Skin Health
Allergic to Metals?
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I’m allergic to metal and my doctor says it might be causing my underarm darkening, of all things?!”

Metals top allergen lists worldwide and can cause dryness, redness, scaling, itching, darkening or other abnormal symptoms on areas that might come in contact with metals in combs, clips, eyeglasses, headphones, microphones or helmets; on the ears, wrist or chest from jewelry; on the waist from buttons or belt buckles; or on the fingers or hands from contact with cell phones and other devices or their cases.Metals can be hidden. For example, did you know that metals are used to help dyes adhere to fabric, and that this can cause stubborn skin darkening?Pay close attention to where the abnormalities occur. Darkening on the exterior of the underarm where skin comes into contact with sleeve openings is a good example, as are itching or darkening on the knees or groin areas where clothing tends to gather or crease.

The most allergenic metals are nickel (consistently a top allergen), gold, manganese, palladium, cobalt, ticonium, mercury, beryllium, chromium, and silver. At the other end of the spectrum, metals with extremely low rates of allergic patch-test reactions include zinc, ferric chloride, and tin; and those that tend to show no allergic reactions include titanium, vitallium, and aluminum powder.

Skin care and some makeup shades can have gold, nickel or other allergenic metals. If you are allergic to metals, they may not be immediately obvious. Ask your dermatologist to help you understand where trace amounts of metals you are sensitive to might be found.

To find a physician in your area who does patch tests, visit contactderm.org.

For more on patch testing, check out Patch Test: What Is It and Should I Get One?