Many people have at least mildly sensitive ears. For some people, 14K gold jewelry is enough to solve the problem. For others, more extreme solutions are needed. However, extreme doesn’t have to mean extremely expensive.
There are definitely different levels of sensitivity and not everyone is going to be bothered by their sensitive ears. For example, some people only experience mild itching if they wear earrings with nickel. As long as they buy nickel-free earrings, they’re fine. For others, like me, even 18K gold causes a reaction. By a reaction, I don’t just mean itching either. For three years I tried to find earrings that would not cause my ears to turn bright red and start leaking out fluid. Finally, I found several materials that will work. If these materials work with my extremely sensitive ears, I think that they should work for anyone’s ears.
Solutions for Everyone with Sensitive Ears
I noticed while shopping for sensitive earrings that there were not a lot of earrings out there for people with truly sensitive ears. If you have a lot of money to spend, then platinum is a good choice. If you don’t have as much money, platinum over silver will last for awhile. If you like to shop online and want to really look around, you can find some cute styles on eBay that are made out of nylon, which is totally hypoallergenic. Unfortunately, a lot of the nylon earrings are in either children’s styles or outdated styles. However, you can sometimes buy posts and fishhooks made out of nylon at craft stores. You can then create your own styles, keeping in mind that it is very difficult to glue anything onto nylon. Occasionally titanium posts and fishhooks are also available in craft stores and these prove to be much easier to work with.
Solutions for Sensitive Stretched Lobes
In my search for better earrings in hypoallergenic materials, I came across the idea of stretching (also sometimes referred to as gauging) ear lobes. If you are anything like me, this might sound a bit extreme to you at first. It only has to be as extreme as you want it to be however. Yes, some people do stretch their lobes to well over an inch in diameter, but if that’s not for you then don’t do it. Personally, my ears are only 10 gauge, which is only a 2.5 millimeter diameter. If I don’t wear earrings, you can tell that I have larger than average holes in my ears, but it is not that bad. Once you start stretching your lobes, you’ll find that more and more hypoallergenic materials are available in the body jewelry category. So for me, I found stretching to be the ultimate solution to my ear sensitivity problem.
As mentioned above, titanium is one of the hypoallergenic materials that will work for most people. Titanium is a metal that comes in several different alloys. Always look up the specific alloy to make sure you’re not allergic to the other metals in the mix. For regular pierced ears (20 gauge or 18 gauge) it can be difficult to find titanium jewelry. Once you stretch your lobes to just a 16 gauge however, you will find tons of titanium jewelry available to you. If you liked hoops before, try captive bead rings. I find these are stylish daily wear jewelry. There are also some cool spirals available even in small gauged ears (smaller holes = larger numbers).
Similar to titanium, niobium is also a metal. Titanium is very lightweight however, and niobium has quite a bit more weight to it. Niobium is definitely not as popular as titanium so it won’t be as easy to find. However, it is another good possibility for people with sensitive ears who like to keep stretching to a minimum, yet it is also available in larger sizes.
PTFE, Teflon, or Polytetrafluoroethylene
If you are afraid of wearing metal jewelry because you’ve had so many problems with metals in the past, try PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene), also known by its brand name, Teflon. Usually PTFE jewelry will either be in barbell shapes or horseshoe shapes. PTFE is a relatively flexible white to clear material that is extremely hypoallergenic. You can sometimes find PTFE jewelry in 16 gauge, but usually it is more common in 14 gauge. Once you stretch your lobes larger than 14 gauge however, you’re going to have a difficult time finding PTFE jewelry.
The great thing about acrylic (your common plastic) is that it is super cheap! The bad thing is, you can’t wear acrylic all the time. Chemicals in the plastic will eventually cause anyone’s ears to react, but if you wear them for 24 hours or less you’ll be fine. While you can find acrylic plugs in sizes starting from 16 gauge, most of the cool acrylic spirals will require at least 14 gauge lobes. I love wearing acrylic spirals to dress up any outfit. The really cool thing is, no one with standard sized lobes is going to have anything close to these either, so you’ll be a bit more unique.
For me, glass is the ultimate in hypoallergenic materials. If I just stretched my ears, I would put in glass right after the stretch to make sure everything healed smoothly. Unfortunately, glass jewelry is very hard to find in small sizes. However, there is definitely a good reason for this: glass can break! I haven’t had any of my glass jewelry break, but you do want to be careful not to drop it. Generally I wear stylish glass plugs almost everyday. Usually glass plugs become available starting at a 12 gauge size. To dress things up a bit, I’ll wear glass spirals or “squids” since they look so pretty. Most of the mass produced spirals start at an 8 gauge, but it is possible to find them a bit smaller. If I can find them, I also get the glass tunnels or “bullet holes” which will make the hole look bigger. If you really like the glass tunnels, the best ones are all available at a 0 gauge or larger. Borosilicate glass is often sold as Pyrex glass, so try searching around for some cool styles on eBay. There are a lot of good artists on eBay that make glass spirals even for 12 gauge ears. The smallest glass pieces I have ever seen were 16 gauge nosescrews, which would fit into ears if you want the look of extremely tiny stud earrings.
If you like tunnels and soft plugs, try silicone. Some people can have a reaction to silicone, usually due to its tacky surface. However, I didn’t have any problem with it except that it is very hard to get into smaller gauge ears due to its flexibility. I would really only recommend silicone if you have at least 6 gauge ears because then there are a lot of cool tunnels and earskins available. Silicone is great to wear for sports since you don’t even feel it once it’s in.
There may be other hypoallergenic materials out there, but these are the materials that I have come across and personally tried (with the exception of platinum, due to my budget). Other than platinum, all of these materials are cheaper than 14K gold and should be easily affordable. Once you switch to these wonderful hypoallergenic materials, all that oozing, redness, and itching will disappear. I would only recommend stretching your lobes if you feel comfortable with that, but personally I believe this will give you a much greater variety in jewelry if you have extremely sensitive lobes.