The holidays are the season of sparkle. And that goes for beauty treatments as well as for Christmas trees. Spas and beauty companies are capitalizing on the allure of jewels and precious metals, hoping to harness radiance and a feeling of indulgence by adding gold, gemstones or diamonds to their products.
"The purpose of diamonds in skin care is primarily for anti-aging. White diamond powder has very little therapeutic value," says dermatological chemist Ben Kaminsky, founder and chief executive of B. Kamins skin care. "But it does have a physical value applied on skin that's been damaged by sun or other lifestyle elements, in that it refracts and reflects light, making skin look younger, more glowing and radiant."
Some other experts agree that diamonds may have light reflective properties that can make skin look younger and say that diamond-infused products might also work as exfoliants. But they are unlikely to have corrective properties unless teamed with proven anti-aging ingredients.
Cosmetic chemist Jim Hammer says it's unclear what the absorption of diamond (carbon) nanoparticles would do for the skin. But he added that small particles will behave similarly to boron nitride, a commonly used lubricant/pigment ingredient in foundations, eye shadows and other cosmetics. "Particles which are larger than these would start to feel very hard and gritty, and could potentially have exfoliating benefits," he says.
Cosmetic chemist Ron Robinson, founder of BeautyStat.com, says sapphires, rubies and crystals can also function as exfoliants and optically brighten the skin.
Many proponents of gemstone treatments tout them as being useful as part of a holistic experience.
Själ Skincare cofounder Kristin Petrovich says her company's products, many infused with sapphires, merge Eastern and Western medicine. "Some stones have energies and frequencies that can actually help rebalance people," Petro claims, adding that Själ incorporates gemstones in different ways, such as in powder form or by infusing oil by submerging gemstones in it for at least three months.
The Peninsula Beverly Hills offers signature spa treatments that are explained on its website as a "healing journey" using gemstone-based Shiffa Dubai Skin Care. There's the Precious Ruby Massage for vitality ("used to bring happiness and clear negativity"), the Precious Emerald Massage for strength and the Precious Sapphire Massage for tranquillity.
"Just as many holistic healers use crystals in their healing and body work, Shiffa is also based on healing gemstone properties," says the hotel's spa director, Helen Storer, who adds that the California market is more open than others to what some may call the mystical aspects of gems.
The seasoned spa aficionado/world traveler who frequents the Peninsula is looking for results-driven, unique treatments but "is also interested in the green organic lifestyle, holistic mind/body connection," Storer says. "Our customers are very educated on parabens, sulfates and carcinogens. They definitely have an eye for luxury but also don't want to be treated with anything toxic."
The Four Seasons Beverly Wilshire, singled-out for its extravagant luxury in movies such as "Pretty Woman," offers the Natura Bisse Diamond Collection range of body treatments, massages and facials with names such as "10 Carat" and "Flawless" that cost as much as $800.
Melissa Vitalis, the Beverly Wilshire's spa director, says there are two types of people who book the diamond dust-infused facial, which includes a glycolic acid exfoliation, oxygen treatment and cranial massage. "One wants to splurge," she says. "They've had a busy year and want a little well-deserved pampering and so book the best facial that we have on our menu. The second person is someone who wants a treatment that's very anti-aging."
Laura LaRocca, DuWop Cosmetics cofounder, recently launched the LaRocca Skincare Collection featuring the company's Cellular Gold Complex formulated with 24-karat colloidal gold. She believes in gold's anti-aging powers too. "It promotes electron transfer within the skin's natural metal ions, stimulating anti-aging cell turnover," she contends.
But not everyone is sold on the idea.
"I am unaware of any proven benefit to having diamonds, gemstones and gold in skin care products," says Dr. Lorraine C. Young, clinical professor of medicine and co-chief of dermatology clinical services at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine. "Some people can be allergic to
gold and get a rash called a contact dermatitis."
Harvard-trained dermatologist Dr. Ava Shamban, author of "Heal Your Skin," says there is no evidence to suggest that precious metals are beneficial to skin health. "In fact, when applied as nanoparticles, they may penetrate to the cell nucleus, where they may adversely affect cell function," she says.
And cosmetics expert and consumer advocate Paula Begoun bluntly calls the use of gems and precious metals in skin care products "a scam."
"I've been doing this for 30 years and I've seen no research showing that any kind of gemstones or precious metals have any skin care value," she says. "It sounds good because it sounds expensive — but it's just stupid."
So should you succumb to brilliant baubles in your beauty routine? It depends.
"Most of the cosmetic benefits of products that contain precious materials are contributed by the other ingredients, not by the gems," Hammer says. "My take on it, unless you've got cash to burn, spend the money on diamond earrings instead."
Here are some treatments and products that are available.
Diamond treatments and products
Natura Bisse Diamond Life Infusion Facial, (fourseasons.com/beverlywilshire, $295), American Beauty Ultimate Diamond Restorative Anti-Aging Cream ($49.50 americanbeautycosmetics.com), La Mer The Refining Facial ($75, cremedelamer.com), B. Kamins Diamond Radiance Illuminating Eye Cream ($185, bkamins.com), Natura Bissé Diamond Extreme Anti-Aging Bio-Regenerative Extreme Cream ($335, naturabisse.com), La Prairie Skin Caviar Crystalline Concentre with diamonds ($410, shoplaprairie.com).
Gemstone treatments and products
Shiffa precious gem treatments (sapphire, emerald or ruby) at the Peninsula Beverly Hills ($275-$385, peninsula.com), Själ Saphir Concentrate Anti-Aging Face Oil ($175, shop.sjalskincare.com), Lancôme Ageless Minérale With White Sapphire Complex ($42, lancome-usa.com), Aveda Tourmaline Charged Starter Set ($45, Aveda.com), Glow by Dr. Brandt ruby crystal retinol hydracrème ($65, sephora.com).
Gold treatments and products
UMO 24 Karat Gold Facial ($300, veronicaskincare.com), La Rocca Champagne and Shimmer Supreme Creme and Cellular Gold Hydrating Body Balm (each $35, laroccaskincare.com), Guerlain 'L'Or' Radiance Concentrate ($71, shopnordstrom.com), Carita Perfect Gold Serum ($346, dermstore.com ), Chantecaille Nano Gold Energizing Cream ($420, chantecaille.com ), Orlane Crème Royal Anti-Aging Crème ($650, neimanmarcus.com), 24K CryogeniC Restoration Cream (orogoldcosmetics.com,$800).