High-end beauty companies would have you believe that products containing gold promise the look of eternal youth, but a new study found that these products could lead to more wrinkles, among other complications.

Gold isn't only for rings and bracelets. Gold nanoparticles are found in many items including everyday personal care products, MRI contrast agents, and drug delivery devices.

In the study, researchers penetrated human adipose-derived stromal cells — a type of adult stem cell prized for tissue regeneration properties — with gold nanoparticles. Because cells had no way to eliminate them, the gold nanoparticles began to accumulate and disrupt cellular functions.

"Reductions caused by gold nanoparticles can result in systemic changes to the body," said Tatsiana Mironava, lead author and visiting assistant professor in chemical and molecular engineering at Stony Brook University. "Since they have been considered inert and essentially harmless, it was assumed that pure gold nanoparticles would also be safe. Evidence to the contrary is beginning to emerge."

In the findings that were published in Nanotoxicology, researchers identified a small exposure to nanoparticle gold interfered with cell division and collagen contraction--both of which are necessary for wound healing.

Disrupting these vital cell processes also accelerated wrinkle formation and triggered the onset of diabetes, but what's more disturbing was that it threw genetic regulation off-course and stopped the cells from becoming fat cells.

"We have learned that careful consideration and the choice of size, concentration and the duration of the clinical application of gold nanoparticles is warranted," Mironava said.

"The good news is that when the nanoparticles were removed, normal functions were eventually restored."

Previous studies done by the Brigham and Women's Hospital in Massachusetts found that personal care products such as moisturizers, nail polish, and soaps have released endocrine-disrupting chemicals that dramatically increases the risk of developing diabetes.

To avoid these mishaps, experts urge consumers to read the ingredients and to avoid chemicals that induce metabolic disorders and chronic illnesses. Often, this means using products with natural ingredients.

"Nanotechnology is continuing to be at the cutting edge of science research and has opened new doors in energy and materials science," said Miriam Rafailovich, co-author and distinguished professor of materials science and engineering at Stony Brook.

"Progress comes with social responsibility and ensuring that new technologies are environmentally sustainable. These results are very relevant to achieving these goals."