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Why Gold Jewelry Turns Skin Black

Updated on May 27, 2009

The Environment is the cause, not Iron Deficiency

The reaction to gold in some people is a medical-chemical puzzle, but some causes are well documented. The medical term for this reaction is called black dermographism, meaning black writing on the skin. Evidence shows that the marks can come from the gold jewelry, whether 10, 14, 18 karat gold.  Because gold jewelry cannot be the too soft pure gold (24 karat), it is mixed with metal alloys like nickel, copper, zinc and silver.   It is not, as is popularly thought, that the afflicted wearer has an iron deficiency, but a breakdown of the alloy metals in the piece of jewelry.

When you wear a piece of jewelry, and even when putting it on, metallic abrasion can occur. This minuscule abrading is caused by salt in the air, sulfur, acids, and very often, cosmetics on the skin. When you put your jewelry on, your hands may have residue from cosmetics containing zinc, titanium dioxide, and ferric oxide, to name a few. These will rub off tiny fragments of the gold, and these particles look like a black dust. In fact, contrary to common belief, 18 karat gold will leave smudges more easily than gold of lesser purity. It is not because the jewelry is "cheap" that it causes the black marks.

If you are suffering from blacking of your skin when you have contact to a gold piece of jewelry, analyze your surroundings. Do you live in an area that has salty air? Are you perspiring a lot? Is there air pollution where you live? Are you using lotions or cosmetics? Does your skin stay damp where the jewelry touches you? These are some of the causes of the marks.

To help cut down on the skin blackening, or black dermographism, from gold jewelry, make a habit of removing your jewelry often and cleaning both your skin and the jewelry before putting it on. Painting on a bit of clear nail polish will help to minimize the abrasion as well.  This also helps with any allergies to the metals in the gold jewelry. 


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