Many of us have been there: You spent the day shopping for the best accessories to help you update your style and found the cutest pair of earrings. But then you tried them on at home, and your earlobes quickly got red and sore. Whether that’s always been the case or it’s a recent change, it’s almost certain that the metal in your earrings is to blame.
Having sensitive ears can make it hard to shop for affordable jewelry since it’s often made with mixed metals that can cause allergic reactions. While you may have no trouble when it comes to buying elegant necklaces or cocktail rings, earrings can be tricky.
Luckily, you can find affordable, quality earrings to fill your jewelry organizer that won’t cause discomfort.
We asked Michele Green, MD, a board-certified cosmetic dermatologist in New York City’s Upper East Side, to break down the exact causes of sensitive ears, why they can be problematic, and how to choose earrings that won’t cause pain and irritation. Read on to get the scoop and find 10 pairs of great earrings that even the most sensitive ears can wear comfortably.
What makes ears sensitive?
A common form of eczema called allergic contact dermatitis is the culprit when it comes to sensitive ears. This type of eczema is caused by direct contact with an allergen or irritant—in this case, the metal in your earrings. Dr. Green explains that when ears are pierced, the inner ear lobes have direct contact with the metals in earrings, which can be a source of this specific type of skin irritation. What’s more, the skin on your ears and earlobes is particularly thin, making it especially susceptible to irritation and sensitivity.
Dr. Green also notes that you can develop a skin allergy at any age. Developing a sudden allergy to metals used in earrings and other jewelry, even after repeated exposure. So if your favorite pair of earrings is suddenly causing you discomfort, it’s quite common.
Can you find out the metals to which you’re allergic?
If you find that some earrings irritate, make an appointment with a board-certified dermatologist who can perform a patch test to identify the offending allergens. The process is rather straightforward, explains Dr. Green. “A patch test applies the allergens to the skin with specific patches and are worn for a period of 48 hours. If there is a positive patch test, there will be skin irritation where the patch was placed, indicating a potential allergic reaction.” Once you’ve identified the materials causing an allergic reaction, you can avoid items containing that material.
Can sensitive ears become problematic?
If you’ve thought about trying to tough out any discomfort, you may want to think twice. Though you may only experience itching, redness, dryness or flaking, or a rash now, Dr. Green cautions that symptoms can progress and result in the formation of blisters or infection. “The irritated area of skin may start to feel warm to the touch, become filled with pus, or you may notice the rash is spreading,” Dr. Green says. If that happens, see your doctor treat the infection and soothe any discomfort.
How do you choose earrings when you have sensitive ears?
Pay extra attention to the materials used in your earrings. If you have sensitive lobes, Dr. Green recommends avoiding nickel in particular and being cautious with sterling silver and vermeil (gold-plated jewelry over sterling silver). Gold can be okay but opt for 24-karat gold if possible since it’s the purest.
The safest material for earrings if you’re sensitive is hypoallergenic titanium. This metal is strong and durable enough for use in jewelry and gentle enough that it won’t cause skin irritation. Medical grade plastic is another option for people with sensitive ears and children, says Dr. Green.
Best Earrings For Sensitive Ears
Date Night hoops
Tini Lux was founded to meet the needs of people with sensitive ears. Their earrings are made with pure, medical-grade titanium as their base metal. We love these crystal hoops made with biocompatible titanium that is safe for sensitive ears and water-resistant, and won’t tarnish, so you can wear them 24/7.
CZ flatback studs
These cubic zirconia studs, sold separately or as a pair, are made with 14K gold-plated titanium. That makes these great everyday earrings for anyone with sensitive ears. But that’s not the only reason why we love these studs. They have flat backs that won’t poke against the back of your ear, making them ideal for tragus and cartilage piercings. These go out of stock regularly, so don’t delay.
18-karat safety pin earrings
All of Baublebar’s jewelry is hypoallergenic and certified nickel-free, lead-free, cadmium-free, and phthalate-free. That makes us feel good about wearing these delicate safety pin earrings, 18-karat gold-plated sterling silver. In case you’re wondering whether or not they’re truly hypoallergenic, our tester wore these earrings every day for a week and did not react.
14-karat gold beaded hoops
Did you know that Quince, the famous $50 cashmere sweater maker, also makes affordable gold jewelry? Well, you do now. These casual beaded hoops are made of pure, 14-karat yellow gold and are perfect for everyday wear and pairing with sweaters and dresses. The brand offers a 365-day free return policy, giving you even more peace of mind.
Charcoal Gray hypoallergenic earrings
Finding plastic earrings that aren’t designed for kids is no easy feat. Unless you head over to Etsy, that is. These dangling earrings have a gray glass crystal secured to a plastic hook with titanium or stainless steel wire.
These solid 14-karat gold studs by delicate jewelry specialists Mejuri are perfect for individual wear or pairing with your favorite hoops. The brand also sells a set of star studs, so don’t be shy about wearing a moon in one ear and a star in the other. Cute!
Gold ball studs
Sometimes less is more. These understated gold ball studs come in 14-karat white, yellow, or rose gold and are perfect on their own or stacked with other earrings.
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Goddess cartilage hoop
Mason Miru jewelry is known for being nickel-free. This beaded cartilage hoop is made with implant-grade titanium and can be worn in your tragus, helix, or earlobes as well as in your cartilage. Note that this hoop is sold as a single earring, so be sure to add two to your cart if you want a pair.
Four Leaf Clover hoop earrings
Looking for a bit of luck? You’ve found it. These four-leaf clover hoop earrings are made with solid 14-karat yellow gold yet are lightweight enough to wear all day long.
Cultured Freshwater pearl earrings
It doesn’t get any more elegant than pearls if you’re looking to dress up. These drop earrings are made with 10K yellow or white gold and feature cultured, freshwater pearl and Diamond accents.