Having to decide which medical bracelet is best for you is a little trickier if you’re dealing with a nickel allergy. You know first-hand how frustrating it can be to try to find the right bracelet or necklace, especially when some claim to be “nickel-free” and it still breaks you out.
This blog will share several recommendations for hypoallergic jewellery as well as a few strategies you can try to help protect you against the nickel in your jewellery.
First thing’s first … what is nickel?
Nickel is a hard, ductile white metal that naturally occurs in the environment; most prevalent on the ocean floor, in soil, meteorites, or emitted in volcanoes. Due to it being inexpensive and strong, it is commonly used in the manufacture of stainless steel and other alloys (because it makes them harder and whiter). These alloys are then used for coins, magnets, jewellery, stainless steel items, batteries, etc. These alloys might even turn up in expensive white gold, or titanium jewellery.
Nickel allergies affect approximately 10-20% of the population, with women more susceptible than men due to the greater exposure to nickel through jewellery. Wearing jewellery containing nickel can result in a skin rash at the site of the exposure, but not all jewellery containing nickel emits enough nickel ion to trigger a sensitivity. It depends on the person …
So, which medical bracelet is best for a nickel allergy?
1. Bracelets that contain no metal.
For a nickel allergy, we recommend choosing a bracelet or a necklace that contain no metal whatsoever as this will guarantee you will not have a reaction. Have a browse of our silicone wristbands which have custom engraved and hidden message options too.
However, if it’s impossible for you to have a bracelet without metal, then we suggest a dangling charm, which can drop down from the bracelet and away from your skin. Two options are a beaded bracelet like the Breeze Bracelet, or a chunky black leather style like the Mamba Bracelet. Another way is for the charm to sit on top of a leather or cord bracelet so that the metal is not directly touching your skin.
2. Surgical stainless steel.
Jewellery made from surgical stainless-steel is common amongst people with a nickel allergy due to the fact that it is the cheapest option. As the name suggests, surgical stainless steel is a high-quality stainless steel used in many forms of medical equipment. Most stainless-steel alloys (even surgical stainless steel) contain 8-12% nickel, though surgical grade stainless steel is generally considered hypoallergenic for most people as the nickel is so tightly bound that it is unlikely to be released.
Please keep in mind that our jewellery contains different types of stainless steel, so we cannot guarantee that it is “surgical stainless steel”.
3. Sterling silver.
More expensive than surgical stainless steel, sterling silver is one of the few metals that often doesn’t contain any nickel (although it depends on the alloy – some .925 alloys contain nickel). It depends who has made the alloy, and which “recipe” they have used. However, it’s uncommon for alloys above .925 to contain any nickel. To be certain, it’s best to look for makers of sterling silver who certify that their items contain no nickel.
4. 18K gold or palladium white gold.
Although quite expensive, 18 karat gold and above are usually considered safe for those with a nickel allergy. While they still contain nickel, this is usually less than 0.1%. The chance of a reaction might actually decrease with 18 karat gold as it’s 75% gold.
The only exception to wearing gold is white gold. In order to make white gold, yellow gold is either mixed with palladium or nickel. Unless you know for sure your white gold is nickel free, don’t choose it.
5. Certified nickel-free jewellery.
The National Association of Jewellers does not recommend the use of terms such as “nickel free”, “hypoallergenic” or “nickel safe” because items which release small amounts of nickel can comply with the regulations but could be in contravention of the Trades Descriptions Act. Retailers who use such terms may have a poor understanding of the regulations and their obligations. In some countries, such as the USA, “nickel free” can still contain up to 5% nickel.
How can I protect myself against nickel from jewellery I already own?
There are many strategies available to help protect you against nickel in jewellery, such as using a barrier coating. It’s mindful to be cautious when using these techniques as they will not guarantee your complete safety against nickel, especially since these are not permanent solutions. Consider purchasing jewellery that contains no nickel.
1. Use a protective lacquer coating. Using a protective lacquer will create a barrier between your skin and the piece of jewellery. Eventually, the lacquer wears off though, so you’ll have to reapply it periodically. If you don’t have any lacquer, you could also use clear nail polish (just make sure the nail polish itself doesn’t trigger an allergic reaction).
2. Add a coating of rhodium or platinum. For those more expensive pieces of jewellery, consider asking a specialist jeweller to apply a coating of platinum or rhodium. Platinum and rhodium are hard, durable metals and would provide an extra layer of protection, especially since they contain no traces of nickel.
3. Use a nickel test kit. If you already own an abundance of jewellery, but you’re unsure whether or not they contain nickel, you can purchase a nickel test kit. This kit contains a chemical called dimethylglyoxime and when applied to the metal with a cotton swab, the solution will turn pink in the presence of nickel. This test may not pick up miniscule traces of nickel, but it’s usually a good test for jewellery.
So, in conclusion, finding the right jewellery for your nickel allergy may present itself to be a challenge, but it’s important to remember the strategies and options to choose from. Have a browse of some of our medical jewellery and in particular our silicone wristbands. And if you need any advice, please feel free to drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
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