Midas Touch

Clients at a Timonium spa are trying gold-leaf facials, said to leave them with more luminous skin

December 11, 2007|By Tanika White | Tanika White,SUN REPORTER

A local medispa has unveiled a new facial treatment for Baltimore's skin care junkies that is as good as gold.

To be more accurate, it is gold.

Diana Gavrila, owner of Diana's European Skin Care in Timonium, has recently begun offering clients a 24-karat gold facial.

The facial, new to the United States, was introduced in the past year by UMO, a Japanese skin-care company. Gavrila's is the only spa in Maryland that provides the treatment, although it is offered at upscale salons in other states.

During the facial, gold sheets thinner than crepe paper are applied one-by-one until the client's face is covered in the shiny metal. The gold is steamed and massaged gently into the skin until it becomes nearly invisible.

Clients who have gotten the facial say their skin is brighter, tighter and smoother after the gold has seeped in.

Gavrila, who has been in the skin-care business for more than 30 years, says she is "amazed" by how well the process works.

"I was a skeptic in the beginning," Gavrila says. "In all these years, I've seen a lot. But this is amazing."

The gold acts as an anti-inflammatory, Gavrila says, calming and soothing skin types ranging from normal to sun-spotted to rosacea-tinged. A compound called Gamma PGA - which helps the skin absorb the gold - is slathered on the face before the gold sheets go on. It has humectants to help retain moisture, she says. And, says Gavrila, the natural radiance of gold leaves the skin brighter and more luminous.

"I feel like a movie star," says Margareta McElroy, 54, after her golden facial has been absorbed into her skin, leaving behind a Cleopatra-worthy glow. "I'm so excited, I can jump! My husband has a new wife."

Some experts say they don't doubt that the gold feels good. After all, even without the gold application, trained aestheticians are cleansing, steaming, massaging and moisturizing the face during a soothing 60- to 90-minute session.

"So it certainly won't hurt your skin," says Risi-Leanne Baranja, editor-in-chief of the international beauty product and spa services review site, Palacinka.com. "But it's really more for the luxury factor. Would I expect a miraculous change? No."

"Dermatological-wise, I don't know of any benefits that gold has in the skin," says Valerie Callender, director of Callender Skin and Laser Center in Mitchellville. "But I know a 24-karat gold facial sounds good to me."

Ron Razeggi, chief operating officer of UMO America, asserts that the gold in the 24-karat gold facial works because of the way it penetrates the skin.

"The skin tries to reject it, because it's a foreign object. In order to do that, it builds new cells," says Razeggi, whose offices are in Los Angeles. "Right now, the body produces new cells every 28 days. But this accelerates the cell-building, and, as a result, it firms and tightens skin."

Kimberly Klein, the lead aesthetician at Willow Stream Spa at Fairmont New Port Beach, in Newport Beach, Calif., says she was dubious about the treatment's benefits - until she began trying it out on clients in August.

"As soon as they are finished with their treatment, they're like, `Oh, my gosh! It's so soft," Klein says. "It's an intense, major hydration boost for the skin. You do see the difference."

Locally, other clients of Gavrila's who have experienced the gold facial say they enjoyed luxurious feelings long after their facial was over.

"It's one of those things where people say, `God, you look good.' But you haven't had anything done, really," says Diann Kohute, 51, of Canton, six days after her gold facial. "It's not abrasive or invasive in that sense. It's a pleasant experience, and it leaves you looking like a little china doll, which I think anyone over 30 would love to say."

Even clients younger than 30 say they can vouch for the results.

"Your skin feels so soft and smooth. It looks almost flawless," says Ashley Brown, 25, a marketing manager for an online agency in New York, who goes to Gavrila whenever she comes home to Baltimore for a family visit. "I have rosacea; it removed all of that. It felt amazing afterward, and it looks amazing still."

The gold treatment came to the United States about six months ago, Razeggi says, after several years of research and tryout phases in Asia, Europe and the Middle East. Razeggi promotes gold's anti-inflammatory properties and the hydrating benefits of Gamma PGA as other reasons why the product is beneficial.

"It is healing because gold always fights inflammation," he says. "Most of the [problems] in our bodies come from inflammation, such as aging [and] arthritis."

Jennifer Levine, a facial plastic surgeon in Manhattan, says gold and silver have been used to treat ailments of the skin for thousands of years. Silver, for example, often is used to treat burns and open wounds.

"And, apparently, Cleopatra had gold facials," Levine says. "So it's a very old treatment that may have some science behind it, but we just don't know yet. I don't think its usage as a skin-care product is well-studied."

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