Boo steel. Yay titanium!
Ever wonder why we don’t sell steel jewelry? Because we care about you and your safety! It’s all beautifully explained by Brian Skellie:
Why not “surgical” or “implant” steel?
Steel should only be considered for short term wear (less than 24hrs) in fully healed piercings only. Nickel (about 15% by volume) is dissolved in 316 steel alloy (ASTM F138) to make it non-magnetic and resistant to corrosion. This alloy is supposed to trap nickel and other irritants under a layer of chrome (chromium oxide) where it releases allergens and toxins very slowly. The problem (chromium oxide, which is susceptible to corrosion by chlorine, such as the salt in perspiration or the saline soaks many piercers recommend) As nickel and other irritants diffuse into skin, the tissue reacts to protect itself and creates thick scar tissue around the offending item to wall it off, like a splinter. Know undesirable reactions to nickel bearing alloys like steel include:
- Soft tissue damage,
- Nerve damage,
- Micro-circulation damage,
- Excess scar tissue, and
- Allergic reactions, as common as 1 in 10 individuals.
This is believed to be from nickel leaching into the contacted area and into deeper tissue. Thickened scar tissue, which contributes to loss of sensation in the area, and direct damage to local nerve endings occur in body jewelry applications. Nickel is considered such a problem in Europe that there are several laws restricting the use of nickel, which you can read about on the nickel directive site.
Current uses of the steel commonly advertised as “implant grade” for body jewelry in medical devices in contact with broken skin is primarily limited to temporary devices such as surgical staples, wires and other fixation hardware and can not be used for any implant or initial piercing purpose in Europe.
Misdirection exists in regard to steel alloys, considering that they are numerous, e.g., Cobalt chrome alloy steel has been used in permanent surgical implants, and may be tolerated by the body with below 0.05% detectable nickel but has other irritant properties and toxicity.