By Rhea Cartwright
ith an insatiable appetite for innovation, whether it’s an obscure new berry found on an uninhabitable mountain peak or a meticulously extracted lab-grown hero that claims to do it all, there is nothing the beauty industry loves more than a buzzy new ingredient. That being said, with terms such as ‘medical-grade’, ‘dermatologically-approved’ and ‘clean’ meaning – quite frankly – absolutely nothing, deciphering what is worth spending your money on can be challenging.
Silver is the latest shiny skincare ingredient that has beauty magpies excited. Having been touted for centuries as a germ-killing metallic, is colloidal silver worth its weight in gold and worthy of a place in your beauty regime?
“Colloidal silver is a liquid solution that includes tiny nano-particles of silver,” says dermatologist Dr Christina Soma, with the solution being available as both an ingestible dietary supplement and used both medically and cosmetically for topical use on the skin.
Founder and CEO of Argentum Apothecary Joy Isaacs says that as colloidal silver is the generic term for substances with silver particles in suspension, there are different types.
“They can vary in particle size, ionic charge and purity, but we use a silver hydrosol that is known for being the purest and most refined within the category.”
“Topical colloidal silver has been used since antiquity and has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties,” explains Dr Soma. “We use special colloidal silver dressings or creams in dermatology all the time to manage wounds, burns and ulcers.”
When used in cosmetics, there is growing clinical data suggesting that colloidal silver helps to reduce inflammation and act as an antibacterial.
“Given its soothing properties, it is widely used in treating acne, rosacea and eczema,” says Isaacs. “It also decreases the irritant effects caused by oxidative stress and stimulates skin elasticity, which make it an effective ingredient for those concerned with signs of ageing.”
Essentially, colloidal silver acts as a preventative and protective shield against free radical damage, which are known to visibly damage and age the skin. While there isn’t a huge amount of data, as opposed to a heavily researched ingredient such as retinol, there is a growing number of pharmacological and biological studies that support those claims.
“There are a few products on the market that contain silver, but not all are considered equal,” Isaacs tells The Stack.
Safe for both night and day use, silver is best suited for leave-on products, rather than wash-off cleansers, such as mists, masks and moisturisers to allow the product to absorb and be effective. Although silver is known as a skin-soothing saviour, Isaacs is keen to highlight that allergies can exist and to always patch-test when using a new ingredient.
Dr Soma also adds that anyone with a severely impaired skin barrier should avoid it unless it has been medically indicated.
“There is an increased risk of developing a contact allergy and absorbing unsafe levels into the skin, so a dermatologist would rather recommend a more scientifically-safe alternative,” she says.
If you were considering ingesting colloidal silver à la Gwyneth Paltrow, Dr Soma would much prefer you didn’t
“Absolutely everyone should avoid ingesting it as it can be very dangerous for your health. Most of the supposed benefits for ingestible colloidal silver are not supported by scientific evidence,” she warns. “Ingesting or applying too much of it can even turn your skin a silvery blue colour as it builds up into your skin – a condition called argyria.”
If you want to test the metal, below is a round-up our five tried-and-tested colloidal silver favourites:
A must for your first-aid box or toiletry bag, this spray is the ideal for its disinfectant and antiseptic properties. Keep on hand for burns, cuts, rashes and sunburn to provide some seemingly instand relief.
Packed with silver alongside niacinamide, probiotics and antioxidants, this mist is one of my personal favourites. Spray into the palms of your hands and press onto the skin, it's a nutrient-dense cocktail for the skin to use before your serums.
Suitable for face, neck and eyes, this one pot wonder is simple delicious. Hugely restorative, this moisturiser leaves skin looking more hydrated and calm.
The Hungarian brand that nearly always get it right, with niacinamide, glycolic acid and salicylic acid this is your go-to if you're searching for something to soothe and smoothe blemish-prone skin.
Proving that price doesn't always constitute quality, this is great serum to try if you want to dip your toe into colloidial silver without breaking the bank.
Known for its soothing qualities, silver can protect against free radical damage to your skin – but spray it on rather than ingest it.
By Rhea Cartwright