Allergic reactions and skin conditions on your ring finger – Is my ring causing this?

If you are experiencing itching, burning, swelling, and redness on your ring finger under your ring you may have one of two possible problems: contact dermatitis or a nickel allergy.

Contact Dermatitis (moisture related)

This happens most often when you have a ring that has a hollowed out portion under the setting area, but can also occur around solid rings.

Why does it happen?

Contact dermatitis occurs when you have prolonged exposure to moisture and/or chemicals and soaps that upset the natural pH balance of the skin area surrounding your ring.

Moisture gets trapped under your ring and can’t dry out quickly. Moisture either gets trapped under the hollowed out portion of the ring or in the case of a ring that is too tight to begin with, it gets trapped under the ring via something called capillary action. Water can travel this way, but air can’t. This is the perfect environment for contact dermatitis, which shows up as redness, swelling, and/or an itchy or burning sensation. This can also be accompanied by the affected area looking a bit scaly.

The type of metal does not affect this type of dermatitis – it can be a $2 costume ring or a $10,000 platinum ring/ So long as there is a gap for water to get in and no gap for air, this condition will occur.

How to fix it?

Keep your rings off for a few days, dry your hands thoroughly for the next few days when you get them wet, and use a hydrocortisone-type cream (which will also relieve the itching).

How do I stop it from happening again?

In the case of a ring that is too tight, you need to get it resized. Making it half a size to a full size bigger can solve the problem.

In the case of a ring with a hollowed out underside, this is a bit trickier. You can either get the ring remade (which is a really drastic action) or just get the top area that is hollow remade. A jeweller can’t just ‘fill in’ the gap as this is metal we are talking about, not plaster or cement. The area needs to be cut out and remade in a solid style. Since these two options are quite drastic, try resizing first and see if that helps at all. At a New Zealand manufacturing jeweller like K. Amani Fine Jeweller, you can expect to pay anywhere between $40-$100 to have a standard type ring resized (it can be more for complicated rings with lots of stones and complex settings). Feel free to ask for a quote.

Nickel allergy-related contact dermatitis

This issue can be a bit harder to deal with as it is a type of contact dermatitis, but has a different cause from its moisture-related cousin. Everybody is different, so this condition’s onset can be different. Before I talk about what it looks like and what to do, let me dispel a a common misconception about allergies…

Allergies can appear later in life

It’s important to understand that allergies can appear and disappear throughout a person’s life. There is no real rhyme or reason for most of them, but doctors seem to agree that it’s largely an immune system response to stressors in your environment; this certainly can also apply to metal allergies. For more information about nickel allergies see DermNet NZ.

What does it look like?

It looks exactly like the moisture-related contact dermatitis in appearance (redness, itching, swelling, and scaly skin). The reaction is essentially the same but the cause is not. This condition will tend to show up if you are wearing a white gold ring or a costume jewellery piece.

What causes it to happen?

Some metals contain nickel in them. Most commonly nickel is used in costume jewellery, but it is also used in cheaper mass-manufactured gold jewellery from overseas. In that case, nickel is used in the white gold as a cheap way to make the white gold appear whiter. It’s widely held within the medical industry that 1 in 3 New Zealanders have some form of allergy, and nickel is one of the most common allergy types. For this reason, New Zealand-made white gold alloys do not contain nickel in them. Because K. Amani Fine Jeweller makes all of our own jewellery in New Zealand, you can be certain that none of the jewellery we create has nickel in it.

How to fix it?

Keep your rings off for a few days, dry your hands thoroughly for the next few days when you get them wet, and use a hydrocortisone-type cream (which will also relieve the itching).

How do I stop it from happening again?

Unfortunately, this is a bit more complex to fix. Your first and cheapest option is to keep up to date with your rhodium-plating on your white gold ring. A ring’s rhodium-plating can last from a few months to a few years, as plating reacts differently for different people and their lifestyles. Redoing the rhodium plating on a ring costs between $40-$80 at a manufacturing jeweller like K. Amani.

Your second and more drastic option is to get a new ring, or to remake your ring in a more inert metal like palladium or platinum (which are 95% – 98% pure, and do not contain nickel at all). Either yellow or rose gold are also a good option as they do not contain nickel. Here at K. Amani Fine Jeweller, we have access to alloys of various 18k gold colours that are specifically hypo-allergenic and shouldn’t cause any metal allergy issues.

If you have any more questions about jewellery allergies, feel free to contact us and we will do our best to answer. If you are experiencing serious swelling around a ring on your finger, seek medical help immediately.

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