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Many of us have been there: You spent the day shopping for the best accessories to help you update your style, and found the cutest pair of earrings. But then you tried them on at home, and your earlobes quickly got red and sore. Whether that’s always been the case or it’s a recent change, it’s almost certain that the metal in your earrings is to blame.
Having sensitive ears can make it hard to shop for affordable jewelry, since it’s often made with mixed metals that can cause allergic reactions. While you may have no trouble when it comes to buying elegant necklaces or cocktail rings, earrings can be tricky.
Luckily, you can find affordable, quality earrings to fill your jewelry organizer that won’t cause discomfort.
We asked Michele Green, MD, a board certified cosmetic dermatologist in New York City’s Upper East Side, to break down the exact causes of sensitive ears, why they can be problematic, and how to choose earrings that won’t cause pain and irritation. Read on to get the scoop and also find 10 pairs of great earrings that even the most sensitive ears can wear comfortably.
When it comes to sensitive ears, a common form of eczema called contact allergic dermatitis is the culprit. This type of eczema is caused by direct contact with an allergen or irritant—in this case, the metal in your earrings. Dr. Green explains that when ears are pierced, the inner ear lobes have direct contact with the metals in earrings, which can be a source of this specific type of skin irritation. What’s more, the skin on your ears and earlobes is particularly thin, making it especially susceptible to irritation and sensitivity.
Dr. Green also notes that you can develop a skin allergy at any age. In fact, developing a sudden allergy to metals used in earrings and other jewelry is incredibly common, even after repeated exposure. So if your favorite pair of earrings is suddenly causing you discomfort, it’s quite common.
If you’re finding that some earrings cause irritation, make an appointment with a board-certified dermatologist who can perform a patch test to identify the offending allergens. The process is rather straightforward, explains Dr. Green. “A patch test applies the allergens to the skin with specific patches and are worn for a period of 48 hours. If there is a positive patch test, there will be skin irritation where the patch was placed, indicating a potential allergic reaction.” Once you’ve identified the materials that are causing an allergic reaction, you can avoid items containing that material.
If you’ve thought about trying to tough out any discomfort, you may want to think twice. Though you may only experience itching, redness, dryness or flaking, or a rash now, Dr. Green cautions that symptoms can progress and result in the formation of blisters or infection. “The irritated area of skin may start to feel warm to the touch, become filled with pus, or you may notice the rash is spreading,” Dr. Green says. If that happens, see your doctor to treat the infection and soothe any discomfort.
Pay extra attention to the materials used in your earrings. If you have sensitive lobes, Dr. Green recommends avoiding nickel in particular, and being cautious with sterling silver and vermeil (gold-plated jewelry over sterling silver). Gold can be okay, but opt for 24-karat gold if possible since it’s the most pure.
The safest material for earrings if you’re sensitive is hypoallergenic titanium, a metal that is strong and durable enough for use in jewelry and also gentle enough that it won’t cause skin irritation. Medical grade plastic is another option for people with sensitive ears, as well as for children, says Dr. Green.
Tini Lux was founded to meet the needs of people with sensitive ears. All of their earrings are made with pure, medical grade titanium as their base metal. We love these crystal hoops, which are made with biocompatible titanium that is not only safe for sensitive ears but also water-resistant and won’t tarnish, so you can wear them 24/7.