The gold standard
The truth about gold in skincare
Lately, you probably have seen more and more skincare and cosmetic products pop up with real gold in it. Whether its 24k, 16k, whatever….it looks sparkly and fun and has amazing claims of boosting collagen and reducing inflammation. So whats the real story?
Well, in reality, there has been NO conclusive evidence that gold helps skin in any way. At least not in the form they are selling it. As a topical ingredient, gold, at best, can be attributed as a antioxidant. But we all know there are many other, much more affordable and more effective, antioxidants out there. Also, most gold skincare products are pricy….some up to $700+! And I can promise you, none are worth that price tag.
So lets break down the science behind this fad.
The products, such as popular primer Rose Gold Elixir drops ($54 for 1 oz) claim “Gold slows collagen depletion and the breakdown of elastin to prevent sagging skin. It also stimulates cellular growth to regenerate healthy, firm skin cells and provide a visible tightening effect.” or the high end moisturizer La Prairie Cellular Radiance Concentrate Pure Gold ($660 for 1 oz!!) that claims “Cellular Radiance Concentrate Pure Gold, advanced peptides and a gold infusion improve elasticity. Lines and wrinkles fade away. Skin tone becomes even.”
These products claim similar benefits, but what do the studies say? Well….actually not much.
Studies on the anti inflammatory effects of gold were at first promising when done on marine cells, but when they tried to replicate those results in rats, there was next to no benefits observed and was deemed highly toxic.
Also, all gold is not the same. There is the visible flaked gold, often seen in the glamorous, sparkly products, which ONLY have reflective, cosmetic benefits due to the flakes being clearly too large to sink into your skin and affect cells at a molecular level. Think of it more as a brightening light reflector/illuminator product.
Then there is nano gold, aka colloidal gold, which isn’t visible and can sink into skin. But then we go into a whole other issue….toxicity. As a general rule, we should not be putting metals into our body. In fact when studies have been done on colloidal metals, including gold, in the system, more negatives than positives have been observed.
Right now, colloidal metals are having a moment in the woo-medicine world (aka alternative medicine that has no scientific basis) with wild claims which have zero reputable studies to back up, and plenty of negative potential side effects. The most common one for gold being allergies/dermatitis of the skin. In fact, in 2001 gold was named the #1 allergen of the year by the American Contact Dermatitis Society. The second important thing to know, is when claims such as anti inflammatory and collagen boosting is mentioned, they are referring to studies done on Gold salts, aka Sodium aurothiomalate. Which is neither colloidal gold or the gold flakes you see. These types of studies were done on treatments with gold salt injections done on rheumatoid arthritis patients, which experienced an amount of reduction in inflammation and healing. However, the side effects include pigmentation of the skin, kidney damage, itching rash, and ulcerations of the mouth, tongue and pharynx.
Gold salt therapy for inflammation has all but been abandoned for this exact reason, since many much better remedies now exist.
Also, important to know….while the FDA is hardly a be-all for reliable and updated information, The Food and Drug Administration does not recognize gold as an active ingredient, though it is recognized as a colorant by the Personal Care Products Council, a trade association.
Overall, you’re probably safe from gold toxic poison since i doubt any of you will start injecting it, but the topical use of gold is all hype, no real results. But if you enjoy gold products, don’t be scared. The light-reflecting properties still stand, and the gold is harmless in topical use. Every single gold product I researched in this study has great ingredients in them that are doing the real work….but gold isn’t one of them.
So what about all the people who swear by these products? Well, we as humans like sparkly things just as much as our Magpie feathered friends. Plus, as consumers, we assume the information given to us by ‘trusted’ retailers is accurate, even though it often isn’t. And once we buy our $200 gold face cream, we then are victim to the Sunk Cost Fallacy, and don’t want to admit we were deceived. Not to mention, as I already said…many of these products have many great other ingredients that you’re actually benefitting from. So all of that leads to the false assumption that gold = great skin care.
Bottom line: Its fun and safe….but not worth $800 an ounce. AKA…use at your own discretion, but don’t blow your paycheck on it!
~Lindze Merritt, L.M.E.
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