Is This Buzzy Skincare Ingredient Worth the Hype?

Woman with gold face mask dripping from her skin in front of Tiffany blue background
There’s no doubt that gold makes everything feel more luxe, whether it’s dusted atop a truffle or mixed into our skincare routines. And, let’s be honest, it looks super pretty. But can skincare products spiked with gold actually leave you as fresh-faced and glowy as Taylor Swift post-gym? Here, a look at the beauty benefits of gold, from topical applications to ingestible forms. (Huge disclaimer: If you’re allergic to gold, you should avoid gold in skincare as well as ingestible gold.)

Gold in Skincare

Victoria’s Secret Angels prepped before the annual fashion show with an ultra-Instagrammable 24K gold treatment from Mimi Luzon. The mask promises to treat redness, improve skin’s tone, and give skin that coveted lit-from-within glow. It comes with a hefty price tag of $300 for four masks. Gold is known for its anti-inflammatory properties. There is evidence that, when injected by a doctor, colloidal gold can help with arthritis. Many proponents of gold-laden skincare believe that those anti-inflammatory benefits translate topically (read: give you clearer, wrinkle-free, radiant skin). But the beauty benefits of gold in skincare may only be skin deep: Only a few studies have tested the topical effects of gold. One study (with a small study size) found that gold could be helpful in treating autoimmune skin disorders when injected into the skin or taken orally. Another found that topical treatments could be beneficial for the topical treatment of inflammatory skin diseases. So should you get gilded in the name of an incandescent glow? That depends. If you’re looking to increase the health of your skin, you may want to turn to other ingredients. But if you want an instant, otherworldly glow, products laced with gold can deliver. For instance, Japanese skincare brand Tatcha uses 23-karat gold in some of their products, like their Luminous Deep Hydration Firming Serum. They use it as both a nod to their cultural heritage (geishas use gold to give their skin a glow, and gold has long been used as a symbol of hospitality in Japan) and because the gold flakes instantly dissolve into skin, acting like an Instagram filter IRL. (I can attest to the glow-boosting properties of this serum.) And it’s not all show: Tatcha’s products also contain amazing-for-skin ingredients like red algae and hyaluronic acid.

Gold as a Supplement

Research has found that elemental gold taken orally doesn’t pose a health concern to humans, but that’s about it. Ingestible gold has historically been used by both Eastern and Western medicine to treat epilepsy, depression, and even alcoholism—but there aren’t enough scientific studies to back up these claims. Colloidal gold—gold particles suspended in water—is the most common type of supplement you’ll find in the drugstore aisle. These supplements claim to boost energy, relieve stress, and help with concentration. But again, there aren’t enough studies to validate these claims. While the allure of gold-infused skincare products may lay in the cosmetic (at least until more research is done), I won’t be giving up my cleansing butter or firming serum anytime soon. They contain other active ingredients that do wonders for my skin, and they look pretty to boot. However, you probably won’t find me downing colloidal gold anytime soon.
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