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NICKEL (the metal): Allergen or Not An Allergen?


Not just an allergen or a top allergen…nickel is frequently the number one most common allergen on published allergen lists, and was the 2008 Allergen of the Year of the American Contact Dermatitis Society.

Watch for it in coins; chromed faucets, handles or armrests; certain eyeglass frames or parts, mobile phones or their cases, laptops and other electronics, cosmetic containers, fabrics (invisible as chemicals added to help dyes bind better), and even some makeup shades.

It is very rare for metals not to have some nickel in them. If you are allergic, look for very high-quality metals such as high-end stainless steel — because the nickel tends to be bonded extremely well, the chances of it rubbing off and causing a reaction are minimized.

If you think you might have contact dermatitis, ask your dermatologist for a patch test.


Regularly published reports on the most common allergens by the North American Contact Dermatitis Group and European Surveillance System on Contact Allergies (based on over 28,000 patch test results, combined), plus other studies. Remember, we are all individuals — just because an ingredient is not on the most common allergen lists does not mean you cannot be sensitive to it, or that it will not become an allergen. These references, being based on so many patch test results, are a good basis but it is always best to get a patch test yourself.

1. Wetter, DA et al. Results of patch testing to personal care product allergens in a standard series and a supplemental cosmetic series: An analysis of 945 patients from the Mayo Clinic Contact Dermatitis Group, 2000-2007. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2010 Nov;63(5):789-98.

2. Verallo-Rowell VM. The validated hypoallergenic cosmetics rating system: its 30-year evolution and effect on the prevalence of cosmetic reactions. Dermatitis 2011 Apr; 22(2):80-97

3. Ruby Pawankar et al. World Health Organization. White Book on Allergy 2011-2012 Executive Summary.

4. Misery L et al. Sensitive skin in the American population: prevalence, clinical data, and role of the dermatologist. Int J Dermatol. 2011 Aug;50(8):961-7.

5. Warshaw EM1, Maibach HI, Taylor JS, Sasseville D, DeKoven JG, Zirwas MJ, Fransway AF, Mathias CG, Zug KA, DeLeo VA, Fowler JF Jr, Marks JG, Pratt MD, Storrs FJ, Belsito DV. North American contact dermatitis group patch test results: 2011-2012.Dermatitis. 2015 Jan-Feb;26(1):49-59.

6. Warshaw, E et al. Allergic patch test reactions associated with cosmetics: Retrospective analysis of cross-sectional data from the North American Contact Dermatitis Group, 2001-2004. J AmAcadDermatol 2009;60:23-38. 

7. Foliaki S et al. Antibiotic use in infancy and symptoms of asthma, rhinoconjunctivitis, and eczema in children 6 and 7 years old: International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood Phase III. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2009 Nov;124(5):982-9.

8. Kei EF et al. Role of the gut microbiota in defining human health. Expert Rev Anti Infect Ther. 2010 Apr; 8(4): 435–454.

9. Thavagnanam S et al. A meta-analysis of the association between Caesarean section and childhood asthma. Clin Exp Allergy. 2008;38(4):629–633.

For more:

On the prevalence of skin allergies, see Skin Allergies Are More Common Than Ever and One In Four Is Allergic to Common Skin Care And Cosmetic Ingredients.

To learn more about the VH-Rating System and hypoallergenicity, click here.

By Laura

Martini & NewYork(er) Fan; SmittenMom; Good Karma (occasional sass); Skinfatuated, Skintellectual, Skingenious CEO, VMV HYPOALLERGENICS Views mine: Instagram/LauraAtVMV

0 replies on “NICKEL (the metal): Allergen or Not An Allergen?”

[…] well as some leathers and hair dyes. You may also want to steer clear of metals that may contain nickel (such as buttons, zippers, snaps, metal eating utensils, and some jewelry) as there have been […]

[…] not published skin allergens. But look out for those that may be contaminated with allergens like nickel, cobalt, gold, or chrome. Reactions can also occur with handling, such as if the stones are washed […]

[…] show its ability to provide a barrier against metal corrosion, reducing the resulting release of nickel, a top allergen for skin. Nickel is one of the most widely-used metals in various products that […]

[…] Nickel has been the number one contact allergen for years, was the 2008 Allergen of the Year of the American Contact Dermatitis Society, and is everywhere. When we say that a stainless steel water bottle is probably not a contact allergen, we assume that it is a pretty plain, straightforward bottle (no chrome or nickel finish) and of very high-quality stainless steel. In very high-quality metals, the nickel is bonded very well. This significantly reduces the chances of the nickel being rubbed off. This is important because nickel is dissolved by sweat (a “microbial corrosion”), resulting in its absorption and penetration into the skin, which is what causes the allergic reaction. […]

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