How to Buy Earrings for Sensitive Ears

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How to Buy Earrings for Sensitive Ears

Mass produced costume jewellery earrings are made using non-precious metals like stainless steel, sterling silver, and other alloys. Since these alloys can contain metals that provoke allergic reactions, buyers who are especially sensitive to these metals must be mindful of the risk of wearing earrings made from alloys that contain nickel. It is often the nickel content that is blamed for causing skin reactions like contact dermatitis. Because of the risk posed by nickel, the European Union imposed a ban in 2000 on sales of nickel jewellery in the EU.

For wearers with sensitive ears it is important to seek earrings made from hypoallergenic materials. This can sometimes be difficult as the selection for this type of earring may be limited. Eczema sufferers often turn to eBay to source earrings for sensitive ears. It is important that a buyer is able to identify the metal alloys that can provoke allergic reactions. The buyer should also be able to distinguish between the different types of metal used to make earrings. eBay has extensive listings for fine earrings that are perfect for those who can only wear hypoallergenic earrings.

A Bit About Earrings

Earrings are pieces of jewellery that attach to the ear through a piercing in the earlobe or another part of the ear, or clip onto the earlobe. They are worn by both men and women. The different parts of earrings can be made from a variety of materials, including base metals, precious metals like gold and silver, plastics, glass, precious stones, beads, wood, and even bone. There are many types of earrings, with the most common styles ranging from small loops and studs to dangling earrings like chandelier earrings. The only limiting factor with regards to the size of the earrings is the ability of the earlobe to physically support an earring without tearing, and even then, heavier earrings worn over long periods of time can cause the earlobe to stretch and deform or the piercing to tear.

Metal Allergies

Metal allergies are quite widespread, especially in the developed world. For most suffers, a metal allergy is not life threatening but the symptoms can be difficult to manage, and often frustrating to live with. The are so called  'hypoallergenic' earrings made from surgical steel or 'nickel-free' alloys, but as is often the case the actual post that is inserted into the ear piercing is the only part of the earring made from hypoallergenic materials.

What Is a Metal Allergy?

Metal allergies are fairly common. Sufferers are often those who have pierced ears. The symptoms of an allergic reaction range from redness and itchiness to swelling of the earlobe or piercing, and generally appear within six to 24 hours after the earlobe comes into contact with certain metals. The most common earring-related skin condition is contact dermatitis, which is a reaction to the nickel in an alloyed metal. Some estimates claim that between 10 and 20 percent of earring-wearers have some degree of nickel allergy.

What Causes the Nickel Allergy?

Nickel allergies are usually caused by very small amounts of nickel in jewellery dissolving from contact with moisture and depositing something akin to a salt crystals on the skin. An allergy can be chronic condition whereby a person's immune system misidentifies a harmless chemical like a metal as a threat, marshalling the immune response to attack it. This causes inflammation. Some wearers believe that they are experiencing an allergic reaction when the skin inflammation is actually a reaction to detergents or some other chemical becoming trapped in the piercing and causing irritation. This type of problem can be alleviated by simply rinsing the earrings off with cool water.

Can Gold or Silver Cause an Allergic Reaction?

Allergies to pure gold and silver are actually very rare. Gold and silver are actually too soft to use for jewellery without the addition of another metal to harden these precious metals. It is the addition of these other metals that cause allergic reactions. Small amounts of zinc, copper or nickel are generally used with pure gold or silver to create an alloy metal hard enough to maintain its form while it is being fashioned into jewellery. The higher the karats the purer the metal. A gold earring that is 24-karat gold has a higher gold content that a 14-karat gold earring. The higher the karats, the lower the incidences of allergic reactions.

Hypoallergenic Earring Materials

There are a variety of metals that can be used to make hypoallergenic earrings. These materials include surgical steel, silver, gold, titanium, and plastic.

Surgical Steel

Surgical steel is often used to make hypoallergenic parts for earrings. This metal is not as costly as gold or silver. Surgical steel is generally reserved for the post in stud earrings, or the wire in hoop earrings that goes through the piercing. Because of its superior hypoallergenic properties it can be worn by nearly anyone, from infants to adults.


Silver is less expensive than gold, platinum or titanium and is often used to make earrings. However, silver is prone to oxidation, and this can sometimes cause the silver to turn black. The solution for tarnished silver jewellery is to use a special cloth to clean away the tarnish. Silver is used for earrings, pendants, bracelets, and necklaces, and is varies in terms of 'fineness', which like gold relates to the amount of pure silver in the piece of jewellery. Generally, silver earrings are made from sterling silver. This is an alloy made from pure silver and copper, and is then plated with a thin coating of 99.9 percent pure silver. Silver plating is often used to give a base metal the appearance of being actual silver.


Most earrings are made from gold with levels of purity such as 18kt, 14kt, 12kt, or 10kt. These levels of purity relate to the amount of other metals that are alloyed with pure gold. Pure gold is not used for jewellery because it is too soft to hold its shape. The addition of other metals helps harden the gold. Palladium and nickel are often used for this purpose, but the nickel can often cause allergic reactions in wearers so a wearer should steer clear of earrings made from gold alloyed with nickel.


Titanium is often used in the medical field for medical implants because of its hypoallergenic properties. Earrings made from titanium are a good choice for an intended wearer with a nickel allergy. Titanium is an attractive silvery metal that is worn with both casual or more formal attire.


Plastic is now often used to make earring posts due to this manmade material's hypoallergenic properties. Plastic is a good option for babies and young children because it is inexpensive and durable. Many teenagers wear 'plugs' made from plastic as well. Plugs are a type of extreme jewellery made from large plastic cylinders that are inserted into the piercings to stretch them. This type of earring is a good choice for those who participate in sports, or for outings to the beach or countryside where one is likely to engage in physical activities. The casual appearance of this type of earrings lends itself well to casual attire.

Tips for Buying Earrings for Sensitive Ears

Buy jewellery from high-end jewellery stores instead of costume jewellery shops at shopping centres, or look online for jewellery that is listed as hypoallergenic. You can search online sites like eBay for earrings made from pure metals like platinum, gold, surgical steel, titanium, niobium, and sterling silver. Purity is key. The buyer should consider the karats when it comes to gold and the fineness when it comes to silver jewellery.

Just because the jewellery is purported to be safe for sensitive skin, it is still a good idea to read the description of the earrings carefully to determine the composition of the metal prior to buying the earrings. An earring that is at least 18kt yellow gold is a good choice, as are platinum earrings. Although platinum can be quite a bit more expensive than gold, earrings made from this metal are hypoallergenic and so do not cause metal allergies.

If the piercing is the problem, the wearer should allow the piercing to close up and rather opt for earrings with clip-on fasteners.

How to Buy Earrings for Sensitive Ears on eBay

When you are ready to start searching for earrings to wear with sensitive ears, start by entering specific keywords into the search bar at the top of eBay's home page. For example, you can enter 'plastic stud earrings' into the search bar and the local search engine will return several thousand listings. You can choose to filter the results based on the type of earrings or by simply choosing options like type of metal, condition of the earrings, the stone, the colour of the gemstone, or the fastening.

Once you have found a pair of earrings that you think will suit you perfectly, make certain to read the item description carefully. If you have any questions about the earrings that cannot be answered using the information in the item description, you can contact the seller by clicking on their username and going to their member profile. From there you can click on the contact link and ask any questions you may have. While there, you may want to read any feedback scores left by previous buyers. The seller's with the highest feedback scores are referred to as 'Top-Rated Sellers'.


Buying earrings for sensitive ears can sometimes be challenging especially if a wearer isn't sure that they have a metal allergy. First, they should try and rule out any other allergens, such as detergents. If it is the earrings that are provoking allergic reactions, the wearer needs to educate themselves about the metal alloys used to make earrings. When shopping for earrings, the buyer should consider what the earrings are made from. If the metal is an alloy, the buyer should enquire about the purity of the metal. A good rule of thumb to use is the purer the metal the less likely the earring will pose problems for the wearer. Therefore the buyer needs to consider the karats when shopping for gold earrings and the fineness when shopping for silver jewellery. The metal to watch out for is nickel. Regardless of the style of earring, a buyer will find a wide selection of earrings for sensitive ears on eBay.

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