Why Does Some Jewelry Turn Your Skin Green?

Most of you will have had this happen at one point: you put on your new piece of favorite jewelry, wear it out the entire day, and when you eventually take it off, it’s left a green tint on your finger, ears, or wherever these pieces have been in contact with your skin. So why does this happen, and can we avoid it? Let’s find out. 

What Causes Green Skin from Jewelry? 

Some jewelry tends to turn your skin green and leave a strange tint on it. This isn’t harmful and can easily be washed off with soap and water, but it can look unsightly. 

So why does this happen? It has to do with the type of metal in the jewelry. If the jewelry has copper or nickel, the two most common culprits for this issue, this can leave a green residue on your skin. Jewelry alloys with portions of copper and nickel can react with sweat, water, or body oils and create a green residue on your skin.  

This occurs because these metals undergo oxidation with water, sweat, and oily compounds.  

Unless you have a strong reaction to this material, such as itching sensations, rashes, or allergic reactions, it won’t be harmful.  

The residue can be washed off easily with soap and water, and there are certain methods to prevent it from happening in the first place.   

What Kind of Metals Can Turn Your Skin Green? 

solid gold bracelets
Solid gold bracelets. See them here.

Copper and nickel alloys tend to oxidize and create this green residue. This mostly includes cheap costume jewelry made of metals that contain copper and nickel, such as bronze, brass, and in some cases sterling silver.  

As always, it’s got to do with the copper and nickel concentration in the alloy used to fabricate the piece of jewelry. For example, if you’ve got a piece that’s primarily composed of copper and coated with silver, gold, or a different compound, the copper will come into contact with the skin once the coating wears off.  

Luckily, this is not the case with metals such as gold, platinum, titanium, stainless steel, or rhodium-plated jewelry. 

In terms of jewelry types, the green film is mostly brought on by rings and earrings, which often have a tight hold on your skin. It can happen on bracelets and necklaces, but mostly during summer when you might sweat a lot. 

How to Prevent Jewelry from Turning Your Skin Green 

platinum dome ring
Platinum dome ring. See it here.

To prevent jewelry from turning your skin green, the most ideal and long-term viable option is to stick with fine jewelry that won’t create these issues. However, depending on your circumstances, you might need to wear demi-fine or costume jewelry more frequently.  

So, to get the best use of copper and nickel alloy jewelry without getting green tint all over, you can do the following: 

  • Apply clear nail polish remover on the jewelry before wearing it. 
  • Make sure to take the jewelry off before working out, swimming, or taking a shower. 
  • Clean jewelry regularly so body oils and sweat won’t stick to it. 
  • Check your jewelry for damage and get it recoated. 
  • Avoid wearing such alloys on hot summer days. 
  • Store jewelry in a clean and dry environment.

Although wearing copper jewelry does hold some medicinal benefits, it’s best to clean the jewelry regularly. In general, it’s best to avoid jewelry with high concentrations of copper and nickel. 

Wrapping Up 

Jewelry can turn your skin green when the copper or nickel in the metal reacts with water, sweat, and other oily compounds. This green residue or film is mostly harmless but can look off-putting and take some time to wash off.  

Regardless, if you clean your jewelry regularly, recoat them, or apply clear nail polish to prevent them from oxidizing, you can ensure these pieces won’t leave a mark. 

Jewelry Guide