Nickel allergy: Find out what it is
We love wearing jewellery but what we don’t like is the rash some kinds of jewellery give us. Known as a nickel allergy, this inflammation is caused by the chemical element, nickel reacting to the skin. Wearing jewellery or accessories that contain nickel, for a long time can cause a skin allergy.
You might wonder, what is this dangerous substance doing in jewellery?
On its own, nickel is a harmless element. But when it is in contact with the skin, it reacts to the sweat and causes dermatitis, commonly known as skin allergy.
It’s a white metal that’s sturdy and has a slight golden tinge that is used as an alloy in mainly gold jewellery. It is also used in stainless steel, belt buckles, electronics like phones and even drinking water.
As per The European Union’s (EU) Nickel Directive, there is a permissible limit for the nickel used in gold jewellery.
There are jewellery items like necklaces and bracelets that do not need the skin to be pierced. And there are earrings and nosepins that need one to pierce their ears and nose.
The directive states that jewellery for piercings should not release more than 0.2 micrograms per cm per week. For jewellery, like bangles, that don’t need a piercing, the limit is 0.5 micrograms per cm per week. The reason for this is that the nickel reacts even more harshly on broken skin.
Stopping and healing a nickel allergy
The allergic reaction usually starts at the point of contact and then slowly spreads to the surrounding area. To stop it from spreading, avoid wearing jewellery as soon as you see initial signs of irritation.
A nickel allergy is generally not very severe. But depending on how sensitive your skin is, there might be bleeding. If the broken skin is not taken care of, it could become a full-fledged infection.
Jewellery on piercings tends to cause more irritation than those which do not need piercings.
If you have a medical history of skin irritation, carefully plan how long you should wear the trinkets. Not everyone gets nickel allergies but it is better not to take a chance.
The rash caused by the reaction to nickel usually goes away in a few days. It should start getting better a few hours after removing the jewellery. In case it does not, see your doctor immediately. And if it gets worse, it is dangerous to try home remedies unless your doctor makes a suggestion.
Though a nickel allergy is more common in women, men who wear rings on their fingers can also be affected. The nickel has to react to the sweat on the skin in order to cause an allergy. And that’s not it!
Sometimes, there is also residue soap, water , cleaning solution or even dirt stuck in our rings.
Metals tend to react to such substances and it may not even be a nickel allergy at all. It is necessary to consider other reasons why your skin could possibly react to metal jewellery.
Nickel-free jewellery is a debatable topic. Metal or gold jewellery always has some amount of nickel which makes it durable and strong. To be completely safe from coming in contact with nickel at all, you’d have to stick to just wooden ornaments.