Fergus Falls Optometric Center
"Family Eyecare from the Eyecare Family."
Dr. Mark D. Olmsted and Dr. Christine A. Olmsted
117 E. Lincoln Ave.
Fergus Falls, MN 56537
Appointments: 218-736-7555

Frame Options for People with Metal Allergy - 14 Feb 2005

Frame Options for People with Metal Allergy
14, Feb 2005

If you are person who has troubles with skin irritations from metal watchbands, earrings, or bracelets, you are likely allergic to nickel in the alloy of the offending jewelry. This condition known as contact dermatitis may also be caused by certain metal eyewear frames. Some people may not be allergic, but have very acidic perspiration, which corrodes some metal finishes, making the frame very uncomfortable against the skin.

If one has already purchased a metal frame, and discovers later that he/she is sensitive to it, that person can very simply coat the areas that come in contact with the face with clear fingernail polish. This of course is temporary and will require re-application, but it will cause a barrier of protection. Also, the frames can be sent to an optical lab, where the whole frame can be "dip-coated" in silicone, to cause a more permanent barrier, but this can still wear off. Over-the-counter 1-% hydrocortisone creme works well to quiet down the skin reaction but be very careful not to get any in the eyes.

Plastic frames, known as zyl in the industry, are a logical choice for those with metal allergy. There was a time when that was the ONLY choice. But since techniques have improved for putting colors on metal frames within the last decade, zyl has become much less popular, except in some trendy retro-styles.

Outside of plastic what else can someone with this problem do? One of the earlier options was stainless steel, which is an excellent and modestly priced solution. It is widely available from many frame manufacturers. A light aluminum-nickel alloy called monel is very non-corrosive for those with acidic skin secretions, but should still be avoided by those with nickel allergies.

Titanium is a very lightweight, strong, hypoallergenic and non-corrosive. Titanium frames have really become more mainstream in the last 5 years. A decade ago they were really almost considered a novelty. There are titanium alloys that are very flexible, you can almost wrap them around your finger. Pure titanium isn't that flexible, but is extremely light and comfortable. While titanium frames are premium products, their prices have come down a bit from some companies.

Cobalt is a newer metal eyewear material. It has been around just a few years. Cobalt like titanium is very light and will not cause skin irritations. It is also in the same fee range.

Of course contact lens wear and refractive surgery are other choices a skin-sensitive person can make to help decrease their glasses wearing time, and their chances of local reactions.

Dr. Mark D. Olmsted