For almost as long as humans have been around, gold has been a symbol of wealth and power: Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, dating as far back as 2600 B.C., described gold and where to find it; it was one of the gifts of the Magi as described in the Bible; and countless kings and queens have adorned their bodies and palaces with the metal. We've also awarded our top athletes and scholars with prizes made from gold, and it is the foundation of our currency. It's no wonder, then, that gold has historically been linked with good health, as well. Throughout generations, in different cultures around the world, it was believed that something so rare and beautiful had to possess healing properties, which is why it was taken internally to treat epilepsy, depression, migraines, and many other ailments. Unfortunately, very little scientific evidence proving gold's effectiveness when used internally or externally currently exists, but that hasn't kept spas from going for the gold and attempting to capitalize on the believed benefits of the metal.
Before delving into its reputed benefits, it's important to note that gold is a common skin allergen. It is the second most common metal allergen (after nickel) and the sixth most commonly known allergen, with some people developing contact dermatitis to gold and gold jewelry. "I would advise people who have a sensitivity to gold jewelry to seek alternative treatments," says Rebecca Tung, M.D., a dermatologist at the Cleveland Clinic (OH). That said, the metal is also well known for its inflammation-reducing powers. "Gold has been used for years to treat arthritis because of its powerful anti-inflammatory properties," says Tung. Facials aimed at calming complexions and toning down redness could benefit from a dose of gold. At The Spa at CopperWynd Resort (Scottsdale, AZ), the Cleopatra Gold Facial ($275, 75 minutes) is perfectly suited to soothing skin. The service includes a 24-karat gold application, and the gold is massaged in using frankincense and myrrh oils. "Our clientele is always looking for more organic and natural treatments," says spa director Kevin Shaffer, who adds that his staff must often inform guests about gold's healing properties, as they're usually unaware of them. Shaffer also notes that the trendiness of the treatment was enough to garner the spa local TV attention.
The UMO 24 Karat Gold Facial at Veronica Skin and Body Care Center (Malibu, CA) includes a gold foil mask.
There is also a small amount of (somewhat dated) research that shows gold might be able to stimulate collagen production. In 1968, a study reported changes in rat collagen when gold was injected below the animal's skin. Gold was found to increase the structural stability of the rat's skin collagen and give it a greater resistance to breakdown. Since then, similar results have not been found, and no known evidence exists showing the benefits of topical gold application. That said, some believe these original findings are enough to warrant its use in anti-aging treatments. The Pure Gold Radiance Facial ($286, 90 minutes) at Ra Wellness Thalasso Spa at Le Méridien Ra Beach Hotel and Spa (Catalonia, Spain) includes an application of a 24-karat gold serum. "Invisible micro-particles of the metal work on the cellular level to reduce the visible aging effects," says spa director Dra Eva Ferrer. "As the effects are at a cellular level, the results are both short and long term," says Ferrer, who also points out that guests love knowing that this treatment is both glamorous and beneficial because of the gold.
The Liquid Gold Body Wrap at Trump Spa (New York City) relies on a variety of gold-infused products from Fleur's.
At Bella Santé, the Spa at Lexington (MA), the 24K Golden Veil Facial ($155, 80 minutes) includes several gold-infused products that are used throughout the treatment to tighten and firm the skin. First, the face is massaged with a gold-laced massage balm before being cleansed, exfoliated, and treated with masks. A blend of a golden milk and gold powder are massaged in at the end, producing immediate results. Guests leave with skin that's glowing, both from the massage and the gold powder. "This is for a more mature client who is looking for facial rejuvenation," says spa director Caroline Bradford.
Veronica Barton, founder of Veronica Skin and Body Care Center (Malibu, CA), also believes gold to be the new face of anti-aging. "I don't believe in surgery and have to stay on the cutting edge of new treatments, so when I heard about this, I found it promising," says Barton of the spa's UMO 24 Karat Gold Facial ($400, 90 minutes). After a cleansing and a lymphatic drainage massage, a gold foil is applied to the client's skin and left to be absorbed in. "I also incorporate an LED light treatment at the end, which further enhances the benefits of gold," she adds. Barton says that the reasons her guests continue to return for this service is because they like the way their skin looks and feels at the end. "They look refreshed and rejuvenated, and the skin feels firm to the touch."
Worth Their Weight In Gold
Spas love to tout detoxification as a benefit of their services. Some people believe gold is yet another ingredient that has the ability to help with lymphatic drainage, making it useful in services that hope to eliminate toxins and clear away waste. The Bejeweled Body Treatment ($320, 1 hour 50 minutes) at Immerse Spa at the MGM Grand Detroit packs a three-way toxin punch by combining a Golden Body Scrub, a Golden Mineral Bath, and a Golden Body Wrap into one service. First, flecks of gold exfoliate the skin. Then, a gold-infused bath is drawn. And finally, the skin is coated in a gold oil before the guest is wrapped. The warming qualities of each service boosts the overall detoxification of the treatment. "This was our featured service for November and December, and I think it is perfect for the holidays," says spa director Claire Kona, pointing out that detoxification is on a lot of spa-goers minds during the overindulgent days of the holiday season.
Gold also goes well with the festive spirit and special occasions of the New Year. With gold's long-standing association with wealth and luxury, any spa guest who wants a service that's distinct and exclusive will likely gravitate to services inspired by it. "You can't help but feel luxurious and decadent with gold," says spa director Joelle Letta at Trump International Hotel & Tower (New York City). Trump Spa offers the Liquid Gold Body Wrap ($170, 55 minutes), a signature service that includes a gold exfoliation that nourishes skin with trace elements and gold particles, a body wrap, and a massage with gold oil. The final touch is a dusting of gold powder that leaves skin shimmery and radiant. "Our clients are coming in for the look and the glow they get from the treatment," says Letta. "This is not a treatment you'd get if you were planning on going home and relaxing with a book. You get this when you want to go out, show off, and make a statement." The wow factor of the dusting also works well in spa treatments and packages aimed at brides who are looking for a little extra glow on their big day. Because no matter what gold can or can't do for the skin on a deeper level, there's no doubt that it looks fabulous on the surface.