There are a few ingredients that are essential to creating an anti-aging skin care regimen. Any dermatologist will tell them. There are retinol, its derivatives, for increasing cell turnover, fighting wrinkles and fighting lines, vitamin C to brighten dull skin and visible signs of photoaging, and sunscreen which, among other benefits, prevents premature ageing. What about copper peptides? Peptides are essential molecules for maintaining skin’s structure, integrity and health. They are also a key to anti-aging products.
It’s not as easy as just picking up a random jar of “peptides” in skin care. There are many options, including palmitoyl pentapeptide (AKA Matrixyl 3000) and acetyl Tetrapeptide-9. But copper peptides are worth considering if your goal is soft, healthy skin into your 40s, 50s and beyond. First, the basics of this popular ingredient from the experts.
What are Copper Peptides?
Copper peptides are unique and have many benefits. However, it is important to understand how all peptides work. Tiffany Libby, a board-certified dermatologist, explains that peptides are short chains of amino acid which are the building blocks for proteins. They signal your cells to make complex molecules that support skin’s structure. You can think of collagen, elastin and keratin as vital components to healthy skin. She goes on to explain that there are four main categories peptides fall into — signaling, carrier, enzyme-inhibitor, and neurotransmitter-inhibitors — all of which have different functions but all fall under the anti-aging umbrella.
The carrier category includes copper peptides. They are tri-peptides (which are made up of three amino acid) bound to copper and “carry” minerals to skin. Gloria Lu, cosmetic chemist, co-author of Skincare Decoder, says that copper peptides are a tripeptide. GHK-Cu is the most widely used copper peptide in skin care. It has been shown to have a variety of skin benefits, including improved skin elasticity, reduced wrinkles and an improvement of skin roughness.
These benefits can be attributed to the fact copper peptides have antioxidant and collagen-boosting capabilities. Dr. Libby says that they deliver minerals to the skin. Studies have shown them to increase collagen production and decrease collagen breakdown. This is because copper is an important component in the formation enzymes such as superoxide dismutase (a powerful antioxidant found in the skin) and lysyloxidase (an enzyme that forms collagen).
How to Use Copper Peptides
Dr. Libby says copper peptides should be used every day. The time you apply them depends on the formula, but they are a good choice for a PM regimen, when cellular repair is at its best. Lu also mentions that copper-peptides are often found in water-based serums. These should be used under heavier creams and oils to ensure maximum absorbency.
Copper peptides, like many active ingredients in skin care products can oxidize. This means that they lose their effectiveness over time, sometimes even before you open the bottle. Dr. Libby suggests that you choose a formula with encapsulated copper peptides such as Reserveage’s pro-collagen skincare collection. This will help to keep them fresh, effective, and up to date. She also explains that copper peptides can be penetrated better by encapsulation. It is a way for them to maximize their effect and stimulate collagen production, as well as deliver their antioxidant benefits.
Dr. Libby recommends that copper peptides be used in combination with other retinoids and hydrating humectant ingredients such as hyaluronic and glycerin. She says that they work together to stimulate more collagen production. Retinol can also stimulate cell turnover and reduce unwanted brown spots and pigmentation. Copper peptides are great partners for Niacinamide, which helps reduce redness and brighten the skin. This will help to improve the skin’s overall appearance.
Copper peptides can be mixed with almost any other ingredient, but Victoria Fu, a cosmetic chemist and co-author of Skincare Decoded, advises against using them with low pH products such as ascorbic acid serums (the most potent type of vitamin C) or AHA products. They could cause peptides to break down and decrease their effectiveness.
Who can use copper peptides?
Copper peptides are safe to use topically and have very few side effects. Dr. Libby says they can be used on all skin types and skin tones. They are a powerful anti-aging tool that anyone can use. Fu suggests patch testing any new product to ensure it is compatible with your skin.
Although skin of any age can benefit from the collagen- and elastin-boosting power of copper peptides for skin, Dr. Libby suggests that you start using one in your 20s or 30s to optimize your skin’s natural supply. She estimates that we lose around 1% of our collagen every year by the time we reach our 20s. Copper peptides stimulate collagen production and help to stop this process. This helps to preserve the skin’s youthful, firm appearance.
Are you looking to improve your anti-aging skincare routine? Here are some products with copper-peptides you can try, from moisturizers and serums to cleansers to masks.
- iS Clinical Reparative Moisture Emulsion
Average price – $95
Are you not a fan heavy moisturizers This lightweight emulsion by iS Clinical is a great alternative. This formula contains a combination copper peptides and hyaluronic acids, as well as enzymes that help to stimulate collagen and target signs of aging. It also provides antioxidant protection against damage from free radicals. It also layers well under makeup making it an excellent primer for skin enhancement.
- The Ordinary Buffet + Copper Peptides 1 %
Average price – $29
Fu and Lu recommend this souped up version of The Ordinary’s Buffet Serum. It adds copper-peptides to their beloved formula. This combines several peptide complexes, solubilized in a combination of 11 amino acids, multiple forms of Hyaluronic Acid, to target different signs of aging, promote collagen production, and improve anti-inflammatory reactions in the skin.
- Reserveage Firming Face Cream
Average price – $59
Reserveage moisturizer is recommended by Dr. Libby for its smoothing and nourishing properties. She says that it contains microencapsulated copper-peptides, which have been clinically shown to improve skin’s firmness and elasticity. It also reduces wrinkles.
- Drunk Elephant Shaba Complex Firming Serum for Eyes
Average price – $60
Fu and Lu recommend Drunk Elephant’s firming serum for the eyes to reduce visible signs of age such as sun damage and fine lines. It contains copper peptides that improve skin elasticity and reduce wrinkle appearances. Edelweiss cell culture is rich in antioxidants. Black tea fermentation smooths roughness and boosts radiance. This decreases the risk of skin becoming glycated, which can lead to aging of the skin’s appearance. It’s also vegan and cruelty-free.