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Why Does Jewelry Stain My Skin?

How to Keep Metal Jewelry from Staining Your Skin


Has gold and other jewelry ever left greenish or black marks on your skin? It's happened to most of us at least once or twice, and even though some people are allergic to certain materials, most staining isn't caused by an allergy -- it's a reaction between our skin and the metals used in jewelry, especially when the jewelry touches areas that perspire.

Avoid Tarnish from Copper Jewelry

Copper often turns skin green. The piece you're wearing might not be pure copper, but it could have enough copper in it to cause a reaction, and some people seem to have body chemistry that's prone to staining even when a tiny amount of the metal is present.

Sterling Silver Tarnishes, Too

Sterling silver is 7.5 percent copper, but the most common stains from sterling silver jewelry are black, and occur when the metal tarnishes (darkens due to a reaction with gases in the air). Some sterling pieces are coated with products that help keep them from tarnishing, but the coatings will wear off in time.

Gold shouldn't stain skin, should it?

Gold itself hardly ever stains your skin, it's the other metals that gold is mixed with (to create an alloy) that cause the problems. Copper, nickel and silver can be used to alter the color of gold, and make it stronger and more affordable. Any of those metals can cause discoloration on your skin.

The lower the "K" number on your gold (Karat), the less pure gold it contains. Some people never have a reaction to the metals in even 10K gold, but others must buy 18K pieces to stop the discoloration.

More About Gold

Nickel Allergies Cause More Than Stained Skin

If you are allergic to nickel, you won't just have stained skin. Jewelry that contains the metal will make your skin itchy and red where it comes in contact with your body.

Why Gold Plated and Gold Filled Jewelry Might Cause Reactions

The thin layer of gold in gold plated jewelry can wear off, exposing an inexpensive base metal that can stain your skin

Gold filled jewelry is made with a thicker outer layer of gold, so it doesn't wear off as quickly.

Ways to Keep Jewelry from Staining Your Skin

  • Switch to 18 Karat gold, a more pure metal.
  • Platinum is expensive, but rarely reacts with our skin.
  • Ask your jeweler if the piece can be coated with a new layer of metal or a clear protective film along edges that touch your skin.
  • Coat the jewelry with clear nail polish.
  • Choose stainless steel jewelry when possible.
  • Titanium is another metal choice, for its non-staining qualities and for people with allergies to some metals.
  • Try jewelry labeled hypo-allergenic. It's formulated for people who are sensitive to metals.
  • Keep your skin dry when wearing jewelry.
  • Wear offending pieces for only a short time.
  • Keep your jewelry clean and tarnish-free.
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