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What Causes Wedding Ring Rash and How Do You Treat It?

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If you have a red, bumpy, itchy rash under your wedding band, you most likely have wedding ring rash. Before you consider going without a wedding ring or living with a rashy finger for the rest of your life, there's some good news: it's both common and treatable.

What Exactly Is Wedding Ring Rash?

Wedding ring rash, also known as wedding ring dermatitis, is a skin rash caused by wearing a wedding ring. It is usually caused by a reaction to nickel in the ring or a debris buildup.

Wedding ring rash is typically caused by a nickel allergy that leaches out of the wedding ring. While most of us aren't looking for nickel when shopping for an engagement ring, your gold or platinum ring may still contain nickel components. Are you certain your wedding jewelry contains no nickel? Wedding ring rash is still a possibility. If you don't clean your ring properly, dirt, oil, debris, and various bacteria can accumulate.

To top it all off, even if you take extra precautions to maintain good hygiene, extra handwashing may be a factor if there is soap build-up beneath the band.

If your ring is causing irritation on your skin, there are several things you can do to prevent and treat the problem. The rash should heal fine with proper care; however, if it persists or develops into large blisters or welts, see your doctor or dermatologist right away.

What Causes Wedding Ring Rash?

  • Nickel Allergy

    Nickel can be found in trace amounts in gold and white gold bands. A nickel allergy can develop at any age, so even if you weren't allergic when you first started wearing the ring, it's entirely possible that you are now, and that this is what is causing your wedding ring rash. Or, you may have had the allergy all along, but the nickel salts in the metal are only now coming into contact with your skin as the metal corrodes (water and sweat will speed up this process). This happens regardless of how expensive your ring is. As the metal deteriorates, the nickel causes dermatitis on the finger where the ring is worn.

  • Bacterial Growth

    Soaps, lotions, and even dead skin can become stuck and caked-on beneath and between stone settings. When you combine dirt with a little moisture, you have a perfect environment for bacteria to grow and potentially irritate your skin.

How to Treat Wedding Ring Rash

  • Apply a Hypoallergenic Cream

    Whatever the cause of your wedding ring rash, applying hypoallergenic hand cream is a good idea. A topical Cortisone cream is usually helpful in resolving the problem. Cynthia Bailey, MD, dermatologist and founder of Dr. Bailey Skin Care, advises that people with extremely sensitive skin may require additional moisture to heal their wedding ring dermatitis. "This is especially true when your hands are constantly in and out of water," she warns. "Get in the habit of applying a good, nongreasy, hypoallergenic hand cream after washing," says Purvisha Patel, MD, owner and dermatologist at Advanced Dermatology & Skin Cancer Associates. "You can also use a lotion that contains ceramides, as this will protect and moisturize skin."

  • Clean Your Ring to Avoid Rash

    A thorough cleaning will usually solve the problem. If you have a valuable or complex ring, you should consider having it cleaned by a local jeweler to avoid damaging the settings or stones. Otherwise, she suggests using a jewelry cleaning solution and brushing under stones where soap residue can become trapped and harden.

  • Place something between your skin and the band.

    Fortunately, there are alternatives to replacing the entire band; you can simply have the ring plated. Getting your jewelry plated will recreate the barrier between your skin and the nickel within the band, depending on the color of your metal. A jeweler can coat silver jewelry with rhodium, a silver-colored metal in the platinum family. It's extremely durable and shiny, making it an excellent choice for plating. You can also have your jewelry re-plated with platinum or gold to avoid the rash. While it is still an investment, it is far less expensive than starting a new band, which is also an option.

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