A trend rarely stands the test of time across the fashion and beauty world for centuries—yet gold has done exactly that. More than just a timeless metal, gold has influential roots in royalty, politics, and ancient cultures across the globe. Today, gold has exploded onto the skincare scene in the form of serums, oils, eye masks, and more. And while gold metal is perfectly safe to wear for most, is gold safe or effective in skincare? We turned to Ife J. Rodney, MD, Loretta Ciraldo, MD, and Debra Jaliman, MD, to unpack this question.
Turns out, gold can be an effective ingredient that’s safe and non-irritating for most. “Gold has been used as an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-aging ingredient for decades,” says Rodney. Read to see how gold in skincare is a beneficial ingredient that makes your face look as radiant as your in-process selfies.
Gold for Skin
Type of ingredient: Metal
Main benefits: Reduces inflammation, minimizes the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and protects skin from free radical damage
Who should use it: Rodney says that gold in skincare is generally safe, but those with sensitive skin or allergies to metals like gold may need to proceed with caution. “They can experience rashes, inflammation, and itchy skin,” says Rodney. It is advised to patch-test gold products to see if your skin can tolerate it or not.
How often can you use it: Gold can be found in a variety of skincare products that each call for a different set of instructions. Because of this, you should follow the brand’s directions as best practice. While the product is an antioxidant that is meant to soothe irritated skin, too much of a good thing can have some less-than-desired effects. “Using too much can cause other problems like a product overload, where the product is sitting on the surface of your skin, making no impact and even clogging your pores,” says Rodney. If you’re still unsure, Rodney says to use two to three times a week.
Works well with: Gold nanoparticles are thought to potentially help other ingredients penetrate deeper into the skin, potentially enhancing the product. Ciraldo tells us that antioxidants and peptides should be very safe (and even beneficial) to use in conjunction with gold considering they are great ingredients to begin with. “Antioxidants are so important—that is the main way to address, prevent, and even sometimes correct free radical damage,” says Ciraldo. As for peptides, Ciraldo says, “[Peptides] are an amazing family of ingredients that have so much diversity to them.”
Don’t use with: Across the board, dermatologists recommend skipping gold if you’re using retinol in the same routine. Rodney suggests alternating your retinol and gold usage at night to avoid potential irritation. Since AHAs have an exfoliative effect, you may not want to combine an AHA product in the same routine as your gold product. “AHAs and retinol are in and of itself potentially irritating,” says Ciraldo. “I would not want to put gold into my skin with something we know [AHAs and retinol] is irritating.”
What Is Gold?
Gold is a chemical element and precious metal that can come in two main mediums in skincare products: colloidal gold and pure 24-karat gold powder.
Colloidal gold, also known as “nanogold” or “gold nanoparticles,” is considered “highly stable” and “can easily travel into the target cell due to their small size and large surface area, shape, and crystallinity,” according to a 2018 study from the Journal of Pharmaceutics. Essentially, gold nanoparticles could increase the effectiveness of gold’s benefits, since they can penetrate deeper into the skin. It’s important to note that there's still not enough data to know for sure if gold nanoparticles are entirely effective, but some dermatologists remain optimistic about their potential benefits.
Benefits of Gold for Skin
While clinical studies on gold in skincare are fairly limited, there are still some promising data about the benefits of gold for the skin. Here’s how gold can boost your skincare routine.
Enhancing other skincare ingredients: Ciraldo notes a potential benefit of gold is that it could actually help other skincare ingredients pack a bigger punch when it comes to effectiveness. “It definitely seems that gold can act as a carrier to help penetration. It could very well be that the gold is helping the penetration of other actives [in the product],” says Ciraldo.
Anti-aging effects and aging protection: According to the same Journal of Pharmaceutics study, beauty care that uses nanogold can promote “firmness and elasticity of skin” and can help to delay the “aging process” of the skin. Additionally, Rodney says that gold’s properties “can help to protect your skin from environmental pollutants and chronic sun damage,” both of which can wreak havoc on the skin and accelerate the appearance of aging.
Healing properties: According to a 2021 study by Molecules, a peer-reviewed journal of chemistry, gold nanoparticles may “accelerate wound healing mechanisms” through several mechanisms, such as antioxidant activity. Another study cites gold nanoparticles to increase blood circulation and provide antiseptic properties.
Side Effects of Gold
While gold is a promising ingredient to some dermatologists, others are hesitant to claim it is a hero ingredient due to limited data and studies about the metal being used in skincare. “There are no FDA guidelines related to gold in skincare and no FDA-approved indications for gold in dermatology,” says Jaliman. “My impression is that it’s a bit of hype.”
Like many other skincare ingredients, gold has the potential to be irritating for some. If you have a known allergy to gold or suspect you do—i.e., you experience rashes on your skin whenever you wear your favorite gold pieces—you might want to skip this trend. Be sure to patch-test any new product on a small area of the skin and monitor it for a couple of days, observing the skin for any signs of irritation. Ciraldo notes that it’s key to be patient after a patch test because irritation like contact dermatitis can take up to 72 hours to appear.
How to Use It
As gold continues to take over the beauty world, you can currently find gold in face masks, eye masks, serums, oils, and several other forms of skincare. Because of this, the frequency and time of day you use gold will differ from product to product.
“It depends on the gold-infused product,” says Rodney. A serum, for example, may be used daily if the brand recommends it. If you’re looking for a general rule of thumb, Rodney says two to three days a week is a frequency to shoot for.
The Best Skincare Products with Gold
For a luxurious night in, this gold face mask helps to fight signs of aging and uses hyaluronic acid for hydrated, plump skin. Rodney recommends this mask since it doubles down on gold power, featuring both 24K and colloidal gold, which Rodney says will “help heal and refresh your skin.”
Get glowing with this 24-karat gold serum featuring collagen and vitamin B3 to provide firm, plump, and youthful-looking skin. Jaliman explains that niacinamide is a type of vitamin B3, which she says is a good combination with the gold ingredient.
This luxurious, easy-to-layer gold recovery mask is one Ciraldo recommends. “This is loaded with proven peptides and botanicals,” says Ciraldo. The 24K gold and silk extracts provide extra antioxidant power, along with a combination of peptides, to achieve firm and glowing skin.
Aside from looking gorgeous in your medicine cabinet, this gold foil serum moisturizes and reduces signs of aging. Rodney recommends this particular serum for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant ingredients like 24K gold, vitamin C, and hyaluronic acid.
Ciraldo also recommends this vegan mask with 24K gold and mud from the Dead Sea. “Here, gold is added both for its own benefits, and possibly to help the penetration and activation of the minerals as well,” says Ciraldo. This 10-minute mask treatment will also hydrate and smooth the skin.
Kaul S, Gulati N, Verma D, Mukherjee S, Nagaich U. Role of nanotechnology in cosmeceuticals: a review of recent advances. J Pharm (Cairo). 2018;2018:3420204.
Mârza SM, Magyari K, Bogdan S, et al. The impact of composites with silicate-based glasses and gold nanoparticles on skin wound regeneration. Molecules. 2021;26(3):620.