Which Earrings are Best for Sensitive Ears? (Types and Metals)

Earrings for Sensitive Ears

The best earrings for sensitive ears are made with pure titanium, platinum, copper, argentium, niobium, fine silver, and surgical stainless steel. An earring made with gold and sterling silver, as well as labeled as hypoallergic earrings, are also less likely to cause irritations or an allergic reaction but may aggravate certain skin types. Earrings containing nickel are bad for sensitive ears.

A jewelry lover’s worst nightmare is realizing that the jewelry they love always makes their ears red and sore. Thankfully, there are plenty of nickel-free styles and types of earrings made with a metal safe for sensitive ears and alterations you can make to your existing ones to make them safe to wear.

Keep reading as we cover the best earrings for sensitive ears to wear, what metal in them causes allergic reactions, and how to prevent your ears from being irritated from the ones you may already own and love.

What are the Best Earrings for Sensitive Ears?

If you love to wear earrings, all hope is not lost if you have sensitive ears. There are earrings made of metals that are entirely safe to wear. When shopping for your next favorite pair of earrings, look for ones made of pure:

  • Titanium
  • Platinum
  • Copper
  • Argentium
  • Niobium
  • Fine Silver
  • Surgical Stainless Steel

These metal combinations may sound surprising, and even a bit non-luxurious, but these metals in their purest forms are completely safe to use as a pair of earrings or as any jewelry that touches your body. Several of these metals, such as titanium and surgical steel, are used in medical equipment and as surgical implants without any risk to the patients. These are the best metals for sensitive ears and perfect for people with sensitive skin

You absolutely do not need to feel limited in the jewelry you wear because of your metal sensitivities. Plenty of major jewelers such as Tiffany & Co. and David Yurman offer hypoallergenic nickel-free, titanium, and platinum jewelry. Many more stores are beginning to make jewelry with hypoallergenic metals such as surgical steel in an array of styles and prices so you can shop safely to your heart’s content.

What Are Hypoallergenic Earrings?

With sensitive ears, you need to be extra attentive to the metals in your jewelry when shopping. Cheap, fashion or costume jewelry will almost always be made with allergen inducing metals so it’s best not to wear them. Keep your eye out for any jewelry that states it is nickel-free or hypoallergenic earrings.

Hypoallergic earrings are a popular alternative for those looking for comfortable studs that they can wear every day without compromising comfort for style or risking an allergic reaction. Unfortunately, a pair of hypoallergic earrings is not a guaranteed solution for everyone. Instead of being completely allergen-free, hypoallergic earrings are made with materials that likely cause fewer allergic reactions but can still aggravate certain sensitivities. 

Since there is no manufacturing standard for hypoallergic earrings, each pair of hypoallergenic earrings can be made with different quantities of various metals. For example, some hypoallergic earrings may not have exposed allergen triggering metals on its surface, but these metals may be hidden under a coating of a safer metal type that can eventually wear away with use and irritate your ears.

Are Gold and Sterling Silver Safe?

Even if you ditch jewelry you know is made with metals that irritate your ears, you may be tempted to buy pure gold and sterling silver jewelry since they are hypoallergenic. Unfortunately, to wear earrings made entirely pure gold jewelry would be too soft to wear and incredibly expensive.

Metals such as nickel, zinc, and copper are added to gold and sterling silver jewelry to improve their durability and luster. Even high-quality sterling silver is only 92.5% pure, compared to fine silver, which is 99.9% pure. You can tell jewelry’s gold purity by its carat weight; for example, 14K gold jewelry is less pure than 22K gold jewelry and will contain more metals that can irritate you.

If you are set on buying the perfect yellow gold, white gold, or rose gold jewelry, always shop for jewelry made with a higher gold purity, such as buying 18K gold over 9K gold to lessen your chances of any allergy irritations.

What Types of Metal to Avoid?

The biggest allergy causer in jewelry for sensitive ears is nickel. Since nickel is a strong, cheap, and versatile metal, it is used almost everywhere, such as your zippers, keys, and coins. It’s hard to find and wear anything without a even a little bit of nickel init. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 10% to 20% of people are allergic to nickel, commonly known as the “nickel itch.” Avoid any earring made with nickel if you notice any signs of irritation on your body. Nickel irritation can also occur from other types of jewelry such as rings, necklaces, and bracelets.

Despite the sizable percentage of people with nickel allergies, the United States does not have restrictions on its usage in consumer products, unlike Europe, which has to follow nickel safety regulations that limit the maximum amount of nickel in products to ensure that they are safe for everyone.

Interestingly, the more times you pierce your skin with nickel, the higher your chances become of developing a reaction. Dr. Vij of Cleveland Clinic explained that “After more exposures — six to eight or more — your body will have a greater likelihood of a response.” While you may have once been happily free of any nickel irritants, you may one day find your long-time favorite studs or hoops from damaging your skin.

Even if the ones you are wearing are nickel-free, the piercing gun used on you may have contained nickel that irritated your skin instead of being made with sterile, surgical-grade stainless steel. This is another good reason to always work with professionals with access to the best tools and necessary experience to safely pierce your body instead of relying on the piercers at your local mall. To find a qualified piercer, visit Safepiercing.org and search for a certified member of the Association of Professional Piercers in your area.

Alternatively, Cover or Coat your Jewelry

Some people swear by applying several coats of clear nail polish to earring backings to prevent irritation. However, this simple DIY is not a solution because it does not create a sufficient barrier between your body and the metal. Plus, putting used nail polish on an opening in your skin is not hygienic and could lead to more problems than just nickel allergies.

If you are set on wearing earrings that you know irritate your skin, consider buying transparent plastic covers that prevent the metal from touching your skin.

How Do I Know If Earrings Are Irritating My Ears?

If you just had your first ear piercing, you may be wondering if your skin’s irritation is the result of the piercing process or if it is coming from an allergen in the earring metal.

Typically, the skin around new piercings becomes a bit puffy and crusted as it heals. As long as you regularly clean your ear piercings, the puffiness and crusting on your sensitive ears will disappear in a few weeks.

Allergens, on the other hand, take about 12 to 48 hours to appear on your sensitive ears. Be sure to keep an eye out for any signs of redness, soreness, itchiness, blisters, bleeding. If left untreated, your skin can darken, crack, and even ooze.

Remove your jewelry as soon as you notice these symptoms, and if your skin is causing you great pain, your doctor can prescribe a lotion to help ease the reaction.

How to Prevent Earrings You Already Own from Irritating Your Ears

Now that you know how nickel in an earring can irritate sensitive skin, there are plenty of measures you can take to stay stylish while keeping your ears feeling their best:

  1. Make sure to remove your jewelry the moment you notice any signs of irritation.
  2. Make sure to read what metals your earrings are made with.
  3. Make sure to avoid cheap fashion or costume jewelry because they are usually made with nickel.
  4. Shop for a pair of earrings made with a body-safe, nickel-free, hypoallergenic metal such as pure titanium, platinum, copper, argentium, niobium, fine silver, and surgical steel.
  5. Gold, sterling silver, and hypoallergenic earrings are the best earrings to try, but they are not a guaranteed solution for everyone.
  6. Instead of coating your jewelry in clear nail polish, use plastic earring covers to cover your jewelry to keep your body safe.
  7. Again, you want to buy hypoallergenic, nickel-free jewelry, your sensitive ears will thank you.

If you want to part with jewelry you cannot wear anymore because your are sensitive to it, you can always give your jewelry a second life by gifting it to a friend, donating it, or selling it to a second-hand jeweler for extra cash to go towards your new, hypoallergenic, nickel-free jewelry.

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Carl Jones

Carl has been involved in the jewelry business since his youth. Growing up in South Africa his parents were jewelers who worked in the industry for decades.

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