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Why Does My Skin Tarnish Jewelry?

Updated: Jul 11



If you’ve worn jewelry and you find that your skin discolors, it can be quite worrying for the first-timer. The reality is that there’s nothing to scare you. However, if this is your everyday occurrence, it can be quite annoying to have to scrub your skin clean to remove the color that’s on your skin. The two colors that appear on the skin are either green or black, both of which are unsightly.


In this article, we’re going to look at what causes this blackening or discoloration.

Why does my skin tarnish jewelry?


Below are some of the reasons your skin could be tarnishing the jewelry you’re wearing.


1.Corrosion


Corrosion of the metal is one of the reasons, and perhaps the main one, why there’s color transfer on your skin. Take the example of gold. Pure gold will not corrode, but it is too soft to make jewelry; it is the original state. It is only suitable for trading. For that reason, you’ll find that gold gets alloyed with other metals that tend to erode. The gold will not corrode, but it is the alloys that will corrode and this during a darker color.


The primary cause of the corrosion is wearing jewelry in moist conditions. There is also leaving it wet of the skin for a prolonged time. If you wash your hands and you don’t dry the area where the jewelry and the skin come into contact, you’ll find that corrosion will take place after a while.


You, therefore, not advised to shower or go swimming in the pool or ocean with jewelry. Very few metals can withstand saltwater. That’s why you’ll find that silver alloys and copper will corrode when salt is present, even from foods that we eat, such as popcorn and potato chips.


The other issue comes in if you sweat naturally, something that we all do. Our skin has perspiration glands that chemically secrete fats and fatty acids. There are enough to cause a reacting with the metal and facilitate corrosion. To stop this from taking place, you can use absorbent powder free of zinc oxide on the areas that come into contact with the skin.


2.Metallic abrasion


The jet black dust that appears on your hand is due to what is known as metallic abrasion. That is courtesy of the makeup that we wear. You’ll find that the compounds found in makeup are harder than the jewelry.


When they come into contact, rubbing takes place, leading the metal to wear off. If you’re wondering why the doesn’t turn the color of the metal used, for example, gold or silver, that’s because finely divided metal turns black instead of metallic color. The smudge then comes about when the metal comes into contact with skin or even clothing.


If you want to avoid this altogether, ensure that the skin where your jewelry comes into contact with is cleaned with soap and water and is free of makeup. If you can’t avoid it, ensure that the makeup, lotions, and perfume you apply have dried on the hands before putting jewelry on. You want to prevent abrasion at all costs.

3.Chemical reactions

A metal like sterling silver tends to tarnish for quite several reasons. One of them is exposure to sulfur compounds. Overall, it’s exposure to the atmosphere where it reacts with hydrogen sulfide in the air is also another cause for corrosion of sterling silver.


You’ll find this compound is polluted air, which we all mostly live in currently. Other strong foodstuffs such as onions, fish, and eggs will bring about exposure to hydrogen sulfide.

When you look at tarnished sterling silver, it is usually black or dull grey. You’ll find that the color will transfer on your skin or clothing when you wear the jewelry.


Those with moist skin will find that their skin stains green when they wear sterling silver. That is thanks to the copper used to alloy the sterling silver.

4.Body chemistry


As mentioned, the body secrets chemicals which end up reacting with the metal. So far, we have mentioned fats and fatty acids. Something else that exists on our skin when we sweat is sulfur or sulfides and amino acids.


Sweat is also acid, which when it reacts with the body, it causes discoloration on both the skin and the jewelry. If you sweat a lot, then you’ll find that keeping your jewelry in that new state will be harder than you wish.


If you’ve recently started noticing that your skin was tarnishing the jewelry when it didn’t before, then it is likely that your body is undergoing some changes. Hormonal changes and some medications can change the body’s chemistry and lead to tarnishing.


That’s because there’s excessive acid production that then reacts with the metal. When it’s hot or humid, you can opt-out of wearing your jewelry. Alternatively, you can wear absorbent powered that is free of zinc oxide to keep your skin dry.

How to fix the problem?


Apart from the absorbent powder mentioned, there’s more you can do. The best way to tackle this from the get-go is to purchase jewelry that has a rhodium layer that is corrosion resistant.


There is also the option of using lacquer or nail polish to coat the inside of the jewelry. You’ll have to do this regularly because it does fade, but it is worthwhile. It protects both the jewelry and your skin.


Other practices, such as taking off your jewelry when dealing with chemicals (lotions, detergents, chlorine, etc.), will help you keep maintain your jewelry for longer.


Also, when you’re done wearing them, you can clean them with mild soap and water. Dry thoroughly and then store in an airtight bag with some silicone gel to absorb any moisture. If you’re wearing the piece daily, practice cleaning it regularly as well to keep it new and chemical-free.

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