Have you ever taken into consideration what your new piercing jewellery was made from? We also tend to forget when viewing images on the Internet and in magazines that those images are of healed piercings. The look of the initial jewellery fitted should only a small consideration; compared to the safety and compatibility of the jewellery, and with your body and your ability to heal. People will often be price driven when getting a new piercing and will not question the origin of the jewellery and rely on the piercer to use the best product available. As body jewellery is technically worn inside a wound, which is what your new piercing in fact is, only certain products are suitable.
Nickel is now known as an element that when in direct contact with the skin for a prolonged period of time can cause an allergic reaction or, less commonly, can lead to the development of an allergy to nickel; which can lead to ‘allergic contact’ dermatitis. Nickel is found in lots every day items and not just jewellery, but also in mobile phones, coins, zippers and glasses to name just a few. In the UK jewellers and piercers should be aware of their obligation under the Dangerous Substances and Preparations (Nickel) (Safety) Regulations 2005, which was introduced to prevent people from becoming sensitized to nickel.
All metals release particles through corrosion. Sometimes alloys that could release nickel are plated with gold or silver to prevent the nickel being released when in contact with the skin. The product used for plating has to be tested with abrasives to simulate two years of wear. Meaning that trace elements of nickel can be found in many precious jewellery alloys and more often in costume jewellery. Designers will take this into account when producing jewelley that is going to be in prolonged contact with the skin (rings, bracelets, watch backs, certain parts of earrings). Any nickel, which is released from an item of jewellery, has to be within permitted levels, which is a maximum of .5 micrograms per square cm per week. The nickel release level for piercing jewellery is a maximum of .2 micrograms per square cm per week.
If earrings make your earlobes itch, or other items of jewellery leave a rash where it has been in contact with your skin, you may have a nickel allergy. Symptoms will usually appear with 6 – 24 hours after being exposed, and are likely to include itching, redness, rash, dry patches, localized swelling, all of which can sometimes be followed by blisters. A nickel allergy once developed may last throughout your life. If you develop any of the above symptoms it is advisable to remove the jewellery/item and in severe cases seek medical advice.
The BJA (British Jewellers Association) does not recommend terms such as ‘nickel free’, ‘nickel safe’ or ‘hypoallergenic’ so should be avoided, because some items may still release small amounts of nickel and still be compliant within the regulations. Jewellers and Piercers have a duty of care to their customers, and when asked should be able to demonstrate that they have not only an understanding of the regulations but that their supplier is reputable and has carried out the required tests.
Titanium is the Piercers preferred choice it is a natural element it is much stronger and lighter that other piercing choices. Pure titanium is also hypoallergenic which means so it is very unlikely to react to your skin. You could still have an allergy to Titanium but this is very rare and usually when titanium alloys contain traces of nickel from the production process. Titanium is an expensive metal, but worth the price, it will also look as good as new after years of wear.
Surgical Stainless Steel is also a popular choice for body jewellery and some piercers, however only certain grades of stainless steel are approved as safe for initial piercing jewellery and should only be worn in healed piercings. Even the best grades of stainless steel will contain nickel, increasing the chance of an allergic reaction.
Gold is not a good choice for initial piercing jewellery. Gold is a soft metal and contains metal alloys so there is often a greater chance of irritation or infection; and should only be worn in healed piercings.
Sterling Silver is not recommended for any piercing jewellery; silver tarnishes when in comes into contact with body fluids, which can encourage bacteria growth along with also containing nickel.
Did you know if you are extremely sensitive to nickel, the bad news is that you may also need to avoid nickel rich foods, which includes chocolate.