The three steps to getting a contact-skin allergy under control
First, find out what is causing your allergy
The first step has to be figuring out what you are allergic to. Without this, you will try many options, expend effort, energy and potentially many doctors fees with no results. For contact allergies (with the most common symptom being eczema), the most effective method is the patch test – your dermatologist can test you for allergy to multiple allergens including nickel. Find a good dermatologist – he or she will look at your condition, listed to your experience and recommend next steps – which for a likely contact allergy will include a patch test.
Second, remove the allergen!
This can be the most challenging part of the process. It is also the most rewarding as you make discoveries and see improvements in your skin and a reduction in the itching and scratching. For a nickel allergy, it’s fairly easy to test many of the objects you use in your daily life for the prescence of nickel. For each object you find, replace it, throw it away or give it away as soon as you can!
In some situations, the best way to remove the allergen (from contact) will be to use gloves – see my page on “protecting your hands”. This may be the case if you come into contact with nickel outside your home – where you have less control – for example in your job.
Third, looking after your skin
In addition to removing as much contact with the allergen as possible, as your skin heals you should find a barrier cream which you can use to help keep your skin moisturised and preferably also act as a partial barrier to further occasional nickel contact. (Your dermatologist may recommend steroid cream or ointment to get your skin under control but use of these is not a safe or effective long-term solution).
My personal recommendation is Neutrogena hand cream to be used every time you wash your hands. It’s available in miniature tubes as well as the regular size – the miniature tubes are great for keeping in pockets. Keep a tube at work, at home, in the medicine cabinet, in the car. Use it every time you wash your hands to keep them from drying out and to keep that barrier present at all times. No excuses!
A note about steroid creams or ointments.
Your dermatologist may prescribe steroid cream or ointment to help get a nickel contact allergy under control. In short bursts, steroids can be safe to use but cannot be used continuously. Firstly, your body gets used to the steroid and it becomes less effective. Secondly there can be side-effects from continuous usage. Your dermatologist may prescribe small amounts of steroid to keep handy for potential flare-ups after your exzema is substantially under control.
I am trying to get ingredient lists for sunscreens. I have nickel allergy and mostly under control. But when I use sunscreen, i immediately have a reaction. I have used Neutrogena and Aveeno baby. Always the reaction.
I this is a really good question. I just checked two of the sunscreen’s we have – which I have been able to use without getting any rash or itching – Neutrogena helioplex SPF 45 spray and Ultra Sheer SPF 55. The ingredients list looks like you could prepare homemade explosives from them but no sign of nickel.
It’s possible you are allergic to multiple substances. Given the very large number of ingredients in these sunscreens it may be a lengthy process of elimination to find one you can use.
I would definitely recommend getting a patch test done by an allergist – you may find that you are allergic to multiple chemicals. It is unlikely to be good news but it always helps to know. I found out that I was mildly allergic to latex and lanolin. Nothing like my reaction to nickel though!