The fountain of youth might just be full of copper! Copper peptides have been taking over the skincare world by storm for their reported abilities to reduce wrinkles, improve skin tone, promote hydration, and “turn back the clock” on signs of aging.
Copper peptides are naturally occurring compounds in your body that promote the synthesis of collagen and elastin, both of which are important for your skin's appearance. However, your copper peptide levels naturally decrease as you grow older.
Using topical products of copper peptides for skin has been found to have a variety of anti-aging skin benefits due to their anti-inflammatory, regenerative, and antioxidant properties.
Copper peptides are generally safe and can be used by people of all ages to both prevent and reverse signs of skin aging.
Here’s the rundown of copper peptides for skin: benefits, ways to incorporate them into your skincare regimen, and potential side effects.
What are copper peptides?
A peptide is a group of 2–5 amino acids, which are tiny molecules that group together to make proteins. Copper peptides (also referred to as GHK-Cu) are a kind of peptide that has a strong affinity for copper — in other words, these peptides are made up of both amino acids and copper molecules.
Copper peptides are made naturally in your body, but their levels also tend to decrease as you grow older. So unsurprisingly, the supplementation of copper peptides is thought to have a wide variety of anti-aging effects, and this is especially true when it comes to skincare.
How do copper peptides work?
Because your inherent copper peptide levels tend to decline as you age, it’s probably no surprise that these lower levels are linked to various signs and effects of aging.
When it comes to your skin, the most important role that copper peptides play is as a cofactor for the enzyme lysyl oxidase. To get a little technical here: lysyl oxidase is an enzyme or a substance that triggers chemical reactions in your body.
Specifically, lysyl oxidase helps set off reactions that help form the proteins collagen and elastin, both of which are linked to the suppleness, firmness, and elasticity of your skin tissues. But for lysyl oxidase to work, it needs copper.
So more simply put, copper peptides can trigger enzymes that then activate the production of collagen and elastin, ultimately leading to healthier and more vibrant skin.
Benefits of copper peptides in skincare
Copper peptides have been linked to a huge variety of skin benefits ranging from the reduction of fine lines and wrinkles to the promotion of wound healing — and all of these positive effects give it its stellar reputation as an anti-aging ingredient in skincare products.
As you age, your collagen and elastin levels naturally decrease, which weakens the tissue structure and can ultimately lead to wrinkles, sagging, and fine lines. So copper peptides are extremely popular as anti-aging ingredients since copper can help trigger collagen and elastin production.
In addition to the improvement of fine lines and wrinkles, copper peptides also support the regenesis of your skin cells. Your skin cells are constantly turning over, but as you age, the excessive breakdown of skin cells and slower regeneration of new ones can negatively impact both your skin’s health and appearance.
Because copper peptides can help support skin cell regenesis, they can also help improve its overall suppleness, clarity, and overall appearance. Copper peptides can also promote wound healing, which can help reduce acne scars and other pigmentation issues.
Even skin tone
Your skin is constantly taking damage from outside factors like UV radiation from the sun and pollution from the environment. Copper is an antioxidant, which means that it can help fight off this oxidative damage and help protect your skin. Copper peptides can protect skin cells from damaging UV radiation and can also correct some of the damaging effects like hyperpigmentation and sunspots.
Promote smoothness and softness
There’s also evidence that the use of copper peptides on aged skin can lead to improved skin hydration and significant smoothing of the skin due to its collagen production abilities.
Last but not least, copper peptides are known to have anti-inflammatory effects on the skin, which can translate into better skincare for people with a variety of inflammatory skin conditions like acne and redness.
Other benefits of copper peptides
Copper peptides are perhaps best known for their anti-aging benefits on the skin, but there’s also evidence that they may have a role in improving your hair care routine and even your overall health:
Hair growth. The same cell regenerative benefits of copper peptides also mean that it is often incorporated into hair products! It’s thought that copper peptides can increase cell regeneration and promote blood flow, both of which can promote hair growth.
Hair thickness. Copper peptides are also thought to increase the size of your hair follicles, which can help your hair grow thicker.
How to use copper peptides for skin?
Ready to add this anti-aging holy grail to your skincare routine? Below, you will find useful tips on how to use copper peptides for the skin.
Serum with copper peptides
Serums are light skincare products that are quickly absorbed by your skin and are formulated with ingredients that target specific skin care needs. In this case, copper peptide serums would target wrinkles, sagging, and hyperpigmentation.
For the best results, apply serums after washing your face with a gentle cleanser and before applying heavier creams and moisturizers.
Moisturizer with copper peptides
Moisturizers with copper peptides can help add hydration back into your skin and seal in the rest of your skincare products. Moisturizers should generally be the last step in your skincare routines and can be applied both morning and night.
Microneedling for copper peptides
For all the good that copper peptides can have on your skin, they are also hydrophilic, which means they do not mesh well with water and can thus be hard for your skin to absorb.
In these cases, it can also be helpful to get your copper peptide treatment after a skin procedure like microneedling, which uses tiny needles that gently permeate your skin and have been found to improve your skin’s ability to absorb copper peptides.
Are there any side effects of copper peptides?
Copper peptides are generally safe to use, copper peptides are safer than other copper treatments like copper chloride and copper acetate.
However, some people with sensitive skin may still find that copper peptides irritate. In the worst cases, some people can also have a copper allergy, with reactions including redness, itchiness, burning, and/or hives.
Lastly, it’s important to note that large amounts of copper of any kind can be dangerous. Some side effects of copper poisoning include headaches, nausea, and fatigue. Luckily, most topical copper peptide products contain copper in very small doses.
Make sure not to ingest your copper peptide products and only use the recommended amounts per the manufacturer to avoid overuse.
What to know before getting started?
Copper peptides are naturally occurring, but you tend to lose a fair amount of them by the time you turn 60. With that said, you can start using copper peptides at any age, both for prevention and repair. For example, you can use copper peptides as early as you begin noticing fine lines and/or wrinkles, but you can also reap many of their anti-aging benefits later on in life.
Copper peptides can be easily incorporated into both your morning and night-time skincare routines. While your skincare regimen can vary based on your specific skin needs, you may want to avoid mixing copper peptides with harsher products like retinol which can lead to dryness.