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Getting your ears pierced is an exciting moment—a game-changer when it comes to accessorizing—as the tiny punctures open you up to countless more earring options. Unfortunately for some, the satisfaction can be short-lived when they realize their skin is reacting negatively to those new baubles. Many affordable jewelry pieces use nickel as the base metal, and with time, friction, and moisture, the skin can become increasingly sensitive.
Everyone's ears are different, so not all earrings will work for you if you have a particular allergy to that metal. The only way to assess sensitivity is through a trial-and-error process, understanding the materials that tend to be pretty troublesome. Generally speaking, you want to avoid nickel, copper, and cobalt and opt for sterling silver or gold that’s at least 14K. If your ears still react negatively, you might try medical-grade titanium or platinum, which tend to be the least reactive. And, worry not: The pieces don’t have to come with a hefty price tag.
Meet the Expert
“Unless you insist on buying 24K gold, hypoallergenic earrings don’t have to come with a high price tag,” says Dendy Engelman, MD, a New York City-based dermatologic surgeon. “The cost can start at $10 and go up [from there].”
To simplify your search for earrings for sensitive ears, Byrdie did the vetting for you and picked the best pieces available online. So, say goodbye to painful, red lobes. The stylish earrings ahead are safe for even the most sensitive ears.
Best Overall: Mejuri Bold Large Hoops
Gold hoops are always a sound investment. Of course, they don’t have to break the bank. Mejuri makes staples that are long-lasting but won’t cost a fortune, like this pair in 14K gold. Their two-year warranty makes for an even better value.
Metal: 14K gold | Style: Hoops
Best Budget: Tini Lux Priya Studs
To ensure comfort on even the most sensitive skin, Tini Lux crafts its styles in biocompatible titanium and generally offers a great bang for your buck. Wear these tiny, water-resistant hearts with everything from workwear to sweats and even beachwear.
Metal: Titanium | Style: Studs
Best Huggies: Rowan Tube Hoops 12mm
Everyone could use a reliable pair of huggies, as they’re subtle enough to go with virtually everything. Like all of Rowan’s offerings, this pair is made from hypoallergenic metal to guard against allergic reactions.
Metal: Sterling silver | Style: Hoops
Best Diamond Studs: Ippolita Carnevale Stud Earrings
Ippolita puts a spin on the classic diamond stud with this ceramic-accented style. The earrings are crafted in high-shine 925 silver, which plays up the brilliance of the stones. (The bezel makes them look bigger.)
Metal: Sterling silver | Style: Studs
Best Cartilage: The Clear Cut Burnished Diamond Ear Cuff
You can’t go wrong with this ear cuff from The Clear Cut. The 14K-gold style has tiny, round pavé diamonds for a subtle shine. Like all of the label’s pieces, this style is made-to-order.
Metal: 14K gold | Style: Cuff
Best Silver: Alighieri The Flashback Earrings
Alighieri is well-known for creating unique, handcrafted jewelry from recycled materials. Its silver earrings are super safe for sensitive ears because they’re made entirely from sterling silver. (Gold offerings, by contrast, are plated bronze, an alloy that often contains copper. Though, since the posts are also sterling silver, these could be safe, depending on the severity of your allergy.)
Metal: Sterling silver | Style: Horseshoe
Best Chunky Hoops: Ippolita Classico Thick Hammered Round Hoop Earrings
These chunky hoop earrings make a visual impact but are engineered to feel super lightweight. They’re crafted in hammered sterling silver to create a textured, light-reflecting surface.
Metal: Sterling silver | Style: Hoops
Best Statement: Elsa Peretti High Tide Earrings
Inspired by the flow of the sea, this design emphasizes the simple beauty of nature. (The curves of the earrings subtly echo the shape of rippling waves.) They’re made by the legendary Elsa Peretti, a designer who prioritized sculptural, organic forms in the 1970s and elevated the status of sterling silver, the material with which these earrings are made.
Metal: Sterling silver | Style: Drop
Best Timeless: Blue Nile Diamond Earrings
In the jewelry world, few things are more timeless than a pair of round diamond studs. This particular pair is secured in platinum four-prong settings. Each earring weighs roughly 0.5 carats for a total diamond weight of 1 carat.
Metal: Platinum | Style: Studs
Best Nature-Inspired: Leigh Miller Lucia Hoops
Leigh Miller Newman’s designs are inspired by nature and its natural elements, which those with sensitive ears can enjoy in the label’s sterling silver iterations. This hoop-like style has a hinged closure, so you can wear them without having to keep track of a separate back.
Metal: Sterling silver | Style: Hoops
Best Drop: Elsa Peretti Teardrop Earrings
Reminiscent of a solitary raindrop or a shining bead of morning dew, these hoop earrings in 18k gold should keep you comfortable. (Dr. Engelman says anything above 14K should be safe, while Fasel advises shoppers to go as high above 14K as possible to best safeguard against any issues of quality or sensitivity.)
Metal: 18K gold | Style: Teardrop
Best Bridal: The Clear Cut Bezel Studs
For just a touch of gold and sparkle, go for these bezel studs in 14K gold from The Clear Cut. The natural diamond studs come in I-J color and two sizes: 0.25 carats and 0.5 carat.
Metal: 14K gold | Style: Studs
What to Look for in Earrings for Sensitive Ears
Alloys are a mixture of chemical elements, generally metals. Alloys often make up jewelry, though for sensitive skin, they can be hazardous. This is because these pieces (costume jewelry made with materials like gold vermeil) generally include traces of nickel, copper, and cobalt—metals known to cause an immune response, like redness or itching. Hypoallergenic earrings are made with metals less likely to cause an allergic reaction, such as gold, platinum, sterling silver, and titanium.
Despite some materials, like platinum, carrying a heftier price tag, not all earrings for sensitive ears are expensive. The cost can start at $10 and go up much higher, depending on what you’re looking for. Platinum and gold are certainly expensive, but they’re both worthy investments for those with sensitive ears given their hypoallergenic qualities, Fasel assures.
What makes ears sensitive?
“The ears are a delicate area with thinner skin than other areas of the body, meaning they are more susceptible to dryness and irritation,” explains Dr. Engelman. “Environmental factors such as wind, sun, allergic reaction to jewelry, and hair or skin care products can all contribute to ear irritation.”
How do you know if you're allergic to certain earrings?
Investigate the composition of your earrings, as many allergic reactions are brought on by nickel—a metal that many jewelry makers use because of its durability. You’ll know if you’re allergic to a pair of earrings based on visible irritation (e.g., redness, dryness, or bumps). If you feel itchy or a burning sensation, then that could also be an indication, according to Dr. Engelman. “These symptoms typically pop up anywhere from 12 to 48 hours after skin contact,” she says. “It’s even possible to develop the allergy over time.”
Why Trust Byrdie
Hayley Prokos is a Los Angeles-based writer and editor focused on fashion and lifestyle. She contributes regularly to Byrdie’s commerce section and has a passion for sourcing chic and practical pieces with long-term wearability. After hours of researching and chatting with our experts, she’s gathered enough insight to determine which earrings are best for sensitive ears.