316L Surgical Stainless Steel

316L is implant-grade surgical stainless steel – it is probably the most common and most widely used metal for body piercings.

Allergic reactions, when they occur, are rarely due to the stainless steel but from other factors (most commonly from mechanical irritation or harsh cleaning products). Allergic reactions typically include itching, redness, and swelling, with a discharge of clear fluid that is not lymph. The element in stainless steel that causes allergic reactions in some people is nickel. Polishing the jewellery to a mirror like lustre results in a protective layer of chromium oxide which reduces the migration of the Nickel content into the tissue. Steel body jewellery may be sterilized in an autoclave.

One disadvantage of steel is its weight. For larger pieces of jewellery this can be a problem as it can cause tension in the body tissue, and also unwanted stretching or tearing of a piercing. In areas with low blood circulation, such as the earlobe, this can be potentially dangerous. However, with smaller jewellery, there is no need to worry.

The two most common standards that apply to body jewellery made of steel are ASTM F138 and ISO 5832-1 which describe the qualities of steel for surgical implants. The only quality recommended for use by the Association of Professional Piercers is steel that is certified to meet ASTM or ISO standards for surgical implant applications. "Surgical Steel is made of a variety of alloys. Many of them are used for body jewellery, but only a few specific grades are proven bio-compatible"