The Science behind the Trend: Why 24K Gold Foil Masks Lead the Pack in Safety


24k gold is a hella trendy product right now. From miniscule gold flakes in makeup and lotions, to entire gold foil mask treatments–like this one–gold is ALL over the place. But what does it actually DO? Is it worth buying? And most importantly, is it helping or harming your skin? Read on for some answers, and bonus reviews of three gold foil CLIV masks!

At the very least, don’t put rocks on your face. Just trust me.

Gold is everywhere right now, and it’s a very, very contested subject. At one end are the makers of pricey proprietary blends; representatives from these companies tout anti-aging benefits, hypoallergenic blends, golden glows, and even elasticity and firmness. On the other end are the dermatologists; Dr. Jeannene Graf (to cite just one example) has gone on record to say that “there are absolutely no scientific studies that show that gold has any effect in firming or revitalizing the skin, nor that it reduces wrinkles or gives skin a plumped, golden glow.” Gold was even named “Allergen of the Year” in 2001 by the American Contact Dermatitis Society. But some dermatologists buck the trend; Dr. Paul Jarrod Frank has publicly stated that gold “is used as an anti-aging ingredient, as it can help reduce inflammation, which is a cause of acne and hyper pigmentation.”

One of the main points of contention is what form the gold comes in. Gold can be present in sizes ranging from visible gold flakes to microscopic particles, suspended in a liquid composite known as a colloid. Both have some pretty wild claims; some companies have claimed that the gold flecks in their products are conducive to other metals in skin, while makers of colloidal gold products often emphasize more long-term solutions, such as tightening, firming, and anti-aging.


This is totally a picture of nano particles. Really. (Oh my god no it isn’t)

Now, I have to come clean; I’m standing with the skeptics that believe that other ingredients in these products are responsible for their benefits, not the gold. Two studies published in Nanotoxicology by Dr. Tatsiana Mironova have gone into detail in describing the harm that gold nanoparticles can do in the body. Her research has shown that gold has a detrimental affect on human adipose-derived stromal cells–cells often vital to tissue regeneration. Adding gold nanoparticles to these cells resulted in “increased population doubling times, decreased cell motility and cell-mediated collagen contraction.” 

In plain English, the gold nanoparticles slowed down cell regeneration, decreased the ability of cells to move around to where they needed to be, and inhibited their collagen contraction, which is a vital part of the healing process. Gold was basically a Big Problem–but those problems were eliminated when the nanoparticles were removed from the cells. Crazy stuff! And pretty damning to the makers of products with colloidal gold in them.

This is not colloidal gold either. But it’s kind of small. That counts, right?

Now, I’m not going to go through every  study done on the toxicity of gold. I think you’ve gotten the point. So why am I recommending Gold Foil Masks? It’s simple–the gold is on the outside.

Like this! Finally a useful photo.

If you have any experience with sheet masks this will seem obvious to you, but the science behind sitting around with a sheet of essence on your face is that the sheet prevents evaporation and also helps your skin absorb the essence much more deeply. Our skin is a protective barrier, and a great one at that; it’s tough to get it to absorb anything, as it’s made to keep things out. This is where sheet masks step in, and help our skin absorb all the lovely things we’ve bought to put on our faces. Adding a foil to the outside of the mask simply intensifies the process, making sure absolutely none of the essence evaporates and that all of it is absorbed by the skin.


I’m not endorsing FutureDerm in any way, but their blog post about skin absorption is really helpful if you want a more technical explanation.

For this review, I used the CLIV (pronounced CL-4) 2-step Supreme Gold Foil Masks, in Max Hyaluronic, Corrector C, and Collagen Resurgence. These masks were kindly provided by Cupidrop.com, for free, in exchange for my honest review. And I have to say – out of all the gold foil masks I’ve tried, I really do like these. I think you’ll see why below. But most importantly–they use gold in the right way, in the healthy way for your skin. These masks do contain 1 ppm of Gold in both the ampoule and the mask essence, but that’s an amount I’m comfortable with. For a special occasion mask, I can handle one particle of gold in my skin.

On to the masks!


Name: Revitalizing C Corrector Ampoule Supreme Gold Foil Mask
Brand: CLIV
Price: $10.00
Mask Type: 2-piece gold foil mask
Claims: Intensive brightening and evening out of overall skin tone.
Ampoule Star Ingredients: Lemon, Tomato, Grapefruit, Niacinamide, Aloe, Peppermint, Black Tea, Licorice, Chamomile – there’s just a ton of stuff in these. Full ingredients are here.
Mask Star Ingredients: Sodium Hyaluronate (Hyaluronic Acid) 100 ppm, Ginseng, Portulaca, Grapefruit, Chamomile, and Myrothamnus flabellifolius, also known as the Resurrection Plant.

Experience: Okay, so this was my first experience with this mask, and I need to say this–these ampoules are HUGE. They are enough for at least two applications. I applied a “normal” amount on my face, because I wanted to make sure I wouldn’t break out in a horrendous rash. The ampoule consists of a thick, clear gel/jelly, which smells very lightly floral. No strong scents, which was nice.

The mask itself, like it says, is a 2-piece mask. The crazy thing is that I was expecting, I don’t know–crunchy foil? Something a bit like aluminum paper, but applied to my face? But this really is a SOFT cloth mask with a foil layer on the outside. It applies easily, and the fit was very good. Lots of vents to make sure it fits everyone. I kept it on for 20-30 minutes, then removed it. (The package says 10-15 minutes, so use it longer at your own risk).


You know you’ve been waiting for the selfie. I’m sorry it’s so small.

Results: I had a small breakout area on my cheek that day, and after using the mask my skin was definitely calmer and looked much less red than before. This mask leaves a semi-matte finish and definitely leaves your skin nice and plump. I woke up the next day and the results were still there, so that’s a 9 out of 10 from me on this one.

Grade: 9/10


Name: Max Hyaluronic Formula Ampoule Supreme Gold Foil Mask
Brand: CLIV
Price: $10.00
Mask Type: 2-piece gold foil mask
Claims: Intensive Moisturizing.
Ampoule Star Ingredients: Niacinamide, Aloe, Peppermint, Green Tea, Licorice, Chamomile, Fermented Rice, Squalene, Hyaluronic Acid (80 ppm) – there’s just a ton of stuff in these. Full ingredients are here.
Mask Star Ingredients: Sodium Hyaluronate (Hyaluronic Acid) 100 ppm, Ginseng, Portulaca, Grapefruit, Chamomile.

Experience: This mask was the second one I tried, and it was…okay? It didn’t wow me like the Corrector C had, probably because the skintertainment factor was removed. But then, I don’t have dry skin, and moisture masks don’t tend to wow me in general. My experience was the same as the Corrector C, except this time I left it on for ~45 minutes.

Results: Again – plumped, semi-matte skin. Not much else to report. Still a good mask, but I wouldn’t personally repurchase this one.

Grade: 7/10


Name: Collagen Resurgence Ampoule Supreme Gold Foil Mask
Brand: CLIV
Price: $10.00
Mask Type: 2-piece gold foil mask
Claims: Contains stem cells to revitalize skin.
Ampoule Star Ingredients: Hydrolyzed Collagen (80 ppm), Hyaluronic Acid, Myrothamnus flabellifolius extract (Known as the Resurrection Plant), Rice, Green Tea, Aloe, Peppermint, Eucalyptus, and Chamomile. Full Ingredients list here.
Mask Star Ingredients: Hydrolyzed Collagen (80 ppm), Hyaluronic Acid (100 ppm), Grapefruit, Ginseng, Portulaca, Chamomile.

Experience: For this mask, I really wanted to give it the best possible chance to revitalize my skin. I also have historically not really done well with collagen; my skin is on the oily side, and doesn’t really love it. So I want to prep like a boss and get my skin ready to absorb all those lovely ingredients. So I started out with a double cleanse using the Hanyul Pure Artemisia line (cleansing oil and cleansing foam), then used my Secret Key FTE. I let that sit for a while and then applied a clay mask from Innisfree, and finally I applied a neutral hydrating toner, also from Hanyul. I don’t know, I’m just into Hanyul lately. Good stuff.

These aren’t  from Cupidrop; these are all my own products, purchased with my own money.

The ampoule, like the others, was an extremely generous amount of clear, thick gel. I applied a thick layer to my face and let it sink in for about 5 minutes. Then I applied the mask, and laid down to let it work its magic. Unfortunately, there was a little too much magic and I fell asleep, leading to me accidentally leaving it on for 2 hours.

Here’s the takeaway: Don’t leave this mask on for two hours. I woke up with pink cheeks that were hot to the touch, although the rest of my skin looked great. I wasn’t too fussed, however, because I have a chronic auto-immune disease, and stuff like this is just part of my life. I put some calming Centella gel on it, and took a Benedryl. On the great list of Weird Medical Shit That Has Happened In My Life, pink cheeks are kind of low on the list. Still – don’t be me and do what I did. Whoops.

Rating: 8/10, even with the pink cheeks, because the rest of my face looked AMAZE.


My cheeks chilled out pretty quickly anyway. This is only about an hour later.

That’s pretty much it from me! Thanks so much to Cupidrop.com for providing these samples and inspiring me to dig deeper into the science behind the 24K craze. Stay healthy, stay happy, and don’t forget to nerd out over your skincare 🙂






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