Choosing jewelry can be nerve-wracking if you or your gift has sensitive skin. What starts out as a perfectly accessorized outfit can turn into an allergic reaction in moments. First, there’s a bump here and there, followed by a real rash before you know it. The key to accessorizing without irritation? Know what metals you are allergic to. (And yes, he is An allergy.)
When shopping for jewelry, keep a close eye on the metals the pieces you are looking for are made from. When you know which metals play with your skin and which ones to avoid, you can accessorize without worry.
To help us out, we turned to a dermatologist to help us understand the science behind a skin reaction, then (naturally) we shopped the best hypoallergenic brands for the best jewelry for sensitive skin – no more sore earlobes, no more little bumps on your chest, and definitely no more green rings around your fingers where rings once lived.
What are the typical signs of sensitive skin?
Redness, hives and dry, scaly skin, does that mean anything to you? These are typical signs of sensitive skin, which Dr. Singh likens to patients with rosacea or eczema (atopic dermatitis). The severity of these conditions can range from mild dryness during the winter months to a severe, year-round generalized rash that must be treated with systemic medications. Symptoms for those with sensitive skin can also vary, from those with exuberant reactions to insect bites (sensitive) to those who cannot use over-the-counter face washes (also sensitive).
Sensitive Skin & Jewelry FAQ
Which metals are most likely to cause a skin reaction to jewelry?
“The main culprit of a metal allergy is nickel,” says Dr. Saurabh Singh, board-certified dermatologist in the DC metro area.
Cobalt, chromium and copper are also potential causes, he says, but in the vast majority of skin reactions to jewelry, nickel is the troublemaker.
What types of metals are best for sensitive skin?
For patients with sensitive skin, Dr. Singh recommends titanium or platinum. These metals can be expensive, however, “so at the very least,” he says, “I tell patients to make sure any jewelry they buy is labeled as nickel-free.”
To help! I had an allergic reaction to jewelry. How to soothe my skin?
Step One: Remove that jewel, both from your skin and from your jewelry collection as a whole.
“The second thing to do,” says Dr. Singh, “is to apply a topical corticosteroid to the affected areas twice a day.” If your reaction is severe and the corticosteroid does not seem to calm your skin, you may need to see a doctor to get a prescription cortisone cream.
What does it mean if a piece of jewelry is “hypoallergenic”?
“Hypoallergenic” is the key word anyone with sensitive skin wants to look for when shopping for jewelry. Hypoallergenic pieces should contain metals, whether stainless steel, sterling silver, gold, or others, that are less likely to cause a skin reaction. A metal that he definitely won’t include? Nickel.
What about plated jewelry, is it safe?
It depends. What metal is it plated on? Often there will be nickel hidden under plated jewelry, in which case, no. Although plated jewelry is generally considered safer, providing you with a buffer between the base metal and your skin, if you’re particularly sensitive to jewelry, Dr. Singh advises avoiding plated jewelry altogether.
“When a patient with sensitive skin wears plated jewelry, they may not develop a reaction at first,” he says. “But over time, the patient will most likely become sensitive and find it difficult to wear this jewelry.”
Best jewelry for sensitive skin
Rowan Bold Acrylic Hoops — $29.00
We are at the stage of adulthood where the expression “hypoallergenic hoops” delights us. That’s only part of the reason these Rowan earrings made this list, though. Not only are they crafted from 14k gold over sterling silver, giving them a boost for any earring wearer with sensitive skin, but they’re as cute as can be. They are bold without being too big and substantial without dragging your lobes. Rowan exclusively manufactures hypoallergenic jewelry – nickel, brass and zinc free – so you can feel confident wearing any pair of their hoops, studs or cuffs.
Material: 14k gold over sterling silver
Faris Lost Pendant Necklace — $150.00
For sculptural jewelry that instantly elevates any outfit, even if it’s just jeans and a white tee, consider a necklace from Faris. The Seattle-based designer creates bold geometric jewelry of all kinds – necklaces, rings, earrings, bracelets, and more. – that look like wearable art. Each piece, like this bronze and gold-plated pendant, is also made with high-quality materials, so it’s suitable for sensitive skin.
Material: Bronze and gold plated
Bracelet NÜR Zia
You don’t want your wrist to break out in a rash from a bracelet. This bracelet from NÜR promises not to, and you don’t have to blow a paycheck to buy it either. It’s made from 18k gold-plated PVD over stainless steel, and is also waterproof and tarnish-proof – cherries on the cake suitable for sensitive skin.
Material: 18k PVD gold plated over stainless steel
J. Hannah Form Ring II – $1,860.00
It’s undeniable: J.Hannah pieces are an investment. J.Hannah jewelry will also last a lifetime, instantly becoming heirloom pieces with its timeless, ultra-wearable design. Take this balbous ring from her Form collection, for example. It’s easy to layer with other jewelry and just as easy to incorporate into your already existing jewelry collection. It is – dare we say? – perfect. This ring also promises to be gentle on sensitive skin, as it’s made with 100% recycled gold or sterling silver.
Material: 100% recycled gold or sterling silver
CZ Cluster Studs — $24.00
For a little pop of sparkle in your ears without spending a lot of money, choose one (or two) of these studs, 14k gold or rhodium plated with internal brass. This earring can be purchased individually or in pairs, depending on how you want to decorate your ear piercings. Keep in mind that even though this stud is plated in 14k gold, the brass lives underneath. Brass is hypoallergenic and inexpensive, allowing brands to cut costs, but it can turn skin green. While it’s not an allergic reaction, it’s not the best look either.
Material: 14k gold or rhodium brass
Baublebar Hera 14k Gold Anklet – $62.00
Like all things from the 90s and early 2000s, anklets are cool again and we’re here for it. If you’re ready to adorn your ankles again, grab one of these paperclip chain anklets from Baublebar. It’s made from 14k gold-plated sterling silver, so it’s guaranteed not to tarnish, even if you wear it to the beach. No need to wait for summer to arrive to rock an anklet, though; think how cute (and surprising!) it would look with pants and lug-soled loafers.
Material: 14k Gold Plated Sterling Silver
Mejuri Pearl Mini Satellite Bracelet — $98.00
If your jewelry style is delicate and delicate, add this darling bracelet, which is studded with cultured oyster pearls and freshwater mussels, to your jewelry box. Your wrists won’t react to this pretty piece either, as it’s made with a thick layer of solid 18k gold over sterling silver, two metals that are gentle on sensitive skin. It is bound to last longer than regular gold plating while offering a better price than solid gold. win/win.
Material: Solid 18k gold over sterling silver
Maple and J Ring Double Down – $95.00
We bet you’ll opt for this Maple & J ring, with its bold and far from boring stacked look, day in and day out, no matter what you’re wearing. There’s nothing wrong with a gold ring that stands out, and this solid 14k gold ring promises to look as sharp the first day you wear it as it will in years. Pair it with a handful of other rings or let it do the talking. Either way, it’s a beauty.
Material: 14k solid gold or 14k gold filled
Awe Inspired Twist Triangle Hoop Earrings – $155.00
When it comes to jewelry, there are a few things we inherently trust. 1. Parts made in Italy. 2. Pieces made with 14k gold, like these hoops that feature 14k gold plated over sterling silver. 3. Pieces that feature just enough drama to wear alone with a party dress or a pair of your favorite distressed jeans. Check, check and check in the case of these hoops. BRB, we are clicking “add to cart” right now.
Material: 14k Gold Plated Sterling Silver
Sterling Silver Tiny Tags Nameplate Necklace — $120.00
Nameplate collars are back and in large numbers. (Thanks Carrie Bradshaw and early 2000s nostalgia.) If you haven’t added one to your jewelry box yet, this Tiny Tags necklace is the answer, since you can choose from four hypoallergenic materials. Not only could you treat yourself to a nameplate necklace, but it would also be a surefire gift idea, from Mother’s Day to bridesmaids gifts to a gift that’s sure to earn you a #1 Aunt spot for your nieces.
Material: Sterling silver or 14k yellow, rose or white gold
Want to be the first to hear about the latest (and greatest) SHOP products, custom collections, discounts and more? Sign up to receive the news straight to your inbox.
Our editors independently select these products. Making a purchase through our links may earn Well+Good a commission.