Hypoallergenic materials for piercing jewelry
Materials of piercing jewelry suitable for healing piercings, initial piercings or stretching piercings:
Hypoallergenic means that there barely can be an allergic reaction to the material in question. It means that there are less or very little allergens. An allergen is a particle or matter that can cause allergic reactions. Hypoallergenic materials for piercing jewelry are materials that are safe to use on sensitive skin, healing piercings, initial piercings or for piercing stretching.
Titanium ASTM F136 stands on top of the list. In most cases of someone having a reaction to a piece of jewelry, no matter what type of jewelry, even on a piece that is not piercing jewelry but a necklace or a bracelet, they are in fact having a reaction to the nickel in the alloy. Titanium has barely any nickel (less than 0.05%). The titanium used in piercings is (in Europe for sure) Titanium 6Al-4V-Eli implant grade titanium. If you get pierced in The Netherlands or in the Benelux in a certified, licensed studio it will almost certainly be wearing a piece of titanium jewelry. Titanium can be polished to a mirror finish and this way get it’s silvery shine that looks a lot like that of steel pieces. It’s very strong, doesn’t break and 45% lighter than steel. The specific difference between this and other titanium alloys is that the oxygen level in this type is lowered to 0.13% in Ti 6Al-4v-Eli. This allows for easier shaping and toughness with a slight decrease in strength. Also Titanium can be anodised in a great range of different colors. Anodization is a process where an electrical current is passed through the metal. Oxides form on the surface of the metal and when light passes through this layer, various vibrant colors can be created. Titanium is also the most expensive metal used for body piercing jewelry, but is is certainly worth it’s price tag for someone sensitive to materials that contain nickel.
ASTM F138 implant grade steel is used in other countries for initial piercing jewelry, this was also the case in The Netherlands up untill a few years ago. Steel jewellery is basically stainless steel 316L. There are differences in stainless steel though. A fork is of Stainless steel 304, just to give you an idea of what we’re talking about. L stands for low carbon. Because of this low carbon, this type of steel is insensitive to changes that occur when 316 steel is exposed to extremely high temperatures. 316LVM ASTM F138 implant grade steel is a variety of 316L steel that is manufactured exclusively by Fort Wayne Metal Research Product Corporation. This is one of the varieties of implant grade 316L steel. On the contrary to what many people think, it doesn’t contain less nickel than his big brother. But the way it is manufactured diminishes strongly the chances of the component mixing with impurities during melting. 316LVM has undergone an extra process. VM stands for Vacuüm Melting. After the electric melting, the metal is melted again under vacuum to create a very uniform chemistry that contains a minimal quantity of impurities. This means that the metal is melted and alloyed under vacuum, whereby impurities from the outside can be limited and so have a lower probability of ending up in the metal. This makes the metals more pure. Also this technique makes it even more resistant to corrosion or micro tears (that can harbor bacteria – something that is often encountered in jewelry made of steel that is sold in malls and on the market – pay attention to the finish: sharp edges, gems that are badly fixed with glue and these too have sharp edges). There is no laboratory test that can be done to determine if the metal has been Vacuum Melted. By lack of contaminants and a high resistance to corrosion, 316LVM often is used in temporary and permanent medical implants and body piercing jewelry. 316LVM implant grade steel is very rarely used when the piercing has healed. But 316LVM and 316L still contains enough nickel to cause problems on someone who’s very sensitive to this material. In many European countries this material is no longer accepted as a material for initial piercing jewelry. But in countries where it’s still used, it is often because it’s durable and resistant to corrosion. Corrosion is the discoloration or degradation of the metal with time of in contact with water, humidity, air, different temperatures or other substances. Some manufacturers finish their jewelry with a so called mirror polish. This makes the quality of the jewelry better by lowering the possibility of impurities resting on the jewelry on the long run.
Silver is corrosive. If you leave it standing for a long time it will discolor yellow or brown and it has to be polished. Sometimes it becomes black with age, some find this pretty but it can be harmful for a healing wound.
Niobium is a pure element, not an alloy. In it’s natural state it’s fully hypoallergenic and easy to bend, which makes it easy to shape and form and this way ideal for piercing jewelry. Niobium is the next step up from ASTM F138 implant grade steel 316LVM. It’s a bit heavier that 316LVM and also stronger. The price tag is also higher, but an excellent midway between titanium and 316LVM to many. Niobium piercing jewelry are most often anodised. It’s not reactive and most people can support it in healing piercings as well as healed piercings without sensitivity problems. Niobium is easier to anodise with better results than titanium and also niobium can be anodised black.
Anodisation does fade over time.
PTFE (polytetrafuloroethylene), also known as teflon, is a durable, inert, smooth and flexible plastic that is used often as a component for permanent and temporary surgical implants. PTFE can be sterilized in an autoclave, is entirely flexible and thus will bend with your body, something metal jewelry won’t. PTFE is also entirely hypoallergenic. Should there be a problem or an allergic reaction or rejection of conventional metal jewelry, PTFE is probably a practical choice for replacement as it also is adjustable under any circumstance. A razor blade is enough to cut it to size and it is self-threading, just screw on the ball and it will create the needed threading. I sometimes hear that this is not true and that it is harder to create threading than it seems but make no mistake, if this is the case then you are not dealing with PTFE but probably with either, bioplast, bioflex, acrylic, polycarbonate, PMFK or tygon. The only downside of PTFE is that it’s only available in white-transparent color.
Glass is hypoallergenic, can be sterilized in the autoclave and is easy to clean, super smooth – something that is very important for all piercings – and it’s cheap. Glass is available in many different styles, colors and shapes. This material is also wearable in piercings and in stretched piercings in small and bigger sizes. Glass is transparent and this allows for it to be worn as “invisible” retainers so piercings can be worn where they wouldn’t be allowed such as workplaces. Glass exists in two varieties: Pyrex, Which is a material where test tubes are made from for in laboratories. Boro-silicate glass is heat resistant glass, that has a longer lifespan than most types of glass. This type of glass is also called hard glass. This doesn’t mean it doesn’t break, because it does but it needs much more heat to melt if you compare it to soft glass.
Soft glass is the kind wine bottles are made of. It’s also called soda-lime glass. Soft glass is not autoclavable.