Itchy ears
September 15, 2007 7:46 AM   Subscribe

Earrings hurt and itch--what to do? I have a new pair of pearl earrings with 14k gold posts. They--alone among all my other earrings--hurt and itch literally within minutes of putting them in. I really love these earrings--is there anything I can do? I've heard that coating with clear nail polish might help, but I've also heard that it might not.
posted by pipti to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Most likely, since 14k gold is not very pure, it has some nickel or other annoying allergen in it. You can try the clear nail polish idea. It might work. Also, I remember seeing (several years ago) that Claire's sold some little plastic tubes that you can fit over the post of your earrings to make them less irritating.
Claire's pretty much must sell them, because their earrings are probably all made out of lead or something else noxious.

Also, if they have some sort of butterfly closure on the back, it may be the culprit (generally, they are made out of far worse stuff than the earrings are). I would suggest getting some silicone backs (also perhaps sold at Claire's) to try to avoid that as a cause.
posted by nursegracer at 7:54 AM on September 15, 2007

Response by poster: thanks, nursegracer! LOLing at the lead thing. Maybe they're back with asbestos.
posted by pipti at 7:59 AM on September 15, 2007

I dip my earring posts in neosporin (it's an over the counter antibiotic ointment you can get in drugstores) before putting them in. It really gets of the itching and swelling.
posted by gt2 at 9:02 AM on September 15, 2007

Actually those plastic tubes are also available at Walmart (if it's closer) - I just got some for my daughter last week.
posted by jkaczor at 9:21 AM on September 15, 2007

if they are very dear to you, you might consider taking them to a jeweler and getting new posts put on. otherwise, i'd try the silicone protectors first.
posted by thinkingwoman at 10:00 AM on September 15, 2007

seconding the clear nailpolish! I also have allergies to most earrings and have found it helpful. Also, the swelling and itchiness that the allergic reaction causes can close up your ears. I splurged on a nice pair of real earrings that I can put in my ears when they get really bad. Hope that helps.
posted by janelikes at 10:01 AM on September 15, 2007

Well this won't help for current earrings, but try to get earrings with surgical steel posts or that say "hypoallergenic" on the box.

When my ears get really irritated, I have a pair of "trainers" (the kind they use to pierce ears) that I bought from a beauty supply store that I wear for a couple days.
posted by radioamy at 11:05 AM on September 15, 2007

It sounds like the posts may be gold plated and the plating is wearing off - or the backs/unpure gold as others have suggesteed. You can use clear nail polish, but that will flake off and you'll have to re-coat them, which can get messy. The stuff from Claires is basically nail polish, from what I remember.

You're probably allergic to nickel, like I am. The nail polish will work for a while, but the only permanent solution I've found is buying sterling silver or 24k gold jewelry. Even the 'surgical steel' or 'hypoallergenic nickel free' pieces bother my ears.
posted by youngergirl44 at 11:45 AM on September 15, 2007 [1 favorite]

Jeweler here. Is the irritation primarily on the front (towards the pearl) of the lobe, or all the way through? Did it start only on the front?

Pearls are usually cemented on with some variation of super-glue. Some people find the glue very irritating. How expensive/dear to you are the earrings? If they're not that expensive, you can coat the bottom of the pearl (where it meets the post cup) with a bit of nail polish - but this will most likely damage the pearls.

If it's the glue and the pearls are expensive, I'd pay a jeweler to turn them into drops so that they don't touch your ear.
posted by Flakypastry at 11:59 AM on September 15, 2007

I'd say be very careful with metal irritations. I've bit the bullet and wore jewelry that bothered me, just for the sake of looking good, and it's come back to haunt me in unpleasant ways. For example, a few weeks ago I wore a cute necklace that I vaguely remembered bothering me in the past. All night it felt slightly prickly, but it didn't bother me that much so I wore it for the whole event (about 7 hours). The next morning I woke up with a red rash and huge blister-like bumps across my chest. I had to wear high collared shirts all week. Then again, YMMV, considering not everyone is as freakishly allergic to things as I am.

I hope you find a solution! Having to retire nice things because of their metal content blows.
posted by SassHat at 1:12 PM on September 15, 2007

Years ago I purchased Hypo-Shield brush-on jewelry coating and it is amazing. I did a quick Internet search and did not com up with it. "Made in England for Fasjion Solutions, USA, Inc. Ashland, MA 01721. 1/3 ounce many years ago with $8.50 -- but it really works and lasts forever. Sorry, I couldn't find a link.
posted by peace_love_hope at 3:32 PM on September 15, 2007

Response by poster: flakypastry: It's hard to pinpoint where the itchiness is. it seems to be my whole lobe. It's weird that it starts so soon after I put them in. thanks everyone. I'll try all the solutions.
posted by pipti at 4:28 PM on September 15, 2007

I dip my earrings into NZ's finest manuka or tea tree oil. In some places it's regarded as a bit of an old wives tale but it's saved my ears a number of times

Manuka Oil - the best stuff!

Wikipedia link

YMMV but it works for me!
posted by chairish at 12:46 AM on September 16, 2007

Sounds similar to a nickel allergy that I have. When I put on cheap jewelery, I get the itching and the bumps others have described above. Aside from the use of clear nail polish to create a barrier, hydrocortizone cream works wonders, both to create a barrier and to clear up any itchy spots. I sometimes use it before putting on necklaces whose clasps irritate my skin.
posted by Teh Bean at 5:13 PM on September 16, 2007

One thing I'd like to expand upon, based on Sasshat's comment: as you subject your body to allergens like nickel, it can become more sensitive to the allergen, causing a worse reaction. For instance, my mom was never allergic to poison ivy until a few years ago, where she got a terrible patch of it on both legs and had to take an oral steroid. Now, she has to carry around an epi-pen with her, because her doctor warned that next time she gets exposed to it, she might go into anaphylactic shock. When your body get around to recognizing an allergen, it will build up a greater reaction to it.

So, if you wear your earrings now, and just "bite the bullet" of itching, or use temporary solutions such as coating it in hydrocortizone cream, you might be building up a worse allergy, which will make it so the next time you use those earrings (or another pair made with the same materials) you could have a much worse reaction.
posted by nursegracer at 7:17 AM on September 19, 2007

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