Jewelry Product Care Article

Why is My Jewelry Turning My Skin Green?

Most likely, your skin turned green from wearing copper jewelry. However, there are a variety of jewelry metals that turn your skin green. It’s essentially an oxidation process that occurs when you combine certain jewelry metals with skin. Often, costume jewelry predominantly made from copper leads to skin discoloration. It’s important to remember that skin discoloration from jewelry is not the same as a skin reaction or allergic reaction.

In fact, getting green skin from certain metals is a common reaction and does not hurt or harm your skin. If your skin is itchy or red, then you’re dealing with an adverse allergic reaction to the metal, rather than a chemical reaction.

We’ve talked about copper, but is it the only jewelry metal that turns skin green? Not quite.  Many alloyed metals can cause skin discoloration, especially when mixed with perspiration and skin oils.


What Kind of Jewelry Turns Skin Green?

As we’ve hammered out already: copper is the most common culprit for skin discoloration. That said, you can also experience skin discoloration from gold and silver metals. Why? Well, rarely are gold and silver jewelry made entirely of one material. They are simply too soft on their own to be used in jewelry. Which is exactly why it’s standard to mix metals with alloys to strengthen them. Which metals are used in alloys? Bingo! Copper and nickel—both known to discolor skin. Will everyone experience skin discoloration? Unfortunately, some people’s biological responses and genetic chemistry predispose them to skin discoloration. For example, two friends can buy matching friendship bracelets, and one of them will experience skin discoloration, while the other shows no signs. 

When copper is mixed with skin perspiration, the result is chelated copper pieces that absorb into the skin and turn it green. This process is actually believed to have health benefits including relief from arthritis and circulation issues. Not so bad after all, is it? So, what other jewelry metals turn skin green?


Does alloy turn your skin green?

It depends on the alloy mixture, but most alloys contain nickel and copper, both of which commonly cause skin discoloration. That said, alloyed jewelry items which are rhodium plated will prevent skin discoloration.

Does Brass Turn Skin Green?

Well, considering brass is made from a mixture of metals including copper and zinc, oxidation is common. Many people buy brass jewelry because it is inexpensive, however it commonly discolors skin and even tarnishes. Unfortunately, many elements cause brass to turn skin green including humidity, skin oils and sweat.

Does Sterling Silver Turn Skin Green?

Wait a minute, isn’t sterling silver one of the most popular jewelry metals available? You bet. Which is why it might come as a surprise to have your skin discolor from wearing sterling silver jewelry.  After all, sterling silver is a classic and beloved jewelry metal. Unfortunately, there is a stigma that cheap jewelry causes skin discoloration, when in fact it’s a matter of metals.

Because silver is naturally in liquid form, it’s mixed with alloyed metals to harden it. During this process, jewelers use a combination of metals and often, copper is added to the mix. Is that a bad thing? Not at all. Especially considering the percentage of copper used is less than 8%.

So, can 8% copper cause sterling silver to turn your skin green? It depends on who is wearing the jewelry. Additionally, certain skin creams and lotions can cause skin discoloration. If you wear your sterling silver jewelry 24/7, including on hot days and during a high-intensity workout, then perspiration will make you more susceptible to skin discoloration. Which is why it’s a good idea to remove jewelry during these activities.


Does Cheap Jewelry Cause Skin Discoloration?

There are several jewelry metals that cause your skin to turn green. While some of these metals are more inexpensive materials, not all cheap jewelry turns skin green, and not all fine jewelry escapes skin discoloration.

Essentially, it comes down to your chemical composition and how your body reacts to certain jewelry metals. If you are particularly prone to having jewelry turn your skin green, follow these steps to help reduce skin discoloration:

Tips To Prevent Jewelry From Turning Your Skin Green:

  • Minimize your copper jewelry, or only wear them sparingly and for short periods of time.
  • Rhodium plated jewelry will put a layer of protection between the jewelry and your skin and also increase the lifespan of your jewelry.
  • Don’t wear jewelry that turns skin green on hot days, because perspiration is the main reason why jewelry metals oxidize against your skin and lead to discoloration.
  • Clean your jewelry regularly to remove dirt, liquids, lotions or soap particles which might cling to the jewelry and lead to oxidation against the skin.
  • Don’t swim with your jewelry on as chlorine and copper produce an intense reaction against your skin.
  • Remove your jewelry when cleaning. Standard cleaning supplies also contain chlorine which can cause discoloration when wearing gold jewelry.
  • Intermittently remove jewelry items to alleviate skin discoloration and give your skin a chance to breathe.

As you can see, many metals and alloys cause skin discoloration when combined with the elements. However, skin discoloration is not permanent or harmful. Following these steps will help you minimize skin discoloration and get back to enjoying your beautiful jewelry items.