Back in February, I wrote about my earring quest, and how I’d tried a bunch of different hacks to wear my earrings again. I tried everything from Vaseline-coated earring posts (didn’t work for me) to stainless steel hooks (mostly worked). The experiment was mostly unsatisfying; I was dealing with two problems—skin that had gotten sensitive and an earring hole that had healed up wrong at some point. I was going to head to the piercer for help, but life got in the way, and I mostly forgot about the experiment.
Then I got a message from Jackie Burke, the founder of Tini Lux, a company that makes only hypoallergenic earrings.
What is Tini Lux and what are hypoallergenic earrings?
Burke, a systems engineer, founded Tini Lux in 2017 after facing many of the same issues I had faced with my own ears.
“I stopped wearing earrings around 2008/2009 after about 10 years of having my ears pierced because I started developing the most painful reactions after a few minutes of wearing them,” she said. “Around 2015, earrings started being really popular with all the fashion bloggers I followed, so I really wanted to figure out how I could start wearing them again.”
Burke tried several pairs labeled “hypoallergenic” or “nickel free,” and tried all the earring hacks I tried earlier this year—putting clear nail polish on the posts, for example—but nothing worked. Undeterred, she kept researching.
“One day I was deep into the pages of Google and discovered a site selling some very simple, utilitarian studs made with titanium that promised to be totally safe. I gave them a try and was SO excited that they didn’t cause any irritation,” said Burke. She wanted to buy more, but could find nothing besides studs and some very home-made looking pairs.
That was when she decided to design her own biocompatible earrings.
Burke’s earrings are made only of titanium and niobium, two non-reactive metals that typically don’t react with the human body. (There are some people with extreme metal sensitivities who do experience issues with titanium, but such reactions are rare. One study, which examined dental implant patients, estimates that titanium allergies occur in about .6 percent of the population. I was unable to find any similar studies about niobium.)
Intrigued, asked if I could give Tini Lux a try.
How did they work?
Burke kindly sent me a pair of starter studs for review, which are made by a family-owned business in Oregon that also manufactures medical and dental parts. The Tini Lux site says that some earring wearers may need to wear the studs for a week to a month before they can try other titanium earrings, so my original plan was to wear them for a week and see how it went.
I took a deep breath and put them in.
I’m not going to lie. The first day was rough. One ear was completely fine. The other one did not like having an earring put through it. It wept and hurt. But it didn’t itch or burn like my normal earrings did. So I toughed it out, and by the end of the day, my ear was feeling normal again.
I slept in them that night, and my ears hurt a little from the tossing and turning, but after that, I was fine, although I avoided touching or moving them around in my ears. I wore them for a week, then gingerly took them out. The earring that had been in my problem ear was gross and needed cleaning, but my ear felt good.
Then came the part of the campaign when I took risks. I tried earrings with my stainless steel hooks for a day, and no problems. In fact, I tried different earrings, of varying weights, on stainless steel hooks for three days, and plastic post earrings as well (more on those another time), putting the Tini Lux studs back in every night, and I was fine.
I was healed! Tini Lux had healed me!
Weeeeeeell, not exactly. Because I did get cocky and put my old earrings back in, just to see if I was, indeed, healed. Not my smartest move. My ears burned within a few minutes and the problem ear really acted up. So I put the Tini Lux studs right back in and waited a day. And then my ears were okay.
A word about metals and allergies
When I asked Burke what she wants people with metal sensitivities and allergies to understand about choosing and wearing earrings, she said that people should remember that earring materials are as important as the materials in medical implants, especially when a piercing is healing.
“It is so important to choose metals that are compatible with the human body because your earrings are implanted into your body and are in contact with it 24/7,” she said.
In fact, that prolonged contact can cause metal allergies. This is something I’d been wondering about; like many people, my piercings were done when I was young, and like many of my peers, my allergy reared its ugly head decades later. Why contact dermatitis now, and not in 8th grade right after the piercing, or in college, when I put a safety pin through my ear like a genius?
“Metal allergies are contact allergies that develop over a prolonged period of contact with the reactive substance,” said Burke. “Once your body develops an allergy to a substance, just a few moments of contact with it can trigger a reaction. Even if you’ve never had an issue with earrings before, you can develop an allergy over time by wearing earrings made with reactive metals.”
Tini Lux offers more information about safe metals for piercings, approved by the Association of Professional Piercers (APP) on its website, and you can find more information on metals and jewelry standards at the APP’s site.
So, what’s the verdict on Tini Lux as a jewelry company?
As you can tell, I’m a fan of comfy lobes, so I love that aspect of Tini Lux. But what are the non-studs like? And how is the variety?
I’m a big fan of Tini Lux’s sleek designs, many of which are the dangly statement pieces I’ve been missing. (Burke’s favorites are the diamond-shaped ones. I’ve got my eye on a pair of spiky sunbursts and a pair of celestial chain earrings. Don’t you dare buy them all out from under me, readers!) There are a lot of yellow gold pieces, but Burke designs in rose gold and silver as well.
However, be warned, if you’re used to shopping at Claire’s, you’re going to suffer some sticker shock. There are sales, but generally, the earrings start at $40 and run to $75. If you want a pair of go-to earrings that you’ll wear all the time and which will last you forever, I think it’s worth the money. But if you are looking for very inexpensive earrings, Tini Lux may not be for you right now.
And the company is definitely growing and evolving. Burke says she’s looking at moving Tini Lux into other kinds of jewelry.