Avoid These Metals for Your First Body Piercings

Some metals can cause allergic reactions

Close-up of a woman's face with make-up and facial piercings

WIN-Initiative / Neleman / Getty Images

It seems every body part is a candidate for piercing. However, before piercing your chin, nose, ears, or navel, you should take precautions. The wrong metals may cause skin irritation or an allergic reaction. Only a few types of metals are suitable for body piercing jewelry and implants. These materials are chosen for their biocompatibility, which means they are non-allergenic and non-toxic when exposed to body tissues and fluids.

Here are the facts on metals to stay away from if you want to avoid serious health risks and major regret for years to come:

Metals That Could Be Absorbed

Cadmium and chromium are metals to avoid because they are toxic and may be absorbed into the body. Sustained exposure to cadmium can damage kidneys, lungs, and bones. Certain types of chromium have been linked to increased cancer risk.

Metals Commonly Containing Lead

Lead should never be used in body piercings. Using this metal means running the risk of lead poisoning and in extreme cases, even death. Because lead is a neurotoxin, it is particularly dangerous for young children.

A significant amount of costume jewelry has been found to contain lead. Lead-carrying metals to avoid for piercings are pewter and tin.

Metals That Cause Reactions and Irritations

Many metals aren't recommended for initial body piercings because they often cause skin irritation and allergic reactions. Among these metals are brass and bronze. The alloys of both vary widely and may cause negative reactions.

Additionally, copper, zinc, and iron are not recommended for piercings, as they can be reactive. Nickel jewelry is a well-known cause of allergic reactions in many people. Some European countries regulate the amount of nickel that can be contained in piercing jewelry, now requiring it to be less than 0.05% nickel.

Metals That Don't Mix With Body Fluids

Some metals aren't recommended for first piercings because of how they react with body fluids and body tissues. Gold-plated jewelry, for example, isn't recommended because the plating can rub off and expose an underlying metal that reacts with your body.

Also, avoid fake gold jewelry made from other base metals, since they could contain unknown base metal and may corrode when exposed to body fluids.

Sterling silver is another metal for first-timers to avoid because it oxidizes when it contacts body tissues and fluids. Silver jewelry can often be safely worn in healed piercings, but it should never be worn in initial unhealed piercings.

Other Metals to Avoid

Some metals should be avoided for other reasons. Gold-filled jewelry isn't recommended for piercings because it could contain unknown base metals, and it's unclear how your body would react to them. 

Although 24k gold is often praised because it is the highest grade of gold, it should be avoided for piercings because it is generally too soft for jewelry. As a result, it will be easily damaged, not lasting for the long run.

Finally, non-stainless steel is not recommended for piercings. Instead, use surgical implant grade stainless steel. Also, avoid steel claiming to be "surgical steel," which is not verified as "implant grade surgical steel."