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Is Gold In Skincare Worth It?

Is this skincare trend worth its weight in gold, or is it all counterfeit?

March 3, 2023

Gold: we love it for our jewelry, the hardware on our purses, and the color of our Amexes. But what about using it in skincare? It seems like gold masks, moisturizers, and eye patches are popping up everywhere on our IG and TikTok feeds. It sure looks glam and fun. But does this precious metal really work in skincare? What does the science say?

What are the properties of gold?

Gold is a metal–but you already knew that. In addition to its beautiful color and shine, gold is unique because it’s quite soft, and it isn’t very reactive. While many other metals corrode, rust, tarnish, or dissolve on contact with many acids, gold does not. That’s one of the reasons why we’ve been obsessed with gold for most of human history–it remains pristine and unchanged through time (prettiness also has something to do with it). Gold salts (gold mixed with other stuff) have been used to treat arthritis pain, which suggests that gold contains anti-inflammatory properties. For this reason, gold compounds have been used off-label to treat other inflammatory skin conditions like cutaneous lupus. However, this isn’t a first-line treatment. 

What are the types of gold found in skincare?

There are two kinds of formats for gold in skincare. There’s pure 24 karat gold powder, and colloidal gold. Colloidal gold is also called ‘nanogold’ because the particles are super tiny. You won’t be able to tell that gold is in your product; the nanoparticles don’t look shiny. Colloidal gold is believed to penetrate into the skin more effectively than the powdered stuff, which will impart–what else–a golden glow when applied to the skin. But because the powder is much larger, it’s not going to be absorbed into the skin, which is why from a skincare standpoint it doesn’t do very much. 

What are the benefits of gold in skincare?

This is where things get complicated. Despite the fact that gold has been an ultra sought-after substance for thousands of years, there’s not a lot of information about its effectiveness in skincare. One 2018 from the Journal of Pharmaceutics says that the small size of colloidal gold particles makes them effective as carriers for other ingredients. However, there’s no experiment cited in this study used to test this claim, so it’s difficult to verify. If it’s true, gold nanoparticles could basically help other ingredients penetrate deeper into skin cells, which would make them more effective. 

Another possible benefit of colloidal gold is that it may help accelerate wound healing through antioxidant activity. Testing of this property is still in its early stages–but again, if it turns out to be true, it could be really helpful for your skin. 

However, we don’t feel right recommending a skincare ingredient when the scientific consensus boils down to “maybe” and “we haven’t looked into that yet”. Here are some other skincare ingredients we love with proven benefits:

  • Retinol: Approved by the FDA to treat signs of aging, it also treats acne 
  • SPF: Also FDA-approved as an anti-aging ingredient and a must-have for everyone
  • Vitamin C: this powerful antioxidant neutralizes free radicals and protects skin against environmental damage
  • AHAs: this collection of acids help create smoother, brighter skin, and are used in stronger formulations as clinical chemical peels
  • Hyaluronic acid: This powerhouse binds to water in the air and draws it into your skin, for increased hydration

So there you have it: until the science is clear, keep the gold on your wrist, not in your moisturizer.

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