Q. I have had pierced ears for over 25 years, yet I still can’t wear most of my earrings. After about an hour my earlobes itch and become red and swollen with certain pairs, even expensive ones.

A few weeks ago I purchased a generic form of liquid bandage for paper cuts and decided to try it on my earlobes. I applied the product to the back and front of my earlobes, let it dry, then inserted the earrings. I was able to wear them for 10 hours without itching, and when I removed them, my earlobes were not red.

I’ve tried this with pairs I always reacted to and gotten the same good results. The product flakes off easily after I take out the earrings.

A. Many people are sensitive to nickel, which is present in a lot of jewelry. Even expensive earrings may contain traces of nickel.

Another way to protect your ears from contact with the metal in your earrings is to coat the posts or wires with clear nail polish. This can also be done with rings.

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  1. shannon

    I am SEVERELY allergic to latex, nickel, neosporin and now chephlexin. (Curse of the Irish redhead.) PLEASE do NOT use neosporin if you have a severe nickel allergy. I am off work–with no pay–for 2 weeks due to a huge ulcerated lesion on my left knuckle. I am a healthcare worker–I do NOT USE LATEX. I had a small paper cut, applied neosporin, & covered it with a latex-free bandaid. BAD IDEA. I have been to 2 specialists, and all I can do is let it heal before I can return to work. PS: I am also taking Clyndamycin as a preventative internal antibiotic.

  2. JMarra

    I had a lot of irritation from earrings that I used to be able to wear. I assumed it was a nickel allergy, although I never reacted to costume jewelry like necklaces or bracelets. It was so bad I almost never wore earrings, and the piercing on one ear kept crusting and closing up, which made poking an earring through painful. I had scabs on my lobes–not very attractive.
    Then I started cleaning the earrings, not with alcohol or peroxide, but with toothpaste. Take a dab and scour the fittings well between your finger and thumb, rinse, and rub with a towel. Then after putting them in, I dabbed some anti-inflammatory ointment (I use Clobex) with a Q-Tip on both sides of the ear lobe.
    My ears are all healed, and I can wear all my earrings now as long as I clean them right before I put them in. I don’t need to use the Clobex anymore, and the earrings are so comfortable I forget and get in bed wearing them.
    I think the mild abrasion of toothpaste cleans better than alcohol. Alcohol might not clean off the thin layer of metal oxide and might not dissolve the crystals of gunk from your oozing ears.
    If your earrings might be damaged by water, you can omit the “rinse cycle” and just clean off the toothpaste with the towel.

  3. Mary Carmen Sanchez

    My grandma used garlic for everything. Guess what? She rubbed a clove of garlic on my irritated lobes. Now I wear any kind of earrings.

  4. Dorothy Downard

    I put a little Cortaid on the earring posts. This completely solved the irritation problem for me. I’ve never had a problem since a friend gave me this good advice.

  5. CS

    My pierced ears would never heal and were constantly infected and itchy. An old woman told me to try using olive oil to heal them. I used the olive oil, and my ears healed quickly and have never been infected since.

  6. Bunny

    I too suffer when I wear earrings, regardless of whether they are my most expensive pair or not. Lately, I have been cleaning my earlobes and posts with alcohol, then “dipping” the posts into Diprolene gel (a synthetic cortisone-like steroid). Works great and stops the itching and inflammation.

  7. Nan

    I poke the wire or post into a tube of Neosporin (or a topical antibiotic a person is not allergic to) or into a bar of soap. Also, I give special attention to ear lobes when shampooing my hair and washing my face.

  8. Susan Miller

    I buy all my jewelry from Simply Whispers.com, which makes a large assortment of nickel-free jewelry. I also have to wear eyeglasses made from titanium or else I get blisters anywhere the frames touch my skin.

  9. Barbara Liederman

    I dip the earring post or wire into Hydrocortisone Ointment and then have no irration.

  10. GOP

    I had an almost identical situation. Two dermatologists suggested a nickel allergy. Yet, even nickel-free earrings did not work. Finally, the second dermatologist did a skin patch test. It turns out I am not allergic to nickel, but I am allergic to polymyxin and bacitracin, the ingredients in antibiotic ointments. So when my ears first became irritated (initial reason unknown), I applied Neosporin, which caused an allergice reaction. Then I was caught in a loop of almost constant irritation and only partial healing. So I stopped the Neosporin and allowed my ears to heal. I have not had any problems for over a year.

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