As someone that has a moderate metal allergy, I can attest to the inconvenience and annoyance of it. For severe sufferers, it can be painful and quite difficult to deal with.
What does hypoallergenic mean?
Well, in its simplest form; Google dictionary says this:
'(especially of cosmetics and textiles) relatively unlikely to cause an allergic reaction.'
So basically, anything hypoallergenic is made for users that have a tendency to have allergic reactions to something in the product. In jewelry, it is generally the base metals used that people are allergic to. This is because the base metals (particularly in plated items) are a lower grade metal as they are cheaper. The thing is, that there is no specific standard or regulation for providing 'hypoallergenic' items. When items are noted as hypoallergenic, it is merely guidance as to which items are made of materials that are commonly known to be less prone to causing allergic reactions.
At the end of the day, everyone's body is different. What causes a reaction for one person might not for another. The trick is to watch your body and try and figure out which metals you are reacting to. Here are a few common ones:
Brass - If you tend to have allergic reactions to brass, gold and sterling silver is the best alternative for you. Watch out for plated brass items.
Copper - This is often added to rose gold plated items due to the colour. It means that the base colour is closer to rose gold and ,therefore, is a great base colour for rose gold plating. This doesn't mean that you need to cull rose gold plated items from your jewelry collection just yet. Try get some additional information from the supplier as to the content of copper in the rose gold items if its plated. This is not always possible, so, alternatively, look for rose gold filled items instead or 14k if you have the budget for it. Copper is not generally a common culprit, in some circles they even call copper hypoallergenic metal, but, some people are allergic. You will know something has a high copper content when it discolours your skin.
Nickel - This is the most 'popular' allergy causing metal. It is estimated that between 10-20 of people are nickel-sensitive. So why do they use it? Well, it is a very versatile alloy and can be added to most base metals. It is a cheap metal that is tarnish resistant and has the colour of more expensive sterling silver. It is actually added to almost all metals used for jewelry making that is not 100% pure metal. It's even found in 14k gold; although only in trace amounts. For those that suffer from severe allergic reactions, even 14k and 18k gold might cause reactions if precautions are not taken. Very little jewelry is completely nickel-free, but commonly metals like sterling silver, 14k-18k gold, titanium, platinum and stainless steel are all good options as they contain only trace levels.
Self-Care - Prevention and Management
1) Choose what you wear (after reading above). As mentioned above, I suffer from mind allergies myself and I understand the frustration of not being able to wear some gorgeous items. If your allergy is mild, I would advise considering an anti-allergy cream and/or a jewelry coating to allow you to wear anything! It's not for everyone but it works for me.
2) Wear them correctly. Don't swim, shower, bath, go to gym (sweat) or sleep in lower base metal jewelry. This could cause a flare up. Know your body, don't wear them for longer than you know you can and remove them when you feel a flare up. Consider investing in an anti-allergy cream that you can use at night when you remove earrings/jewelry. I carry a pair of gold filled earrings in my wallet that I switch too if lower base metal items start to irritate me.
THANKS FOR YOUR SUPPORT