

They do multiple duties (since I’m tall they keep me decent) but one BIG thing is since I tuck them in they keep the inside button of my jeans (and belt buckles) from rubbing my stomach and causing issues (which is where my doctor first noticed it, my ears had long bothered me so I just stopped wearing cheap jewelry in them thinking that was the problem there… I was partially right). I also now wear La Chik belts because the buckles are nickel free (one BIG selling point for me). It helps they are really cute too, and interchangeable so the buckles can go on whatever belt you want. I have about 5-6 buckles now and a few belts though my everyday go-to is basic black and change the buckle to go with the outfit.

I have lotions from the doc to put on whenever I get a breakout… I need to fix some jewelry so I don’t get the breakouts anymore (some nice-ish jewelry too, only the clasp is the problem!!).

Watches… don’t go cheap. I have a Fossil watch in stainless steel that I’ve had for about 5 years now. I also have an el cheapo watch I bought when I misplaced my watch in the house… el cheapo was wearing away and giving me a rash within weeks. I was extremely happy to find my watch again.

Definitely talk to your doc if you haven’t already, the medicated lotion she gave me helps immensely with the rashes that pop up from time to time, my stomach has healed nicely and I was well on the way to scarring it I think. Probably can’t do anything about it now, but can prevent other scars from showing up… as well as limiting that annoying itch.

I was going to suggest Simply Whispers, too. I think they also have plastic earring guards that will cover the posts and backs of earrings.

Yay Simply Whispers! I’m boring and just wear two endless hoops in each ear, but they are for sure Simply Whispers. Anything else just turns my ears completely black.

Do not wear metal jewelry if it does not have a jewelers stamp mark and a content mark. I’m not sure what the rules are where you are, but I look for a small “925” or “925s” on my silver jewelry, and “585” on gold. Stamping something that does not contain what the stamp says is a serious offense, resulting in jail time for whoever stamped it. If you react to jewelry bought from a proper goldsmith, you have been the victim of an actual crime.

Wear underpants that come between your skin and the button on your jeans. If you don’t want to wear granny panties, then either stop wearing jeans, or wear t-shirts tucked into your jeans. You can always claim to be retro.

Buy clocks with leather or plastic straps, without a metal buckle. Go to a real watch-place (that only sells watches) and explain your issue. If you can’t afford a real watch, or need throw-away watches, try kids watches. They sometimes come in all-plastic wristbands that even cover the back of the clock itself. Or use your cell instead of a wristwatch.

Wear necklaces on real silver chains. These should be stamped near the clasp. Or, if you can’t afford silver, use leather cords instead.

I’m allergic to a lot of metals – not just nickel.

I can’t solve all your problems, but I can tell you that I make it a point to buy watches with a stainless steel back. It means I have to wear watches that are a little pricier, but they are the only watches I can wear without breaking out.

Stainless steel.

I have a nickel allergy but it doesn’t seem as bad as some of yours – I have no problem with a stainless steel watch, for instance, or the button on the inside of my jeans. I’ve had a few run-ins with cheap chromed watches though.

My wedding ring is titanium, my engagement ring is palladium. Both good choices for silvertone metals, that aren’t so easily scratched and bent as silver.

My new favorite website indeed. These are rocking my face.

Oh yes. Camis have changed my life.

Excellent idea. Next time I go to the doc, I’ll ask for something to help end this hell!

Oh, yes’m. I’m a fan of weird necklace pendants, so I used to be a big fan of etsy. I’d make sure that the pendant was silver, or at least silver-plated. When I put on the necklaces, I quickly realized that the chains were not silver. :frowning:

Re: Watches - My current watch is awesome sauce. I think the face and buckle are made of titanium, plus it gets bonus points for being solar powered.

My Apple Bottoms have a nickel brad and I get the same reaction you do when I wear them. I tried putting nail polish on but it just ended up coming off. :confused:

I dunno about other jewelry, but if you have a ring you want to wear and are loath to cover it with nail polish (which I wouldn’t do for any kind of pricey jewelry), jewelers can coat the inside with Rhodium, which is non-allergenic and fairly cheap (I think they charged me $10 or so).

I once reacted to a necklace that was all gemstone. I have a weird skin problem so sometimes I’m not sure if I’m actually allergic or my skin just didn’t want something touching it at that time. But I definitely have had problems with earrings since I was a kid.

Yup. An ex of mine had metal allergies and that’s what she did.

Wait, how would stainless steel help? Isn’t what they add to steel to make it stainless, nickel?

Hmm. Fortunately all my nice jewelry is sterling silver or white gold, so hurrah for that. Some jewelry that I’ve bought, though, was labeled nickel-free and I was still irritated by them! Apparently for some, “nickel-free” means “not that much nickel.” However, I am having a problem with my new glasses. They’re plastic frames, but on the inside there is just a tiny metal rectangle with the brand on it. I didn’t even notice it when I bought the pair because it was so small, and then my temples started itching. “Oh no,” I thought, “I know that itch. DAMN YOU, NINE WEST!!!” I’ve put a tiny strip of masking tape over it, but I wonder if a jeweler will coat it in Rhodium for me. It’d be worth it considering I will be wearing these glasses everyday for nearly a year.

Or maybe this works? I coated the tiny plates inside my frames with clear nail polish this morning, but I can’t give an assessment of how well it works until the rash goes away.

It doesn’t. I used to think stainless steel was the problem. It is indeed a problem, but because it contains nickel.

The “steel” confusion is because some wearable stuff (and most piercings) is made in surgical steel, which is a different animal altogether. You can get surgical steel jewelry.

As to pendants on Etzy, you could build up a cache of silver chains you like, and buy the pendants without chains. Most sellers will do that if you convo them. Then just wear them on your own chains. A lot of jewelry-making retailers sell relatively cheap silver chains in bulk.

And yes, some jewelers or goldsmith will rhodinate, or even silver-plate stuff for you for a charge. Its an entirely uncomplicated process, so the charge shouldn’t be much.

Even if something says “Silver”, that doesn’t mean anything legally unless the item is stamped. Look for the stamp, always.

Surgical steel is my friend; stainless steel is my sworn enemy. I’m all over buying chains from (yay a thousand times from that website), or anywhere else really, and using my etsy pendants on them. I just learned the hard way that I have to make sure I look at what the chain is made of, and not the pendant alone.

I’m totally going to see if they’ll coat the inside of my glasses. I can’t live with this for a whole year. The left temple itched so much, that I couldn’t resist scratching and broke the skin! :eek: Need self-control and coating stat!

I never go by it just saying silver, but I did believe that nickel-free meant there was no nickel inside. As it turns out, no! It can also mean very little nickel. Not good!