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topic 10826

Is there a consumer product to coat accessories that aren't nickel free?


Q. My teenage daughter has a nickel allergy. While we have found nickel free jewelry such as earrings and some necklaces, we have a particular problem with belt buckles, jean buttons and rivets. Is there a product that we can put on the belt buckle and/or buttons and rivets that would prevent irritation? We have tried clear nail polish but it doesn't seem to last.

Laura Graham
- Spring, Texas

Click on graphic for "NickelGuard":

A. I believe the answer to your question is several coats of clear urethane floor coating. It will give you scuff resistance for a longer time than an enamel based nail polish, which will chip.

Several types of accessories come with a VERY thin lacquer layer to keep the finish from oxidizing while the product is being shipped or inventoried in stores. This should be removed with a mineral spirits [linked by editor to product info at Amazon] before you do the urethane so it sticks.

Of course, the other alternative is to purchase only solid brass belt buckles - slightly more expensive, but they last forever. You could have these silver plated at just about any silver smith or jeweler (that specializes in restoring silver-plate tea sets). These can be urethaned too - which I highly advise, unless you like to polish silver.

tom baker
Tom Baker
   wastewater treatment specialist
Warminster, Pennsylvania

Ed. note: A dermatology forum we visited included a response from a dermatologist who also felt that urethane was less allergenic than nail polish. Both products are widely available, but if you are worried about getting the right product, you can get the nail polish or the polyurethane at No-Nickel =>


Q. I have the same problem as your daughter...I am 18. and I break out on my neck and worst of all my stomach b/c of belts and buttons. when you find out about belts that are nickel free please let me know... thanks and good luck.

Rachael Mathisen
- Olive Branch, Mississippi

Ed. note: Two sources of nickel-free belts are are No-Nickel and Simply Whispers.

-- this entry appended to this thread by editor in lieu of spawning a duplicative thread

Q. I'm a 13-year-old girl, and I have the same problem. I'm not the skinniest thing, I do admit, and the pants these days are so tight that I have to wear HUGE sizes to fit my legs and shape and still be able to breathe. Also, the waists are HUGE anymore, too. But...I must use belts to keep my pants from sliding right off me, and these belts have buckles that cause me to break out. My mom says that I should stop wearing them in order for my stomach to go back to normal - but I don't know what that is anymore. Anywho, I cannot find ANY nickel-free buckles. I do not know why it is such a problem to find them, too, for my best friend has the same problem, and I am hearing of more and more cases anymore. If you find ANYTHING that a girl my age can wear and afford (i.e. no $100 belts or no polished leather whatnot) please, PLEASE let me know. I would GREATLY appreciate it.

Rebecca [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Indianapolis, Indiana

-- this entry appended to this thread by editor in lieu of spawning a duplicative thread

Q. My wife has tried many belts and no luck! She has a spot on her belly about the size of a softball. Please help find me some nickel free belts!

Joey Wilson
Nickel free belts - Chico, Texas


A. I am highly allergic to nickel, and as a teenager, it narrows down the possibilities of jewelry I can wear. I get the rashes on the insides of my arms, and like previously mentioned, I get it where a belt buckle would be, and I particularly have a problem with buttons on jeans. So I paint over them with layers of nail polish, which seems to be working okay. I don't wear belts anymore. But recently I bought a rather pricey pair of pants from the brand Tripp NYC =>
they are full of some metal because they have chains and stuff all over them, but after my fourth day of wearing then, I realized that I hadn't painted over them yet, but I also hadn't broken out in the rash. so I assume that there is no nickel in them! I suppose if you want a brand of pants without nickel, Tripp NYC is the way to go. They are expensive though, I bought the least expensive ones and they were about 130.00. they are also a goth, punk brand, but I love them. if you want pants without nickel, you will wear what you have to wear.

Emily Cook
- NYC, New York


A. For all of you who have nickel allergies and can't find jeans, for my daughter I found on this link at they sell sets of nickel free rivets and buttons to replace all of the old ones in your current jeans. You have to get a alterations person to do it for you but it is worth it. They work so far.

Teresa Shuck
- Georgia


I, like many people, suffer from nickel allergies. The most frustrating thing for me has been jeans -- I've tried nail varnish, plasters, big knickers but to no avail. The only success I had was on a trip to LA I found a pair of Levis in a shopping outlet with plastic buttons and no rivets so I was delighted. But these have worn away and are close to the bin.

Recently I decided to search the internet to try finding a solution and I found a number of forums about the same thing. After finding no solution I wrote off to a number of the jeans companies (Levis, Wrangler, Gap etc) I didn't expect a response but I just received an email from Levis and had to share it with my fellow nickel sufferers:

"Normally we don't use nickel at all in the metal sundries that we are using for production in Europe. As you can see from the attached message, since recently we are allowed to use Nickel (in limited proportion) on the metal items which are not touching directly the skin. I hope this helps."

Product Safety Bulletin

The Global Restricted Substances List ("GRSL") is an important part of the Levi Strauss & Co. product stewardship program. This list has been sent to all contractors and suppliers of materials, parts products and other things of value for LS&CO. apparel and accessories. Each contractor and supplier is required to agree and declare whether the materials, parts, products and other things of value supplied or otherwise delivered to LS&CO. comply with the prohibitions, limitations and other provisions detailed in the GRSL.

The current version of GRSL updated in July 2004 is effective for all products manufactured for the Fall 2005 season and thereafter.

As a result of additional investigation into European legislation covering Nickel in products and potential health risks, LS&CO. will now restrict extractable nickel to "only the surface of the metal part with direct and prolonged skin contact". This change does not impact any other metal-related restriction currently listed in the July 2004 GRSL. As a result of this update, footnote 15 of LS&CO.'s July 2004 GRSL will now read, "For metallic parts used on garments, only the surface with direct and prolonged skin contact shall comply with the nickel limit (i.e. nickel free against the skin)."

Great news - This covers all garments so all those great shirts with metal buttons are now on my shopping list.

This seems to be directly related to Europe but who knows may also apply to the US.

Barbara Keane
- Dublin, Ireland


A. Thanks, Barbara, but this sounds like absolutely terrible news rather than great news. They are saying that they will no longer enforce their nickel-free policy except on a surface with "direct and prolonged skin contact". Thus it sounds like zippers, buttons, and bra underwires and hooks for example, will no longer have to be nickel-free.


Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Pine Beach, New Jersey


I've found this website with nickel free belts, watches and Jewelry. My girlfriend has a nickel allergy and does costume construction, does not anyone know a place where you can get nickel-free needles?


Thomas Wratten
- Brighton, Sussex, United Kingdom


I bought a so called "Nickel Free: M Belt" from What a rip-off! This is a really low quality "Made in China" belt and buckle (much lower quality than, say, $15 belts from Target, etc.). The belt is some kind of reconstituted leather that cracks if you crease it and can easily be torn in half by hand like a piece of cardboard. The buckle, which is what I really wanted, is also badly made and very low quality and IF it contains no nickel it is by accident rather than by design, I had an allergic reaction to the buckle within 24 hours. If this belt is indicative of the quality and inflated price of other products from then my advice is avoid this company..

Colm D [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Tucson Arizona

Ed. note: Everyone is clearly welcome to hold a low opinion of any company's quality or prices, Colm, and to say so. But please be careful about publicly implying that a company's products are deceptively labeled ("IF it contains no nickel it is by accident"); if you don't have substantiation you could get yourself in trouble.
You can get a nickel test kit from a different place.

June 27, 2008

I've always had a great deal of trouble with belt buckles and rivets, etc. in jeans, and the one thing I've found that works very well is, as mentioned above, polyurethane. I use straight-up clear deck sealant (MinWax), that can be purchased at any hardware store. It's cheap and easy to use (and store - a little bit goes a long way) and adheres well to polished metal (a lot of products will only stay on matte or textured metal surfaces). It's a bit thick to use with jewelry but because it's so thick, it's great for clothing and other accessories - it takes years to wear even a little. I have belts that I coated in high school (I'm 25 now!) and I've only had to re-coat one of them since. It also goes through the wash without a problem, so it can be used to coat pants rivets and buttons.

My only proviso with the MinWax is that if you coat a belt buckle, it's best just to coat the sides that touch your skin - if you coat the visible side of the belt, use just one coat (use 2 or 3 for contact surfaces) because if you lay it on very thickly, it will yellow (*very slightly*) over time.

For jewelry, I use the "nickel-guard" product offered by Athena Allergy.

It's expensive and I've had more than one bottle break when I carry it in my pocketbook, but it works exceptionally well. The nickel 'detect' that comes with it is pretty useless - it smells like pure ammonia (pretty unpleasant) and I don't need it - I'll get a rash in five seconds if there's nickel in the product! I wish they were sold separately....

Good luck!

Lindsay Smith
- Los Angeles, California

March 26, 2009

After 6 months we have finally detected that my son's (17) rash is from Nickel caused mostly by a belt buckle and the snaps. I'm going to try the polyurethane sealant first.

I was wondering if the spout and hot and cold handles in the shower are made with any nickel, in my home and also in a college dorm?

Jewelry is not a problem for him as he doesn't need it and wears a titanium style watch band. Can you think of anything else he should avoid? What about silverware? cell phones metal cases, etc. things in his ears for his IPOD headphones? just wondering

If anyone knows these answers and has more things to avoid thanks...thanks

Stefanie Dortz
parent - Brooklyn, New York

Magic Glos

UV Nail Lamp

July 13, 2011

I'm 18 and I've been dealing with a nickel allergy since I was 8. Usually I would just ignore it and use a steroid cream when it got so bad. But I was at the dermatologist today and she told me that the steroid cream has thinned out the skin on my stomach and the nickel has gotten into my system and is causing me to break out literally all over. The only way for me to stop is to stop wearing nickel but I can't find anything. Changing the buttons is so expensive. I'm trying to pay my way through college, I can't really afford it. Any suggestions?

Kelsey McGuire
- Hope Hull, Alabama United States

March 13, 2012

I'm in the process of starting up a medical alert jewelry business and have been doing quite a bit of research into coatings. The one thing that I have found that is quite durable is "UV curing resin". For $12.50 and a nice sunny day, you can coat the back of any flat metal (except earring wires, which would become too thick with the resin). Leave it flat out in the sun for a couple hours, or get a UV nail lamp and it cures in about 10 minutes. The resin can be found at or you can get Lisa Pavelka's Magic Glos =>

(it will pull away from the sides a little so you will need a second coat).

Please also note that nickel is not the only metal you can be allergic to! My sister can't wear 18 carat gold, which is only gold and copper. Nobium and titanium are the least allergenic of the metals, so if you must wear earrings for fashion sake, use those metals.

Tina McDonald
jewelry - Northglenn, Colorado

October 2, 2012

Q. My daughter suffers from nickel allergy as well. I actually cut out circles from iron-on patches (packets can be bought in craft store), and iron them over the backsides of the buttons that come in contact with her skin. And you can't see it because it's on the inside of the jeans/pants.

Corey Ginger
- Kings Park, New York, USA

October 27, 2015

Q. Gold, most alloys, silver, most alloys, anything lesser (brass, copper, etc) forget it. I am most strongly nickel-rhodium, and 'surgical stainless' or 'hypoallergenic stainless' usually has enough nickel to cause issues. Rhodium, it seems most sterling is flashed with it to keep it bright. Coatings don't stay on, platings usually don't stay on long enough. I have enough horror stories of pairs of 14k yellow or white gold where one post was okay for awhile and the other was immediately a problem. I started MAKING my own adornments to avoid allergens. I have finally decided to try some of the titanium and 950 platinum (solid) as the last choices left. Does anodizing Titanium make it more or any less allergy possible?

[no, I gave up wearing jeans over 30 years ago]

What coatings can someone suggest; the titanium is also listed as 'stainless' so if it does cause a problem, a few replacements I am considering finally might need "backup"

I've tried silicone and I just hate the feel of it. I got to wear my 14k white and yellow wedding band for 3 days. After over 30 years I'd like something less than $1500 of platinum... so suggestions for coatings?

Dee Rebe,
- Boise City, Oklahoma, USA

January 19, 2017

Q. Okay, here is my ordeal, nickel allergy, yes. I have the same problem with belts and jean button backs. Though coating the buckle, back of jeans button with anything may also be a problem. The chemicals in those products mentioned earlier, if they contain anything related to or used with Quaternium 15 and other formaldehyde related agents I am SOL, I have recently learned that I am severely allergic to Quaternium 15 and mildly to formaldehyde, as I welt with both, and blister with the first mentioned chemical.

So any other suggestions would help. I just had to replace a whole bunch of shampoos, conditioners and hand/body lotions because of these allergies -- not up to replacing my belts. And, no, I do not tuck my shirts in, it's a girl thing. So any other suggestions would be great... Thanks!

Bonnie Duncan
- Cheyenne, Wyoming USA

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