What Is Wedding Ring Rash and How Is It Treated?

Why is your skin suddenly freaking out now?

Bride's hands stacked with a pear engagement ring holding a champagne glass

 Photo by Chi-Chi Ari Photography

If you've developed a red, bumpy, itchy rash under your wedding band, chances are you have wedding ring rash. Before you start contemplating the options of either no wedding ring or a rashy finger for life, there's good news: it's both common and curable.

What Is Wedding Ring Rash?

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

"Wedding ring rash is usually caused by an allergy to nickel that leaches out of the wedding ring," says Shari Sperling, MD, of Sperling Dermatology. Now most of us aren't in the market for nickel while engagement ring shopping, but even your gold or platinum ring may still have some nickel components within. Absolutely certain there is no nickel in your wedding jewelry? You can definitely still get wedding ring rash. Build up of dirt, oil, debris, and all kinds of bacteria can live on your ring if you're not cleaning it correctly. And to top it all off, even if you take extra care to have tip-top hygiene, the extra handwashing could be another contributing factor if there's soap build-up underneath the band.

If your ring is wreaking havoc on your skin, there are several things you can do to both prevent and treat the issue. With proper care, the rash should heal up just fine, however, if it persists or turns into large blisters or welts, definitely see your doctor or dermatologist immediately.

Read on to find out how to get rid of wedding ring rash and heal your skin.

What Causes Wedding Ring Rash?

Nickel Allergy

Gold and white gold bands can contain trace amounts of nickel. A nickel allergy can develop at any point in life, so even if you weren't allergic when you first started wearing the ring, it's entirely possible that you are now, and that's the cause of your wedding ring rash. Or, you might have had the allergy all along, but the nickel salts present in the metal are only now starting to come into contact with your skin as the metal begins to erode (water and sweat will speed up this process). This process happens no matter how expensive your ring is. As the metal wears away, "the nickel causes an allergic reaction of dermatitis to the finger where the ring is," says Sperling.

You can apply clear nail polish over the ring to separate it from the skin as a cheap and temporary fix, says Dr. Sperling.

Bacteria Buildup

Soaps, lotions, and even dead skin can get stuck and caked-on underneath and in the crevices of stone settings, explains jewelry maker Andreas Argentinis of Metal Pressions. "Combine that dirt with a little moisture and you have a great environment for bacteria to grow that could potentially irritate your skin."

Irritation from Moisture and Soap

It might be your soap, rather than the ring itself, that is causing the ring rash. Instead of washing with a detergent, deodorant, or sudsy soap, board-certified dermatologist Debra Jaliman, MD, suggests switching to a mild soap. She also advises taking off your ring when you wash your hands so no bacteria or traces of soap get caught up in it. When you're finished washing, Sperling adds, "be sure to often dry your finger fully as well as remove your ring to dry the area completely."

How to Treat Wedding Ring Rash

Apply a Hypoallergenic Cream

Whatever the cause of your wedding ring rash, it's a good idea to apply hypoallergenic hand cream. "Usually a topical Cortisone cream helps resolve the issue," says Sperling. Dermatologist and founder of Dr. Bailey Skin Care, Cynthia Bailey, MD, says people with really sensitive skin may need to follow up with extra moisture to heal their wedding ring dermatitis. "This is especially true when your hands are in and out of water all day," she warns. "Get in the habit of applying a good, nongreasy, hypoallergenic hand cream after washing." You can also use a lotion that contains ceramides, as this will protect and moisturize skin, adds Purvisha Patel, MD, owner and dermatologist at Advanced Dermatology & Skin Cancer Associates.

Clean Your Ring to Prevent the Rash

A good cleaning will often solve the problem. "If you have a valuable or complex ring, you might consider taking it to a local jeweler for cleaning to avoid damaging the settings or stones," notes Bailey. Otherwise, she recommends using a jewelry cleaning solution, being careful to brush under stones where soap residue can become trapped and harden.

Put a Barrier Between Your Skin and the Band

Fortunately, there are solutions that don't involve replacing the entire band, you can simply get the ring plated. Depending on the color of your metal, getting the jewelry plated will recreate the barrier between your skin and the nickel within the band. For silver jewelry, you can have a jeweler coat it with rhodium, which is a silver-hued metal in the platinum family. It's extremely durable and shiny, making a really great option for plating. You can also get your jewelry re-plated with platinum or gold to prevent the rash from occurring. While still an investment, it's a much cheaper alternative than getting a whole new band, which is also an option.

  • How long does a wedding ring rash last?

    Once you determine the cause of your ring rash and seek out treatment (such as a moisturizing or body lotion), it should clear up in a week's time. If the rash is due to an allergy, then it may take two to four weeks to completely clear up.

  • Can tungsten cause a ring rash?

    While some tungsten rings are hypoallergenic, not all are. Those who experience sensitivity to the metals in the ring may want to steer clear of tungsten as it's often mixed with other cheaper metals—in other words, you get what you pay for!

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