British Society of Cutaneous Allergy (BCSA)


What are the aims of this patient information leaflet?

This leaflet has been written to help you understand more about your contact allergy. It tells you what a contact allergy is, what causes this allergy and what you can do about it.

What is contact allergy?

Dermatitis, also known as eczema, describes a type of inflammation of the skin. Contact dermatitis or contact eczema is a term used when this inflammation is caused by direct or indirect skin contact with something in your environment. Allergic contact dermatitis occurs when your immune system causes allergy to a very specific chemical or substance that has been in contact with the skin.

What causes your specific allergy?

Your patch tests indicate that you have a contact allergy to nickel.

What is nickel?

Nickel is a metal.

What are some products that contain nickel?

  • Jewellery (usually cheap or costume jewellery) such as necklaces, earrings, bracelets, piercings, hair clips and rings. 22-carat gold and platinum are unlikely to cause problems
  • Metal parts in clothing such as jean studs, zips, belt buckles and fasteners, handbag and purse clasps. Use accessories made of plastic, or metal covered with plastic
  • Wrist watches and spectacle frames
  • Dental products including orthodontic braces and retainers
  • Eye cosmetics such as some eye shadows and eyelash curlers
  • Facial Cosmetics. Avoid cosmetics which contain the following pigments: CI 77489, 77491, 77492, 77499
  • Other personal products such as mobile phones, electric razors and cigarette lighters
  • Home environment. There are many items in everyday use including handles on drawers and cupboards, keys, kitchen utensils, scissors, toasters, vacuum cleaners, knitting needles and sewing equipment, hooks, screws, prams, pushchairs and wheelchairs
  • Office equipment including paperclips, staplers, scissors and pens
  • Money. Silver-coloured coins contain nickel. Euros are especially high in nickel content. Day-to-day handling of coins is unlikely to produce dermatitis but prolonged contact of coins with the skin e.g. if coins are kept in a trouser pocket may cause your eczema or dermatitis to reoccur. Cashiers may experience hand eczema
  • Joint prostheses and metal fixing plates and screws. Nickel is found in many prostheses such as for hip and knee replacements however many people with nickel allergy have no problems with a prosthesis containing nickel. Speak to your orthopaedic surgeon about your allergy if surgery is planned
  • Industrial electroplating, welding, sheet metals, circuit boards, machine lathes and saws.

Remember, always check the label, these lists can never be complete and ingredients change.

How can I manage my allergy?

This means that you should avoid putting products containing nickel onto your skin in the future.

Contact with the skin for more than a few minutes would be needed for your eczema or dermatitis to reoccur so it is very unlikely that you will need to avoid all the items on the above list. Concentrate on the avoidance of objects with prolonged skin contact.

A testing kit can be purchased to test objects for nickel. This uses the chemical dimethylglyoxime.

Self-care (what can I do?)

Always check the ingredient listing on the product, package or package insert as these lists can never be complete and ingredients change. This is particularly important for any products purchased outside the EU where some allergens may not be banned.

Created: 2019