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When your body seems to physically reject your engagement ring, its never a good sign.
Contact dermatitis is a fancy name for a skin allergy -- the uncomfortable itch, burning, peeling, and redness that comes from wearing certain types of jewelry. According to the Mayo Clinic, jewelry prepared with nickel alloys can cause skin reactions. Nickel is a strong and durable metal; it is a common component of everyday household items like necklace clasps, watch bands, belt buckles, zippers, coins, and eyeglass frames. This is unfortunate for people who are sensitive to nickel because it becomes difficult to figure out what, exactly, is triggering the reaction.
People can have an "innate" nickel sensitivity triggered upon a single exposure, or develop sensitivity over repeated exposures. Nickel allergies affect both men and women of all ages, though it appears more frequently on women since they tend to wear more jewelry than men do. Free Beauty Tips.org estimates that as much as 15% of the population is sensitive to nickel.
Do you have a nickel allergy?
Sometimes people are unaware of a nickel allergy until they experience it firsthand. Your local health care professional can test for allergies by administering an allergen sensitivity test. The test involves rubbing or injecting allergens onto or just beneath the skin and recording any changes at the reaction site.
It is also a good idea to take careful note of any funny reactions to wearing a specific type of jewelry or using household items, and not trick oneself into thinking, "Oh, this is just a one-time thing. It'll go away!" This might make the problem worse! Although it is possible to help the body develop resistance to an allergy -- a process called desensitization therapy -- this is best done under the care of a medical professional, and it is usually more effective in children dealing with common outdoor allergies.
I'm allergic. How can I deal with it?
The best strategy is to avoid nickel exposure. If you must work with nickel products, be sure to wear protective gear such as rubber gloves and to wash hands thoroughly after use. If suffering from an allergic reaction, wash the affected area with soap and warm water, then administer a topical cream like Benadryl or calamine lotion and/or an oral antihistamine.
Do jewelers sell nickel in their products?
Some do, yes. Jewelers can tell customers whether or not nickel exists in a given alloy. Here at Krikawa, we take customer concerns about nickel sensitivity very seriously, so we provide a chart listing the quality, grade, and composition of all of our jewelry metals. For more information, please take a look at our Learning Center. If you see the letters Ni under "Composition," then that product contains nickel.
Of the 13 alloys we use for our jewelry, only two of them contain nickel: the 14-karat precise white gold and our 316L stainless steel grade.
In our next article, we will talk more about platinum, a fine substitute for people who like white metals but cannot tolerate nickel.