The practice of wearing earrings has been around for centuries, so it comes as no surprise that it’s just as popular today. However, over time, individuals with sensitive skin have had to come to terms with a very annoying, and oftentimes painful, drawback of wearing earrings: contact allergies.
Today, in a world of fast fashion, the emphasis is on quantity rather than quality. That means some brands and manufacturers don’t necessarily source the best materials for their body jewelry, making for some pretty gnarly side effects if you’re particularly sensitive.
No matter if you have sensitive skin or not, it’s always important to keep quality top of mind when shopping for new body jewelry. Some earrings, like studs, can be small in size, but that certainly doesn’t mean they won’t cause a contact allergic reaction.
In this blog, we’ll cover the bases of contact allergies, what to look for while you’re perusing jewelry options, and how titanium body jewelry may be the solution to your sensitive skin issues.
Contact Allergies and Piercings
A contact allergy appears when you’ve come into direct contact with a substance or material you’re allergic to, such as the metal in body jewelry. Also known as as allergic contact dermatitis, this immune reaction causes an itchy rash accompanied by redness, swelling, tenderness, burning, and sometimes even bumps and/or blisters.
But what is the allergen that’s causing all this commotion?
There are several culprits, but mainly it’s nickel that causes the contact allergy. It’s an alloy that’s very commonly added into jewelry for several reasons:
- It’s cheaper than silver, but twice as lustrous
- It’s more readily available than silver
- It’s lightweight and won’t oxidize
- It’s durable, helping strengthen the jewelry
While these all sound like fantastic benefits from a manufacturing standpoint, the more important perspective is this: nickel is one of the most common causes of allergic contant dermatitis. It affects more than 18% of people in North America, according to the American Academy of Dermatology Association.
Other common allergens found in some body jewelry are cobalt, copper, brass, and zinc. In many cases, one of these lower quality metals serves as the jewelry base which is then plated with real gold or silver—a common way to confuse consumers. The fact remains, there must be a better way to ensure that you’re purchasing nickel-free jewelry, or at the very least, jewelry that’s made from skin-friendly materials. And that’s where titanium comes in.
Titanium Jewelry : A Hypoallergenic Alternative
When a material is “hypoallergenic,” that means it’s unlikely to cause an allergic reaction. Thus, finding hypoallergenic body jewelry should be your first priority, especially if you’re prone to skin allergies. There are a couple hypoallergenic metals, the most popular being titanium.
Titanium isn’t just hypoallergenic, it’s also biocompatible, meaning that it won’t harm living tissue. According to Alfred T. Sidambe in Materials (Basel), titanium is considered to be biocompatible because of its low electrical conductivity. This contributes to electrochemical oxidation which forms a thin passive oxide layer that has corrosion resistance, protecting both the metal itself and the tissue surrounding it.
This is why titanium is used primarily for surgical implants, and nowadays, body jewelry too. Additionally, titanium is extremely durable while being lightweight, another reason it’s ideal for body jewelry.
Those with sensitive skin find titanium to be a fantastic alternative, opening new doors to long-term jewelry wear without any fear of irritation.
Identifying Genuine Titanium Jewelry
Unfortunately, there isn’t a reliable visual method of distinguishing authentic titanium body jewelry from counterfeits. Titanium, stainless steel, silver, nickel, cobalt…they’re all silver in color and look identical when in the form of a hoop or stud. So, how can you be certain what you’re buying is titanium?
Your best bet is reading the packaging label and/or product description if you’re shopping online. So, let’s go over a few specifications to look for: | ASTM International Formerly known as the American Society for Testing and Materials,
ASTM International is an international technical standards organization for materials, products, and services across more than 100 industries. Their +12,900 standards help ensure the quality, safety, and productivity of these industries.
APP Established in 1994, the Association of Professional Piercers (APP) is an international health and safety organization and a nonprofit voluntary alliance. It’s dedicated to spreading accurate and up-to-date body piercing information to members, piercers, health care professionals, legislators, health inspectors, and the general public.
Because the APP endorses the use of ASTM F136 titanium for healing piercings, we recommend looking for the “ASTM F136” certification while shopping. This is the standard specification for titanium surgical implants, also pertaining to body jewelry.
Additionally, beware of titanium-plated jewelry. That means the body jewelry’s base metal is something other than titanium, such as nickel, and is simply coated, or plated, in titanium. For those with sensitive skin, titanium-plated jewelry can still cause allergic reactions, so ensure the jewelry you purchase is completely titanium!
If you’re unsure if the jewelry you’ve chosen is ASTM F136-compliant or not, it’s best to look elsewhere. Reputable piercing shops and brands (like Urban Body Jewelry) will proudly label their titanium jewelry as such.
Types of Titanium Earrings
Titanium earrings are the epitome of fashion and comfort. They come in a variety of shapes and styles, giving those with skin allergies a chance to find self expression through body jewelry. There are three primary categories:
While titanium studs can be small and simple, they can also make a big impact. Whether you're a minimalist or a fan of the macabe, there's something for everyone when it comes to titanium stud earrings. These cz titanium bezel earrings are the perfect addition to a curated ear, or by themselves in the lobe or helix.
The ever-in-vogue choice, titanium hoop earrings can incorporate a touch of sophistication to your look. With various sizes and designs to choose from, you can effortlessly find a pair that speaks to your personal aesthetic. From delicate to bold (or somewhere in between, like these retro titanium lune hoops) hoops help curate your vibe with effortless versatility.
Dangle earrings, or “dangles” for short, are a style of body jewelry that allow you to show your love for intricate details and interesting textures. While hoops are a continuous circle that leaves space between the lobe and the hoop itself, dangles are comprised of either a stud or hoop and a “dangle” portion, typically a delicate chain or gemstone.
For dangle earrings with hoops, like the black PVD aurora CZ dangle shown above, a key difference is that the hoop its much more snuggly to the earlobe (enough to sit still and not swing/sway).
Caring for Titanium Earrings
Another benefit to titanium earrings is that they’re low maintenance. Titanium by nature is incredibly durable, which means you won’t have to worry about your jewelry getting warped or chipped if you plan wearing it longterm. However, like all jewelry, there are methods of caring for titanium to keep it looking like new.
Over time, and especially after extended wear, your titanium earrings may develop a patina, or a sheen on the surface caused by age. Fortunately, it can easily be polished away. Simply soak your jewelry in a mixture of warm water and mild soap for a few minutes, then use a microfiber cloth to clean away impurities and bring back its original shine.
To store your titanium jewelry, keep it away from moisture and any harsh chemicals. If you have your jewelry’s original packaging, it’s never a bad idea to store it there for safe keeping.
Struggling with contact allergies or sensitive skin can be a real hassle, especially when it comes to finding the perfect pair of earrings. Luckily, titanium earrings offer a hypoallergenic solution for those seeking both style and comfort. At Urban Body Jewelry, we understand the importance of both looking and feeling good. With our diverse range of titanium earrings, you can effortlessly accessorize without worrying about irritation or discomfort. We want to help you embrace the beauty and versatility of titanium body jewelry, letting you shine without compromise.