Finding earrings you can wear can be quite an ordeal when you have sensitive ears. You may experience soreness, itchiness, or redness around your ears, which can be uncomfortable or embarrassing.
If you’re looking for jewelry metals you can use despite having sensitive ears, you’re in the right place. We’ll be sharing seven best metals for sensitive ears, and four metals you should never try.
Let’s start by learning why you get that uncomfortable, itchy feeling on your earlobes when you wear some earrings.
Why Your Ears are Sensitive to Earrings
Your ears are sensitive to earrings because you’re allergic to the metal in the earring. Most earrings are made from a mix of high-quality metals like gold and silver and lesser quality metals like nickel and cobalt.
Many people find that these lesser metals are incompatible with their skin. If you’re allergic, it’s because your skin experiences the lesser jewelry metals as foreign materials and tries to fight them off, triggering a reaction. The reaction could cause your skin to get itchy, sore, or blistered.
There are different levels of hypersensitivity. For example, some people only react poorly after a few hours of wearing jewelry that contains an allergic metal. On the other hand, others may react almost immediately with itchiness and weeping skin.
Such irritations happen because the skin around your ear is allergic to the metal in the earring.
Fortunately, not all metals will irritate your earlobes. There are safe metals for sensitive ears. Using earrings made from these metals will prevent allergic reactions when you wear earrings.
7 Best Metals for Sensitive Ears
Hypoallergenic metals are metals that are less likely to cause allergies or hypersensitivity. If you’re looking for jewelry metals for sensitive ears, these seven options are a great place to start:
Titanium is a lightweight, durable, and corrosion-resistant metal.
Titanium is biocompatible. This means that your skin will not react to it because titanium is mostly inert and does not react with surrounding substances.
Platinum is another great option if your ears are sensitive. It is a silvery-white, soft but durable metal.
Platinum is usually alloyed with other metals to make jewelry, but nickel, the common irritant metal, is not one of them. Platinum jewelry has a high purity level because it has very little alloy content. If an earring is marked “Plat” or “Pt,” you can be sure it will not irritate your earlobes.
Platinum jewelry can be pricey, but you’ll find that they’re worth it.
Niobium is a light-gray, flexible metallic element that also happens to be very hypoallergenic. Niobium is not very common, but it’s a beautiful metal for making jewelry. It can be chemically processed to produce several interesting colors.
Niobium earrings are excellent for sensitive ears, and you can get a cute pair at a modest price.
Silver is a hypoallergenic metal. In its pure state, it has a very low potential for skin irritation.
If you’ve ever reacted to “silver” jewelry, it’s because it contained some traces of nickel, making it sterling silver and not pure silver. Pure silver is 99.9% of silver and is safe for sensitive ears.
💡 Pure silver is rarely used in jewelry production because of its soft nature. Some people with sensitive ears may find sterling silver to be equally tolerable.
Like silver, pure gold is also safe for sensitive ears.
This naturally existing, precious metal has a low potential for skin irritation. It can only hurt your sensitive ears if it contains high amounts of alloys like cobalt and nickel.
So when buying gold earrings for sensitive ears, choose nothing less than 18-karat gold, which is 75% gold. The higher the number of karats, the higher the purity level, and the less likely it is to irritate your ears.
Surgical Stainless Steel
Stainless steel is an iron alloy containing at least 10% chromium. Surgical stainless steel (SSS) is a grade of stainless steel with little carbon content.
This grade, usually marked 316L, is safe for sensitive ears. As the name implies, it is produced for surgical use, so it doesn’t cause reactions when in contact with human skin.
When shopping for SSS jewelry, look out for those marked “nickel-free.”
Plastic is not a metal, but it is a safe jewelry material for those with sensitive ears.
It won’t corrode, and there are no risks of allergenic metals. However, some plastic earrings may have backs/posts made from allergenic metals. When shopping for plastic earrings, avoid those with nickel backs, and stick with those with plastic backs, or backs made from hypoallergenic metals like titanium.
The Worst Metals for Sensitive Ears
Unlike hypoallergenic metals, some metals are very likely to cause allergies, and if you have sensitive ears, you’re better off avoiding them.
Nickel is the most commonly allergenic metal. Research shows that about 10% of people in the US are allergic to nickel.
This metal is highly allergenic and will irritate people with even low sensitivity. Even small amounts of nickel in alloyed jewelry can cause hypersensitivity in some people.
No one knows precisely why nickel is so allergenic. As with other allergenic metals, your body’s immune system views nickel as harmful. If you have sensitive ears, avoid jewelry containing nickel. Look out for pieces that are marked “nickel-free.”
Aluminum is a naturally existing metal in the earth’s crust. It is widely used not only in jewelry but also in medicine. Although originally considered safe with low potential to cause allergies, more reactions to aluminum have been reported in recent years, including contact hypersensitivity. Avoid aluminum earrings, especially if you have very sensitive ears.
Brass jewelry is made from zinc, copper, nickel, and sometimes aluminum.
This combination is dangerous for sensitive ears because both nickel and aluminum are allergenic metals. So if your earlobes react to earrings, avoid brass earrings. If you would use it at all, carefully verify that it is the type of brass made only from copper and zinc. If you’re not sure, it’s better not to buy them.
💡 Related: See how brass compares with gold.
Bronze earrings are made from copper, tin, nickel, zinc, or aluminum alloy. Like brass, the addition of those allergenic metals — nickel and aluminum — makes bronze unsuitable for sensitive ears.
Tips for Reducing Ear Sensitivity to Earrings
Getting allergic reactions from your favorite earrings is no fun. Thankfully, there are ways to reduce the chances of a metal irritating your ears.
- Applying Vaseline or coconut oil to your earlobes and earring stick post before wearing it. Vaseline and coconut can serve as a protective barrier between the metal and your ear to prevent an allergic reaction.
- Apply a thin layer of nail polish to your earring stick post (the part that goes into your earholes) before wearing. It also creates a protective barrier.
- Clean your earrings regularly with an antiseptic. Dirty earrings may cause a bacterial infection that worsens irritation. Clean your earrings once every week.
- Do not wear earrings all the time. This will give your earlobes a break so that symptoms do not get worse.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which metal is the most hypoallergenic?
Titanium is the most hypoallergenic metal used for avoiding reactions even in hypersensitive people. It is one of the most preferred metals for medical bone implants because of its biocompatibility. Titanium is the best metal for sensitive ears if you can overlook its high cost.
Is zinc good for sensitive ears?
It could be. Zinc earrings are usually made from an alloy of zinc and copper, and in that case, it is safe for sensitive ears.
But if your zinc earrings are alloyed with nickel, you shouldn’t use them on your sensitive ears. Confirm the exact constituents of a zinc earring before buying.
Is gold-plated stainless steel hypoallergenic?
Gold-plated stainless steel is made with stainless steel as the base metal and a layer of gold to cover (“plate”) it. Stainless steel is hypoallergenic itself, and so is the gold layer over it. So yes, gold-plated stainless steel is hypoallergenic.
Protect Your Sensitive Ears
You don’t have to stop using earrings totally because your earlobes react to them. There are safe metals for sensitive ears. The next time you’re shopping for earrings, feel free to choose any of the earrings we highlighted in this article. Remember, nickel is not an option when buying earrings for sensitive ears — it is a highly allergenic metal that should not be found in your jewelry box.
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