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image for kbeau blog post about why jewelry turns your skin green black. The image is a man

Jewelry Leaving your Skin Green or Black?

Why? Chemistry!

  1. The acidity in your skin can react to some metals.
  2. Sunscreen, lotion, perfume and hairspray are chemical culprits too.
The sweat and natural oil from your skin can cause a chemical reaction with the metal of some jewelry. Sweat isn’t just water. It also contains tiny amounts of ammonia, urea, salts and sugars. As for sunscreen, perfumes and so forth, those have all sorts of chemicals.

Remember that thing I said about gold (if not read about it now)?  Pure gold is soft so other metals, such as copper, tin or nickel, are usually added to make it stronger and more durable. Those other metals are the ones that can react with the acidity in your skin. And it’s not just gold that has those “other” metals. Sterling silver is made from an alloy, copper is one of the metals used in sterling silver. It’s pretty difficult to completely avoid these other metals in jewelry.

Most often this reaction occurs with jewelry that is plated. The gold or silver plating slowly wears off and reveals the other metals that react to your skin.

Thankfully, most gold and silver jewelry won’t cause green or black discoloration of your skin.

But if it does, here are a few things you can do about it:
  • If this is a problem you encounter a lot, you might seek out stainless steel or titanium jewelry. Platinum rarely causes reacts with the skin, so it may be an option.
  • If it is one particular piece of jewelry that causes the reaction, then stop wearing it, or wear it when you are less likely to sweat or for shorter periods of time.
  • Some people apply a thin coat of clear nail polish to the jewelry. This will eventually wear off and will need to be reapplied, but it does provide a barrier between your skin and the metal.
  • Sometimes a jeweler can apply a rhodium coating to a white gold or silver piece of jewelry. You’ll need to ask your local jeweler to see if this is an option. Sometimes a piece is too difficult to plate with rhodium. Your local jewelry shop can be an invaluable resource.
  • Try hypoallergenic jewelry if this is an ongoing problem.
  • Opt for beaded jewelry, but if the clasp is metal, it may cause discoloration.

And remember!

  • Don’t wear jewelry in the pool, while cleaning (Even the natural cleaners could react with your metal jewelry) or working out.
  • Avoid spritzing perfume onto your neck or wrist after putting on your necklace or bracelet. Basically, sunscreen, lotions, hairsprays and perfumes shouldn’t be on your jewelry. It could cause a chemical reaction that leaves your skin discolored and it’s not good for your jewelry either!

When to worry? If you have a rash or redness, then stop wearing the jewelry! This isn’t a simple chemical reaction between some sweat and metal. It could be an allergic reaction. This often occurs when nickel is in the jewelry. Stop wearing the jewelry! Then check in with your dermatologist!

Learn more about Rhodium: What is Rhodium?
earn more about chemical reactions and your jewelry: Chlorine and Jewelry

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