Semiprecious stones on your skin?  That's what a slew of cosmetics companies are claiming will change the appearance of your complexion and conceal signs of aging.  Ancient Egyptians concocted a green paint mixture from malachite and applied it as a sort of rudimentary eyeliner.  For modern cosmetics, powdered pearl is a popular ingredient in Asian countries, and amber elixir is a common additive in the Baltic region.  Scientists in Korea have recently found jade and tourmaline to show promising results when used as raw materials in skincare products.

Amber and jade probably sound familiar, but what do you know about tourmaline?  For one, it boasts the largest color spectrum of all the gemstones.  A crystal silicate mineral, tourmaline occurs in a variety of colors, from black to violet to green, and is mined mostly in Brazil and African nations. In the realm of holistic healing, tourmaline is believed to strengthen the body and spirit.  The pyroelectric properties of tourmaline, which cause it to generate an electrical charge during a temperature change, make it very useful in thermometers.  Now, you might be wondering how your skin factors into this picture.

As an energizing stone, tourmaline is believed to vitalize the skin, making it appear more radiant and youthful.  When tourmaline crystals warm as they are rubbed onto skin, they become positively charged on one end and negatively charged on the other.  Because of this unique feature, tourmaline has been incorporated into moisturizers, exfoliants, and anti-agers to increase the absorption of nutrients into the skin.  According to one anti-aging product, tourmaline extract triggers a warming effect to increase the production of new collagen and the contraction of fibers, thus restoring the springiness of skin.

There's also some research published in The Journal of Cosmetic Science that claims that tourmaline radiates infra-red rays and this heats the skin (the theory is a bit like crystal or wave therapy) and therefore stimulates the circulation. The researchers mentioned (which undermined the credibility of the study a little) that some of the participants in the study were more sensitive to these infra-red rays than others.

Though these alleged attributes have yet to be backed by hard science, tourmaline might be useful in another skin-related area. Tourmaline powder has been proposed as a natural substitute for harsh detergents in hair and skin cleansing products.  You can read about the US patent for the invention of adding tourmaline to cleansing compositions here.  Aside from its potential as a surfactant, substantial evidence of tourmaline's phenomenol powers on skin appearance is scarce.

So essentially, some marketing gurus seized upon tourmaline as the next wonder ingredient and disseminated its virtues all across the beauty industry.  I have a feeling these gurus might be tied to Estee Lauder since a host of its Aveda and La Mer products tout tourmaline.  Even spas are getting in on the hyped up action, adding tourmaline facials to their list of services. Tourmaline is also a prominent ingredient in Orlane's brand-new Thermo-Active Firming Serum, which I am taking for a test drive.  More to come on that another time, but for now, I'm taking its tourmaline claims with a grain of salt.