What Kind Of Earrings Are Hypoallergenic?
There are many, many earrings that claim to be hypoallergenic. Stainless steel earrings, surgical steel earrings, gold earrings, brass earrings and more all claim to be hypoallergenic earrings. But if you have sensitive ears and have purchased a pair of hypoallergenic earrings only to experience a painful reaction, you have probably wondered - what kind of earrings are hypoallergenic?
To answer this question, we first must define hypoallergenic earrings.
Hypoallergenic means "less likely to cause an allergy."
Therefore, technically, hypoallergenic earrings are earrings that are less likely to cause an allergy.
The next logical question is, why do earrings cause allergies?
Most earrings are made with metal alloys. Alloys are a mixture of two or more metals. Stainless steel, surgical steel, brass, and 14k gold are all common alloys. Most metals are highly reactive with the human body. Over time and extended contact with reactive metals, the human body will develop an immuno-response to the reactive metal which leads to a contact allergy when that metal is present.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, the following happens when you develop a metal allergy:
"Your skin cells pick up small molecules of metal, which travel to your lymph nodes. Your body treats the offending substance like a foreign invader, and quickly mounts an immune response. The result: redness, itching, swelling or a rash, with skin blistering or scaling at the site.
The symptoms of metal allergy range from mild to severe. Each time you’re re-exposed to the offending metal, your skin reacts in the same way."
So, once you have developed a metal allergy, any earrings made with reactive metal will cause the symptoms of an allergy: redness, itching, swelling, and even skin blistering.
Herein lies the problem with most "hypoallergenic earrings." As it says above: each time you are re-exposed to the offending metal, your skin reacts the same way.
Since so many metals are reactive, when you wear earrings made with metal alloys, any one of the metals in the earring could be causing a reaction. It is very difficult to pinpoint a particular metal that has caused a contact allergy.
Back to the original question - what kind of earrings are hypoallergenic? The only earrings that are truly less likely to cause an allergy are earrings that are made with non-reactive materials.
The following metals, in their pure form, are considered to be non-reactive with the human body: titanium, niobium, gold, and platinum. Again, for these to be considered hypoallergenic earrings, they must be in their pure form. If they are mixed with any other metals (like in the case of 14k gold), the other metals can be reactive and can cause an allergy.
Bottom line, hypoallergenic earrings are earrings that are less likely to cause a metal allergy. Titanium earrings, niobium earrings, pure gold earrings and pure platinum earrings are all hypoallergenic earrings because they are made with metals that are non-reactive. Any other earrings have a very good chance of causing a painful reaction for anyone who has developed a metal allergy.
Source: Cleveland Clinic