Ask The Allergista: What's the difference between lotion and cream and how do I find cute nickel-free earrings?

Q:

I noticed in one of your posts, you suggested using a fragrance-free cream, not lotion, for itchy skin.  What is the difference?

I recently found out I have gold and nickel allergies (just to add to my already extensive list) after developing severe eczema on my ears.  So I can no longer use the majority of my earrings, and seeing as I have 5 ear piercings, it's a bit of a problem.  I usually change my earrings daily and I like to wear trendy and unique earrings.

Do you have any suggestions of where to buy inexpensive (max $30ish, I'm a poor college student), hypoallergenic, nickel and gold free earrings?  Also do you know of any good hypo-allergenic products to clean ear piercings without drying out the skin?

A:

Thanks so much for writing me :-) To address your first question, lotion and body cream are indeed different. I didn't know there was a difference until my doctors told me about it. Lotion is very thin and lotion does a very minimal job of moisturizing the skin. It doesn't actually lock in the moisture in. In addition, many lotions come in different colors and highly fragranced - neither of these things are good for irritated or dry skin.

Cream may not look as fancy. It's not going to be purple or smell like a grape-waterfall-rainforest and it's not going to shimmer either. The benefits for your skin outshine all of that though. Cream is much thicker and you don't need to re-apply it every thirty minutes. My skin loves it.

I use Cerave and it seems to work really well for me, but some people don't buy it because of the parabens. While I don't have a paraben allergy, I should probably take the time to find one without any. In the meantime, here are some suggestions, including the one I use all the time:

Nivea Skin Creme

Cerave

Aveeno Baby Eczema Therapy Moisturizing Cream In regard to your question about nickel/gold, I'm so sorry to hear about that! It must have been painful on your ears :-( In high school, I wore some stainless steel earrings to prom and the aftermath was... disgusting on many levels all at the same time. I definitely feel your pain of not being able to buy the trendy earrings in the clothing stores. They're all so cute! And I love the extra big ones. With sterling silver earrings, it seems like the options out there lean toward the more traditional side, so it will take a little time searching to find the really cool ones. Here are some links for sterling silver earrings to get you started:

JC Penney

Overstock

Amazon

You can sort by price, too ;-)

I have 3 ear piercings, but haven't gotten any since I developed my allergies. I actually always had problems with nickel, but only with earrings. Now, things are much different for me - I can't even touch keys without my skin exploding into a mess. So, I haven't had to treat any new piercings, but I found this piercing after-care spray that you might want to try out:

H2Ocean Piercing After-care Spray

I've never used it, but there aren't many ingredients in it (and I wouldn't be allergic to it now). I researched natural ways to clean the piercings and some people use rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide or salt water. This product has the salt water idea in mind. Most of the reviews are pretty great too.

I hope this helps and I wish you luck on your journey!