Body Piercings and Rash: How Do You Know If It’s a Nickel Allergy?

Published: March 26, 2018

After a body piercing leads to a severe rash, one reader wonders if a nickel allergy is to blame.Q: I’m 22 and recently had a body piercing. After the piercing, the area around it broke out into a nasty, itchy rash. My doctor suspects that I have a nickel allergy and advised me to remove the ring. How do I know if nickel is the issue, and would a silver ring or a ring made from another type of metal be safe for me to wear?

Dr. Skotnicki: Most reactions to cheap metals that touch the skin are to either nickel or cobalt released from the metal object. As well, most people become sensitized to nickel through body piercing.

To tell if you’re allergic to nickel, you can test the jewelry to see if it contains nickel. If it does, that is likely what is triggering your rash, as this common allergy affects an estimated 40 million North Americans.

A nickel spot test can be easily purchased online. To use it, simply put a drop of the test solution on a cotton swab and rub the metal. If the swab turns pink when rubbed, the jewelry is releasing nickel.

Options to Avoid Body Piercing Rash

In someone with the allergy, the immune system will react to the presence of more than 5 parts per million (ppm) of nickel.

You can use the following metals safely for a body piercing: silver, 24-carat gold (less than 24-carat may contain nickel) and platinum. Stainless steel is an alloy of metals that could release some nickel.

Don’t be fooled by jewelry that’s labeled “hypoallergenic.” Instead look for items that are clearly marked as being “nickel-free.” Also, piercing rings from Europe would be safe – since Europe has strict nickel standards.

Send your sensitive skin questions to: [email protected]. For more helpful skin information, see

Nickel Allergy: A Rash on the Digital Age

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