A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon these images of the Victoria’s Secret Angels getting 24k gold sheet masks before the annual fashion show:
I had to stop and wonder though: What are they doing?
Do gold masks really work? Is this just an ad?
It was definitely an advertisement in some form; the angels had traveled to skin care guru Mimi Luzon’s spa for the gold facial treatments and each posted on Snapchat and Instagram during (read: free treatment in exchange for some social media advertisement).
But the question still lingered: Did it work?
Was 24k gold what all of us are missing in our anti-aging regimen?
Deep Dive: 24k Gold in Skincare
Gold carries special connotations of fortune and good luck in Asian cultures–and probably everywhere, to be honest. With an ingredient as expensive and connotative as gold, one has to wonder about the placebo effect.
Yes, it feels great to do expensive things for yourself and your skin, but are they really better?
Recently in China, platinum and diamond have become increasingly popular in high-end sheet masks and anti-aging serums. That doesn’t mean they are key anti-agers, though. I’ve learned over time that the Chinese are some of the most over-the-top consumers in the global market (I mean, jade woven into fabric? C’mon – this is about status not keeping cooler) and boy do they love displays of decadence. Skincare is no exception to the rule.
Actually, the US has been falling deeper into love with gold in skincare. This year I saw gold lip masks, gold sheet masks, gold face creams, gold eye masks, a brand called D24k, named after 24k gold.. gold, gold, gold everywhere!
When asked “why use 24k gold?” aestheticians–including Mimi Luzon–point to gold’s anti-inflammatory properties, ability to slow aging, and complexion brightening (source).
Dr. Robert Anolik of Dr. Brandt Dermatology Associates says, “There are not enough studies yet on the cosmetic use of gold. If there are real improvements, it is likely because of other ingredients in the product or because the material it comes in is moisturizing.” (source)
Still, gold-lovers cling to their claims: gold really works.
However, when I look to the research for gold’s efficacy.. I find … well... nothing.
Gold is one of those ingredients that — currently — is more hearsay, placebo effect and qualitative results than quantitative. There’s just not a lot of research in the skincare realm to back up its efficacy.
That doesn’t mean I’m giving up on gold in skincare.
Hold on a second. Let’s dig a little deeper.
Gold’s Future in Skincare: Where Research Meets the Rubber
Gold is currently being researched widely for its capabilities as a nanoparticle, which are created when gold is broken down into very, very tiny parts–nano means “one billionth”.
Early studies of gold nanoparticles have shown promising results as a drug carrier, (source) because of their ability to penetrate the skin physically, not chemically, and the nanoparticles can help the drugs stay in and on the skin longer, increasing the direct contact with the stratum corneum.
In other words, gold nanoparticles can be used to carry important anti-aging chemicals–like retinoids or B and C vitamins–into the skin, and help them stay there longer so that they can work harder to reverse damage to the skin.
Directly quoted from a paper by Gupta et al, 2013:
[Gold] Nanotechnology can be used to modify the drug permeation/penetration by controlling the release of active substances and increasing the period of permanence on the skin, besides ensuring a direct contact with the stratum corneum and skin appendages and protecting the drug against chemical or physical instability. Further, the delivery of therapeutic agents without the need for chemical enhancers is desirable to maintain the normal skin barrier function. Treatment with chemical enhancers, such as surfactants and organic solvents, can cause not only a reduction in the barrier function of the skin, but also irritation and damage to the skin.
Now that’s really cool.
Gold nanoparticles also travel deep into the skin, giving them the ability to target skin layers deep below the surface.
So gold by itself may or may not have anti-inflammatory or anti-aging properties, but we do know that gold nanoparticles do a fantastic job of penetrating and staying in the skin, to help the heavy-hitters do their job. So gold nanoparticles in junction with other anti-inflammatory or ant-aging ingredients could be a home run.
Now you just have to make sure that your beauty products actually contain gold nanoparticles and not just cosmetic gold flecks. Hmm..
Oh and by the way, if you’re wondering how big a gold nanoparticle is? Sizes range from 0.8 nm to 200 nm. The best naked eye can see 0.1 mm objects. That’s 100,000 nanometers, or 500x bigger than the largest gold nanoparticle.
In other words, if you can physically see gold in your product, that gold isn’t doing anything. It’s only the very small nanoparticles that carry skin-penetrating and dermal-staying powers.
As a cosmetic manufacturer, I previously tended to stay away from colloidal gold in my formulations, because of the likelihood of instability in solution. However, polymer-based nanoparticles (e.g., nanospheres and nanocapsules) are structurally stable, making them a great choice for anti-aging skincare.
Are y’all ready for some Amalie-based gold nanotechnology? Because I am.
And for some other cool takeaways? Gold nanoparticles are currently being researched to target subcutaneous tumors, carry cool kinetic powers like slow-releasing technology (which could make really cool long-lasting perfume or cosmetics!), and are already being used to treat psoriasis (source).
Introduction to 24k Gold in Skincare: Peter Thomas Roth 24K Gold Mask
Now I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t test at least ONE 24K gold product!
When I saw the Victoria’s Secret Angels wearing those gold sheets on their faces–and let’s be real here, those are literal sheets of 24k gold flake, nothing else–I knew I had to try.
Unfortunately, I’m not about to shell out what it would take to cover my entire face in 24k gold sheet–about $4,700 in materials–but a decadent 24k gold mask would do just fine.
I picked up the Peter Thomas Roth 24k Gold Mask as part of the Peter Thomas Roth Mask Vault this Christmas.
The mask is decidedly gold–swirly, glittery, bright yellow gold–with a yellow gold cap. It screams, “open me! use me!” It was, in fact, the first mask I reached for out of the 6 pack and honestly, I’m not even sure why.
The back of the jar reads:
The ultimate luxurious anti-aging treatment, infused with pure 24k gold and colloidal gold, to help lift and firm skin and impart an opulent glow. Caffeine helps tighten and firm the appearance of skin. Peridot, an exquisite gemstone rich in magnesium, re-energizes and helps reduce the aging effects of stress. Hyaluronic Acid and glycerin deliver intense hydration, plumping skin for a more lifted appearance. This lavish, pampering treatment helps to reduce the look of fine lines and wrinkles. Skin is silky smooth, firmer, radiant, revitalized and youthful looking. For all skin types.
All I can say is this:
- Colloidal gold by definition is gold nanoparticles suspended in solution. So that’s good; we have the right kind of gold (well, and the wrong kind, too).
- Hyaluronic acid is a known and effective humectant, which means it draws water to the skin and increases the water content of the epidermis (or outer most layer of the skin). So that’s also good.
- Caffeine will temporarily smooth skin via its diuretic properties. As a vasoconstrictor, it may also temporarily reduce puffiness (source).
The point of the deep dive above, however, was to show what gold could do. This is a gold mask after all. From where I’m sitting, the colloidal gold won’t provide any worthwhile benefit where it can–as a dermal penetrator–because it’s not paired with any heavy-hitting anti-agers. If the gold were paired with a retinoid, we’d have a different story on our hands.
As is, this mask should do very little in the way of long-term benefit, but hey–we’re working with a mask, after all. Masks are meant to have short term benefits, lasting a few hours to a few weeks.
So here’s what you can really expect:
- Slight brightening of complexion from the glittery-gold
- Slight smoothing of wrinkles and fine lines via caffeine and HLA (hyaluronic acid)
- Moisturized skin via HLA
I wouldn’t expect any long-term benefits or anything more than what’s listed above. It’s not a miracle mask. It’s also not a gimmick. It just is what it is. You can decide if that’s worth $80 to you.
Test of 24k Gold in Skincare: Peter Thomas Roth 24K Gold Mask
From my own personal experience… I LOVE THIS MASK.
Does it do anything? Heck, I don’t know.
I really don’t know.
I have used this mask 3 times now, and each time I feel like a goddess when I’m wearing it.
I tend to multi-mask, treating different areas at once with different masks, so I’ve done the 24k gold mask and blue marine algae mask together for anti-aging and hydration; I’ve used the 24k gold mask and bee venom together to fight my deeper wrinkles (I can’t put bee venom all over, so the 24k gold is a good gentle substitute for the rest of face, sans crows feet and forehead wrinkle areas); and once I even went with the bee venom, 24k gold and Innisfree’s Jeju volcanic mud mask, for some added sulfur on my jawline to fight cystic and hormonal acne.
Does masking take preference over my normal skincare regimen? Heck, no!
Again, does the 24k gold mask do anything? I doubt it. I don’t think it’s heavy-hitting enough to do much. Some other gold skincare products may be, but this one looks doubtful because of the lack of key anti-aging ingredients.
But, I own it. I bought it already. I feel like a million bucks when I’m wearing it. The placebo effect is real and at work!
Takeaways: 24k Gold in Anti-aging Skincare
There is merit to gold in skincare–nanoparticles of gold, that is. Look for colloidal gold, which are nanoparticles suspended in a medium (typically water). Make sure that when you purchase a gold product, there’s both colloidal gold AND key ingredients that can actually do the heavy lifting for your skin, because gold isn’t doing the heavy lifting, it’s just a drug carrier.
Keep in mind though, that gold is hella expensive.
Is it really worth the price for gold’s benefits as a penetrator when squalane can do just as good of a job as a fraction of the price?
In any case, my prediction is that we’ll see more and more gold in skincare (and medicine!); hopefully that will be followed up with some research into gold’s effectiveness in skincare. We’ll probably also see gold used kinetically in perfumes and cosmetics, to help them release slowly and last longer. The future is looking bright, ladies!
As for the Peter Thomas Roth 24k Gold Mask? Given the choice again, I’d probably pass on it.
I’ll link some of the suggested gold products below that I think are worth a shot, formulation-wise. It’s up to you to decide if the price is worth it.
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I do not know enough about what and why certain ingredients are used in beauty products but I’ve been going through and researching ingredients in my products to better understand what I am putting in and on my body. I REALLY appreciate your blog. I love that you site articles and you look objectively at a product. I also love that you explain how an ingredient works and the pros and cons of this. Thank you.
Aww thank you! That’s really great to hear. It takes a lot of work–both research and testing–so it’s awesome to know someone appreciates the time I put into it 🙂 If you want to keep seeing more, make sure to sign up for update on the upper right hand side of the page! xoxo