Strings and Nickel Contact Allergies
If you're reading this, you are probably a bassist that has been diagnosed with (or suspects) a contact allergy to nickel.
A contact allergy to nickel can be a real pain in the [you know what] - many upright bass strings contain nickel and/or alloys made with nickel. Depending on the severity of your allergy, this may preclude you from using a large percentage of string options.
IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: I am not a medical professional. None of this information should be construed as medical advice. I have assembled this information to assist you in string selection and cannot guarantee its accuracy; I sincerely welcome you to advise me of needed corrections, updates, additions, and omissions.
On product pages, we've labeled many of our string offerings as "containing nickel" for those that we have been made aware of - however, we do this as a courtesy, and we cannot warrant the veracity of those labels.
If you suspect that you may have a nickel allergy or other medical condition, please see a specialist for medical advice.
Whew. That now said, let's get to the point.
A nickel contact allergy can commonly cause contact dermatitis - which is an itchy rash that shows up where you've had contact with Nickel. People often first discover that they are affected when they have a skin reaction to jewelry, which often contains nickel. Typical skin reactions can range from redness and itchiness to full-on rashes with bumps, blisters, and draining fluid (ewwwww.) It's no fun, for sure - and the symptoms can last for days to weeks after contact.
What May (or May Not) Affect You
Nickel is a metal that is often used in musical instrument strings. It's a very common as an outer winding, and can also be used on inner cores and windings. All people with a nickel allergy should avoid nickel-wound strings, clearly.
Nickel in String Cores
Nickel can sometimes be in the inner core of a string, but not in the outer winding. Using a string like that could be a bit of a gamble; depending on the structure of the string, contact could still be made with the nickel residue, flakes, or other such contact. This may also be dictated by how severe one's allergy is.
Nickel is also an ingredient, in varying amounts (depending on its "recipe") in Stainless Steel, and as a result, some players with an particularly severe allergy can also be affected by strings with stainless steel windings, as there is enough nickel to cause a reaction. On the other hand, those with milder cases discover that the way that the metals are altered through the combining process (or the reduced content of nickel versus "regular" nickel) makes the use of stainless tolerable.
What We Label in Our Product Descriptions
On our site, we've labeled strings that use nickel with an allergy advisory like the graphic to the right. Those with stainless steel are not labeled with the advisory as they can be tolerated by some, but if your allergy is particularly acute, you should probably avoid strings made with stainless steel as well. (We normally have pretty in-depth descriptions concerning a string's makeup, so you should be able to rule out strings with stainless steel yourself).
Note that some string models have varying levels of nickel (from none on up) based on string position or gauge (for instance, some of the Corelli high strings are wound with nickel, while the bottom strings are wound with steel, to provide the correct balance of feel and tone). So on strings like that. we've posted our advisory notice out of an abundance of caution, but note some of the strings may affect your allergies, while some won't.
It's a bummer that this sort of allergy will limit your choices for strings. There are some good options, though. You may find that strings that are wound with nylon or perlon provide a "barrier" between the inner core (which may or may not have nickel/stainless) and are good to go. There are also fully synthetic string options (most Innovation strings are made entirely of nylon with no metal at all).
Guide to strings
(subject to revision)
Strings Described as Having Nickel
- Pirastro Permanent
- Savarez Corelli 370, 360, 380, 350
- D'Addario Kaplan
- D'Addario Helicore
- D'Addario Prelude
- D'Addario NS Electric Strings (OmniBass, Traditional, Contemporary)
- Super-Sensitive Red Label
- Super-Sensitive Supremes
- Super-Sensitive Sensicores
- LaBella 7720 (Nickel Chrome Steel)
- Rotosound RS4000 (Monel - a nickel alloy)
- GHS Crossovers for NS Design Basses (Nickel-iron alloy)
Strings Free of "Pure" Nickel
(many of these have stainless steel, which still may trigger allergic reactions)
- Thomastik Spirocore
- Thomastik Superflexible
- Thomastik Dominant
- Thomastik Belcanto
- D'Addario Zyex
- Pirastro Jazzer
- Pirastro Chorda, Oliv and Eudoxa
- Pirastro Perpetual
- Pirastro Obligato
- Pirastro Evah Pirazzi, Evah Pirazzi Slap/Gold
- Pirastro Passione
- Innovation PolyChrome
- Innovation Braided
- Innovation Honey
- Lenzner Gut Strings
- LaBella Supernil (low strings are silver-plated copper-wound)
Strings with Synthetic Outer Windings
- Eurosonic Tape Wound (White and Black)
- LaBella 7710 (White and Black)
Strings That Are Fully Synthetic (No Metal at All)
- Silver Slap and Golden Slap
- Super Silver
- Psycho Slap
- Ultra Black
- Rockabilly Reds
- LaBella Supernil Slaps (a "bumped" set)
I hope that you find this information helpful. Please contact us with any suggestions, corrections, updates, questions...