The 7 Best Earrings for Sensitive Ears, According to a Certified Cosmetic Dermatologist
Say goodbye to painful, red lobes with stylish earrings for sensitive ears.
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Many of us have been there: You spent the day shopping for the best accessories to update your style, and found the cutest pair of earrings from one of the best jewelry brands. But then you tried them on at home, and your earlobes quickly got red and sore. Whether that’s always been the case or it’s a recent change, it’s almost certain that the metal in your earrings is to blame.
Having sensitive ears can make it hard to shop for affordable jewelry, since it’s often made with mixed metals that can cause allergic reactions. While you may have no trouble when it comes to buying most types of jewelry, including elegant necklaces for women or cocktail rings, finding earrings for sensitive ears can be tricky.
Luckily, you can find wallet-friendly, quality earrings to fill your jewelry organizer that won’t cause discomfort. From jewelry sales to finding fashionable jewelry on Amazon, there’s a pair of earrings out there for every sensitivity, style and budget.
We asked Michele Green, MD, a board-certified cosmetic dermatologist on New York City’s Upper East Side, to break down the exact causes of sensitive ears, why they can be problematic and how to choose earrings that won’t cause pain and irritation. Read on to get the scoop, and also find some of the best earrings for sensitive ears that you can wear comfortably.
What makes ears sensitive?
When it comes to sensitive ears, a common form of eczema, called contact allergic dermatitis, is usually the culprit. This type of eczema is caused by direct contact with an allergen or irritant—in this case, the metal in your earrings. Dr. Green explains that when ears are pierced, the inner ear lobes have direct contact with the metals in earrings, which can be a source of this specific type of skin irritation. What’s more, the skin on your ears and earlobes is particularly thin, making it especially susceptible to irritation and sensitivity.
Dr. Green notes that you can develop a skin allergy at any age. In fact, developing a sudden allergy to metals used in earrings and other jewelry is incredibly common, even after repeated exposure. So if your favorite pair of earrings is suddenly causing you discomfort, it’s possible you’ve developed a metal allergy.
Can you find out the metals to which you’re allergic?
If you’re finding that some earrings cause irritation, make an appointment with a board-certified dermatologist who can perform a patch test to identify the offending allergens. The process is rather straightforward, explains Dr. Green.
“A patch test applies the allergens to the skin with specific patches and are worn for a period of 48 hours,” she says. “If there is a positive patch test, there will be skin irritation where the patch was placed, indicating a potential allergic reaction.” Once you’ve identified the materials that are causing an allergic reaction, you can avoid items containing that material.
Can sensitive ears become problematic?
If you’ve thought about trying to tough out any discomfort, you may want to think twice. Though you may only experience itching, redness, dryness, flaking or a rash now, Dr. Green cautions that symptoms can progress and result in the formation of blisters or infection. “The irritated area of skin may start to feel warm to the touch, become filled with pus or you may notice the rash is spreading,” Dr. Green says. If that happens, see your doctor to treat the infection and soothe any discomfort.
Kindhearted CZ Studs
Looking for a pair of earrings that will truly win over your heart? You’ve found them! These delicate earrings can be worn alone or stacked. They’re hypoallergenic and affordable, and will quickly become one of your go-to pairs for everyday wear. Made with 14-karat gold on sterling silver, these earrings don’t contain any nickel, brass or zinc.
But are they really hypoallergenic? You bet. We’ve been wearing these earrings almost daily for over a year, and have never once had a bad reaction. Rowan also offers piercing services at their studios across the country. All piercing is done by licensed nurses with pre-sterilized 14-karat gold, stainless steel or titanium earrings.
- Hypoallergenic and affordable
- Versatile style for everyday wear
- Can be worn stacked or by themselves
- Some people may be sensitive to vermeil
Stainless Steel Stud Set
Jewelry on Amazon can be hit or miss, but this set that comes in silver, gold, rose gold and black is earning high marks. Not only do buyers claim that these earrings safely grace sensitive ears, but they swear that these studs won’t turn your ears green. With nine pairs to choose from, you’ll have a new pair for each day of the week (and then some!).
“I have really sensitive ears and can’t keep cheaply made earrings in my ears for too long,” writes Amazon buyer, Amber. “These are cute and affordable earrings that people with sensitive ears should be able to handle, as my ears did not react badly to these.”
- Nine pairs of studs in each set
- Includes cool designs, like stars and moons
- Available in silver, gold, rose gold and black
- Smaller than some were expecting
Date Night Hoops
Tini Lux was founded to meet the needs of people with sensitive ears. All of the brand’s earrings are made with pure, medical-grade titanium as their base metal. We love these crystal hoops, which are made with biocompatible titanium that’s not only safe for sensitive ears, but also water- and tarnish-resistant, so you can wear them 24/7. And since they’re so versatile, these hoops make a beautiful gift for a jewelry lover.
- Available in gold or silver with crystals
- Made from biocompatible titanium
- Water-resistant and won’t tarnish
- Only available in one size
Best for everyday wear
14K Gold Beaded Hoops
Did you know that Quince—makersof the famous $50 cashmere sweater—also makes affordable gold jewelry? Well, you do now. These casual beaded hoops are made of pure, 14-karat yellow gold for a timeless result. Not only that, but the brand offers a 365-day free return policy, and ensures that these earrings are ethically made, giving you even more peace of mind. Speaking of ethically made, here are the best sustainable and ethical jewelry brands you can shop this year.
- Simple beaded style
- Ethically made with pure 14-karat gold
- Available in yellow or white gold
- On the pricier side
Best for cartilage
Cosmic Cartilage Hoop
Mason Miru jewelry is known for being nickel-free. This cartilage hoop is made with implant-grade titanium, and can be worn in your tragus, helix or earlobe, as well as in your cartilage. Note that this hoop is sold as a single earring, so be sure to add two to your cart if want a pair. Side note: This brand also has a fantastic collection of evil eye jewelry, including solid 14-karat gold and titanium earrings for sensitive ears.
- Can be worn in your cartilage, tragus, helix or earlobe
- Made with implant-grade titanium
- Offered in three different gauge sizes
- Not sold as a pair
Disney 18K Gold Sterling Silver Safety Pin Earrings
All of BaubleBar’s jewelry is hypoallergenic and certified nickel-, lead-, cadmium- and phthalate-free. That makes us feel good about wearing these adorable Mickey Mouse safety pin earrings, which are 18-karat gold-plated sterling silver. In case you’re wondering whether or not they’re truly hypoallergenic, our tester wore these earrings every day for a week and had no reaction. While we’re on the subject, here’s even more trendy jewelry to check out.
- Disney style with safety pin design
- Hypoallergenic gold-plated sterling silver
- No earring backs to deal with
- Have a tendency to sell out
Silver CZ Cluster Flatback Studs
Even if you’ve had your ears pierced for as long as you can remember, traditional earring backs can be a pain. They can snag on your clothes and are uncomfortable to sleep in. These low-profile flatback studs are comfortable and durable for everyday wear. You can buy these studs as a pair or individually if you prefer to mix and match. Just note that the brand recommends removing your earrings before showering, swimming or sweating to prevent tarnishing. If you do find that your earrings have tarnished, here’s how to clean jewelry at home.
- Low-profile flatbacks for comfort
- Available as a single earring or a pair
- Can be worn in earlobes or cartilage
- Should be removed before getting wet
What to consider when buying earrings for sensitive ears
When shopping for earrings for sensitive ears, you’ll have to pay extra attention to the materials used in your earrings. If you have sensitive lobes, Dr. Green recommends avoiding nickel in particular, and being cautious with sterling silver and vermeil (gold-plated jewelry over sterling silver). Gold can be okay, but opt for 24-karat gold if possible since it’s the most pure.
The safest material for earrings if you’re sensitive is hypoallergenic titanium, a metal that’s strong and durable enough for use in jewelry, and also gentle enough that it won’t cause skin irritation. Medical grade plastic is another option for people with sensitive ears as well as children, says Dr. Green.
How we found the best earrings for sensitive ears
As shopping experts, our only job is to help you find a winning product. We start with the research and reporting basics—what products are made of, what they look like and how much they cost—to ensure that we’re only recommending the buys that are worth your time and money. Then, we research the features that speak to the product’s quality, taking advice from industry insiders and subject matter experts on what makes a product a smart value (or worthy of a splurge). Finally, we do the work of combing through user reviews to see how real people interact with the product, and if it stands up to the test.
How to know if you’re allergic to earrings
According to Dr. Green, irritation, sensitivity and overall discomfort are all signs that you might be allergic to your earrings. She also points out that sudden allergies to metals are quite common and can become worse over time. So before you try and tough out any discomfort, ask your dermatologist to perform a patch test so you’ll know exactly which metals you’re allergic to.
How to clean earrings for sensitive ears
For starters, always make sure to wash your hands before putting in or removing your earrings. Once you’ve washed your hands and removed your earrings, you can clean them with a cotton swab dipped in a solution of mild soap and water before patting them dry with a clean towel or cloth. Depending on the materials, you can also use one of these ultrasonic jewelry cleaners.
How much do hypoallergenic earrings cost?
It depends on the material. A pair of solid gold earrings will cost more than gold-plated earrings. That being said, you don’t have to spend a fortune. The earrings on our list range from under $20 to $100. If you’re shopping for fine jewelry, you can spend anywhere from a couple hundred dollars on a pair of 24-karat gold studs or hoops to a few thousand dollars on a diamond studs set in 24-karat gold.
- Michele Green, MD, board-certified cosmetic dermatologist
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