Some beauty trends are more immediately seductive than others. The rise of crystal-infused skincare is one. Who wouldn’t want the glow of rose quartz or the incandescence of moonstone magically transmitted to their complexions? Kristin Petrovich, who with her mother, Karen, launched US brand Själ in 2001, was the first person to incorporate gemstones into skincare. Their ability to conduct energy, she believes, is the source of their therapeutic powers. “Crystals such as quartz are piezoelectric, which means they release a mild electrical charge when heat or pressure is applied,” says Petrovich, who consulted biophysicists, biologists and holistic practitioners when creating her formulas.
She points out that crystals are used in multiple forms of technology – watches, mobile phones and medical ultrasound, for example – to transmit energy. In skincare – whether in micronised-powder form, nanoparticles in liquid suspension or as massage tools – they are believed to amplify the effect of other ingredients. “Gemstones vibrate at a higher frequency than our bodies, which means they help to drive ingredients such as botanicals, ceramides and peptides towards our weaker cells – the ones that need them most,” says Petrovich. Her Bio-Regeneratif Serum (£174) features a signature cocktail of gemstone extracts; these include amethyst (“loaded with negative ions that reduce inflammation”), rose quartz (“it contains silicon dioxide with traces of iron, which oxygenates the skin”) and malachite (“a form of copper that protects against electromagnetic pollutants”). Själ also sells crystal massage wands, notably one (about £19) made of white scolecite that Petrovich says “brings vibrancy and colour” to the complexion by generating an electrical charge. Those intrigued should read her book, Elemental Energy: Crystal and Gemstone Rituals for a Beautiful Life (HarperOne, $32.99), which details a variety of crystal-based therapies to try at home.
Other crystal-infused skincare products on beauty counters include Peter Thomas Roth’s 24K Gold Mask (£77), which incorporates peridot for its magnesium content, a mineral known to calm inflammation and help maintain the skin’s moisture levels; Sisley’s Eye Contour Mask (£90) and new Hydra-Global Serum (£179), which contain copper-rich malachite, which “stimulates your skin’s natural antioxidant enzymes, helping it to become more resistant to ageing free radicals”, says the brand’s scientific director, José Ginestar; and Herbivore Botanicals’ fruit-scented Brighten Instant Glow Mask (£38), which contains Brazilian tourmaline alongside pineapple and papaya enzymes, and claims to leave the complexion brighter and smoother when massaged into the skin. “Tourmaline is an energising stone with pyroelectric properties, which means that it creates a warming sensation on the skin,” says Herbivore Botanicals’ beauty editor and consultant Desirée Pais. “This lasts only a few moments after application but boosts circulation for plumpness and radiance.” And tourmaline makes an appearance in Aveda’s Botanical Kinetics Exfoliating Creme Cleanser (£22) – its effects are said to be amplified by massage.
Chinese medicine informs one of the most intriguing crystal trends – that of facial rollers and other massage tools made from semiprecious stones such as jade and rose quartz and carved mirror-smooth. The coolness of the stone relieves puffiness and, in conjunction with sustained massage, facilitates lymphatic drainage, giving a toned, lifted look to the face. Devotees of both rollers and gua sha therapy – performed using a curved, plectrum-shaped tool that is stroked across the face, body and acupressure points – report numerous benefits, including increased radiance, fewer breakouts and a more sculpted jawline. “A typical treatment involves the application of oil to help the tool glide across the skin,” says Anthony Kingston, clinical director of White Lotus, which makes hand-carved gua sha stones and rollers (from £28.99). New York acupuncturist and herbalist Sandra Lanshin Chiu combines gua sha with acupuncture and has useful online tutorials for DIY massage, which she advises practising daily. “In the eyes of Chinese medicine, many concerns about skin and ageing are connected to poor blood circulation,” she says. “Gua sha works by restoring circulation, which helps skin to produce collagen.” Recent studies, she adds, have demonstrated the technique’s ability to reduce inflammation, a key cause of ageing.
Chiu’s gua sha ritual takes 10 minutes, but there are quicker options, such as London- and Asia-based therapist Katie Brindle’s one-minute routine (see hayoumethod.com). The time-poor might also like Nurse Jamie’s hexagonal UpLift Facial Massaging Beauty Roller (£55), a “magic wand” studded with 24 tourmaline stones that claim to cool, tone and energise skin with a simple rolling action. Then there are Buly 1803’s massage stones in materials such as black shungite (£84). “Shungite contains silica, magnesium and potassium with antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties,” says co-founder Victoire de Taillac-Touhami. There is one other, unexpected benefit to crystal massage. “Using these tools ensures less product wastage than applying with the hands,” says Nausheen Qureshi, who has designed a rose-quartz tool (£33) for more effective absorption of her Elequra skincare range.
Gua sha is crystal therapy at its most hands-on, but it can also be breathtakingly futuristic. Harley Street cosmetic surgeon Dr Yannis Alexandrides is the founder of 111 Skin, whose Celestial Black Diamond collection (from £75) employs nanotechnology tested by Nasa astronauts (exposure to radiation in space causes cells to age). Diamond nanoparticles are already used in medicine, where they are “grafted” to cancer drugs to deliver them to diseased cells more efficiently. Alexandrides has adapted this technology to deliver his patented NAC Y2 complex – a blend of antioxidants, amino acids and vitamin C – deeper into the epidermis. This not only gives more intense results, but also “makes the formulas absorb more quickly and feel better on the skin”, he says.
Another facet of gemstone-infused beauty is in the field of exfoliation. Tata Harper’s Clarifying Mask (£59) contains fine quartz-sand microcrystals that tackle pore‑clogging debris and are massaged in at the end of treatment for further purification; Tatcha’s Polished Rice Enzyme Powder ($65) is mixed with crushed pearls rich in antioxidants and skin-plumping polysaccharides; and La Prairie’s rose-scented Cellular Mineral Face Exfoliator (£104) features rounded diamond and quartz crystals alongside meteorite dust for gentle, mineral-rich resurfacing. And LA dermatological brand Goldfaden MD uses ruby crystals in its Doctor’s Scrub Advanced (£85). It looks unprepossessing – think damp grey sand – but is a highly sophisticated formula, with hydrating organic red tea, hyaluronic acid and seaweed extract. “The crystals mimic professional microdermabrasion,” says founder Dr Gary Goldfaden. “They don’t scratch the skin and are extremely effective on fine lines, pigmentation, acne, uneven skintone and roughness.”
Crystals also have the indisputable power to illuminate. The iridescence of youth can be acquired with Rodial’s Pink Diamond Instant Lifting Serum (£125), a pink-tinted potion containing real diamond powder to reflect the light and create an ethereal glow, or Hourglass’s Veil Translucent Setting Powder (£42), which also gives luminosity using diamond powder. Omorovicza’s Rose Lifting Serum (£90) is enriched with ruby crystals to diffuse light and blur imperfections. There are also highlighters containing crystal extracts – such as BareMinerals’ Crystalline Glow Highlighter Stick (£20) with mother-of-pearl, amethyst, moonstone and sapphire – that create a more subtle effect than those with artificial pigments. And although Glossier’s Haloscope (£18) – with moonstone, quartz or topaz – is marketed to a young audience, this highlighter is, in fact, beautifully understated on older skins and, thanks to its coconut-oil core, hydrating to boot. For the body, impart shimmer with Prismologie’s perfumed Meridian Balms (£86 each) glistening with diamond, citrine and rose-quartz powders.
Amly is a relatively new British brand that makes extensive use of rose quartz, revered since ancient times for its anti-inflammatory properties. Founded by biodynamic craniosacral therapist Kerry Moore and artist Lisa Smallpeice, it has aromatic face mists made from silver-rich spring water that flows through Smallpeice’s East Sussex farm. Inside the tank where this water is collected, she has placed a large piece of rose quartz for what she says is its “calming and cleansing energy”. The crystal is included in powder form in both the Beauty Sleep Mist (£52) – where it is deployed with the promise that it will soothe stressed and mature skin – and Digital Detox Mist (£45). “It’s believed to protect against radiation,” says Moore. “This is why chunks of rose quartz are often placed near computer screens.”
A whole-body detox can be found at the Gainsborough Bath Spa, in Bath, which recently introduced Crystal Sound Bath sessions (£90 for 45 minutes) that make use of the positive vibrations some associate with gemstones. Crystal bowls are “played” at different vibrational frequencies; in combination with colour therapy, their sounds are said to release theta brain waves, which induce the relaxation we experience during deep REM sleep. Exponents say the therapy lowers tension, reduces heart rate and can even rebalance the cells of the body.
Swiss brand Elixseri specialises in serums (from £76) targeted to specific skin concerns (resurfacing, hydration, smoothing, firming and de-stressing). Plants and marine organisms perform the hard work in terms of anti-ageing, but there is another key ingredient: Swiss Alpine Crystallised Light Water. “Our serums are water-based, so the quality of that water matters,” says co-founder Alicia Schweiger. “During our research, we came across a filtration system that uses crystals such as diamond, amethyst, sapphire and quartz to ‘charge’ water. While it has not been possible to prove any physical benefits from crystals, studies have shown that water charged with them behaves differently, absorbing energy from the stones.” In tests, it was found to be physically lighter than uncharged water, allowing it to bind to molecules in other ingredients and carry them directly to skin cells.
Crystals are also a natural partner for holistic beauty brands like Aurelia, whose Calming and Brightening Botanical Essences (£42) harness the reputed soothing properties of rose quartz- and quartz crystal-charged water in synergy with balancing probiotics. Annee de Mamiel, who trained in traditional Chinese medicine, argues: “Gemstones have an orderliness of structure and vibrate at a very stable frequency, and this energy ripples outwards like a pond, restoring equilibrium to disrupted organisms.” She uses powdered rose quartz and red-jasper powder in her de Mamiel Brightening Cleanse and Exfoliate (£41), an all-natural powdered formula with rhassoul clay, fruit and flower extracts that gently polishes away dullness. And aromatherapist Michelle Roques-O’Neil’s Therapie Himalayan Detox Salts (£40) for the bath combine amethyst powder with pink salt and essential oils, so that the body is immersed in more than 80 restorative and energising minerals. Surface sparkle or hidden depths? It’s just possible that crystals have both.