I Got Eczema From My Engagement Ring

9 tips for dealing with jewelry rashes, which shouldn't even be a thing.
Publish date:
April 12, 2013
jewelry, eczema, sweating, rashes, hydrocortisone, contact dermatitis

Daniel's proposal was certainly a surprise, but neither of us expected the buzzkill that followed.

The ring belonged to his late grandmother, Rose, and she had it redesigned in the '70s into a thick, yellow gold band with a funky organic-looking design. Both my fiancé and his family fully expected me to keep the diamond and remake the setting to fit my tastes. But, for the time being, I was happy to wear Rose's ring and enjoy the happiness of our engagement.

And then it gave me eczema.

I have very sensitive skin, and I often get contact dermatitis from jewelry. And it isn't just nickel-containing costume jewelry, either; sometimes even gold can cause an itchy rash to pop up.

Perhaps I should've seen it coming. It was summertime, I'm prone to sweating, and my job often requires lots of hands-on work. The reaction started out mildly enough, so I (stupidly) refused to take off my ring. I just treated it with hydrocortisone and thought it would settle down. Plus, I knew Rose's original ring would soon be replaced by a new setting, and I wanted to honor her memory as long as I could.

Big mistake. The rash worsened--becoming red, scaly and much itchier--and it spread to my right hand as well. Each of my fingers had at least one patch of oozing skin, which was not only uncomfortable but embarrassing.

My friends joked that I was allergic to my fiance, but I knew that this reaction called for a trip to the doctor. My GP quickly diagnosed it as eczema and prescribed an ointment to use nightly.

The rash was gone in a couple weeks, but it still flares up every now and then--and that's even with my new, more breathable ring!

Luckily, I've had some time to figure out how to handle it, so I thought I'd share some hard-learned lessons.

  • You can use hydrocortisone to treat once-in-while rashes, but don't use it continually for more than a couple days. It can weaken your skin's natural immunity and lead to complications.
  • Sometimes an OTC treatment just isn't enough; see your doctor if a rash persists for more than a couple days and doesn't respond to drugstore stuff.
  • Eczema can be very resistant to treatment, so continue to use your prescribed product for the full recommended treatment time, even if it clears up quickly; and keep any excess product on hand for flare-ups.
  • While you may have the urge to wash your hands more frequently, this can further dry out your skin. Take it easy.
  • Wear minimal jewelry when it's hot out or you know you'll be sweating; the excess moisture exacerbates even a mild reaction.
  • Try to wear jewelry over clothing if possible, like a necklace around the collar of a button-down shirt or a cuff over the sleeve of a sweater.
  • Perfumes or scented lotions may further inflame already-irritated skin. Refrain from using anything like that in the area your jewelry sits, or try something unscented.
  • No scratching! Duh.
  • Do

    not tell your significant other that you're allergic to jewelry.

Have you had a similar experience? If so, let me know how you got rid of your rash (or didn't)!