The Green Mark of Shame — Caring for Cheap Jewelry

Woman wearing cosmetic jewelry

Dear Budget Fashionista,

I love wearing costume jewelry but usually after one or two wears it turns my skin green and/or the piece tarnishes. Is there anything I can do to keep this from happening? Can I coat the metal with something? Any advice you can share would be wonderful!

The Green Cast of Cheap Jewelry

We all know how it feels to wear a gorgeous piece of jewelry, only to slip it off at the end of the day and discover that unsightly green mark of shame. The good news is that it’s not uncommon, and it’s fairly easy to solve the problem, too.

First, recognize that anything you put on your skin can react with certain metals, such as copper, brass, pewter and silver. Everything from body lotion to perfume to hand cream can cause that telltale green cast on your skin. Even acidic sweat can cause it to happen. The reason is pretty scientific — salty compounds form on the skin when acids sweat or product come into contact with the metal. Or, the metal simply oxidizes and tarnishes.

You will usually notice these issues primarily with lower-end pieces. According to Jane Becker, founder of JB Jewels, “Most of the costume jewelry is dipped in and gold- and silver-colored paints to make them look shiny. Eventually these coatings wear off, staining your clothes and skin.”

Ugly but not Dangerous

There’s no harm in the greenish stain. It’s certainly not dangerous, but it may come with some irritation if your skin is very sensitive. 

How to Stop Jewelry from Turning Skin Green

Clear Nail Polish

You can prevent the jewelry from causing marks on your skin by using one of the simplest items in your beauty arsenal: clear nail polish. According to Becker, “If you brush the back or the parts that touch your skin…this will help. When storing your jewelry, lay it flat on a box or a jewelry box.” 

Avoid Water and Soap

According to Business Insider, another solution is to remove your jewelry when you’re washing your hands or exposing your skin to water. Avoid using soap while that ring is on your finger — this will slow the oxidation process and prevent stains. Always remove your jewelry when swimming, spending time in humid conditions or while working out.

Make sure your hands are thoroughly dry before you put your jewelry on again.

Anti-Tarnishing Cloths

Tarnished silver necklace

It’s also smart to keep some anti-tarnishing cloths handy. If it looks like your non-precious metals are in the early stages of oxidation, wiping them down gently can help. Storing these pieces in plastic bags may also slow the process.

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Tanya

Tanya is a seasoned journalist based in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. Specializing in fashion, beauty, and travel, she loves to explore new places, read as much as possible, and scour the web for fabulous finds — all in the name of research, of course.