How Working Out In Jewelry Can Damage Your Skin
Not only can getting sweaty in jewelry mess with your favorite pieces, but it can also affect your skin.
If your jewelry is turning your skin different colors…
Those cheaper base metals—copper, nickel, and brass—Rueff mentioned? As they corrode, they can stain your skin, often leaving it blackish or green.
But so can gold-plated and sterling silver jewelry. “Since the layer of gold in gold-plated jewelry is so thin, that can also turn your skin black or green,” she says. And since sterling silver contains some copper, it can also cause skin discoloration when tarnished.
Why, exactly? Quick science lesson: That green or black residue is actually a copper oxide deposit, a compound created when the copper used in jewelry reacts with oxygen in the air, explains Evelyn Darius, M.D., a physician with virtual health platform PlushCare. Sodium chloride, a compound in your sweat, can also cause a similar reaction in jewelry.
Good news: Unsightly as this skin discoloration might be, it’s not harmful, says Dr. Darius.
If you’re potentially allergic (and even if you aren’t)…
Certain metals can potentially aggravate your skin, too. For example, about 15 percent of people are allergic to nickel, which can cause serious irritation.
“This can present as a rash that can be bumpy, rough like sandpaper, light pink or red, swollen, and itchy,” says Dr. Darius.
“Sweat and friction can cause gold to leach out of jewelry,” explains Dao. So even people who might otherwise tolerate their jewelry can end up with a reaction called allergic contact dermatitis (a red, rashy reaction to a substance, sometimes due to allergy and sometimes not) from working out in jewelry that’s leaching.
If you have new piercings…
Sweat alone can irritate new piercings, even if you don’t have jewelry in them during your workouts, says Dr. Darius. Well-healed piercings should withstand sweat just fine, but certain metals can still irritate your ears when mixed with sweat or extra friction.
If you’re wearing jewelry with a “tug” factor…
Metal issues aside, certain styles of jewelry can also pose a risk. Wearing heavy earrings that tug on your ear lobes during a workout, for example, can exacerbate irritation, says Rueff.
Plus, hoop earrings and long necklaces can also get caught on gym equipment, in your hair, on body parts, or on clothing, potentially tearing piercings and scraping or pinching the skin if they get yanked hard enough, adds Dao. (Um, yikes.)