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How to Pick Earrings for Sensitive Ears

At Rowan, we believe that girls should be seen, heard and celebrated. As part of that core conviction, we are driven by the idea that every girl should have access to earrings that make her feel good on both the inside and outside. All of our earrings are hypoallergenic, high-quality and nickel-free, making them a great gift for any girls who might have sensitive skin. While some girls know that they have sensitive ears, others are getting their ears pierced for the first time and do not yet know if they have an allergy.  More importantly, girls can develop allergies at any time, and a trigger for developing allergies is over-exposure to allergy-inducing metals (including wearing poor quality earrings).

How do you know if you have sensitive skin? What is a jewelry allergy?

Unfortunately, if your Girl is wearing jewelry and her skin is getting red around it or if she is getting a bumpy or blistery rash it almost certainly means that she has a skin allergy to metal alloys in that specific piece of jewelry.  Here’s what’s happening to your body and what you can do about it.

Most metals are a blend of various metal alloys. Even 14k Gold is not 100% gold! If it were, it would be way too soft to keep its shape when we wear it. People can develop jewelry allergies and sensitivities to one or more of the metals in the jewelry that touches our skin. This allergic reaction is even more pronounced with piercings, specifically earrings that go through an ear piercing. This heightened sensitivity to the metal is caused by the metal going through the skin (not just laying on top of it), causing a stronger reaction. You will usually see symptoms 12-48 hours after you come into contact with nickel. For example, you might see itching, redness, rash, or swelling of the skin. Skin can become red and warm and filled with pus. Once a nickel allergy develops, it often lasts your whole life. The most important thing you can do to avoid sensitivity is to avoid contact with the object that includes nickel.

What Does A Jewelry Allergy Look Like?

As we mentioned above, an allergic reaction to metal looks similar to other allergic reactions, like poison ivy. You’ll notice redness, bumps, and/or blisters, and it feels itchy and irritated.  While it can look like other allergies, we know it’s jewelry because of the placement. With a jewelry allergy, the rash appears on the exact same place where the jewelry touched the skin.

What Metals Cause Allergic Reactions?

People can be allergic to any metal. Nickel is the most common metal allergy — that’s why you’ll notice many earrings labeled “nickel-free.” But nickel is not the only metal that results in an allergic reaction.  Any metal can cause an allergic reaction, even gold. Maybe you’ve heard someone advise, “Buy 18-karat gold because it’s pure and you can’t be allergic.” Not true. A gold allergy isn’t very common, but your body can still react to it if you’re allergic.  No matter the metal, if you have a jewelry allergy, the rash usually looks the same.

What is nickel and why is it commonly found in earrings?

Nickel is a silvery-white metal with a gold tone that achieves a high polish. Nickel is a frequently used metal because it combines easily with other metals (alloys) and is easy to work with, as it is relatively inexpensive and withstands heat and corrosion, making it desirable for many industrial applications.  Nickel is used in jewelry, appliances, faucets, even dishes! Some nickel compounds have been found to be carcinogenic and therefore it is best to avoid nickel in jewelry whenever possible. The European Union even limits the amount of nickel which can be released in objects that have prolonged contact with the skin.  As long as you do your research, you can find quality, responsible jewelry designers and manufacturers who can ensure that no nickel is ever included in their metal alloys. Diligent tests can confirm that the jewelry is nickel-free and safe to wear. Rowan exclusively works with vendors who can guarantee that our earrings are nickel-free.

Nickel allergies are common because we are exposed to so much of it. Even though nickel is commonly found in jewelry, if you are sensitive you should always avoid it. Make sure that you choose hypoallergenic jewelry that you know was carefully crafted to eliminate nickel and other allergens that irritate sensitive ears. You wouldn’t want to risk skin irritation or a rash by wearing earrings that contain nickel.

So, I can develop a skin allergy?

What if you haven’t noticed a skin allergy in the past, and don’t seem to have sensitive skin – can you still develop an allergy? Because nickel is so prevalent in many common items (zippers, faucets, belt buckles, eyeglass hardware), many people do and will develop an allergy to this and other metallic alloys.

First – if earrings make your earlobes itch or feel super sensitive, or give your skin a rash, chances are you have a nickel allergy.  It is one of the most common skin allergies (According to Web MD and leading Dermatologists). As nickel is used in almost every product humans come in contact with that includes metal (coins, keys and more), our skin can develop an allergy from over-exposure over time.  

Therefore, when selecting earrings, it is always better to select hypoallergenic earrings for sensitive ears. At Rowan, we actively pursue this level of quality product development and care, and this extends to our commitment to helping you select the perfect gift too – one that will continue to please long after the box is opened!

What makes jewelry hypoallergenic, and what are the best earrings for sensitive ears?

Jewelry that is nickel-free is considered hypoallergenic, and safe for people with sensitive skin to wear.

If you know that you have a sensitivity to metals and have had difficulty wearing earrings in the past that are not hypoallergenic or precious metal, make sure that you wear safe metals.  Sterling silver and 14k or higher gold are good options. Find out if the final product is tested to confirm that the casting process did not allow traces of nickel. Yellow and rose gold are preferable as often white gold contains nickel.  Anything lower than 14k gold usually contains nickel and other allergenic alloys. We use 14k gold at Rowan as it is particularly beautiful and resistant to rusting. Other safe metal options can include sterling silver, platinum, palladium, titanium, tungsten, and even ceramic or copper. Gold vermeil, our most popular Earring of the Month Club selection, is safe for sensitive ears as both the sterling silver base and the 14k gold finish are both hypoallergenic and nickel-free.

How can you choose nickel free, earrings for sensitive ears?  First make sure that your jewelry is made of sterling silver or 14k or higher quality gold and that it has been tested for nickel at various stages of production and as a finished product. All Rowan earrings have been tested for nickel and other allergy-inducing metal alloys. All Rowan earrings are hypoallergenic as they are made of nickel-free, pure metals. The founders of Rowan believe that all girls deserve the best and that no girl should suffer from painful irritation, so we always invest the time and money into higher quality, pure metals and product testing to confirm that all of our earrings are nickel-free. When you select a Rowan product, you can feel confident that your Girl won’t experience the mental and physical anguish of having to re-pierce ears that had to close because of severe irritation and infection. We always use high-quality metals to ensure that we are creating the best possible earrings for potentially sensitive ears.

Can you get your ears pierced if you have sensitive skin?

Girls with sensitive skin can generally tolerate ear piercing provided that the piercing is professionally done with the appropriate tools and earrings. When you book a piercing with Rowan, a Registered Nurse will perform the piercing with the highest quality materials. All Rowan in-home ear piercings for infants and children use highest quality medical grade-titanium or medical grade plastic piercing studs, which are considered safe for those with allergies or sensitivities. If you get your ears pierced to make sure to have it done with sterile, surgical-grade stainless steel, medical grade titanium, plastic or 14k+ yellow gold. We recommend that you avoid white gold for ear piercing or as a gift for newly pierced ears, as it often contains nickel.

Should I Give Earrings as a Gift if She Has Sensitive Ears?

We all enjoy that fantastic moment when someone we love receives a gift from us, and they are over the moon with it!  Seeing the smile or hearing a gasp followed by a “Thank you so much, I LOVE it!” is one of the best feelings in the world.  But how do we avoid gifting jewelry that might cause our loved ones the agony of skin sensitivity or worse, a skin infection?

Since nickel is the most common metal allergy, avoid it. We highly recommend nickel-free jewelry. Sterling silver and 14k Gold work well for almost everyone. While it is not likely to cause irritation, 18k gold is a soft metal and not ideal for active Girls.

Our certified nickel-free earrings have been batch-tested to assure that they are free of this common allergen. Rowan tests all sterling silver, gold vermeil and gold items we sell to guarantee that no nickel is used.  You should always take the time to select earrings for your Girl that are certified nickel-free because young, still healing ears are particularly sensitive. This is especially important because once a nickel allergy develops, a girl will usually have it for life.  Make sure to select earrings that are from reputable companies that invest in their product and its quality to ensure that their customers do not suffer from painful skin infections. Many companies choose to lower their costs and use these irritating metals, but Rowan will never compromise on our nickel-free earrings so that you and your Girl have the best possible experience.

Most people have sensitive ears for at least 1 year after their ears are pierced as it takes some time for ears to fully heal. Whether or not you have sensitivities or allergies, it is always best to wear the right jewelry to prevent irritation that can lead to infection. At Rowan, all of our earrings are made using precious metals that have been carefully designed and tested to ensure a high-quality, hypoallergenic product.

When purchasing jewelry, confirm that the earrings are hypoallergenic and if possible, confirm that the company designing and manufacturing those earrings tests for allergy-inducing metals like nickel. Rowan tests all earrings during manufacturing final products to confirm that no earring contains dangerous metals that exacerbate sensitivity.

At Rowan, our earrings are thoughtfully designed to eliminate the common allergens (often used in inexpensive metal alloys) that most frequently cause sensitivity. By wearing Rowan earrings exclusively, your Girl will be wearing only hypoallergenic precious metals. While a very small percentage of people are allergic to all metals, most people are not allergic to precious nickel-free metals like sterling silver and 14k Yellow Gold. By wearing Rowan earrings, your Girl will feel good on the inside and out. Gift only hypoallergenic earrings to help your Girl avoid developing a sensitivity or worse, an allergy to her earrings that could result in infection.

Please see our FAQ page for more information about our hypoallergenic earrings and in-home ear piercing.

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