Gold is popping up everywhere in skincare – from masks, to serums and creams. The evidence behind its efficacy all sounds very good in theory, but can the form that its presented to us in actually do us any good? I spoke to skincare scientist Cheryl Woodman, who produces the blog Honesty For Your Skin, to find out what really is the deal with gold skincare.
The use of gold in skin care goes back a long time. What’s the history of this?
Gold sounds like such a luxurious skincare ingredient ‘eh. There are a few historical uses known. Firstly, and not so long ago, Geishas used flecks of gold to make their complexions glow with vibrancy. Secondly, there is also some mention of Cleopatra using gold face creams and face masks alongside her renowned beautifying milk baths. Although the evidence is not strong.
Why is gold thought to be good for our skin?
Gold isn’t a very well researched skincare ingredient and the research which has been carried out is with gold nanoparticles – which alone hold their own PR troubles! As a nano compound, gold can be helpful for wound healing with anti-inflammatory, antioxidant benefits; however as a larger molecule, I’d personally brand gold skincare as a clout or high-fashion ingredient rather than a tried and tested active of choice.
Of course gold flecks on skin will have a temporary glow benefit – just like makeup. But this isn’t changing skin’s biology or health.
What are gold nano particles and how do they differ from larger gold molecules?
Gold nano particles are teeny-tiny gold particles invisible to the naked eye. Their much smaller size means they can penetrate more quickly and more deeply into skin. Imagine trying to eat a beef tomato verses a cherry tomato.
How do we know which is in our gold skincare products? Nano particles or larger molecules?
By EU law all skincare products containing nano particles must declare this on the ingredients label. Look for the bracketed phrase nano like this – (nano). If you don’t see it, you have a nano free formula.
Is there a best way to get the benefits of gold for the skin? Is a gold foil mask better than a gold-infused serum?
Putting gold to one side for a moment, if you’re looking to get maximum benefits for your buck, serums will always be better than a face mask. The longer a product is in contact with your skin the more actives your skin gets to absorb. Serums will also be the better choice versus a moisturiser, because in general, lighter, thinner skincare formulas encourage better absorption of active ingredients.
How often do we need to be using gold products for them to have a beneficial effect? Would one gold face mask do anything?
Some skincare products have instantaneous effects – take exfoliants as an example. Skin can instantly be made smoother, brighter and more even. Most other skincare products take at least 1 month of regular use to begin showing results, and specifically anti-ageing products, well they take at least 3 months. The time taken for a skincare product to work, ultimately depends on how the active ingredients work. Exfoliants work quickly and only on superficial layers of skin, but anti-ageing ingredients work consistently and need to initiate change in deeper layers of skin.
My advice: If you’re tempted to trial gold skincare, be sure to use your products for at least 3 months before deciding to stick or twist.
Can any skin type use products containing gold?
Gold makes a fantastic precious metal for jewellery because gold is what we scientists call inert - aka it takes a lot to make gold react with something. If you have gold jewellery at home, you’ll know silver tarnishes i.e. reacts with air a lot, lot faster. Because of this, even sensitive skin types could safely use gold as a skincare ingredient – assuming the accompanying formula was also sensitive skin-friendly.
Can you recommend any gold skincare products?
If you want to give gold skincare a try, I’d recommend buying a very reasonably priced product because of the lack of proven scientific benefits. Something like Manuka Doctor’s 24K Gold & Manuka Honey Face Oil. Gold is definitely able to temporarily brighten skin tone by helping to reflect light away from skin and a facial oil plays nicely into this equation.
So, when you’re shopping for gold skincare, it’s important to remember that it’s not all the same. If you want to try out this skincare trend, think about some of Cheryl’s answers before you settle on what product to go for.