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Jewelry Rashes : a true allergy or just an irritation?

Posted by Erum Ilyas on
Jewelry Rashes : a true allergy or just an irritation?
Developing a rash under your rings, watches, necklaces or other jewelry does not always mean you are allergic.
 
There are several potential triggers for your skin changes :
 
The first is moisture and soap residue build up between the watch and the skin. This is one of the more common issues. Often people come in worried they are allergic to their wedding jewelry (and worry their spouses bought them the ‘fake stuff’:). The real issue is that if water and soap build up between a watch or other jewelry item and the skin, the result will be the beginnings of skin breakdown. Essentially the soap starts to do its job and emulsify the fats and lipids in the superficial layers of skin. This turns the skin white and macerated and appears ‘wrinkly’. If the skin is not addressed at this point then dead skin cells start to accumulate and the keratin can start to smell (kinda like the cheesy white stuff that comes out of a cyst or a pimple). 
For this scenario, it’s a good idea to dry the skin completely underneath the band and watch face after washing, sweating or showers to avoid moisture buildup.
 
The second issue that comes up is that some are allergic to the nickel and rubber in the watch backing and bands. This would present a little different however. Initially it would appear as a red itchy rash as opposed to skin wrinkling and breakdown.
 
By the time patients come in looking for options to treat their rash, it may be difficult for many patients to recall how it all started. If there is a question as to cause, before you go and throw out or replace your jewelry it is worth consi patch testing with your Dermatologist to see if you have a true allergy!
In the photo, that is my poor finger after seeing over 200 patients last week with increased safety precautions due to COVID.  I haven't developed an allergy to my anniversary band. Instead it is just a constant buildup of soap, cleaners, sanitizers that got stuck under my ring and kept breaking down my skin until it was absolutely raw and sore.  It only took a day to clear with the right topical steroid and I never really stopped wearing my jewelry.  

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