Best Body Jewelry for Your New Body Piercings

Body Jewelry that Doesn't Disrupt the Healing Process

Best Body Jewelry Metals for Unhealed Piercings. Choose Jewelry for Your New Body Piercings.
Hill Street Studios / Getty Images

Some types of metals are safe for new body piercings, but others can either stall your body's recovery time and can lead to infection. T he metals and other materials you choose for new, unhealed body piercings should not react with body tissues. Body jewelry should not be made from materials that either absorb fluids or become scratched easily.

One common irritation culprit is nickel, a metal that's used in many inexpensive and expensive alloys.

Many people are sensitive to even small amounts of nickel. If your skin turns green or black (or another color) when you wear costume jewelry, sterling silver, or even some types of gold, it may be reacting to nickel (or another ingredient) in the metal-mixture.

Remember that your body is unique, and you could experience reactions to components that otherwise are no problem for your friends. If jewelry becomes an irritant, remove it at once and try again when the piercing is fully healed. If any irritation occurs, discard the jewelry and avoid wearing body jewelry made from that metal or other material.


Metals and Materials to Avoid in Unhealed Body Piercings:


1. Sterling Silver

Do not wear sterling silver jewelry in unhealed body piercings. Sterling silver is made from 92.5 percent silver and 7.5 percent of another metal, usually copper. The copper makes the silver more durable, but copper is another metal that can cause reactions.

Since sterling silver is still soft enough to scratch, nicks in the jewelry are a breeding ground for bacteria.

Sterling oxidizes when it comes in contact with body tissues and fluids. Tarnish, the end result, is not something you want in an open wound.

2. Costume Jewelry

Avoid all types of costume jewelry for unhealed piercings because this jewelry usually contains large amounts of nickel.

In recent years, some costume jewelry has even been found to contain lead, which would be dangerous for you to wear in any type of jewelry.

In 2004, the state of California sued several major retailers for not disclosing that jewelry on their shelves contained lead.

3. Plated Gold

Do not choose body jewelry made from plated gold because the plating can rub off and expose the underlying metal and cause irritation or infection. Gold-filled jewelry has a much thicker coat of gold than gold plated jewelry, but it should still be avoided. A deep scratch could expose the metal underneath and provide a home for bacteria.

4. High Karat or Low Karat Pure Gold

Some piercing pros recommend avoiding pure gold jewelry, but others feel that 14K and 18K gold are fine for unhealed piercings.

Consider this -- pure gold is labeled as 24 karat gold. It is very soft, making germ-trapping nicks more likely. Because of this, 24K gold is not really a good candidate for new body piercings. 

All other solid gold incorporates other metals in the form of alloys to make gold more durable and to reduce its cost. 10K gold is less pure and contains more alloys. The lower the karat designation, the more "other" metals in the mix, often nickel, palladium or copper which can cause a reaction in an unhealed piercing.


Learn more about gold alloys and buying gold jewelry.

5. Alloys that Contain Nickel

Avoid gold or other metal alloys that contain nickel and ask your piercing pro his or her opinion about wearing gold jewelry in unhealed piercings.

Pure Gold Alloy Breakdown: 

  • 24 karat gold is pure gold
  • 18 karat gold is made from 18 parts pure gold and 6 parts of other metals
  • 14 karat gold is made from 14 parts pure gold and 10 parts of other metals

6. Bone, Wood & Other Absorbent Jewelry

For now, stick with safe metals and save the bone and wood jewelry, and any other body jewelry made from an absorbent or non-smooth material, until your piercings are fully healed. And even then, watch how they react with your skin -- some people can only wear that type of body jewelry for short periods of time.


Safe Metals for New Body Piercings:

1. Surgical Stainless Steel (SSS)

There are many types of stainless steel, but only a few types of surgical stainless steel are typically used for in new body piercings.

  • 316L is the most common SSS jewelry you'll see when you shop for body jewelry. Used in body implants, it is durable and doesn't typically react with body fluids (the L refers to low carbon).
  • 316LVM is similar to 316L but has a smoother finish (the added VM indicates the metal is produced in a vacuum).

SSS does contain nickel and could be an irritant to those who are very nickel-sensitive.

2. Surgical implant titanium, Ti6A14V ELI

Titanium is expensive but is super durable and contains just tiny amounts of nickel. Titanium is available in a rainbow of colors.

3. Niobium

Look for jewelry labeled as 99.9% niobium or sometimes as 999 Niobium. Niobium body jewelry is more expensive than SSS jewelry but less expensive than titanium.

4. Tygon

Tygon is a surgical plastic that can be used for new piercings in people who are sensitive to metals.


Remember, if you have a metal allergy, be sure to avoid that metal at all costs in an unhealed body piercing. Opt for one of the metals on our "safe" list until your body piercing has fully healed. After that period, try other metals and materials. If you notice any redness, swelling or irritation, discontinue use immediately. Good luck!

Edited by: Lauren Thomann