Allergic to metals - is there a work around?
June 22, 2014 11:57 AM   Subscribe

I can wear platinum, higher grade gold and titanium sometimes. The biggest problem is my belly ring, though I gave the same problem with earrings. Can I do something to surgical steel to open up my jewelry horizons?

I have belly rings with acrylic posts, but they're starting to break down. I have a titanium I can wear some/most of the time. I've decided I need a horrendously tacky ring - but they are mostly surgical steel, which I can't even look at, let alone wear. I've already asked all the sellers - the best/tackiest part is attached to the post.

Is there something I can do to coat surgical steel? Clear nail polish doesn't work at all.

This really is a stupid question, but it could open up earring opportunities too. Thanks!
posted by crankyrogalsky to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I've had good luck with the hypoallergenic jewelry at Simply Whispers. Do you know if it is the nickel you are reacting to, or something else? Nickel is the most common allergy, followed by copper, I believe.
posted by Emera Gratia at 12:00 PM on June 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

More specifics about particular metals available here.
posted by Emera Gratia at 12:04 PM on June 22, 2014

I don't have a belly button ring but I have seen some fun nose rings on etsy made with better metals. I'm sure there are sellers with navel rings too.
posted by missriss89 at 12:27 PM on June 22, 2014

Which metals specifically are you allergic too? Different alloys contain different ones, for example surgical steel isn't supposed to contain nickel (the most common allergen) and is generally considered hypo-allergenic, so it's difficult to give suggestions without knowing this.

Sometimes the jewellery is technically the right metal but can be contaminated, for example if it's stored with pieces made of other metals or if it's not made carefully enough. So it might just be that you need to buy better quality/guaranteed hypo-allergenic rings and then surgical steel or sterling silver or whatever would be OK. I've had really varying results with both sterling silver and steel even though I'm only allergic to nickel which isn't supposed to be in either (even when labelled as "nickel free").

You could also try getting stuff custom made by a good jeweller, it doesn't need to be expensive. My palladium wedding ring was custom made to be specifically nickel free and that works. A good jeweller should have control over what the materials come into contact with during the whole process so you get a pure end product. Again you kind of need to know what you're trying to avoid though.
posted by shelleycat at 12:35 PM on June 22, 2014

Surgical steel can definitely have nickel in it. From the Rings N Things page: "Adding the word “surgical” to a stainless steel alloy’s name does not make it is better grade of steel. The SAE grade number (304, 430, 316L, etc.) defines the alloy and its properties, so the word “surgical” simply tells us “non-SAE-tech people” that 316 and 316L stainless steel alloys have properties suitable for temporary medical implants, or for making durable surgical instruments. . . Like most other stainless steel, it contains 8-10.5% nickel, making it unsuitable for people with nickel allergies." If the goal is just to find a tacky belly ring, I would just look for something specifically made to be hypoallergenic (e.g. this, which probably qualifies for most definitions of tacky)
posted by Emera Gratia at 12:41 PM on June 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yeah that got a bit confused in my comment. I've had problems even with surgical steel that said it was nickel free as part of the marketing info, where it flat out did not use nickel as part of the alloy (same with silver). They were contaminated during or after the manufacturing process rather than included it from the start. This isn't uncommon. Whereas when I got surgical steel earrings that had some kind of certification guaranteeing they met international standards (probably the EU standard) with no nickel taint at all then it was fine, and I'm pretty allergic. But that's all pointless if you're not allergic to nickel but something else.
posted by shelleycat at 12:58 PM on June 22, 2014

Are you at all interested in custom jewelry? The guy who has done all my piercings now makes his own jewelry all from gold - it would be definitely not tacky, though.
posted by Ms Vegetable at 1:18 PM on June 22, 2014

I guess I wasn't clear enough. My specific question: is there something I can coat the ring with?
posted by crankyrogalsky at 1:28 PM on June 22, 2014

Some cheaper rings are anodized, and come in deep fuschia, green, blue, and rainbow colors.

HOWEVER, the metal called Niobium doesn't have nickel in it, but is available in those bright colors. It's the only non-gold I can wear. Holly Yashi brand jewelry is made from Niobium so you could try some of her post earrings $US 15 to see if it works for you.
posted by Jesse the K at 1:31 PM on June 22, 2014

Clear water based polyurethane is hard, durable, non-soluble, and food safe once dried. Dip the jewelery in a can to coat rather than using a spray product. Dry it at room temperature and then once dry expose it to direct sunlight for a day to force the polymerization.
posted by Mitheral at 1:41 PM on June 22, 2014 [1 favorite] will let you search by material, style, color, etc. Anatometal is a pretty good brand that carries a lot of titanium and niobium.

I could see polyurethane coating working for you, but be prepared to mask off the threaded ends of the piece thoroughly before you spray.

Maybe talk to a piercer and see if they have any ideas.
posted by blnkfrnk at 2:29 PM on June 22, 2014

I have a similar allergy and no coating works for me. I have had to switch to platinum for my "good" stuff and silver for the cheaper items. Silver has never given me any trouble.
posted by saradarlin at 3:34 PM on June 22, 2014

Silver is fine - mostly - ON my skin (necklace, ring, bracelet fine about 80% of the time), but absolutely not going THROUGH my skin (ears, belly). It's a stupid and delicate balance. Sometimes my allergy flares up and I gave to take it all off for a few days. Except belly rings that are ALL acrylic.
posted by crankyrogalsky at 10:06 PM on June 22, 2014

I would not keep acrylic OR something coated in poly or nail polish in a piercing.

Anatometal has a lot of lovely titanium lately and it can be anodized in almost any color. Actual implant-grade titanium is almost impossible to be allergic to. Some cheap body jewelry is titanium plated and you could be reacting to that.

Body Vision Los Angeles (BVLA) has some fine body jewelry for you to save your pennies and drool over.

Any of these better jewelry companies (see Neometal, too) will make pieces to order -- it'll cost more, but you can get it as tacky as you want and it won't bother your piercing.
posted by fiercecupcake at 7:09 AM on June 23, 2014

Most poeple I know wear through any sort of coating they put on the jewelry.

My recommendations are always titanium or like @Jesse the K recommends, Niobium.
posted by PlutoniumX at 7:19 AM on June 23, 2014

I have a similar allergy, and used to have body piercings. No coating ever helped, although liquid bandage would work for earrings for a day, but I would not keep anything coated in a body piercing for longer than that.

Nthing titanium or niobium.

I might be off-base here, but it's just a thought: do you think your pants could be further aggravating the allergic reaction? The fasteners on pants often contain nickel and can cause a reaction right in the belly button area.
posted by inertia at 12:40 PM on June 24, 2014

« Older Identify Ralph McQuarrie cover art   |   Where to go for a month to get our heads screwed... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.