So you’ve got yourself a stunning body piercing, and now you’re looking for the perfect piercing jewelry. Before you consider grabbing your body jewelry out of a bargain bin, just know that cheaper piercing materials can lead to:

  • A longer aftercare routine
  • Painful bacterial infections
  • Annoying, rashy allergic reactions
  • Tarnished and ugly piercings

Choosing quality hypoallergenic jewelry will not only help your body feel like a temple but will also save you from having to take a chance on your health. From Surgical Grade Titanium to 14K Gold, going with the gold standard can make the difference in aftercare, piercing health and quality of your piercing.

Some of the Common Problems Associated With Thrifty Jewelry

You get what you pay for – and while not everybody will have a negative experience with cheaper jewelry, it’s a case of “better safe than sorry.”

When you initially get your piercing done, the piercer will fit you with a simple, hypoallergenic piece of jewelry made of materials less likely to cause complications as your piercing heals (more on these below). 

We recommend that you don’t change your jewelry until your piercing has completely healed, even if you choose a hypoallergenic material, or you increase the risk of the following issues:

Bacterial Infection

Trust us – the last thing you want is to have a nasty infection when you just wanted to rock some cute navel jewelry.

Your piercing leaves little room between the jewelry and the skin, and this tight space can, unfortunately, be a breeding ground for bacteria. Certain porous materials, mainly organic materials and plastics can trap bacteria and lead to infection.

Infected piercing symptoms potentially include swelling, redness, pain, burning, itching, or pus discharge. Many of these symptoms will be present after you first get your piercing, which is why it’s essential to follow proper aftercare to help it heal quickly. 

However, if the symptoms persist for a few weeks or become worse, it’s critical to see a doctor.

Allergic Reaction

Nobody wants to get itchy and rashy when they’re rocking a new piercing – but unfortunately, many materials can cause an allergic reaction. An allergic reaction is particularly true of piercings containing nickel, which is present in many types of cheaper metallic jewelry.

Tarnished Jewelry

While this has less to do with your health, many metals are much more likely to tarnish over time. If you don’t want to clean your jewelry or replace it regularly, it’s better to invest in quality materials. 

Risky Piercing Jewelry Materials

You now know the risks, so let’s dive into the different types of materials commonly used in piercing jewelry. When shopping for a navel ring, nose ring or belly button ring, the materials should be listed prominently. If the seller can’t tell you what the material of the piece of jewelry is made out of, stay away.

Plastic and Acrylic Jewelry

Plastic and acrylic jewelry is typically worn temporarily to stretch a gauge or piercing, but many people wear them long term due to their low cost and variety of colours. However, these materials are susceptible to breaking or warping, which can cause injury to the piercing area or lead to infection.

Sterling Silver

While we think of silver as a precious metal, unfortunately, sterling silver is notorious for causing allergic reactions. Most silver jewelry is a metal alloy that can often include nickel and other allergens like iron or zinc. You’re likely safe if you’re just rocking a stud, but otherwise, silver is not recommended for most body piercings.

Plated Gold

Gold is hypoallergenic, but you need to ensure your piece is solid gold. If plated gold starts to flake, it will expose the metal beneath (again, often allergens like nickel, brass, or copper) and potentially cause an allergic reaction.

Professional Piercers Take Your Safety Seriously

When you’re budget conscious, it can be tempting to through conscience to the wind when choosing your jewelry. However, if you need further convincing, The Association of Professional Piercers (APP) has minimum requirements for jewelry that is safe for wearers

All piercers worth their salt will only sell you jewelry that fits within these material safety guidelines.

Safer, Hypoallergenic Piercing Jewelry Materials

Now that we have the no-go list taken care of let’s move on to the safer materials. 

Hypoallergenic materials don’t react to bodily tissues or fluids, making them safe choices for your jewelry. There are plenty of material options available to you at different price points and styles to make your piercing truly you.

Surgical Steel 

Most piercers will use surgical steel for your initial piercing or gauge (specifically steel that is ASTM F138 or ISO 5832-1 compliant to get super-specific) as it’s safe and cost-affordable. However, be wary of steel purchased elsewhere as if it does not adhere to those specific surgical standards, it may still contain allergens like nickel.


Glass jewelry is incredibly versatile, comes in many different funky colours and styles, and is completely sterile. It’s one of the approved materials for new piercings.  

However, you need to be particularly careful not to chip or break the jewelry as it could cause injury, and it’s also on the heavier side.

Bone, Horn or Wood

While not recommended for a new piercing, organic materials provide you with truly unique options to craft your style. 

Some of them can be tricky to keep sterile, however. Porous materials such as wood can attract bacteria, and many of these pieces might also be treated with chemicals that aren’t hypoallergenic.


Titanium is an extremely common material for body piercings as it’s not as expensive as other options but also completely safe and can be safely anodized into different colours. While more expensive than surgical steel, it is also in line with other precious metals in terms of quality.


Chances are you won’t see this oddly-named metal as much as titanium since they’re functionally similar and niobium is more expensive. It is slightly heavier, though, which may appeal to you!


When you’re ready to get into the luxury end of jewelry, platinum is a great option. It is also on the pricier side, however, and you may have trouble finding a wide variety of styles. 

Not only is platinum hypoallergenic, but it’s also incredibly durable and won’t scratch as easily as gold. You also won’t need to get it cleaned like you would with gold. 


Last but certainly not least, gold jewelry is a gorgeous and common choice for many people. 

However, not any gold will do – you need to ensure it’s pure enough (at least 14 karats) and nickel-free. You can even wear gold as your healing piercing, as long as it’s 14k and white or yellow (but not rose gold during this initial phase). 

If you want to ensure your gold stands the test of time, you’ll also have to ensure you get it cleaned every few years.

Get Pierced at Ottawa’s Sage Tattoos

Before you consider grabbing your body jewelry out of a bargain bin, just know that cheaper piercing materials can lead to dangerous infections, scarring and even the need to remove the jewelry altogether.

Our piercers adhere to the highest hygiene standards and can help you decide what piercings and jewelry types are right for you. Consult with us today to book an appointment!