Media formats available:

The use of gold in skincare and beauty routines dates back to the days of Cleopatra in ancient Egypt. The Egyptian Queen reportedly slept in a gold face mask every night to maintain her youthful glow, and now thousands of years later, gold is cropping up in a whole new slew of skincare and beauty products from masks and creams to oils and serums.

New York City dermatologist Hadley King, MD, a clinical instructor of dermatology at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University, talked to Practical Dermatology® magazine about the gold rush in skincare and whether it’s worth the hype.

What does gold bring to the table as far as skin benefits go?

Hadley King, MD: The most straightforward and least debatable benefit is that gold particles can reflect light and make the skin look more luminous. This is a cosmetic benefit, not proof of a deeper effect. Gold particles have also been shown to have antioxidant properties, and therefore could help protect the skin from damage from free radicals. One study of the effects of gold nanoparticles on oxidative stress markers in mice, however, did not support this concept. The gold nanoparticles decreased antioxidant activity, whereas silver nanoparticles increased antioxidant activity.1

That said, another study that examined the role of gold particles in addition to other antioxidants in wound healing in mice did find that gold particles combined with other antioxidants, accelerated mouse cutaneous wound healing through anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.2

Gold does have anti-inflammatory properties. Colloidal gold is sometimes injected by doctors to treat rheumatoid arthritis. The thinking is that the same anti-inflammatory properties could also help prevent the breakdown of collagen and elastin, which causes wrinkles and loss of firmness. The bottom line is that there are not enough studies yet on the dermatologic use of gold to know its effect.

What are the different types of gold used in skincare?

Dr. King: Colloidal gold is essentially minute particles of gold suspended in a liquid formula. Nanotechnology has enabled gold to be broken down into even smaller “nano gold,” a type of colloidal gold with smaller particles.

It’s worth pointing out that some studies have suggested that gold nanoparticles may accelerate the aging process and cause wrinkles to appear.3 I would recommend avoiding gold nanoparticles. Notably, 24K gold is the purest type of gold available. Unlike 10K, 14K and, 18K gold, which are all made from an alloy of gold and other metals, 24K gold is made of more than 99 percent pure gold.

Are there any contraindications to using gold-infused skincare?

Dr. King: Allergic reactions to gold are possible. If a patient has a history of gold allergies, then these ingredients should be avoided. Other metals mixed with gold have a higher risk of causing allergies, and therefore 24K gold is less likely to cause allergic reactions.

What type of benefits can patients expect from gold-infused skincare products?

Dr. King: As some of the benefits come from the reflective properties of gold, and because any antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties are likely to have more of a chance to work if on the skin for a longer period of time, I would recommend a leave-on product such as a serum or moisturizer. There is also some evidence that gold can help other ingredients absorb better, so then it’s reasonable to look for gold combined with other beneficial active ingredients.

1. Negahdary M, Chelongar R, Zadeh SK, Ajdary M. The antioxidant effects of silver, gold, and zinc oxide nanoparticles on male mice in in vivo condition. Adv Biomed Res. 2015;4:69. Published 2015 Mar 25. doi:10.4103/2277-9175.153893

2. Leu JG, Chen SA, Chen HM, Wu WM, Hung CF, Yao YD, Tu CS, Liang YJ. The effects of gold nanoparticles in wound healing with antioxidant epigallocatechin gallate and α-lipoic acid. Nanomedicine. 2012 Jul;8(5):767-75. doi: 10.1016/j.nano.2011.08.013. Epub 2011 Sep 9. PMID: 21906577.

3. Tatsiana Mironava, Michael Hadjiargyrou, Marcia Simon & Miriam H. Rafailovich (2014) Gold nanoparticles cellular toxicity and recovery: Adipose Derived Stromal cells, Nanotoxicology, 8:2, 189-201, DOI: 10.3109/17435390.2013.769128

Completing the pre-test is required to access this content.
Completing the pre-survey is required to view this content.

We’re glad to see you’re enjoying PracticalDermatology…
but how about a more personalized experience?

Register for free