What is this phenomenon and why does it happen when wearing certain types of jewellery? Contrary to popular belief, the ring of skin that turns green underneath a piece of jewellery doesn’t occur due to the poor quality of the ring, nor is it harmful. It is a perfectly normal, yet rare, response to certain materials within the jewellery, and can appear when wearing fine expensive jewellery just as much as with more affordable options. But how does it work, and how can it be prevented?
Why does my finger turn green?
The patch of skin in contact with a ring turns green when the materials oxidise. This means they react to the pH levels of your skin and create a tarnish, which then leaves a stain on the skin. People who happen to have a higher acidic pH within their skin tend to experience this phenomenon more often and, whilst rare, it’s worth knowing what to do when such an instance arises.
Another common culprit is the chemicals in your hand creams which will cause the metal to oxidise even if your skin is not sensitive to metals.
The most common ingredient in any piece of jewellery that causes this scenario is copper. Copper is a useful alloy (stabilising material) that is combined with silver or gold-plated jewellery in order to secure the shape and consistency of the piece. Pure gold and silver are naturally too soft to work with, and therefore must be alloyed (stabilised) with other materials in order to create a secure, good-quality piece of jewellery. For example, the 925 sterling silver jewellery is composed of 92.5% silver, and 7.5% copper (hence, the number 925). This formula results in the highest quality silver jewellery, and is used by high-end brands as well as more affordable fashion jewellery brands, and therefore it must never be assumed that a trace of copper equals poor quality. Quite the contrary, it makes your jewellery stronger.
What can I do to prevent my skin turning green?
If you are one of the few people who experience staining when you wear jewellery, there are some steps you can take to prevent such occurrences and better enjoy your accessories.
- Keep the area dry
Take off your rings before you wash your hands, shower, or go swimming. Damp skin can often expedite the process of oxidation and cause a more noticeable green stain on your skin. If you are going swimming, it’s especially important to remove your jewellery, as the chlorine will leave a green stain and also damage your jewellery!
- Pay attention with lotions
Chemicals found in lotions can also react to the materials in your jewellery, therefore causing a darker stain on your skin. Make sure the lotion has absorbed into your skin completely before putting on your rings.
- Ask about what materials are in your jewellery
Whilst green staining can happen from many different types of jewellery—both high and low quality, it is true that lower quality jewellery is more likely to cause a stain. Always be aware of what materials are present in your rings, in order to avoid the Green Finger. Stainless steel, 925 sterling silver, platinum, rhodium-plated and gold-plated materials are all made from safe materials that are good for sensitive skin, and yet can still cause some staining. T
- Apply a polymer barrier
One of the best and most effective ways to avoid the Green Finger is to apply a polymer barrier to the inner band of your rings. This effectively creates a barrier between the jewellery and your skin, which prevents oxidisation and staining. A Jewellery Shield product is cheap to buy, and you will need to reapply every few weeks once it has worn away. This is by far the cheapest and most efficient way of reducing Green Finger, without splashing out on expensive solid-gold or solid-platinum accessories!
- Try clear nail polish
If in dire immediate need, another alternative to a polymer barrier is clear nail polish. Just as with a polymer barrier, you can apply a layer of nail varnish to the inside of your rings in order to form some protection between the metals and your skin. This method is less effective, however, and can also change the appearance of your jewellery.
What do I do to treat a green finger?
Knowing how to avoid jewellery staining is useful, but you’re probably reading this article because you have already fallen prey to the unfortunate Green Finger. What can you do to remove the staining?
The first and most obvious step is to remove the stain by scrubbing your skin with soap and warm water. Use a nailbrush to provide a little more friction.
If this doesn’t work, you can also use make-up remover or rubbing alcohol for more stubborn stains. Wipe over the affected area with some cotton, and then rinse of with warm water and soap.
For particularly dark and troublesome stains, you may also use a non-acetone nail varnish remover. Again, use a cotton pad to apply gently over the stain, and rinse with soap and warm water. This method should be your last option however, and should not be used on a regular basis, as it is harsher on the skin and can cause dryness.
By taking precautionary steps and proper care of your jewellery, you can say goodbye to unsightly stains and marks. Remember that green staining is not necessarily due to the jewellery being ‘fake’ or cheap, but can happen with even the highest quality brands!
Are there any options for sensitive skin?
If you know you have sensitive skin and have had a reaction with either copper, brass, 925 sterling silver, Gold-plated, Palladium/Rhodium plated jewellery - you are likely to have the same reaction again.
It is recommended that you opt for solid gold jewellery instead.