There seems to be endless options for earrings these days. Hoops, studs, huggies, droplets, dainty ones, statement ones, all kinds of styles. This is great, but have you ever been hesitant to buy one of these cute pair of earrings online? Have past experiences left you with sore, or irritated ears? Now you're weary about getting another pair or have given up on earrings all together?
Sounds like you have sensitive ears, and there’s a reason for that! But knowing what causes your sensitivity and with the right earring info, you can buy your next pair knowing your ears will be A-OK.
Pictured: Cassia Croissant Hoop Earrings
What does it mean to have sensitive ears?
Have you ever put in earrings to just have them really irritate your ears? They get red, tingly, scratchy, maybe even swollen? Those are signs that are considered as having sensitive ears. Ok so what does that mean? It means your body has a sensitivity to certain metals.
It’s a type of allergy that can range from, not so bad (I can get away with wearing earrings, but by the end of the day I need to take them out) to pretty bad (I can’t wear earrings for longer than a few minutes).
What causes the sensitivity/allergy?
Like other types of allergies, you can have it right from the time your ears are pierced or slowly develop it over time.
For some, the more you expose your ears to a certain metal, the more it’ll develop a sensitivity. It’s common for people who wore cheap earrings for years to suddenly start developing it. The sensitivity keeps getting worse until you hit a point where you just can’t wear those cheap earrings anymore.
Pictured: Betty Hoops
Ok so I have an allergy. How do I know what metal I’m allergic to?
Because earrings can be made out of a combination of different types of metals (particularly cheap jewelry), it can be hard to tell exactly which one causes it. It may be multiple.
If you want to be sure, the best way to tell the specific allergy would be to get an allergy test done. If that’s one too many steps, there are specific metals you can just avoid.
The metals that commonly cause allergic reactions are nickel, brass, copper. Nickel and copper are very similar to each other and brass is usually made with copper, so naturally it’ll cause sensitivity.
Cassia Croissant Hoop Earrings
I can do that! What metals do I wear instead?
The best metals regarded as a guarantee for avoiding allergies are pure Titanium, 24K Gold, 24k Platinum, and surgical grade Stainless Steel.
Titanium? 24K Platinum or Gold? Ya, we know, things are starting to sound expensive. If you have an extreme sensitivity (afraid your ears may bleed sensitive) then you’re probably going to want to fork out for the really high end stuff.
If you feel like your sensitivity is milder, then you probably have more options available to try out.Inez Huggie Hoops
Ya, I’m going to need those other options…
Your next best option is find mild alloys of those metals we just mentioned. Anything that’s not made 100% out of one metal (aka a pure metal), is called an alloy. Meaning there are other metals mixed into it.
For example: 24K gold is 100% pure gold. 18K Gold is an alloy. 18K worth of pure gold (or 75% pure gold) and the rest is mixed with other metals. This is done for a variety of reasons like to change the color, make a metal stronger, anti-tarnish, more affordable, etc.
If the other metals mixed in are kept to low quantities, then you may not even notice them! Metals such as 14K Gold, 18K Gold, Sterling Silver and Stainless Steel are typically low level alloys so the majority of people can get away wearing them no problem and are a cheaper alternative to the pure stuff! We would just say to keep the mix above 14K. As you can see in the chart, anything less start to contain high quantities of other metals.
(Need a gold refresher? Check out our Get To Know Your Gold blog for a break down on what are karats and gold alloys!)
Pictured left to right: Margaret Huggie Hoop Earrings and Julie Modern Huggie Earrings
I think that could work for me. What do I look for so I know earrings will be ok?
The key points you need to be looking for when shopping for earring should all be in the product details!
When considering at a pair of earring, look for mentions like “nickel-free”, “copper free”, “hypoallergenic”. These terms aren’t regulated but it’s a great starting point to know they are less likely to cause issues.
Pictured: Larissa Rope Twist Hoop Earrings
Next thing to check for is the materials. Search the page for what metal it’s made from and stick to earrings that list 14K Gold/Platinum or higher, Sterling Silver, Stainless Steel or Surgical Steel, and Titanium.
Don’t forget to check out the photos to look at the earring posts. The product listing may say 18K Gold but make sure the post is covered too. If it’s not, make sure it lists the other metals used so you know what’s it’s made of.
If there’s no materials listed at all, or the materials listed are vague (ex. It just says 'Gold', or 'Steel', but doesn’t state the karats or type) then that’s probably a pair of earrings you’d want to steer clear of. If you REALLY like them, then reach out to customer service. They shouldn't have a problems providing the details.
At Victoria Emerson, all our pieces are 100% Nickel free and all our earring are made with sensitivities in mind! They have a Stainless Steel or Sterling Silver base plated with 14K Gold or higher to provide affordable, wearable pieces without the worry of sensitivity.