bars of gold at the end of a rainbow

Does St Patrick’s Day have you dreaming about a pot of gold? Rather than trekking around under drizzling skies looking for a rainbow, a pot of gold may be no further than your nearest cosmetic counter. Bold claims are made for gold in medicine and in beauty products. But I’ve found out that gold may actually cause wrinkles. So what’s the truth? Should gold stay in my jewelry box?

We have been led to believe that gold in medicine is a new and exciting frontier. The use of gold compounds in medicine is called chrysotherapy. Gold salts (the ionic chemical compounds of gold) are injected to reduce inflammatory conditions such as arthritis. Gold nano-bullets are being used, according to Science magazine, as a cure for cancer.

So in this context, it’s easy to believe some of claims are made for gold in skin care - gold is said to minimize collagen depletion and boost elasticity. There’s even a gold thread face lift in which a 24K gold mesh framework is inserted permanently under the surface of the skin where it is supposed to stimulate collagen production which then plumps and firms up the skin and reduces wrinkles.

Sounds as if gold should be a girl’s best friend, until you dig deeper and find a gold mine of worrying research. Using colloidal (suspended, very fine particles) gold, one researcher found that migration of the cells and the ability of the cells to contract collagen is suppressed” (source). It was also noted that size matters – the larger the nanoparticles, the more toxic gold was likely to be. When the gold particles disrupted vital cell processes, wrinkle formation increased (and even triggered the onset of diabetes).

Surprisingly there’s no gold standard of thought in medical science — no one can agree on whether gold really works, or if it does, how. Harvard Medical School thinks it’s not an anti-inflammatory and that gold works by making the proteins associated with autoimmune diseases inactive. Others claim that gold in and of itself doesn’t do anything, except help in the transportation of drugs to their sites of action, which they are rather good at (source). There is even speculation that gold can harm healthy cells as well as unhealthy ones. Whereas the opposing school of thought points to research demonstrating that it’s non-toxic.

There’s more consensus amongst dermatologists. Most experts to do not consider gold to be valuable addition to skincare and, worse, it is an irritant. In 2001, it was named “allergen of the year” by the American Contact Dermatitis Society.

For anti-aging skincare, there is very little evidence to convince me that gold serums are much more than a gimmick with a high price tag. We’ve tried a few over the years, but the Truth In Aging community never quite got gold fever. Probably a good thing.