Surgical stainless steel, or simply surgical steel, is a grade of stainless steel used in biomedical applications. There is no formal definition on what constitutes a "surgical stainless steel", so product manufacturers and distributors apply the term to refer to any grade of corrosion resistant steel.
Surgical steel is something of a mystery metal; there are roughly 450 different mixes that qualify as surgical steel. Pretty much all of them carry some content of nickel. Nickel is a known sensitizer (people become more sensitive through contact). In 2009, the European Union regulated the amount of nickel that’s considered “acceptable” to be released from jewelry and other products that come in close contact with the skin. Most people become exposed to nickel heavily as children through body jewelry, and as you age that sensitivity can turn into contact dermatitis. If you were pierced as an infant or at a very young age, you most likely have had to buy “nickel free” jewelry or earrings labeled “hypoallergenic”.
In piercings, nickel sensitivities can lead to troubled healing that can ultimately culminate in the piercing's failure. Nickel reactions are one of the most common issues we tend to see in piercings. A client comes in with an irritated piercing – sometimes fresh, sometimes long-healed – and they've been doing everything right, but the problem won't go away. The majority of the time any issues they have are resolved with a simple upgrade of the jewelry.
Implant rated titanium and stainless steel can be found in any reputable, APP piercing studio. Personally, Master Pierce has taken the time and effort to completely remove any stock of surgical steel body jewelry from the shelves. We also will not install jewelry that is not implant rated or cannot be verified as such. Always make sure to ask your piercer what materials they are using.