A skin-care ingredient trend is emerging: copper peptides. This copper complex can be found in a slew of new skin-care products, from serums to creams. You’ll notice these products often boast plumping and anti-aging benefits, which are some of the most treasured perks of the ingredient. We got the scoop from experts on how copper peptides can improve your skin, where they come from and which products you should try.
What are copper peptides? Where do they come from?
“Copper is an essential element for keeping nearly all tissues in the human body healthy. Within the skin, copper plays a part in the synthesis and stabilization of extracellular matrix skin proteins (ie – collagen and elastin), as well as angiogenesis, which is the formation of new blood cells,” explains Omaha, NE dermatologist Joel Schlessinger, MD. He notes that copper peptides, which are composed of a combination of a copper enzyme and three amino acids, occur naturally in the body but decrease with age. New York dermatologist Jody Levine, MD says trace amounts of copper peptides are found in blood plasma, saliva and urine. Copper peptides are often produced in the blood plasma as a wound healing response to an injury, explains Dr. Schlessinger.
They help with anti-aging through collagen and elastin production
“Every skin type and every age (20’s and up) can benefit from using copper peptides—think of them like a healthy gym session for your skin, keeping the elastin and collagen fibers of your skin strong and youthful,” says McKenzie Rose, director of global education at Biossance. “Your skin will look visibly firmer and plumper—think bouncy skin!” adds Rose. In addition to plumping fine lines and wrinkles for younger-looking skin, copper peptides also promote hyaluronic acid production in the skin, which helps the skin stay elastic and firm, says Dr. Schlessinger.
They help heal wounds
Dr. Schlessinger says that for decades copper peptides’ primary use was to aid the skin in wound healing. “Studies show that copper peptides are beneficial to skin’s fibroblasts, which in turn produce the essential growth factors needed for optimal skin repair,” he explains. If you don’t think this pertains to you, think again. “Copper peptides may be beneficial in supporting the healing of sensitized skin post-in-office treatments like microdermabrasion, chemical peels and laser treatments,” says Dr. Schlessinger. Dr. Levine notes copper peptides also have anti-inflammatory properties that can be beneficial to healing skin, which makes it great for addressing scarring, pigmentation and redness related to inflammation.
They have antioxidant properties
“When applied topically, copper peptides work as an antioxidant,” says Reserveage resident dermatologist Tiffany Libby, MD. Dr. Schlessinger notes that this means “they’re good at neutralizing the oxidizing free radicals produced by daily environmental exposure to things like pollution and the sun.” With the help of antioxidants, you can fend off free radical exposure to combat accelerated signs of aging.
They help address discoloration and acne scars
“It’s thought that in addition to aiding in the creation of new collagen and elastin, copper peptides are also good at helping get rid of damaged collagen,” says Dr. Schlessinger. “This can help reduce the look of sunspots and acne scars.” Additionally, the aforementioned anti-inflammatory properties can help diminish discoloration.
How to use them safely
The interviewed experts agreed that copper peptides are very safe and rarely result in side effects. However, there are a few other ingredients you shouldn’t use while copper peptides are in your skin-care routine. Dr. Schlessinger suggests avoiding using products with vitamin C at the same time “as copper can oxidize the ascorbic acid, rendering it ineffective.” Rose says that while copper peptides shouldn’t be used simultaneously with vitamin C or AHAs, they can be used at different times of the day.
Copper peptides rarely get top billing on skin-care products, but in the Biossance Squalane + Copper Peptide Rapid Plumping Serum ($68) it’s part of the main event with hydrating squalane. “We chose copper peptides specifically because they have been clinically proven to enhance your skin’s natural production of collagen. They work well in a serum formula, especially when paired with another star player, hyaluronic acid,” says Rose. “Here you have a serum that promotes strong, bouncy skin and instant hydration.”
Reseverage has an entire line of products “centered on microencapsulated copper peptides that allow for increased delivery of these peptides to the dermis where we want to stimulate collagen and elastin production,” says Dr. Libby. Products in the line include Firming Face Cream ($60), Illuminating Eye Cream ($50) and Firming Neck Cream ($60). These products “pair moisturizing ingredients like hyaluronic acid, glycerin and ceramides with potent copper peptides to elegantly address moisturization and anti-aging,” says Dr. Libby.
Dr. Schlessinger recommends Obagi Elastiderm Eye Cream ($116), Vichy Normaderm PhytoAction Deep Cleansing Gel ($18), Avene Cicalfate + Scar Gel (26), iS Clinical Copper Firming Mist ($40) and Alpha-H Vitamin B Serum ($52). If you’re looking to work copper peptides into your beauty sleep regimen, Dr. Schlessinger suggests iluminage Skin Rejuvenating Pillowcase with Anti-Aging Copper Technology ($60).
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