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Inflamed Skin, Rashes, and Allergies Caused by Jewelry

Contact dermatitis is a fancy name for a skin inflammation -- the uncomfortable itch, burning, peeling, and redness that can occur under rings. With over 10,000 custom rings made in over a dozen different types of metals, we at Krikawa have a vast store of knowledge from troubleshooting skin irritations.  With each case, we've done extensive forensic investigation and research to determine the cause and solution. 

Contact dermatitis under rings has four major culprits: metal allergy, bacteria buildup, tightness, and moisture.  While the most prevalent cause of contact dermatitis under rings is an allergy to nickel, because Krikawa metals are all nickel free, our experience with dermatitis has mostly had causes other than metal allergies.

Read more below about each type, from our experience.

Metal Allergy

The major culprit of finger rashes due to rings is from metal alloyed with nickel.  Because Krikawa doesn't make rings using nickel, we've had very few cases of finger rashes from metal allergy.

Nickel Allergy

According to the Mayo Clinic, jewelry prepared with nickel alloys can cause skin reactions. Nickel is a strong and durable metal; it is a common component of everyday household items like necklace clasps, watch bands, belt buckles, zippers, coins, and eyeglass frames. This is unfortunate for people who are sensitive to nickel because it becomes difficult to figure out what, exactly, is triggering the reaction.

People can have an "innate" nickel sensitivity triggered upon a single exposure, or develop sensitivity over repeated exposures. Nickel allergies affect both men and women of all ages, though it appears more frequently on women since they tend to wear more jewelry than men do. Free Beauty estimates that as much as 15% of the population is sensitive to nickel.
Do You Have a Nickel Allergy?
Sometimes people are unaware of a nickel allergy until they experience it firsthand. Your local health care professional can test for allergies by administering an allergen sensitivity test. The test involves rubbing or injecting allergens onto or just beneath the skin and recording any changes at the reaction site.

It is also a good idea to take careful note of any funny reactions to wearing a specific type of jewelry or using household items, and not trick oneself into thinking, "Oh, this is just a one-time thing. It'll go away!" This might make the problem worse! Although it is possible to help the body develop resistance to an allergy -- a process called desensitization therapy -- this is best done under the care of a medical professional, and it is usually more effective in children dealing with common outdoor allergies.
Do Jewelers Sell Nickel In Their Products?
Some do, yes. Jewelers can tell customers whether or not nickel exists in a given alloy. Here at Krikawa, we take customer concerns about nickel sensitivity very seriously, so we provide a chart listing the quality, grade, and composition of all of our jewelry metals.  As you will notice, none of our metals include nickel!

Palladium Allergy on the Ears

Over 40% of the custom rings we've made at Krikawa have been created in palladium, perhaps around 4000.  Palladium is a 95% pure metal, made from 95% palladium, and 5% alloy.  The alloy contains a few different metals to make the metal have the properties appropriate for jewelry casting and wearing.

We've had zero cases of finger allergy from palladium rings, and one case of palladium earrings irritating a client.  The ears are the most sensitive spot on the body, and often the second and third hole on a lobe are even more sensitive than the first.  In order to accomodate this sensitive body part, we opted to change the posts to platinum for a successful result.

Rose Gold & Copper Allergy

At Krikawa, we've created well over 2,000 rings from rose gold.  Rose gold is alloyed with copper for color and other trace metals for casting and wearability.  14k rose gold is 58.5% pure gold.  While we've not had any reported cases of copper allergies, we did have one client who developed a rash with a rose gold ring.  We ruled out bacteria, moisture and fit. We plated the inside of the ring with rhodium for a successful result.

Yellow Gold Allergy

We've created well over 2,000 rings in 14k and 18k yellow gold.  Yellow gold is alloyed with a few different metals for hardness and castability.  We've had some people report that they had an allergy to 14k yellow gold prior to wearing a Krikawa ring, and they've opted for 18k yellow instead.

We've had no reported cases of an allergy to a 14k yellow gold ring or an 18k yellow gold Krikawa ring or earring.

Platinum Allergy

While we've had a couple people state that they've been allergic to platinum in the past, we've had no accounts of an allergy to Krikawa platinum.  Our rings are 95% pure platinum.


Bacterial Inflammation

Perhaps the largest number of cases of contact dermatitis experienced with a Krikawa ring has been determined to be caused by bacteria.

On rings with stones, there can be a buildup of debris in the holes underneath the stones, or in open cavities under larger rings. When this debris builds up to the level of the skin, and then repeatedly gets wet, bacteria grows.  Over time, this moist bacteria can cause an irritation to the skin.

Signs of bacterial causes of contact dermatitis are spots of inflamation, often at the top of the finger (under the stones).

The remedy for this is to clean the ring more often.  We love the personal size ultrasonic cleaners for this purpose.  After cleaning, rinse and use a hair dryer to dry the ring.  Leave the ring off until the rash has cleared, and then try wearing it again, keeping the ring dry and clean, and examine the results.

Take the ring off for hand washing and showering during the testing, to eliminate the possibility of a moisture dermatitis, and truly test for metal allergy.


Moisture Dermatitis

Moisture dermatitis is caused when a wide band doesn't get dried underneath, after hand washing or showering.  If the band is just snug enough, that moisture can irritate the skin.  Even though there may or may not be bacterial, the simple act of drying the finger after washing, or even removing the ring when hand washing, swimming or showering will eliminate this issue.

Ring Tightness

A ring that is too small for the finger can cause the finger to swell, or even cause pain in the finger.  If the skin has a significant indentation, that is a sign that the ring is too tight. 

Ways to remove a ring that is too tight:  If your ring is too tight, you can try to soak your hand in ice water, then soap it and hold it over your head to remove.  If this does not work, the ring will have to be cut off.

Most jewelers have the capability of removing rings by cutting them off with a jewelers saw and special equipment to protect the finger.  Rings cut off will a jewelers saw are easier to repair than the cuts made by paramedics with a grinder.

Steps to Ruling Out Metal Allergy

First, where on the finger is the rash? 

-Only the ring finger
-Pinky and middle too
-Top of ring finger
-All the way around equally

Trouble shooting steps:

1) Thoroughly clean and sanitize ring. Any pockets where debris can accumulate need to be steamed/sanitized.
This can be done with an espresso maker/steamer, or with hot water, soap and brushes. (Caution needed for soft or porous stones like Emerald, Turquoise, glued in inlays such as Onyx).

2) Dry ring with blow dryer.

3) Allow finger to heal.

4) Wear ring, completely dry, for a day. Do not allow to get wet.

5) Repeat.

6) If rash re-appears, report it to us with metal type.

7) If Fit, Moisture, and Bacteria are ruled out, likely solution is to rhodium plate inside of ring.

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