Whether you wanted to pretend your workout was a music video or were just too lazy to take off your earrings before the gym (again), chances are you’ve gotten sweaty in your jewelry before.
Now that we’ve traded worn-out sweats for cute leggings and crop tops, more and more people are strutting their personal style amidst the rows of cardio machines—and we are here for it. But is the decked-out workout trend actually bad for your jewelry—and your skin? Here’s the deal.
How Your Workouts Can Damage Your Jewelry
Depending on the type of jewelry you’re rocking (and the type of workout you’re doing), getting sweaty can mess with your favorite accessories in a few ways.
First of all, jewelry made out of certain materials survives sweat better than others. “If you’re wearing jewelry made of solid gold, gold fill, or sterling silver, the sweat and oils from your skin won’t damage it,” explains Lisa Rueff, a yoga teacher, jewelry designer, and founder of Collective Hearts. (Never heard of gold fill? It’s second-best to solid gold and involves binding gold around a base metal, such as brass.)
As you may have noticed, sterling silver can tarnish (a.k.a. oxidize), turning dull and gray or black, over time—especially if you work out in it. But it’s easy to clean with lukewarm water, mild soap, and a soft-bristled toothbrush, says Rueff.
However, lots of less expensive jewelry is made with materials like nickel, copper, and brass, and can corrode when exposed to your sweat, says Rueff. Even gold-plated jewelry, which is made by adding a super thin coat of gold to a base metal (like copper), can corrode if you wear it to work out.
Though higher-quality brands will highlight the materials used in their jewelry, most of the jewelry you’ll find at the mall won’t disclose what material they’re made of, says Rueff. (Many cheaper finds use nickel, copper, or brass, FYI.)
A note for mermaids: The salts and chemicals (like chlorine) used in swimming pools (and, sadly, the salt in the ocean) can do even more harm to your jewelry than your sweat, says Rueff. Yep, even high-quality jewelry like solid gold. And, if you hit the showers with your jewelry on (we’re all guilty), stick to mild soap and dry your jewelry well afterward to prevent potential damage.
In addition to the damaging chemical reactions that occur when you get sweaty, certain types of workouts can also quite literally scratch and bang your jewelry out of shape. “Softer metals like gold and silver can bend pretty easily as a result of the impact from lifting weights or using gym machines,” says Harry Dao, M.D., chair of dermatology at Loma Linda University Health. They’re also especially prone to scratching. Proceed with caution if your adorned workouts involve rings and weights like dumbbells, kettlebells, or barbells.