There is a trend in some of the higher end salons in the U.S. and among celebrities called a gold facial. A 24 carat gold facial is a type of spa treatment that includes the application of a facial mask made with 24 carat gold foil.
These facials are marketed to have benefits for its improvement in skin texture, tone, appearance, redness, elasticity, wrinkles, dark spots, and hydration as this softer precious metal’s composition is said to allow the skin to more readily absorb it.
In researching this facial, I found that it has been around for many years. Some sources even report that it is been around since the days of Cleopatra, and that she is rumored it to have done it every night to maintain her beauty.
Most of the facials I researched that used 24 carat gold, also used hyaluronic acid, bee venom, collagen, massage or antioxidants incorporated with the gold facial or mask. Most received good reviews from patients but, as these facials can cost between $380 and $1200, this price begs the question as to whether or not there is any science behind the claims in the advertisements? In other words is it really worth that much money?
Most dermatologists would agree that the hyaluronic acid, collagen or massage you received with the gold at your facial had just as much benefit (if not more) than the actual gold did. And, most experts agree that the science behind gold as a collagen builder or antioxidant is lacking.
That being said, some of the companies that make these creams and facials report that they have unpublished research showing the benefits of gold. Most board certified dermatologists or plastic surgeons would agree that the data should be published and have a chance to be reviewed by experts before claims are made about efficacy of gold.
In order for gold to penetrate into the skin it would have to be in a small enough size to pass, this is called a nanoparticle. Most of the gold preparations are not nanoparticles and remain on the surface of the skin only so only benefits obtained from surface application would be gained from most creams or facials.
A few things we are sure of with gold: it was named the contact allergen of the year in 2001 by the American Contact Dermatitis Society and there are a percentage of patients that will develop an allergy to gold when applied to the skin.
A researcher at the Mayo clinic has said that gold in nanoparticles can be absorbed into the skin, but are “highly toxic in high concentrations in mice”.
So the way I see it, at best the gold lays on the surface of the skin and may have slight benefits superficially if you are not allergic to it and if it does penetrate into the skin as a nanoparticle it is potentially toxic.
In my professional opinion, I do not see the benefit of a 24 carat gold facial. If nothing else, the gold facial can be considered a decadent indication of how much money we are willing to spend on anti-aging products. I do think your money could be better spent on some tried and true ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, antioxidants, retinoids and growth factors.