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You probably have at least one friend on Instagram who boasts about her crystal collection and its energies and healing powers, right?
Well, now the crystal craze has gone a step further and found its place in our skincare routines. Metals, gemstones, and crystals are popping up in serums, creams, and more, all supposedly to give us clearer, brighter skin. One of the trend’s pioneers is Själ Skincare, which has been infusing its products with amethysts, sapphires, quartz, and more for years, through methods including elixirs and crushed gemstone powders.
“In the beginning, we didn’t overly highlight that we were doing this,” Kristin Petrovich, who co-founded the brand in 2001 with her mother, tells Racked. “I thought it made us sound like we were crazy.”
They started with precious metals like silver and gold, which are known to have antibiotic and anti-inflammatory properties, respectively.
“That, scientifically, made sense to me,” Petrovich says. “But then when the gemstones were introduced, I thought it was pretty nutty to put them in the product.”
Her own experience with crystals — more on that later — is what changed her mind. Years later, it appears Själ was at the forefront of a burgeoning trend. Now, many beauty brands are using crystals and gemstones in their products, and we’re not talking about the DIY creams you might buy at a New Age festival. Major beauty brands are on board, too. Take Sephora’s Pearl Mask, Elemis’s Pro-Collagen Quartz Lift Serum, or Aveda’s Tourmaline Charged Hydrating Creme, for example.
Dr. Brandt is another one: The brand’s Ruby Crystal Retinol Hydracrème contains tiny ruby crystals that exfoliate, and its Magnetight Age-Defier mask includes iron powder and black tourmaline to make the skin look younger and more vibrant.
“They’ve used these types of things for thousands of years in the east,” Petrovich says. “It’s like another ingredient, if you will.”
Experts say the concept of using crystals in skincare products isn’t so far-fetched.
Whitney Bowe, a dermatologist in New York City, says that while more scientific research needs to be done to determine how effective certain gemstones and crystals are in skincare products, there’s plenty of reason to believe that they’re beneficial.
“Crystals have been used as exfoliators, resulting in brighter complexions, while gold has anti-inflammatory properties and has been used for centuries to treat conditions such as arthritis,” she tells Racked.
Diamond powder makes for a great (albeit expensive) exfoliator, rose quartz might help calm the complexion and improve circulation, and tourmaline is also thought to make skin more radiant, Dr. Bowe adds.
Of course, part of the appeal is the purported energetic benefits the stones bring — that certain crystals are calming, energizing, or even associated with love and romance, as is the case with rose quartz. Sapphire is thought to promote wisdom and mental acuity, hematite is supposed to be grounding, and amethysts supposedly encourage purification and peacefulness, for example. And that’s a lot harder to prove with science.
Petrovich, 44, was working a high-stress job in fashion in New York City and feeling completely “run down,” she said, when she began to explore Chinese medicine, starting with acupuncture. Around the same time, her mother had been studying crystals, and urged her daughter to give them a try.
In Petrovich’s new book about crystals, Elemental Energy, out in December, she describes the moment she purchased her first stone, a rose quartz.
“I asked the salesperson if I could hold one in my hand — I felt an immediate connection with it, which materialized as a gentle tingling sensation up my arm,” she wrote. “I bought the stone on the spot and never looked back.”
Her book is a sort of how-to guide for people interested in learning more about the connection between gemstones and skincare. It expands on Själ’s story and also includes recipes for homemade skincare treatments, like a calming amethyst tonic and a charcoal and silver detox mask.
Petrovich is hardly alone in her belief of crystals’ energetic powers. Dr. Bowe has also noticed an increased interest in the topic among her patients.
“I’ve gotten more inquiries regarding the benefits of crystals, metals, and gems in the last six months than I’ve ever gotten,” she said, adding that she thinks patients are seeking more natural alternatives to ingredients such as benzoyl peroxide, which is used to treat acne but could also lead to antibiotic resistance.
Doris Day, a dermatologist in New York City, is more skeptical of the trend. She points out that when it comes to skincare, what’s natural isn’t always what’s best.
“People feel comforted by the word natural because they equate it with safe,” she tells Racked. “The reality is that if something is synthetic or manmade, that has nothing to do with how safe or effective it is. Ultimately, gold is a chemical, and plenty of chemicals found in nature — arsenic, lead, mercury — are toxic, or can kill you. Poison ivy is natural, but you don’t want to apply that to your skin.”
But, unlike poison ivy, crystals can’t hurt. (Except for maybe your wallet— Själ’s products range from $70 to $260.) If you’re interested in exploring crystals on your skin, both doctors suggest choosing products that also include tried-and-true ingredients, such as retinol.
Petrovich points out that Själ’s products stand on their own regardless of added energy from gemstones, which she considers to be complementary to the science. The brand works with European biotechnology companies and its products also include ingredients with plenty of research behind them, including peptides, vitamins, and fruit enzymes.
The gemstones “are just one aspect,” she says. “We have tons of ingredients in our products. I just thought, if you’re going to have energy in something, why not have positive energy?”