Nickel allergy is a common cause of allergic contact dermatitis — an itchy rash that appears where your skin touches a usually harmless substance.

It is estimated that up to 17% of women and 3% of men are allergic to nickel. Other than that, 1% to 3% of people are allergic to cobalt and chromium. These types of reactions can be localized reactions that are limited to one area. However, they can also be more generalized and affect other more distant parts of the body.

Nickel is a silver-colored metal found naturally in the environment. It’s often mixed with other metals to make various items, including:

  • jewelry
  • coins
  • keys
  • cell phones
  • eyeglass frames
  • paper clips
  • pens
  • orthodontic braces
  • stainless steel cooking equipment and eating utensils
  • clothing fasteners, such as zippers, snap buttons, and belt buckles


A nickel allergy is the body’s adverse immune response when someone comes into contact with a product containing nickel. Normally, the immune system defends the body against harmful substances, such as viruses and bacteria, to ward off illnesses. But if you have a nickel allergy, your immune system mistakes nickel for a dangerous intruder. In response, your body reacts in an allergic reaction.

An allergic reaction to nickel is one of the most common causes of an itchy skin rash.

  • Rash or bumps on the skin
  • Itching, which may be severe
  • Redness or changes in skin color
  • Dry patches of skin that may resemble a burn
  • Blisters and draining fluid in severe cases

In rare cases, a nickel allergy can also lead to respiratory problems, including:

  • runny nose
  • nasal inflammation
  • asthma
  • sneezing

Manufacturers often use nickel and cobalt to alloy with other metals. You’ll find these metals in lower-quality jewelry such as costume jewelry.

Other places metal can lurk

But you’ll need to look beyond jewelry for potential sources of metal. Metal can hide out in products and devices where you’d least expect it. Here are six surprising sources:

  1. Tattoo inks. If you’re considering a tattoo and have sensitive skin, you might want to hold off, Dr. Anthony says. Pigments in tattoo inks can contain cobalt and other heavy metals.
  2. Cell phones. If you’re allergic to nickel or cobalt, your phone is a possible source of exposure.
  3. Eyeglass frames. Like jewelry, glasses frames are sometimes alloyed with nickel or cobalt. If you suspect your frames are to blame, opt for those made from stainless steel or plastic instead.
  4. Clothing hardware. If you’re like most people, you probably don’t give the button on your jeans a second thought. But buttons, as well as rivets and zippers, are possible sources of metal exposure.
  5. Cosmetics and soaps. Before you put your face on or take it off, check the label on the products you’re using. Cosmetics such as eyeliner and eye shadow and some soaps may contain chromates.
  6. Artificial joints. Implantable devices such as artificial joints, plates, rods and pins are often made from titanium. If you suspect that you have a titanium allergy, talk with your dermatologist about skin-patch testing before implant surgery.


Your doctor may suspect metal hypersensitivities based on a combination of your personal history and your signs and symptoms.To determine possible causes of metal exposure, your doctor may ask if you have any type of implants, if you smoke, or if you regularly use any cosmetics.

A patch test is often performed if a nickel allergy is suspected. During the patch test, your doctor applies a small amount of nickel over a patch. The patch is then placed on your skin.

There’s no cure for a nickel allergy. As with other allergies, the best treatment is to avoid the allergen.

However, your doctor may prescribe one of the following medications to help reduce the skin irritation caused by a nickel allergy. If the dermatitis is more significant, the doctor can also prescribe corticosteroid creams and ointments to reduce the local inflammation. The doctor can also prescribe oral antihistamines to further reduce the allergic reaction.



The best strategy to prevent a nickel allergy from developing is to avoid prolonged exposure to items containing nickel. If you already have a nickel allergy, the best way to prevent an allergic reaction is to avoid contact with the metal.

Wear hypoallergenic jewelry

Using metals less likely to cause a reaction include:

  • Copper
  • Yellow gold
  • Platinum
  • Stainless steel
  • Sterling silver

Choose a piercing studio carefully

Be certain to choose a studio that follows these rules. Visit a studio before getting a piercing to make sure that the piercer provides a clean, professional environment. Also, check to be sure the studio uses sterile, nickel-free or surgical-grade stainless steel needles in sealed packages.Check that the studio only sells hypoallergenic jewelry and can provide documentation of metal content of the products for sale.

Use substitute materials

Look for safer substitutes for common nickel-containing items:

  • Watchbands made of leather, cloth or plastic
  • Zippers or clothing fasteners made of plastic or coated metals
  • Plastic or titanium eyeglass frames

Use allergy protective Varnish

In the USA

I found this on I bought this for several friends, and they had very good experience with it.


This a new varnish I found on Perles&Co. They used to sell Jewelry Shield, too. However, they sell this new product I have no any feedback yet about.

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