Camomile leaves on a hand to represent allergies

My Nickel Allergy Journey – Part 2


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…

Let us be clear – 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.

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