Gold Turned Green: What To Know When Jewelry Starts Bothering Your Skin


Unless you’re celebrating Halloween this year with a particularly fabulous costume, buying cheap jewelry is nearly always a bad idea.

Displayed in shiny, golden rows alongside trendy hats and t-shirts, budget-priced rings and earrings seem so innocent. That is, of course, until the exterior paint melts away. Then all you've got is a corroded hunk of metal that looks more like a remnant of the Titanic than anything you'd wear in public.

Costume jewelry is all fun and games until your date asks why your earlobes appear to be turning green in front of his or her eyes.

Today, it’s a stain on our skin, but tomorrow it could escalate into something worse.

Cheap metal coating isn’t the only problem with purchasing faux jewelry. Many people experience an allergic reaction to anything that isn’t surgical steel or gold.

Whether you’ve seen a recurring rash or felt blistering because of a favorite necklace, there’s something certainly amiss. To help us sort out the world of metal allergies, we spoke with Dr. Jessica Weiser of the New York Dermatology Group.

Think you can buy just any jewelry? Think again.

Green skin doesn’t necessarily equal an allergy.

If you’re worried you are the only person who turns Oscar-the-Grouch-green when wearing fake studs, you can relax. That effect happens to anyone who buys jewelry made with cheaply mixed metals.

"The discoloration is the result of a reaction between the acids on the skin surface with metals in the jewelry,” Weiser says. “Copper can corrode to produce copper salts which are green or silver.”

Those salts, in turn, leave a nasty green-black residue on your skin. The color may embarrass you, but it leaves the skin without irritation.

Weiser reminds us many people do experience allergic reactions to nickel, chromates, gold and cobalt, among others.

Itchy, blistering bumps mean something is wrong.

If you see a rash spring up under your jewelry, don’t just brush it off. According to Weiser, this is the sign of a real allergy.

She advises removing the jewelry to see if the problem goes away. If it doesn’t, look to external factors like laundry detergent, household soap and scent-ridden products.

Still not it? Reexamine anything you’ve done recently. For example, if you've gone for a hike or refinished furniture, this could be a factor.

Weiser says to treat your irritated skin gently.

She advises,

Know when to see a dermatologist.

If you're gently moisturizing your skin and the irritation is still not healing, it’s time to schedule an appointment with your doctor.

Once in the dermatologist's office, they may conduct a patch test, an experiment in applying allergens to your skin, hoping to see how you react. Ideally, your doctor will be able to treat your allergy once he or she has a better idea of what’s causing it.

Weiner explains,

For hypersensitivity and skin reactions, your dermatologist is likely to recommend a topical steroid cream that can be used up to two weeks at a time.

Once you've identified the problem, it's time to alter your shopping strategy. Just say no to the shiny, cheap jewelry and save up for something worth the money.