There are A LOT of hypoallergenic earrings on the market, and also a lot of nickel free earrings. Often, both of these labels are used to describe a single pair of earrings. If you have sensitive ears though, you may have noticed that hypoallergenic earrings and nickel free earrings still cause painful reactions or irritations. You've probably thought, what do these terms actually mean? Are they saying the same thing?
First of all, you need to understand that if you have sensitive ears or if you develop a reaction over a few minutes or hours of wearing earrings, you are most likely experiencing a metal allergy. Metal allergies are contact allergies that develop after an extended period of time in contact with a reactive substance (like when you are wearing earrings).
Most jewelry is made with metal alloys (mixtures of 2 or more metals), and if any of the metals in the alloy are reactive they can cause a reaction. Nickel in particular is one of the most common causes of a metal allergy, however there are many other very reactive metals that are used in jewelry.
That helps to put the labels hypoallergenic and nickel free into context. Hypoallergenic literally means "less likely to cause an allergy." Nickel free on the other hand, means that the alloy that the earrings are made with does not contain nickel.
While "hypoallergenic" and "nickel free" both sound like they would be good for sensitive ears, it turns out these labels are meant less as a guarantee of safety, and more as a marketing tool to make people believe that these earrings are somehow better quality than others.
If you are out looking for earrings that will be safe for sensitive ears, know that the label hypoallergenic earrings simply means that the earrings are less likely to cause a reaction. Also, nickel free simply means that the earrings were not made with nickel, it does not take into account the many other reactive metals that could cause a reaction.
At Tini Lux, we are trying to make biocompatible happen. It's not as easy to say as "fetch," but hopefully it will catch on. Biocompatible means that a substance is capable of coexisting with the human body without causing a reaction. Unlike nickel free earrings and hypoallergenic earrings, biocompatible earrings are guaranteed to be safe. We believe you shouldn't have to try to decipher the difference between labels like nickel free and hypoallergenic and guess whether one will work for your body.
Instead of looking for hypoallergenic earrings or nickel free earrings, look for earrings made with pure, biocompatible metals like titanium and niobium. If you are willing to spend much, much more, pure platinum and 24k gold are both biocompatible metals as well.