Stainless steel earrings are often marketed as hypoallergenic earrings and as a safe choice for people with sensitive ears.  However, as everyone with sensitive ears knows, stainless steel earrings usually cause a painful reaction. This leaves consumers to wonder, are stainless steel earrings hypoallergenic?
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The answer is, it's complicated. First of all, we need to define "hypoallergenic."  Hypoallergenic literally means less likely to cause an allergy. Although this sounds great, it's similar to a bag of potato chips saying that it has "30% less fat."  It's really just a marketing tactic to make the product seem healthier or safer.
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To start, the labels "hypoallergenic earrings" or "hypoallergenic jewelry" are not regulated in the United States. So anyone can call any piece of jewelry hypoallergenic without consequence. 
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Secondly, what does "less likely to cause an allergy" really mean? What is being compared to? For someone with a peanut allergy or a gluten allergy, would they want a food that's less likely to cause a reaction or would they want a food that 100% will not cause a reaction?
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Since the term hypoallergenic is both unregulated and essentially meaningless then you could say that stainless steel is in fact hypoallergenic. However, what people really want to know is, will stainless steel earrings cause my ears to react?
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The reason that your ears and piercings react to earrings, is that the material in the earrings is causing an allergic reaction. After an extended time period in contact with a reactive material, your body will build up an immunity and eventually react with swelling, bleeding, itching and other symptoms when it comes in contact with that material. Since this is a contact allergy, the allergic reaction goes away when the offending substance is removed (like when you take your earrings out). 
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Stainless steel is an alloy. An alloy is a mixture of multiple metals. Stainless steel is made up of steel mixed with elements such as chromium, nickel, molybdenum, silicon, aluminum, and carbon. Steel itself is a mixture of iron and carbon.  Chromium is added to make it resistant to rust.
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For someone with a metal allergy, it only takes a trace amount of reactive metal to cause a reaction. The problem with alloys, is that there are many trace elements, any of which could cause an allergic reaction. The metals that comprise stainless steel are all potential triggers for a reaction. 
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Rather than asking are stainless steel earrings hypoallergenic, I would ask, will stainless steel earrings cause a reaction? The answer to that is yes for anyone who has developed an allergy or sensitive to metals.  Additionally, metal allergies develop over time and with regular contact with reactive metals (like the ones in stainless steel). So continuously wearing stainless steel earrings can actually cause you to develop an allergy.
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If you have sensitive ears and are wondering what your options are for earrings, since "hypoallergenic earrings" haven't worked for you, there is hope. Pure titanium and pure niobium are metals that are non-reactive with the human body. Since those metals do not react with the human body and therefore the human body doesn't build up an immunity to them, titanium earrings and niobium earrings can be worn comfortably, even by people with metal allergies.  A simple pair of studs, like our Starter Studs, is a great option to try out pure titanium earrings and allow your piercings to properly heal from allergic reactions.

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Best earrings for sensitive ears! I haven’t been able to wear any earrings since my kids that didn’t upset my ears. I haven’t had to take these out since I’ve received them. Just when I thought I had to be done wearing earrings because of the pain you came along. Thank you for making me feel pretty!

Jessica B.

I'm in love! I haven't been able to wear earrings for a very long time, the last time I wore cheap earrings they practically ruined my piercings because they were so irritated. I love these earrings because I can wear them comfortably and safely, but they look AMAZING.

Lydia S

I had given up on earrings when I decided to try this material and I am so happy I did. They look cute, but most important, no allergies!

Melissa

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