Diamonds may be a girl’s best friend, but gold, silver, and other gems are her skin’s new go-to pal. Once reserved only for jewelry, precious metals and stones now appear in skin- and haircare products such as garnet exfoliants, 24-karat gold facials, and amethyst-infused scalp oils. These add a touch of luxury to your usual beauty routine and may even help delay signs
of aging. But is all this bling really worth your beauty buck?
Just because these stones glitter doesn’t necessarily mean they’re skincare gold, argue some experts. “There’s definitely a paucity of studies on these gems in skincare. Definitely not enough to justify a $2,000 ruby skin cream,” says Jeanette Graf, MD, dermatologist and advisor to “Life … supplemented,” a national consumer-wellness campaign. “But we do know the microcrystals of these precious stones can exfoliate the skin.”
Whether your product contains ruby, garnet, amethyst, or even a more common mineral like salt, the end goal remains the same: to slough off the top layer of dead skin. “If the skin isn’t naturally shedding its cells, the enzymes don’t work, and skin appears dry and dull,” explains Graf. “When you exfoliate, you’re helping along your skin’s natural process.”
While the science on how these gems affect skin is still rough, energy workers, as well as ancient practices, attest to the stones’ complexion-boosting benefits. “An old technique, known as lithotherapy, uses gemstones as part of the healing process and is still used by some holistic-medicine practitioners today,” explains cosmetic chemist Ewa Farjon. “According to this theory, stones and crystals emit different vibrations, which can have a good influence on our bodies and on our skin.”
Farjon prefers using products with precious metals that remain on the skin, so their healing properties have time to make a difference. “The best time to put any rejuvenating preparations on our skin is at night,” she says. “When we sleep, the skin easily absorbs ingredients.”
According to some dermatologists, certain metals can have an antioxidant, anti-aging effect by neutralizing free radicals, while others have anti-inflammatory and antibacterial qualities to fortify the skin’s defenses. The top performers include:
Jade and tourmaline. Korean scientists have studied the infrared radiation these two gems emit and found promising results. Infrared radiation may protect skin against ultraviolet-light–induced aging.
Copper. One of the most frequently used metals in skincare concoctions, copper supports collagen repair and evens out discoloration.
Amber. In Baltic countries, says Farjon, people use amber in cosmetics to smooth, nourish, and add elasticity to the skin, as well as protect it from the sun’s damaging rays.
Gold. A study with arthritis patients found that gold has strong anti-inflammatory properties. Whether the mineral similarly benefits skin remains to be researched, but spas such as the Stoneleigh Hotel and Spa in Dallas are already going for the gold with their treatments. Spa Director Terri Beckham uses 24-karat gold powder in the Decadent Gold Youth Treatment because of the metal’s ability to repair and revitalize skin.
Quartz. This relatively common stone works to repair broken veins and reduce stress, a common culprit behind skin conditions such as acne and eczema.
Silver. This metal speeds cell repair and also fights numerous types of bacteria, which has led some companies to use it as a preservative in cosmetics.
Whichever jewel-infused skincare product you choose, you can enjoy the little touch of luxury it provides—and rest assured you don’t need a gold necklace to enhance your neckline, just a little gold in a jar.
Dermatologist Jeanette Graf, MD, prefers one jewel to any other: mother-of-pearl. Also favored by empresses from ancient eras, mother-of-pearl (also called nacre) contains many trace minerals and amino acids. But rather than spreading it on the skin, Graf sees value in taking it internally through a supplement, as many women do in China. “Mother-of-pearl is full of calcium,” she explains. “And that calcium helps neutralize excess acidity, which can lead to inflammatory skin conditions like dryness, dullness, and lack of glow.” While you might have a hard time finding mother-of-pearl in supplement form in the US, you can reap similar benefits by taking calcium supplements made from acidic calcium citrate rather than alkaline calcium carbonate.
Your Skin’s Jewelry Box
Aromafloria Sensory Fusion
Green Tea Bamboo Crème Glow Polish
Powdered quartz and bamboo exfoliate, while green tea penetrates the skin’s deep layers to keep it looking young. ($25, 12 oz; aromafloria.com)
Dual Action Exfoliating Treatment
Reveal a new layer of skin with the exfoliating combo of fruit acids and finely crushed amethyst. ($45, 1.7 oz; sophytoorganics.com)
Bio-C 10% Formula Face Serum
This ultra-concentrated serum is packed with antioxidants and uses a copper complex to keep aging skin looking its best. ($80, 0.5 oz; sukipure.com)
Jade Gentle Cleanser
Formulated for all skin types, this dual-purpose cleanser and toner has anti-inflammatory jade and refining pearl powder. ($34.99, 4 oz; marieveronique.com)
Lustrous Intense Body Butter
A simple infusion of shea butter, pearl powder, and coconut oil works to heal and brighten the skin all over your body. ($18, 2.5 oz; aspara-aromatics.com)
Though pale orange in color, this silver-based soap fights acne and leaves skin positively glowing. ($125, 120 grams; corsilver.com)