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Why Does Fake Jewelry Turn Your Skin Green?

Ellen Gutoskey
Who wears rings like this?
Who wears rings like this? / RkaKoka/iStock via Getty Images
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Inexpensive costume jewelry can make your ensemble unforgettable, but it can also leave your skin sporting stains as green as the Statue of Liberty.

Lady Liberty’s natural dye job occurred because she is made of copper, which turns blue-green when it oxidizes. Oxidation often involves some element reacting with oxygen, it can also describe other chemical reactions in which electrons are lost. In the Statue of Liberty’s case, the color transformation comprises a series of these reactions.

A similar process causes jewelry to discolor your skin. As Refinery29 explains, there’s a good chance the trinket in question contains copper or another metal that gets a new hue when it oxidizes. Even gold and sterling silver items have been known to change color, since they’re rarely made from pure gold or pure silver.

The catalyst of the reactions can be any number of things on your skin, from soap or lotion to plain old sweat. “One day, it might not affect me,” Suzanne Friedler, a board-certified fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology, told Reviewed. “Another day it could, depending on the heat and the sweatiness of my skin, and how closely it’s contacting my skin.”

How to Stop a Ring From Turning Your Finger Green

If you want to avoid the issue altogether, stick to wearing white gold, stainless steel, and other materials that don’t change color. But before you toss out all your beloved bargain rings, you should know that there’s a pretty effective way to keep the green from tinting your finger: Just coat the underside with clear nail polish. (The trick should work for any jewelry, though intricate bracelets and necklaces may be a little harder to paint.)

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