Unfortunately, adverse reactions to jewellery aren’t uncommon. But what exactly is causing yours? And what can you do about it?
Though not ideal, an allergic reaction to your engagement ring is neither something to feel ashamed of nor cause for serious alarm. Allergic contact dermatitis, the skin’s reaction to direct contact with an allergen, is a common form of eczema thought to occur in 15% - 20% of people worldwide. Jewellery items that sit close to the skin for long periods of time make those with allergies to certain metals or irritants super susceptible to localized rashes.
Engagement ring rashes are particularly common because for many of us, this betrothal ring is the first piece of jewellery that we’ve ever worn 24/7. In fact, according to the North American Contact Dermatitis Group, up to 36% of American women share the engagement ring itch!
There are numerous possible factors for an allergic reaction to a piece of jewellery, but there is one particular villain whose name crops up time and time again: nickel. Many rings contain nickel because it’s used as an alloy to harden white gold and silver – and many people are allergic to it. The exact cause for nickel allergy is unknown, but some scientists believe that it may be inherited.
Wearing a ring around the clock keeps the skin on your finger slightly damp and thus only exacerbates any low-lying allergies. Water and perspiration actually cause nickel to form salts that trigger itchy and painful reactions!
If nickel’s not to blame, then you may simply be using soaps or skin products that react badly to your skin or the consistently damp conditions created by your engagement ring. This is known as surface irritation and isn’t an allergy but simple inflammation caused by chemicals being trapped underneath your ring.
1. Get to the root
First, you need to deduce what’s sending your skin into a spin. To find out whether it’s a nickel allergy to blame, conduct a home test by finding a coin with a high nickel content – like a 5p or a 10p – and taping it to your inner arm for approximately eight hours without removing. Keep an eye on your skin for the following 48 hours; if a rash appears in that area, you’re more than likely allergic to nickel. If this is the case, fear not: this doesn’t have to be the end of your love affair with your beautiful engagement ring.
If there’s no sign of an allergic reaction, you may now need to consider how and when you wear your engagement ring. Perhaps you should give your finger regular breathing breaks, like at night time when you sleep and whenever you shower and wash your hands? It’s also worth thinking about any new cosmetics or cleaning products you might recently have begun to use – could they be irritating your skin?2. Re-band
If a nickel allergy is confirmed and your really can’t handle the irritation, you could take the plunge and replace your ring’s existing band with a whole new one. When choosing your new band, either play it safe and avoid white gold completely or be careful to source a white gold band that’s nickel-free and high in palladium instead. As nickel allergies are so common, jewellers with a broad offering of nickel-free metals aren’t hard to find. Think Lebrusan Studio!
In the absence of a budget that could stretch to a whole new band, you could try applying a transparent nail polish or nickel guard to your existing band as a way of temporarily blocking the irritants.
For a longer-lasting fix, you could visit a jeweller and ask them to coat the band in rhodium, which would serve as a semi-permanent barrier
If you have any further questions, please don’t hesitate to drop us a line or pick up the phone. Jewellery is to be enjoyed so we’re always happy to dissipate your fears or answer your queries.