What is Belt Buckle Rash?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

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.

Belt buckle rash is a condition where the skin reacts to the metals in a belt buckle by breaking out into a rash.
Belt buckle rash is a condition where the skin reacts to the metals in a belt buckle by breaking out into a rash.

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.

Most cases of belt buckle rash is caused by an allergy to nickel or some other metal found in belt buckles.
Most cases of belt buckle rash is caused by an allergy to nickel or some other metal found in belt buckles.

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.

Wearing belts may cause a belt buckle rash.
Wearing belts may cause a belt buckle rash.

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.

Metal rivets on pants may cause a rash.
Metal rivets on pants may cause a rash.

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.

Coating a belt buckle with clear nail polish may help one to avoid belt buckle rash.
Coating a belt buckle with clear nail polish may help one to avoid belt buckle rash.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments


Just wear underwear and pants with the belt.


For those who suffer from this and need to know how get the rash under control, use lotrimin cream or any anti fungal cream. It may not be a fungus that you have, but it is proven to work.


Well what is used to treat the rash?


I have the same issue! It took me a few google searches to realize it was just the nickel giving me rashes like some of my earrings have. There is a product online that kind of coats everything so your skin doesn't touch the metal.


Titanium is nickel free, whereas surgical steel and stainless steel are nickel safe, i.e., the nickel is bound tightly in the metal alloy and does not react to the skin.

I challenge anyone to say they have had an allergic reaction to stainless steel? Basically, they wouldn't reinforce buildings with it if it was going to rust away!


You can buy Titanium belts and buckles on Amazon now. Well, at least in the UK, anyway.


316L grade surgical steel is the best alloy, and is the standard metal for body piercing jewelry. Otherwise, titanium is regarded as the best pure metal. It should be grade 1 -5 though, as 6 and above contain other metals.


what is used to get the rash under control besides not wearing a belt?


I have terrible nickel allergy and so do my children (I guess it is inheritable). We have learned to live with it. We wear very little jewelry and keep a test kit with us. We buy our belts at nickel-free sources online.


There is another alternative. velcro waist belts are available in markets and almost all online stores. These belts don't have a buckle at all.


i get a rash from my belt buckle and my wedding band as well. also, when i wear a watch, i get a rash on my wrist. is there some kind of solution out there that will help?


Very good information! Both of my sons and I suffer from this rash. The dermatologist said it was probably a nickel allergy and we should avoid nickel. She was right, but she could've given us more info and some advice. I'm thankful to the author of this article.


Buckle rash is scarring to the back of a guitar caused by the guitar coming in contact with the player's belt buckle.


I spoke with my doctor about this, and she said the stainless steel can still react with your skin, because the binding in the nickel may not be tight enough(how she phrased it).

This also applies to piercings, which is why tattoo shops only use surgical stainless, which has to have the nickel 'bound' to a degree that it won't affect you.

My experience is that surgical stainless doesn't affect me, whereas most common grade stainless will. Not only the belt buckle affects me, but the button on the inside of jeans does too, so I just took to wearing tank undershirts all the time. *sigh


While it is true that stainless steel does contain nickel, this is a different situation.

The nickel in stainless steel is an alloying element. The nickel that causes the reaction is actually a plating on the outside of the buckle material. I have to wear non-nickel buckles because I get the rash. Stainless works for me.


Stainless steel usually contains nickel, so steer clear of that too.


good show!

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