Are You Allergic to Your Wedding Band?
June 29, 2016, Alyssa Bruni
A Little Perspective
Wedding bands have been around for a long time. In fact, the tradition is proclaimed to have originated in ancient Egypt as far back as 6,000 years ago, with some interesting background lore you might not have heard. For example, it was once believed the ring finger held a mystical vein known as the Vena Amoris, believed to be directly connected to the heart. The two betrothed wore their rings over this vein as a way to better bind themselves together as one.
Today, though our understanding of human anatomy may have improved some (we now know that the Vena Amoris does not exist), marriage is no less magical than it was 6,000 years ago. In a world of seven billion people, what could be more extraordinary than finding The One? And when we do find The One, we wear our wedding bands proudly as a reminder of just how incredible and magical that love really is.
Unfortunately, nothing will dampen that feeling of marital bliss quicker than wedding ring rash.
What Is Wedding Ring Rash?
Wedding ring rash, also known as wedding ring dermatitis, is an unfortunate skin irritation that can develop underneath the band of the wedding ring. The rash, which may present itself as a red and blotchy irritation, can initially arise as an infrequent condition, but is likely to become chronic over time. For some people, symptoms of wedding rash will appear after only a few days or weeks of wearing the band. However, for others, symptoms will not arise for many years despite constant contact with their ring.
What Are the Causes?
Wedding ring rash has two major causes:
- Allergies to a metal in the wedding ring
- Irritation from residue buildup
For most people with wedding ring rash, the cause is a simple allergy to a metal in their ring. Typically, this allergy is to nickel, which is present in most 14- to 18-karat gold rings to help toughen the naturally supple gold. Nickel allergies are very common and are only made more problematic because of the fact that most people who are allergic to nickel simply do not know it.
Wedding ring rash, however, can also arise not as a result of allergies, but from moisture or soap being trapped underneath the ring. This residue buildup can occur over time, and it will result in the same red, splotchy skin symptoms that wearers with metal allergies face.
Is Wedding Ring Rash Treatable?
There are a variety of ways in which wedding ring rash can be treated. For those who are merely suffering from irritation due to residue buildup, removing the ring for a few days, or simply cleaning and wearing the ring on a different finger can help alleviate symptoms. Additionally, thoroughly drying the ring and ring finger after showers and hand-washings can be a straightforward and effective way to treat this type of wedding ring rash, allowing your skin a little more time to breathe.
For those with allergies to a metal in their ring, treatment may be slightly more involved. In most cases, preventing the ring from excessive contact with skin is effective. For many, this can mean applying a topical cortisone cream onto the ring finger. In more stubborn cases, a short treatment with a prescription cortisone cream may be necessary. Alternatively, a clear coat of nail polish painted underneath the band may be effective in decreasing contact with the ring and alleviating symptoms.
How Can I Tell Whether I’m Allergic or Just Experiencing Irritated Skin?
For those who believe that they might have a nickel allergy, or who would just like to know definitively before they purchase a ring, there is a simple patch test available through any allergist or dermatologist’s office. A quick visit to their office will tell you everything you need to know.
Another method for confirming whether or not you have a nickel allergy is simply to tape a nickel to your arm for the day. While certainly less of an exact method than visiting the dermatologist’s office, this can be a quick, easy, and inexpensive way to test an allergy to nickel.
On the other hand, if you already know that you are someone who is allergic to nickel, there is a relatively inexpensive test which can be purchased for home use that will allow you to check different products for nickel content, enabling you to minimize your contact with the allergen.
Is Wedding Ring Rash Preventable?
The best way to address wedding ring rash is simply to head it off before it ever begins. Increasingly, modern couples are turning to alternatives to gold for their engagement and wedding bands for all kinds of reasons, including price, durability, and avoidance of irritation. Listed below are some of the most popular alternative metals:
- Titanium – Of these alternatives, perhaps none is faster-growing in popularity than titanium. Extremely durable, corrosion resistant, and cost-effective, titanium is also 100% hypoallergenic, which adds tremendously to its overall value. Titanium wedding rings can be purchased in a variety of beautiful hues, designs, and finishes, ranging in color from silver, to gray, to black.
- Platinum – More durable than gold, platinum is a difficult metal to work with. Beautiful, with soft, luminescent-white coloring, platinum is typically a good hypoallergenic material, although a drawback for many is the significant cost of the material. Expect to pay a lot of money for a platinum wedding band.
- Cobalt – Cobalt was originally designed for use in the medical and aerospace fields, but is now also used in jewelry. A heavier metal, cobalt has a bright, whitish appearance, not unlike that of platinum. It is also a hypoallergenic material, making it a popular choice for wedding bands.
- Stainless Steel – A very durable and affordable metal, stainless steel has become a popular alternative to gold. Stainless steel rings can be polished to look matte, or come with a reflective finish.
Nothing dampens “everlasting” quite like wedding ring rash.
In avoiding wedding ring rash, prevention is the key to happiness: Simply purchase a wedding band material that is hypoallergenic, or get tested before you buy a ring to see if you have a nickel allergy.
Wedding rings have been an important symbol of love and unity for centuries. Making sure yours is beautiful, resilient, and (most importantly) wearable is an important part of keeping that tradition alive.