How to Treat Rash Caused by Nickel or Stainless Steel Jewelry?
Q. My daughter had been wearing a necklace, not sterling silver or gold like I always told her. It was probably stainless steel or nickel. Well, it started out as a burn from wearing it in the sun every day this summer, and now it has turned into a huge rash. Do you have any suggestions for treating this? It has gone on for too long. If this is not the right place for this post, please redirect.
Thanks, Tchiya: a mom who says "I told you so".Tchiya Vela
consumer - Covelo, California
A. Your daughter may have experienced nickel immunosensitivity. I would treat it with a 1% Hydrocortisone cream which you should be able to purchase without too many problems.Nigel D Gill, B.Sc. MIMF AIEMA MRSC
- Glasgow, Scotland
A. Your daughter probably has contact dermatitis which is common among people who have sensitivity to nickel which is a key component of stainless steel. If her rash is that bad you should take her to a physician who will probably prescribe some type of cortisone cream. We use tons of nickel in our facility and we have a few employees who simply can't handle it. They break out just like your daughter has. Have her doctor examine her because the dermatitis can be very uncomfortable.Daryl Spindler
decorative chrome plating - Portland, Tennessee
A. You clearly have cause to believe the problem is an allergic response to stainless steel or nickel. If this is the case, the only treatment is to avoid nickel-containing jewelry. It is now illegal to sell nickel containing jewelry in Europe, but that isn't the case in the USA. I would firstly suggest your daughter visits a dermatologist and gets herself tested for nickel allergies (and any others the doctor may suggest). If these tests come back positive, unfortunately the only treatment is to avoid the offending metals. She should be OK with good silver jewelry or rhodium plated items, as long as there is no nickel in them; I would suggest any jewelry that she buys should have a written guarantee that it is nickel free - if it isn't, she can the sue the vendor. Sorry I can't be more helpful, but she is not alone - up to 15% of the population (depending on the source of data) suffer from this problem. Perhaps you could start to campaign for nickel to be banned in jewelry in California? One consolation is that I think there to be no problem with stainless steel items, even though they may contain nickel. The reason for this is quite complex, but further details about this and nickel allergies in general may be found on the Nickel Development Institute website.
R&D practical scientist
Chesham, Bucks, UK
Q. I think I have a similar problem around my belly, I fink this is caused by wearing belts, my symptoms are painfully itchy rash which then turns into blisters containing clear fluid, can anyone recommend anything for this? thanksPete More
- London, England
A. Sounds like nickel immunosensitivity. Most belt buckles and studs at the back of jeans buttons contain it. Also 9k gold jewelry, watches, etc. Hydrocortisyl 1% should clear it up and if it's particularly nasty, with a betnovate booster ointment.
There are nickel free belts available, but doubt if you'd find them in Next, probably a mail order job from the states.
Nothing can be done about the allergy apart from avoiding the metal itself.
Easier said than done, most metals are plated in it.
Go to a dermatologist just to be on the safe side.
Hope this of some use.
- Dublin, Ireland
January 27, 2008
A. I am very nickel sensitive and want to share some tips that have helped me.
I find that applying clear fingernail polish to the button on my jeans (and reapplying when it begins to wear off) helps. I also place a makeup application pad between the hooks on my bras and my skin. I glued a suede like fabric to the back of my watch (which has a cloth band) so I can wear a watch. For years I wore my watch clipped to my purse. I also bought a box of nickel free earring hooks so I can replace them for the ones I'm sensitive to. As someone noted, even the ones marked for sensitive ears can be mislabeled. Hope this helps.
- Beaverton, Oregon
December 31, 2008
Q. My daughters burning rash.
I got a necklace in her stocking for Christmas and I don't know if it's nickel or stainless steel , it doesn't say. And just today when I wore for two to three hours I started saying my neck hurt and that it was burning when my necklace was rubbing against my skin. How can I stop the burning?Allison Withers
- Vassar, Michigan
February 10, 2010
A. The problem of nickel autoimmune sensitivity in jewelry is more far reaching than most people realize.
Up to 15% of the population has at least some sensitivity to elemental jewelry(jewelry that has Gold, Silver, or other metals that do not break down into other elements), alloys, and nickel in particular.
A good example is sterling silver. Most people believe that sterling silver is 100% pure silver. It is NOT. Sterling silver, at least in the us, is defined as 92.5% pure.
Most manufacturers use copper in the remaining 7.5% in order to add strength and reduce malleability in jewelry applications.
Unfortunately, many manufacturers also use nickel in sterling jewelry for the same reasons, and also because it is less costly than copper.
The only 100% way to protect oneself if you choose to continue wearing silver is to buy from a vendor that will give you a written guarantee that his/her jewelry is 100% nickel free. There are vendors out there that will do just that. It will cost more, but if the dealer is found to be using nickel, you can sue.
I really liked all the tips the last poster used to continue to be able to wear her jewelry. The clear glue idea is a real winner!
February , 2010
Thanks, Chris. I think the allergy problem is actually even more serious than your "up to 15% of the population" implies -- because it is an acquired allergy. Of the subset of the population who are more heavily exposed, the allergy rate is higher.
For example, the allergy rate for young women (probably due to a high rate of piercings in that demographic) is estimated at 30 to 40%.
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
April 22, 2010
Q. My rash is on my belly, near belt-line, apparently from belt buckle or pants buttons. I have tried keeping my shirt-tails tucked in, & tried triamcinolone acetonide cream, but it gets worse.Wayne Wagner
- Gainesville Florida USA
February 7, 2011
A. Stainless steel jewelry usually contains approx. 10% nickel.
No raw metals should ever be inside the body or even in contact with the skin.
Remove the source of poisoning:
Remove all metal earrings, rings, bracelets etc, and ensure that any dental amalgam is immediately removed by an experienced dentist.
Take daily doses of pollutant free Vitamin C powder - 3 g/day,
Histidine 500 mg/day,(as a nickel chelator) for 3 weeks, Zinc 60 mg 2 times/day for a month, Thioctic Acid (alpa-lipoic acid) 100 mg/ 3 - 8 times /day.
Expect to see results after the first week..
Stop eating with stainless cutlery.. Use only hardened plastic. Nickel stores in fat and is prone to affect the prostate.. Stay away from pharmaceutical toxin of any kind.
The answer is to remove all possible sources of the pollutant and use vitamins and herbs to cleanse the body.
- Brisbane, Qld Australia
Ed. note: Everyone is welcome to their opinion, and we post those opinions here rather than censoring them. But that doesn't mean that we condone taking such chelators without a doctor's supervision or that the editor's agree with avoiding stainless steel.
A. It's a nickel Allergy, no need for steroids, or cortisone.
Just avoid nickel on your skin. I ended up with a steroid addiction that's a nightmare.
If you must use cortisone, only a few days, 5 to 10 days and then stop.
Either way be careful in your use of cortisone. You end can end up with red skin syndrome and I am telling you, you don't want that.
- Los Angeles, California, USA
July 30, 2012
A. I too have been having that rash on my stomach from the belt buckle. What I've been doing to prevent it is to thread the belt so the buckle is at the back of my pants.jeremy trout
- Bothell, Washington USA
Hi Jeremy. That's probably a very good tip.
Unfortunately, it's hard to trust advice from someone who looks like they don't know whether they're coming or going :-)
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
June 3, 2015
Q. Well I have been wearing what my lil sis gave me, (for about a week now) and now I just started to get like this rash on my neck where it rubbed and it itches like crazy and it has these little bumps on it to when I touch it, it burns like crazy. Please tell me what it is and how to get rid of it. :`( * a single tear was shed*trystan thomas
- ozark Arkansas
February 22, 2016
Q. I also need help on my wrist breeding up rashes anytime i try put on my steel wristwatch. It always start like bruises.. which pains me a lot. Please Can i get a help on the right drug to stop it?Odumosu Dayo
- Kaduna, kaduna, Nigeria
October 13, 2016
A. I have found the best solution for any mild itchy rash or insect bite is a natural ointment made with beeswax. The beeswax stops the itch and if you are not scratching the irritation it will get better on its own.Kerry Tipton
- Sydney, Australia
January 25, 2017
A. This is a very common issue and interesting enough I did not have trouble with it until about 4 years ago, but it randomly started one day from a cheap pair of cubic and Sterling earrings and from that point on anything from a necklace to my belt and pants/jeans buttons would cause a reaction... and ever since dependent on what causes it and where it's located it has become very severe at times. The only thing I have found that really helps is a mixture of vitamin E oil and One Small/finger dab of tea tree oil and apply directly to the effected area! I've tried basically everything you could think of -- cortisone cream did not help, lotions, cleansers you name it; everything just seemed to worsen the situation! But vitamin E Oil and tea tree oil has been my go-to remedy for many skin ailments and has proven to be very effective! Hope this helps!Aaron Newell
- Bonsall, California United States Of America