Camomile leaves on a hand to represent allergies
Nickel Allergy

My Nickel Allergy Journey – Part 2

20 comments

Last week, I told you my story about finally being diagnosed with my nickel allergy. If you have not read it, you can do so here. This week, I want to share with you the “aftermath” of said diagnosis. Because as elated as I was for a second, I soon learned that there is so much more to this than I originally realized. Let us dive into my nickel allergy journey – part 2.

My Nickel Allergy Journey – Part 2

Remember that doctor who said that he did not believe nickel was in cosmetic products and that I should look it up online?! Well, I did. First off, a lot of pictures of what my eyes looked like when I had an allergic reaction came up. I had searched online (again, not something I would recommend) for years trying to find out what was wrong and the minute you type in nickel allergy you see this kind of inflamed eyes.

Different kinds of metal with a nickel on display
Photo by Scottsdale Mint on Unsplash

What is Nickel?

Nickel is a silvery-white metal, which is used in the steel and metal industry. When combined with other metals or plated with them, nickel allows other metals to further harden. They also become more resistant to rust, for example. Nickel can be found in plants and is classified as an essential trace mineral. We need nickel to survive. The average daily nickel amount is only about 0.2 – 0.5 mg though and we tend to be able to receive this via the food that we eat.

Barbed wire against a blue sky
Photo by Tamara Gore on Unsplash

Nickel Allergy

About 8% of people develop a nickel allergy. We tend to not be born with a nickel allergy, but rather develop it if too much is consumed. It is usually the skin that reacts adversely. The immune system incorrectly believes that nickel ions are a harmful substance, resulting in the body going into defense mode. Nickel allergy symptoms show up within 12 to 72 hours and tend to be contained around the area that came in contact with nickel.

Oftentimes jewelry and all metals (apart from titanium) contain some form of nickel. The amount of nickel in a product is not necessarily the deciding factor in terms, but more the amount released and absorbed by the body. This release is mainly potentiated by preservatives, acids, sweat, or higher temperatures. Factors that decrease the natural skin barrier, such as bacteria, chemical products, UV rays, and inflammation can also add to the increase in nickel allergy.

Cream running down a manicured hand
Photo by ian dooley on Unsplash

Nickel and Cosmetic Products

Let us be clear – nickel is not allowed to be in cosmetic products, but there is always a trace (less than 1%) and some cross-contamination can occur. And why do we need nickel in cosmetic products? Because it provides glitter and shine. Now, if you think about cosmetic products – that means almost ALL of the products contain nickel. For cosmetics, nickel contamination mainly occurs through iron oxides. Iron oxides are not listed as an ingredient in your cosmetic (and tanning) products. They show up in lettering: CI 77489, CI 77491, CI 77492, CI 77499. Basically I have learned that “774” usually means this is not a product I can use.

A make up bag with brand products
Photo by Liubov Ilchuk on Unsplash

I Went Through My Cosmetic Bag…

I was already using vegan/beauty/natural products. Which are great products but not when you have a nickel allergy. When I went through my bag, all of my beauty products contained nickel. There was not one single one that did not apart from a setting powder. I had to throw them all out.

How to Find Alternatives?

After a lot of research, I realized that there is a very limited number of brands that offer nickel-free or nickel-tested products (with less than 0.0001%; can usually be safely used by about 90% of people with nickel allergies). The good news is – there are some and they also are largely available worldwide. The “bad” news is: They are largely only available online. Buying cosmetics online can come with a lot of “trial and error” when you are originally kitting out your entire makeup bag again. But it is not impossible, so I hope this may help you 🤗.

Bruches and make up on a beige bakground
Photo by Amy Shamblen on Unsplash

There Are Four Brands That Either Do Nickel-Free or Nickel-Tested Cosmetic

Four. Not none – but certainly the range of where to get cosmetic products from suddenly got a lot smaller. These four brands are:

  • 100 Percent Pure – these products are naturally pigmented from fruit, vegetables, tea, and cocoa in order to avoid heavy metals. They are nickel-free and it is the only brand I now shop at where I do not look at the list of ingredients. In addition, their products are awesome and I buy most of my cosmetic products from them. They stack up with the “regular beauty brands” (and friends can attest that I used to be a cosmetic junkie 🤪)
  • Idun Minerals – are a Swedish company that claim to have eliminated nickel and use purified forms of iron oxide at levels that are not reactive.
  • BioNike – not all their products have impressed me and their website is a bit difficult to navigate. However, they have an amazing concealer. Their products contain ten times less than the nickel tested amount.
  • Puro Bio – a brand from Italy, which is nickel-tested. When I originally read online reviews they were a mixed bag. I was able to replace my products to how I previously put on make up from the other brands, so I have never tried them myself.

What exactly is in my cosmetic bag? I will share the products next week. Beautiful cover photo by Carolina Heza on Unsplash.

20 Comments

  1. You totally have to try L’Oréal voluminous carbon black waterproof mascara!!! Perfect single layer or layering mascara and NO iron oxides!!! No allergic reaction (and I’m really wimpy that way) and is cheap!!!

    • Ann Robejsek

      Hi Suzy – Thank you for the tip. I did use this one in the past and it certainly is fantastic for sensitive eyes. But I just checked the ingredient list and definitely contains iron oxides (all of the ones I list). So, unfortunately this is likely not something for someone with a nickel allergy. Ann x

  2. Kayleigh

    Hi

    I’ve recently found your blog – I got diagnosed with Nickel Allergy last week after waiting 18months for dermatology patch testing! My symptoms were much like yours and seems to have been triggered by a make up artist trial plus a piercing 🙁 Your allergy journey 2 has already helped me when trying to look for cosmetics – they almost ALL have these iron oxides in but your 774 has already come in helpful so thank you

    • Ann Robejsek

      Hi Kayleigh,

      Thank you so much for your kind words, and I am truly glad it helped! Out of interest – what did you do about your ear piercing? I have noticed that my ears are acting up as well not with earrings…

      All the best on your journey!!!
      Ann x

  3. Hi!
    Thank you for your blog! I’ve been struggling with very similar symptoms since I got glasses but have yet to be diagnosed. I’m certainly going to be looking into different cosmetics in the mean time to relieve my poor eyes.
    I’m wondering if you’ve had to change your diet with this diagnosis or is it just contact on your skin?

    • Ann Robejsek

      Hi Sara,

      Thank you for the nice feedback! I have not had a challenge with my diet but it is something I will look more into for the blog in the new year.

      Ann xx

  4. I just stumbled onto your blog as I Google everything about dealing with a nickel allergy, just confirmed with patch testing today after a long 8 months of trying to figure out what in the world is going on with my eyes! Thank you for the 774 clue and the cosmetic company suggestions!

    • Ann Robejsek

      Hi Ali, thank you so much for your kind words and I am so glad it helped. All the best on your journey! Ann x

  5. Idun – all iron oxides contain heavy metal impurities, it’s impossible to exclude trace amounts, if you have been told otherwise it’s not correct.

    • Ann Robejsek

      Hi Arfi, thank you for comment. I was only going by what it says on their website…. I can personally say that I have not had any allergic reaction to it and I use them regularly. But, of course, everyone is different…

  6. Michelle

    Hi there Ann,

    I can’t begin to explain how enlightening finding your article has been for me. I have used natural skincare products for years and just last week used a face sunscreen from a new (to me) company. And on the second day of using it I had rashes on my face. Thankfully nothing too severe, but it still has been an overwhelming and uncomfortable process. I just dove into the ingredients of the sunscreen and my current products to see if there was overlap and anything that stood out and low and behold I see iron oxides (CI 77491) as the LAST ingredient in the sunscreen. I was curious what this is so I googled it and eventually was led here. I have always had sensitive ears to anything not sterling silver or gold and I remember as a kid when all the jewelry was nickel primarily and not being able to wear them for more than a couple hours without irritation. I am planning to talk to my doctor and hopefully see a dermatologist before coming to a conclusion, but seeing your article and putting it all together here that nickel may be the culprit is giving me a sense of ease and thankfully my current skincare products don’t have nickel! I will definitely pay attention to make up and skincare products ingredients moving forward. Thank you for sharing your insight and your journey with us!

    • Ann Robejsek

      Hi Michelle, thank you so much for your kind words! I am so glad it helped, and I wish you all the best on your dermatologist appointments! Let me know how it goes! All the best – Ann x

  7. Michelle

    Hello again! Wow, what a whirlwind since my last comment on your post! I have been to an allergist and they tested me for the common allergens and I am in the clear. I really think I have a nickel allergy just from the common responses people have shared on so many platforms about using make up with iron oxides. I even saw one post where someone said they never broke out in a rash or anything but their eye would feel like there was something in it when they used their mascara and I have had that same reaction! All my make up that I have been using (not very frequently) up until a month ago have iron oxides of some sort. Can you clarify if iron oxides are made from nickel or can be contaminated from nickel? I am confused about that part since I have seen some brands that say they use lab made iron oxides and the Idun Minerals eyeshadows have iron oxides. Are you still having success with the 100% Pure make up line? I want to try their stuff but see that their eye liner says it may contain iron oxides. Thank you so much for sharing your experience and insight!

    • Ann Robejsek

      Hi Michelle,

      Thank you for keeping me in the loop, and wow. I know the feeling – I literally went through the same thing… To my understanding iron oxides are not made from nickel, but cross-contamination with nickel can occur and I presume just reacts really badly (at least in my case) when the skin is already inflamed and in pain. The Idun Minerals website states that they are only using purified versions. I have not had any reactions on either Idun or 100% pure. I am continuing to wear those brands “normal” again (3-4 times a week), and I have not had a reaction in years. Good luck on trying them out and do let me know how it goes 🙂 Ann xx

  8. Madison

    I could cry at the relief I felt while reading your articles on your allergy journey. Of course, I’m sorry you deal with this, but I finally feel understood and like someone kept a track record of my reactions and put it into words, almost exactly! I haven’t been diagnosed with a nickel allergy yet, but this all lines up exactly with what I’ve experienced, except mine started as styes about 3 years ago with frequent prolonged flare-ups that nothing has entirely solved. The styes have remained and actually gone further back into my eyelids! Surgery for removal is later this summer, and I’m on a mission to get to the root of the issue before then to manage it in the meantime and avoid reoccurrence. How often did you get styes? I just ordered my first bout of Idun Mineral makeup. I’ve been eye makeup free for over 2 weeks now, so I’m excited. I just tossed most of my makeup collection and it broke my heart. Can I see what products work for you now? Thank you SO much for sharing your story!

    • Ann Robejsek

      Hi Madison,

      Your words broke my heart, whilst at the same time I am glad you do not feel alone (and this, also, applies to me). I had my irritation constantly. It only went away after I swapped the makeup. I also had to toss most of my products (which also broke my heart). I have to posts on the blog – if you search “nickel-free make up”) on my website, both show you exactly what I use. I even posted an update with a few new products.

      Hope that helps. All the best for the operation, and let me know how you get on!

      Ann xx

  9. I am also allergic to iron oxide (eyelid dermatitis). I had to switch my birth control and other meds to ones that are white or only contain FD&C coloring. Walgreens makes dye-free Ibuprofin. ELF makes a “lash beats mascara” without it. 100% Pure does not work for me, I react. Also check your bath bombs and sunscreens which sometimes contain iron oxide, which is typically the last ingredient listed. Tini Lux and other companies are making surgical-grade earrings that work for me- first time I’ve worn earrings in 10 years! Hoping at least pharmaceuticals will provide dye-free options in the future!

    • Ann Robejsek

      Thanks Kat for sharing your experience and I am glad that you found some brands that work for you! Ann x

  10. I have a nickel allergy and my mouth is full of nickel. I have fillings, caps and crowns. Starting to have a problems with my gums starting to be a little irritated. Has this happened to anyone? Not sure what to do

    • Ann Robejsek

      Ruth, I am so sorry to hear that. I have written a post about Nickel in Food which may help, but it is nearly impossible to exclude it from your diet. I did have my fillings replaced by ceramic ones, which made a huge difference, but I also did a detox after to get rid of the toxins from the metal. If anyone has experienced anything similar, can they please answer so that we can help Ruth? Thanks! Ann x

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