Belt buckle rash is a condition where the skin reacts to the metals in a belt buckle, usually nickel but other metals may be indicated too. It’s a form of contact dermatitis, signifying allergies to certain forms of metal. People with belt buckle rash or belt buckle allergy often get a raised rash where the belt buckle on belts remains in contact with the skin, such as right at, below, or above the belly button. The rash is irritating, red, raised, may have puffy or watery blisters, and can cause skin to break if prolonged exposure to the offending metal continues.
The most common cause of belt buckle rash is nickel present in the buckles. Nickel is fairly standard in most metal belts made in the US, but in some European countries its use has been outlawed because it is among the top ten irritants that can cause contact dermatitis. Women may be diagnosed with nickel allergy more frequently than men; yet there are plenty of men who have sensitivities to nickel. Belt buckle rash is often more commonly found in men and boys is because they tend to wear belts more often, and frequently wear them every day. Thus nickel allergy may be first noted in men as a rash where the belt touches the skin.
Parents who have looked for belts for younger boys who suffer from belt buckle rash know just how hard it is to find any type of belt that doesn’t have at least some nickel. Younger boys may be able to wear pants non-belted, especially if they have partial elastic or total elastic, which helps keep pants up. There are a few belts manufactured that don’t contain nickel, and these can be worth looking for if belt buckle rash emerges. However, many face the challenge of what to do (especially since you often have to order belts online) in the interim while you’re waiting for a nickel-free belt to arrive.
Some people with minor irritation may be able to get by with always keeping shirts tucked in to avoid metal contact with skin, though this may be an unreasonable standard especially as applied to young children. Coating the belt buckle with clear nail polish may help too, though you’ll have to apply coats fairly frequently as the clear nail polish will chip. You can also take fabric, tape, or leather and cover the belt buckle to avoid metal contact with skin.
Best choices to completely eliminate belt buckle allergy are to purchase belt buckles that are made of stainless steel or other hypoallergenic metals, or to purchase belt buckles that are covered. There are a few Internet sites that offer nickel free products. Unless the skin is broken or appears infected, and as long as the rash begins to resolve after changing belts, this condition tends not to require immediate medical attention.
However, sometimes people will have what they think is belt buckle allergy. A rash beginning near the belly that does not resolve and begins to spread down the stomach to the legs may be a fungal infection called tinea cruris. This does require medical treatment. If a few days of not wearing the offending metal don’t seem to be improving the rash, you should seek medical advice.
Another problem with nickel allergy is that it may not be limited to belt buckles. Metal rivets on pants, or even zippers that come into contact with skin can create similar allergies if a person is allergic to nickel. It can help to cover rivets, metal buttons, or zippers with a piece of fabric to avoid metal to skin contact, since many metal notions on clothing do contain nickel. Also, some people may be allergic to other metals present in buttons, buckles, zippers or rivets. Once again, if the allergy doesn’t seem to be resolving after contact to nickel has been minimized, you should check with a doctor to be evaluated for possible allergic reaction to other metals, and to rule out other conditions that may mimic belt buckle rash.