Safe Metals for Piercings

There is more to consider when purchasing a first piece of pierced body jewelry than the type, style, design and color of your earring, nose ring, tongue ring, nipple ring etc. The choice of the metal used in fresh body piercings must be made wisely.

The first thing to keep in mind is that the greater the amount of nickel contained in the body jewelry, the greater the allergen risk. Nickel is not biocompatible and when used for pierced body jewelry (particularly first-time piercings) it often causes sensitivity issues that are difficult to remedy. Below is a list of metals to avoid when purchasing jewelry for a first piercing:

Never use pierced jewelry that contains Nickel. It causes allergic reactions. It is illegal to sell pierced jewelry that contains more than 0.5% nickel in many European countries.

Cadmium and Chromium are both toxic and may be absorbed by your body.

Pewter and Tin are a bad choice for first piercings because most pewter alloys contain lead and could expose you to lead poisoning. Tin also contains some traces of lead.

Brass, Bronze and Copper contain a wide variety of alloys and often cause painful skin irritations and potentially serious infections.

Avoid purchasing Gold Plated jewelry too. The gold plating (for which you will have paid a little more) will eventually rub off to expose the underlying metal.

Since Sterling Silver is only 0.925% silver, it contains other (potentially irritating) metals. Silver is also a soft metal that can easily be nicked or scratched, and bacteria could grow in these nicks. However, you can safely wear silver jewelry once your piercing is healed.

Surprisingly, Gold is not a good choice for initial pierced body jewelry either. Lower grade (14-karat and below) gold alloys contain metals such as silver, copper, brass, zinc (and sometimes nickel). Higher grades of gold (24 and 18 karat) contain less nickel, but the higher the karat, the softer the metal. High karat gold jewelry is easily nicked and dented and bacteria can breed in these tiny scratches.

For a first piercing, it is best to invest in jewelry made of the following, more expensive, metals:

Surgical Stainless Steel (SSS) is probably the most widely used metal for pierced body jewelry. There are, however, people who are allergic to SSS, and some Europeans countries have actually prohibited its use for new piercings.

If you are allergic to SSS, consider purchasing jewelry made of Niobium, a considerably more expensive metal. Niobium is also a strong, scratch-resistant metal. Its original color is gray, but it comes in colorful anodized finishes too.

Titanium is the most expensive metal used for body jewelry. Its nickel content is less than .05%. It is a strong metal (no scratches or dents). It can be anodized and comes in a wide selection of colors.

Not everyone can afford to buy titanium or niobium jewelry. In my country, it is customary to pierce the ears of little baby girls. Traditionally, a newborn baby girl’s pierced ears are fitted with a lovely pair of NYLON STRING earrings. The mother disinfects the piercings regularly and gently moves the string once or twice a day. Once the piercing is healed, it is safe to put in gold, silver or gold plated earrings.

If you can’t afford titanium and think you can face the world with nylon string in your ears or nose, this may be a solution to the problem. Alternatively, you could use string in new piercings that are not visible all the time such as nipple rings, for example.