Can Jewelry Cause Excema?

By Jacqueline Burke
Eczema is actually a group of medical conditions that cause patches of skin become inflamed, itchy, red, cracked and rough. The actual cause of eczema is unknown, but it is believed to from an overactive immune system response to environmental irritants.
There is a type of eczema called allergic eczema, which is also known as contact dermatitis. With allergic eczema, if your skin comes into contact with some allergen or irritant, your body's immune system responds with a reaction including some or all of the symptoms of eczema (e.g. redness, itchiness, inflammation).  Most metals are reactive, so when in regular contact with the human body, metals can trigger allergic eczema.
Our skin is supposed to be our protective barrier against the world. When your skin is damaged, that can let in allergens more easily, and your eczema symptoms can worsen. When you get your ears pierced, you are introducing an open wound in your skin. Not only that, but even after your initial piercings are healed, that skin tends to be much more delicate and can easily be reopened when earrings are taken in and out. So when you have a skin condition like eczema, wearing metal earrings can be particularly challenging. 
There is unfortunately no cure for eczema. Some people grow out of it after childhood, and for others it's a lifelong condition. One of the ways to treat eczema is to learn the triggers for it and avoid those to the best of your ability. 
If you have noticed that your ears are sensitive and some earrings cause a reaction, you are most likely experiencing allergic eczema or contact dermatitis. The best way to avoid allergic eczema from jewelry is to only choose jewelry that is made with nonallergenic materials. Earrings especially should be chosen with care because they are an open wound in the body.
Titanium (in its pure state) is one of the few metals that is nonallergenic and safe for people with allergic eczema to wear. Pure gold and platinum are also generally nonallergenic, however they are very expensive.  The reason these metals must be in their pure state to be nonallergenic, is that even trace amounts of other metals can trigger a painful reaction for someone with eczema. 
When you are shopping for jewelry, seek out information on what metals are in the jewelry and what materials will be in contact with your skin. If you are buying fashion jewelry, it is important to know the base metal in addition to the plated metal, because the plating can wear away leaving you skin exposed to whatever is underneath. When in doubt: reach out to the company and ask them what metals they use!


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