The Use of Gold in Skin Care History

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As one of the most expensive and precious substances on earth, gold has found its way into many uses. From jewelry to gold-plated pens, gold veneers to golden statues, there is no limit to how the precious metal has been used. Skincare has not been left behind in this ‘gold rush’ either. The use of gold in beauty ranges from topical creams to cleansers infused with the precious metal.

There are very good reasons for the use of this gleaming ingredient; gold is an anti-oxidant and it also has anti-aging effects. The two qualities work together to get rid of many skin flaws and fight signs of aging. 

If you are considering ‘wearing’ gold on your skin, let’s explore everything you need to know about the use of gold in skin care.

History on Gold in Skin Care     

Most of today’s cosmetic tricks can be traced to ancient societies; Ancient Romans are famed for their love of everything beautiful. Gold featured prominently in their lesions and sores treatments.   

Queen Cleopatra who reigned in 1st century B.C is believed to have used gold masks to maintain a youthful complexion; a big endorsement of the treatments, considering that she is said to have been one of the most beautiful women to have ever lived. 

The treatment was also supposed to last to the afterlife; this is probably why Pharaoh Tut was interred in a solid gold casket. Physicians at the time also believed gold could heal ailments and its concoctions were common in both physical and mental ailments’ medication.   

Ancient Chinese masseurs used the glittering powder to reduce facial wrinkles and maintain smooth skin. These treatments were a reserve for the royals and the affluent and extended to nail polish and even replacement teeth. Chinese physicians also used gold to treat smallpox and skin ulcers as early as 2500 B.C.  

Benefits of Gold in Skin Care

Although gold-infused skin care products are quite expensive, the extra cost does come with numerous benefits. Some of the properties that make it invaluable include highly active and penetrative ions that can affect the skin on a cellular level. This comes handy in giving your skin a new and fresh look. Here are the benefits to look forward to:

1. Reduction of Wrinkles, Acne Spots and Fine Lines

The driving force behind any cosmetic product is improving your look and gold does not disappoint. It has the ability to activate the inner dermal cells to reduce skin elasticity. This leads to diminishing the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines. It also reduces blemishes and spots from acne to give you an overall younger look.

2. Stimulation of Skin Cells

The highly penetrative ions help in stimulating nerves, veins and cells. This improves the flow of blood in the skin. Ultimately the skin is able to perform its functions optimally; metabolism of cells and getting rid of waste. The end result is cell rejuvenation and a healthy skin. Increased blood flow also helps in fighting off skin allergies and reducing acne development.

3. Slowing Down Collagen Depletion

Collagen and elastin are responsible for the structural integrity of connective tissue and skin elasticity. The proteins however get depleted as you age leading to loss of elasticity and roughening of the skin.

Young woman enjoying gold mask facial in spa

Enriching your skin care routine with gold infused products will see increased collagen and elastin synthesis in your skin cells for a more elastic skin. 

4. Treating Inflammation and Skin Ulcers

Gold has both anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. When applied on the skin, it slows down cell degradation from free radicals. This helps in increasing oxygen penetration and blood flow, which reduces inflammations. The penetrative power of gold nanoparticles also helps in reaching the lower dermal levels where it protects new cells. As an antibacterial, gold is able to rid the skin of ulcer-causing bacteria.

5. Increased Skin Hydration and Glow

With increased blood circulation, gold helps the skin to hold on to more moisture. This increased hydration reduces skin dryness which imparts a rich and radiant glow. In the long run, continued use of gold will keep your skin from aging prematurely.        

6. Reduction of Hyperpigmentation

Increased exposure to sunlight stimulates melanin production in the skin. This leads to a darker complexion due to the pigment. You end up with a tanned, freckled and pigmented skin. The use of gold products on the skin reduces UV rays exposure which helps in reducing melanin production. To this end, the precious metal will make your skin looking fairer and more beautiful.

But not everyone agrees. Dr. Sanjeev Gulati of Fortis La Femme, a leading hospital in Delhi, India has this to say; “When gold is massaged on the face, or a face pack is applied, the face does look better by 30 per cent or so, but this is all temporary and could be due to the massage the client receives”

Such sentiments are also shared by Dr. Mohan Thomas. The senior cosmetic surgeon at Breach Candy Hospital asserts that the apparent anti-aging effect of gold treatments is as result of “a feel good factor” and only lasts for a short while. 

How Gold is Used in Cosmetics

For you to enjoy the above benefits, gold comes packaged in different forms:

Gold Leaves and Masks

Among these, the most popular is the gold leaf. This is a stretched out thin film of gold which allows the product to be used as a body mask. The metal is highly malleable and hence it can be fashioned into body-hugging sheets of 0.0001 mm thickness- so thin that they will adapt to your contours. 

These sheets are placed as a ‘second skin’ and left over a period of time. The treatment hydrates, rejuvenates and effectively plumps up the skin. 

Beautician applying gold mask on woman's skin

These masks come in 24 karat gold leaves of varying sizes. It’s common for the product to be infused with vitamins and plant extracts which helps to further hydrate, cool and regenerate the skin. The combination also helps to minimize pores, regenerate and repair cells.        

The leaves can be used as face masks to reduce fine lines and wrinkles and other signs of aging. They can also come shaped into eye masks. Such are used to remove sleeping bags and crow’s feet under the eye. Generally, using these masks will shed off some years off your skin.  

Gold Toners

These are spa treatments that use gold-infused liquids to improve the overall appearance of the skin. Typically, 24k gold is used together with plant extracts, pearl powder, vitamins and dead sea water to formulate the toner. After application, the liquid is left in place for some hours to help in reducing anti-aging symptoms, hydrate and reduce puffiness on the skin. The mixture is also effective in maintaining elasticity. 

Gold Creams

These are topical creams enriched with 24K gold that is suspended in water, also known as colloidalized gold. These products have the metal in monatomic or angstrom size, which in simple terms means super fine particles. This allows the ingredient to be easily absorbed by the body through the skin. 

The particles help in preventing proliferation of pathogens into the cells, stimulate cellular growth and ensuring lipid balance in the skin. These creams also aid in eliminating toxins from the body via the transdermal layer. 

To enrich these creams for wholesome skin care, other ingredients are combined with gold. Such include; essential oils, vitamins, bioflavonoids, and traces of other minerals. With the increase of natural skin care products, most of the additional ingredients are usually from plant extracts like pine bark and grape seeds. 

Why 24K Gold?

If you have had the pleasure of undergoing any of the above treatments or you buying the creams, you must have noticed the 24K gold is a constant ingredient. Ever wondered why not other forms of gold, like say 16K or 14K?

Some people are allergic to touching, eating or inhaling almost anything you can think of. Similarly it’s possible to be allergic to gold. This can lead to severe reactions from contact with the metal; this is where 24K gold comes in. It’s the purest form of gold and has the least probability of causing allergies.

24K, (karat or carat) gold is usually over 99% pure and is the one recommended for cosmetic use. Others such as 9K to 22K gold have other metals mixed in their formulation hence they are less impure. 

The lower the K rating the less pure and the more other minerals the item contains. The color can also tell; 24K is glittering golden while the others take different colors ranging from black, purple to green and other shades. 

With that in mind ensure that you buy gold skin products from reputable suppliers or get treatments from spas with good track records.      

What About Acupuncture and Other Invasive Procedures?

Yes your read that right; gold is also used in acupuncture. For people who are allergic to stainless steel, facialists result to using gold plated needles. These procedures are good antiaging treatments that increase collagen production and blood flow to the skin. 

That’s not all: Under local anesthesia, cosmetic surgeons are able to thread gold filaments into net-like structures under the skin surface. This provides a network of support to the overlaying dermal layers. 

Collagen and elastin production is triggered around the threads for a firmer skin. The treatment also increases blood supply to the upper skin layers and helps in reducing aging signs.  Here is the kicker; the results of this treatment can actually last up to a decade!   

Side Effects

As earlier stated allergic reactions to gold are rare, there are however instances of people experiencing some mild forms of side effects. This mostly manifest in form of contact dermatitis, which causes large burning and itchy rashes. The effects can take several days to up to several weeks to heal. As its common with other skin allergies, exposure to sun can worsen the situation.

The allergy varies in degree and the infection area depending on how susceptible a person is. Contact dermatitis has also been reported long after discontinued use especially after many years of contact. 

Use of substandard gold has been associated with skin discoloration. This is attributed to the presence of impurities such as copper. Such gold leaves or creams will lead to a green discoloration on the skin, a condition that can worsen when the treatment is done under humid conditions or in a hot room that causes you to sweat.

Although it’s unlikely that you may end up ingesting gold from the creams or leaves, it’s good to note that oral ingestion and injections can result in adverse side effects. Such treatments are used for rheumatoid arthritis where by the medication comes in form of gold salts pills. Skin rashes have been reported in such instances with the side effects clearing after medication is discontinued.  

The allergic reaction can be treated by stopping the use of product. The affected skin should be thoroughly washed with lots of water. This should remove the remaining irritants. If water does not work, then apply over-the-counter steroidal anti-inflammatory cream such as hydrocortisone.     

The Cost

As you know gold remains one of the most expensive items under the sun, and any product made from it comes at a steep price. That said, a beautiful skin doesn’t come easy either and maintaining it is worth every penny. Here are the typical costs of gold-infused skin care products:

  • Gold Leaves (face and body): Anti-wrinkle 24K gold leaves are sold in select cosmetic shops and spas. The product is also available in online stores like Ebay and Amazon. The price depends on the number of leaves in the packaging. 100 pieces of 2.5 X 2.5cm leaves goes for about $20 to $30. 
  • These thin sheets also come in form of flakes with 90grams going for about $15 to $20.
  • Gold Creams: Depending on the manufacturer and the additional ingredients in these creams, the cost can be north of $400 for a 50g bottle.   
  • Gold Eye Masks: 12 pieces of these de-puffing under eye patches goes for about $0.5 to $2 per piece. Typical package comes with 12 to 30 pairs. 

Woman with under-eye golden mask

The Bottom Line

Since its discovery by ancient societies, gold has been used to smoothen and brighten skin and also to reduce anti-aging symptoms and skin flaws. The trend continues to this day with the emergence of creams, leaves, and gold masks which are used to hydrate and keep the skin looking younger and radiant. There are is an off chance that your skin may react to these products, leading to some side effects. You might also be put off by the high cost that they come at. 

Scientific studies on the efficacy of these treatments are inconclusive, but anecdotal evidence does point towards their effectiveness.  

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