While aloe vera and coconut oil have reigned supreme in the green beauty movement in recent years, there's a more romantic natural ingredient that beauty companies are now buzzing about: pearl powder. Lauded for its collagen-boosting, nourishing, brightening, and rejuvenating properties, it was reportedly part of Cleopatra's beauty arsenal for silky skin, and a royal staple for European and East Asian monarchies. Beauticate writer Kristina Zhou experimented with pearl powder to determine just how effective it is and whether the purported benefits of pearl powder were warranted.

Is there science behind the benefits of pearl powder?

According to board certified dermatologist Dr Leslie Baumann: “Pearl powder is known to have exhibited anti-ageing, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant activities.” She also noted that because pearl powder consists of multiple active proteins, “it is conducive to skin cell growth and effective for wound repair.” These multi-layered proteins are known as ‘signal proteins’, considered the central agents responsible for producing new, fresh skin cells. A study conducted by Korea’s Yeungnam University College of Medicine, found that the application of pearl powder boosted collagen formation in burnt areas and accelerated the healing process.

The key to its prowess? Pearl powder is abundant in amino acids, considered the essential building blocks for skin and hair regeneration. Amino acids are vital foundations for “collagen production, elastin, and keratin”, Dr William Cole, Functional Medicine Practitioner said. Pearl powder is also composed of over 30 minerals (including calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, and silica), which support healthy skin, hair health, and the immune system.

Natural doesn’t mean safe or non-toxic

I have always been a natural beauty sceptic. Just because a product is derived from natural sources, doesn’t automatically make it non-toxic, safe, or superior. Think about it: poison ivy is natural, but no one is clamouring to spread it all over their faces! And the old adage of ‘if you can eat it, it’s safe for your skin’ is easily debunked when you browse through the world’s most comedogenic ingredients (hint: algae, coconut butter, and coconut oil rank high). Despite my lack of enthusiasm for the green movement, I’m always tempted to experiment with products that generate significant beauty buzz. Plus, if the benefits of pearl powder captivated a royal like Cleopatra, surely it would be good enough for me.

Cleopatra (played here by Elizabeth Taylor) was a major fan of the benefits of pearl powder.

Not all pearl powder is created equal

Before I embarked on my pearl powder journey, I researched what distinguished superior pearl powders from lacklustre formulas. The environment it is extracted from and the pearl compression process determines the quality of the pearl powder and the results it produces. Moonjuice’s pearl powder (purchased from Amazon) is harvested from sustainable, fresh water farms, and compressed into a concentrated formula to ensure purity and retain maximum skin-boosting benefits.

I primarily used the Moonjuice pearl powder as a 15 minute facial mask and the brightening effects were immediate. My pores appeared smaller, my skin luminous, and redness diminished. I noticed flaky skin also sloughed off, as a result of the pearl powder’s physical exfoliating properties. My skin looked softer and glossier, as though I had been on an exclusive 7-day green juice diet. I was ecstatic and declared this my holy grail treatment.

What to avoid

However, problems emerged when I applied the mask consecutively for a fortnight. Pearl powder is ultimately still a powder and regardless of its nourishing properties, powder formats absorb oil and can be drying. Excessive use (I also left it on overnight) left my skin parched and irritated, with scaly redness and extreme itchiness being the key warning factors. I had to slather on Eminence’s Stone Crop mask to sooth my aggravated skin.

So did the benefits of pearl powder prevail? After two weeks of abstaining from pearl powder, I decided to give it another try, albeit with less drastic usage. I limited application to five minutes per week and followed up the Moonjuice pearl powder mask with a nourishing moisturiser to counter any potential drying effects. The end result? A more even complexion, smoother texture, and significant reduction in clogged pores. I also noticed inflammation from pimples healed within two days and my skin emanated a slight radiant sheen. Once I found the right balance, my skin was winning!

Savvy Hacks To Make Pearl Powder More Effective

  • If you have sensitive, dehydrated skin, the best pearl powder ratio is half a tablespoon of pearl powder, combined with two standard cups of cool water.
  • People with normal to oily skin generally benefit from the mattifying effects of mixing a full tablespoon of pearl powder with one standard cup of water. You can always adjust the volume of water or amount of pearl powder, depending on the condition of your skin.
  • For extra nourishment, I recommend mixing your pearl powder with banana and milk. The silky smooth effect this formula produces is addictive.
  • Occasionally, I tap micro amounts of pearl powder over my T-zone to reduce shine and set my foundation. Based on its effectiveness as a translucent setting-powder, pearl powder boasts a 5/5 rating on MakeupAlley. Users report the benefits of pearl powder include refinement of skin texture, plus mattifying and blurring.

Pearl powder is a fantastic one-off treatment for luminous skin, but certainly not something you can use on a daily basis if you have dry or sensitive skin. To reap the full benefits of pearl powder, always moisturise afterwards and remember to use sparingly to avoid parched skin.

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Story by Kristina Zhou, with expertise from Suzy Yang. Holding shot from the 1963 film Cleopatra

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