Why Do Rings Turn Your Finger Green?

Meet the metals that discolor your skin

Copper or silver ring held up with two fingers.

Nafis Safiai/EyeEm/Getty Images

Have you ever had a ring turn your finger green or wondered why some people say rings turn their fingers green? The reason this happens is because of the metal content of the ring.

How a Ring Turns Fingers Green

When a ring turns your finger green, it's either because of a chemical reaction between acids in your skin and the metal of the ring, or because of a reaction between another substance on your hand, such as a lotion, and the metal of the ring.

There are several metals that oxidize or react with your skin to produce a discoloration. You can get a noticeable green discoloration on your finger from wearing a ring made out of copper. Some rings are pure copper, while others have a plating of another metal over copper. Alternately, the copper may be part of the metal alloy (sterling silver, for example). The green color is not harmful in itself, though some people experience an itchy rash or another sensitivity reaction to the metal and may wish to avoid exposure to it.

Another common culprit for discoloration is silver, which is found in sterling silver jewelry and plating for inexpensive jewelry. It is also used as an alloying metal in most gold jewelry. Acids cause the silver to oxidize, which produces tarnish. The tarnish can leave a dark ring on your finger.

If you are sensitive to metals, you may see skin discoloration from wearing a ring containing nickel, though most likely this will be associated with inflammation.

How to Avoid Getting a Green Finger

Even silver and gold jewelry can produce skin discoloration, so advice for avoiding a green finger isn't as simple as just avoiding cheap jewelry. However, certain metals are less likely to turn green than others. You should have good luck with stainless steel jewelry, platinum jewelry, and rhodium-plated jewelry, which includes nearly all white gold.

Also, you'll greatly reduce the chance of any ring turning your finger green if you take care to keep soap, lotions, and other chemicals away from your ring. Remove your rings before bathing or swimming, especially in saltwater.

Some people apply a polymer coating to their rings to act as a barrier between their skin and the metal of the ring. Nail polish is one option. Be aware that you'll need to reapply the coating from time to time since it will wear away.