Certain kinds of stainless steel can contain nickel, a material that is a major cause of allergic reactions. If your skin comes in contact with stainless steel, it may trigger your allergies, especially if you find you have particularly sensitive skin.
Is Stainless Steel Hypoallergenic
Yes, stainless steel is hypoallergenic. It is a safe choice for individuals with sensitive skin or metal allergies. Made from a combination of iron, chromium, and other elements, stainless steel is resistant to corrosion and tarnish. It is commonly used in jewelry, watches, and surgical instruments due to its non-reactive nature.
Stainless surgical steel, however, contains only trace amounts of nickel, making it much less likely to cause allergic reactions, as well as making it ok to consider it a hypoallergenic metal.
What does hypoallergenic mean?
The term hypo means “less”, so hypoallergenic simply means less likely to produce an allergic reaction. The key thing here is the “less likely” part – you should not interpret that as ‘free of allergens’.
Using hypoallergenic products will greatly reduce the risk of allergic reactions if you are allergic to certain substances or materials.
What is hypoallergenic jewelry?
Hypoallergenic jewelry is composed of metals like 18 karat gold, platinum, copper, titanium, sterling silver, fine silver, and stainless steel.
Hypoallergenic jewelry is supposed to cause no allergic reactions and is considered safe. One of the main causes of allergies is nickel, and hypoallergenic jewelry usually does not contain nickel.
Nickel is used in metal alloys to add strength and color. A significant percent of the population is allergic to nickel, so sticking with hypoallergenic jewelry will reduce the odds of an allergic reaction flaring up when you wear it..
Hypoallergenic jewelry usually contains extremely small amounts of nickel (so small, in fact, you need special instruments to detect it. However, the term hypoallergenic has no medical standards to back it up. So be careful when you pick out hypoallergenic jewelry.
The bottom line is that you have to take the term hypoallergenic for its general meaning—you are less likely to trigger your allergies with jewelry labeled as such, but you should still be careful.
What are the most common types of metal allergies?
A large proportion of people are allergic to metals. In fact most people with allergies are allergic to nickel, and some are allergic to cobalt and chromium. These are the most common metal allergies.
What is a nickel allergy?
Nickel allergy is one of the most common metals to trigger skin allergies. It causes allergic contact dermatitis, a rash that appears when your sensitive skin stays in contact with the allergy-triggering material.
A nickel allergy usually arises from jewelry and earrings. You can find nickel in many items like coins, frames, zippers, electronic items, laptops, and more.
Is stainless steel jewelry hypoallergenic?
The grades of stainless steel that contain low nickel content are hypoallergenic.
For instance, 316L grade of stainless steel contains little nickel and is generally considered safe. This grade is also called surgical stainless steel. Further, stainless steel grade 304 has low nickel content and is hypoallergenic.
Which types of stainless steel should be avoided if I’m afraid of being allergic?
If you’re afraid of allergic reactions, you should avoid stainless steel jewelry with higher nickel content, or simpler choose nickel-free jewelry entirely instead. Stainless steel grades 304 and 316 contain high nickel content. So avoid using these when you buy stainless steel objects.
An overview of Surgical Stainless Steel
Surgical stainless steel is a grade of stainless steel with low carbon content. It is commonly found in biomedical applications. The most common grades of surgical stainless steel are:
- Austenitic SAE 316 stainless steel
- Martensitic SAE 440
- 17-4 stainless steel
- SAE 420 stainless steel
There are no formal standards or precise definitions for surgical stainless steel.
Surgical stainless steel varieties are the most corrosion-resistant out of all forms of stainless steel. Hence, they have many applications in the biomedical sector. Surgical steel is used to make instruments like needle holders, retractors, forceps, and many more.
Surgical stainless steel usually contains a higher chromium content (13%) than standard stainless steel (10%). Further, it contains higher amounts of molybdenum (to increase corrosion resistance) and nickel (to eliminate brittleness). However, surgical steel parts made for implants do not contain much nickel to avoid infections.
Stainless steel, meanwhile, is made of iron, chromium, nickel, and other metals. It has applications in many industries like kitchenware, aerospace, automotive, etc., whereas surgical stainless steel is confined to biomedical applications.
Are stainless steel earrings hypoallergenic?
If you are allergic to metals like nickel, you need to use hypoallergenic earrings. These earrings carry a minuscule amount of nickel and come plated with pure metals like gold or silver in areas that contact your skin.
Hypoallergenic stainless steel jewelry takes the same amount of effort to make as common jewelry. In fact, they contain a higher percentage of precious metals. For instance, hypoallergenic jewelry can contain alloys of gold, sterling silver, titanium, copper, or platinum.
Allergies like contact dermatitis leave your skin itchy and covered in rashes. Using hypoallergenic jewelry can minimize the chance of these reactions and keeps your sensitive skin safe and beautiful.
Metal Earring Options Potentially Safer Than Stainless Steel
Stainless steel is an alloy that contains nickel as one of its components. So, you cannot rule out the chance of allergic reactions if you are highly sensitive to nickel. One solution to this problem is to use other metals with little or no nickel content. The following are some of the best metal options to select your earrings.
Titanium is a lightweight metal with high durability and corrosion resistance. It is a biocompatible metal, which means your skin does not react with titanium. The metal stays inert and prevents reactions with surroundings.
Platinum is a great option if you have sensitive ears. The metals are soft, durable, and silvery white. Platinum jewelry has high purity levels and usually contains little alloy components. You can look for platinum jewelry marked ‘Pt’ or ‘Plat’ to ensure purity. Although platinum jewelry can be costly, they’re almost always worth the investment.
Niobium is a flexible, light gray metal that is hypoallergenic and safe for jewelry. It is not very common, but it makes beautiful jewelry. You can find niobium jewelry in multiple colors, and it’s generally pretty affordable.
Silver is a hypoallergenic metal that rarely causes irritation or allergic reactions.Pick pure silver, which contains 99.9% silver, and you can be sure about its hypoallergenic nature.
Pure gold is excellent for sensitive ears because it doesn’t contain any allergy triggering alloys. It can cause a reaction only if the jewelry contains trace amounts of cobalt or nickel. Choose 18 karat gold when buying jewelry that contains more than 75% gold. The higher the karat, the purer the gold; hence, it is less likely to cause reactions.