Medically reviewed by Minimalist Health Specialist -  Written by Arpita Singh (Beauty Expert)  on 07th Oct 2020

What Are Copper Peptides And How Can They Help Your Skin

Copper peptides for skin

That's a miracle ingredient! It gets your collagen up for a boost and growing." Or, "this one gives you a young and plump look." Such claims must have fallen on your curious ears. But do you know why collagen is so essential for your skin?

Collagen forms 30% of the total protein count in the human body and is also the most abundant. It is found in the bones, muscles, skins and other tissues. It provides the scaffolding for your entire framework. Collagen plays a significant role in the constant renewal of skin cells. You owe the elasticity and firmness of your skin to the all-purpose seamless protein.

Your body makes collagen naturally and in immense quantities. However, the production of collagen starts to decline by the time you turn 25. After that, its scarcity shows up, and the effects of which are even felt on your skin.

Some being- 

  • The process of cell replacement slows down. 
  • Epidermis, the outer layer of skin, thins. The number of layers in the skin remains unchanged though.

    The number of melanocytes (pigment-generating cells) decreases, causing the skin's antioxidant system to drop.

    The size and efficiency of Vellus hair follicles reduce, and so does the skin's overall regenerative process. 
  • The damaged proteins accumulate at points, which erupts on the skin's surface as scars, broken capillaries, wrinkles, etc. 
  • Sunspots, sagging of the skin. 

Pollution, stress and hormonal imbalance may further aggravate the situations.

Well, you don't need to worry about things getting out of your hands. There exist tons of skincare ingredients to save the day for you. One among them is copper peptides or the famous "face-lift in a bottle" compounds; the fashion magazines love to call them this way.

Copper peptides, though available in spas, salons and other professional outlets from 1989, was first introduced to the mass market in 1997.

People initially used them for tissue regeneration and wound healing. 

Fun fact:

The use of copper peptides had been a prominent medicinal practice, even centuries back, in the Egyptian civilization.

What Are Copper Peptides? 

The compounds that are made up of copper and peptides. Easy! To elaborate, Peptides are small chains of amino acids, typically comprising 2-50 of them.

They serve as the building blocks of larger proteins that form your various tissues and organs. The complex proteins in your skin, such as collagen and elastin, need peptides for carrying out their normal functions. Protein-rich foods nourish you with a lot of peptides. They can be derived, both from plants and animals. A few forms are chemical in origin. 

Dr. Andrea Suarez, a board-certified dermatologist and skin-care specialist, based in Colorado, Says:

Peptides are molecules that can bind onto water and are excellent humectants. If put on the skin, they help you to hold onto the water much better. It has a moisturizing effect on your skin

How is the copper playing a part?

"Copper is a trace mineral present in your body and is largely obtained through diet. It facilitates as a co-factor for the numerous enzymes (protein structures), which in turn, correlates to the vital processes taking place in our body," explains Dr. Suarez. "Be it the antioxidant activity, synthesis of collagen and elastin, production of energy in the cells, or the melanin formation." 

Now, let's settle the copper peptides

When we deal with the copper peptides, we mainly look at the signaling peptides (stimulate the synthesis of collagen and elastin) and the carrier peptides (deliver trace elements to the skin).

Before we start, you must know that two generations of the copper peptides exist.

GHK-Cu is the first discovery in the field of copper-peptide technology during the late 1980s. GHK (also known as tripeptide-1), comprising three amino acids, namely - glycine, histidine and lysine. The signal peptide GHK works in combination with Cu (copper) in the skin and controls the anti-aging factors. But it is fragile and breaks down quickly. It doesn't go well with the other skincare ingredients, including the Retin-A, hydroxy acids, vitamin C, etc. The first generation of copper peptides is found to compliment sensitive and dry skin.

With higher potency and a better breakdown resistance, the second generation of copper peptides followed their predecessors, coming out in the early 1990s. SRCP (skin remodeling copper peptides) adhere to the skin more efficiently and quickly heal the wounds.

They work on the non-damaged parts of the skin as well, helping them to attain firmness. Vitamin C is still not a friend to these peptides. They act best in revising the old scars, sunspots and skin tags

What are the benefits of using copper peptides? 

1) Copper peptides accelerate the process of wound repair. 

They can be found in products that aid skin healing post-surgery chemicals peels, dermabrasion (mechanical peel). They even maintain the connective tissues by timely repair and support. 

2) They reverse the signs of aging, or so the cosmetic companies claim on their different products. 

GHK-Cu goes into the deeper layers of skin, and stimulate the formation of vital proteins - collagen and elastin.

They promote the repairing of collagen fibers and restore the elasticity to the skin. They increase the thickness of layers, making them firm.

Overall, they improve the skin texture and prevent the sagging of the skin. 

3) They act as free radical scavengers.
Wait, what are free radicals? 

Unstable oxygen atoms in the body, which desperately seek for electrons and in the process, cause damage to collagen and the DNA of cells.

UV rays from the sun are the leading creators of free radicals in the skin. Copper peptides boost the antioxidant mechanism of the skin, defending it against the oxidative stress. 

4) They are anti-inflammatory.

It can help in cases of acne and psoriasis. 

5) They can increase hair growth and potentially affect the follicle size.

Overall, they improve the regenerative strength of the skin.

6) They keep skin moist and healthy. 

GHK-Cu stimulates the synthesis and breakdown of the water-holding molecules called glycosaminoglycans.

In turn, these cling onto the water present on your skin, ensuring a high level of moisturization. 

7) Copper peptides help to initiate a few processes in the body. 

They can help produce biochemical energy from nutrients in the body's blood supply. They even improve the skin's blood vessel microcirculation.

8) Copper peptides work on remodeling the skin and can help you get rid of scars. 

They remove damaged proteins (which gather up to form scars on the surface) such as the damaged collagen and elastin. Also, they prevent the excess breakdown of skin proteins.

They help rebuild a protective skin barrier, and tighten your skin texture, giving you a youthful and plump look. 

What do the research studies show?

According to a recent study (2018), GHK-Cu (the first generation of copper peptides) "has multiple biological actions, all of which appear to be health positive. It increases collagen, elastin, and glycosaminoglycans and supports dermal fibroblasts (skin cells in the dermis).

A bunch of studies from 2012 "confirms the ability of copper peptides to improve aging skin conditions, which make them indispensable in anti-aging and protective cosmetic products."

Several research theories suggest that "bioactive peptides hold great potential for cancer therapy and diagnostics." Thereby indicating that peptides are safe for topical use. 

Many dermatologists also point out

Most of the experiments carried so far, are only the preliminary observations taken from the pilot studies. The activity of copper peptides has not been demonstrated on human skin yet; no proven investigation with skin biopsies can substantiate the claims. 

Can they get absorbed into the deeper layers of skin? Or, can they function freely as they reach there?

The skincare experts remain skeptical of the solutions, the copper peptides bring.

Evidence suggests that the copper peptides in some cases are made to enter the skin using derma rollers and microneedling. But there's an adverse side effect of microneedling, you can develop foreign body reactions to the other products you apply on your skin," warns Dr. Suarez.

Some believe that the bioengineered mimics of copper peptides can only moisturize your skin to the best of their abilities. And one shouldn't expect anything else from them.

There have been no reports yet on the use of copper peptides during the delicate states of pregnancy and lactation. However, it is always the best of ideas to consult your dermatologist before taking up any skin ingredient when you are expecting or are already a nursing mother. 

How do you use copper peptides in your daily routine?

  • They are available in the form of serums, moisturizers and cleanser. Experts recommend to use it in the first two forms, as they both allow the ingredient to stay on your skin for a more extended period. 
  • Make sure you discuss the ingredients that you wish to use in combination with the copper peptides. However, using them alongside the others, don't enhance their performance.
  • Follow the instructions that appear on the packaging. Always apply designated concentrations for copper peptides. 
  • You should always clean your face and get all the germs, dirt and makeup off it. Then rub in the serum or the moisturizer when the skin is still damp. Pat it dry. 
  • Experts suggest using it at night. Initially, you can have it on alternate nights. As you progress, you can increase the applications.
  • Applying it twice regularly - is the maximum you can get to. 
  • Your dermatologist will fix a proper course for you, and how long should you be taking it. 

Be careful while using the copper peptides. Its possible side effects being: 

  • Excess intake of copper can make you nauseous, or trouble you with gastrointestinal issues.
  • Remember, copper is a trace mineral. So, if taken in unauthorized quantities, it can also lead to a severe organ system toxicity.
  • Peptide allergy, rarely reported, can give you mild to severe rash. 

Caution:

Copper peptides can also be taken orally as a dietary supplement. Ingesting too much of it can cause health complications.

The Bottom Line

Peptides are often too pricey! Given the fact, we don't have much data on its efficacy, is it wise on your part to purchase it?

Well, think about it. Take advice from your dermatologist, or another trusted source.

There are several alternatives to copper peptides, which are backed up by numerous scientific research. They include hydroxy acids, vitamin C and E, retinol, etc. 

NOTE:

People have mixed reactions to copper peptides. But if you want to give it a try, you can move ahead with your discretion, as it poses no threat to your skin and overall health. Only, you should apply it under some expert's supervision. 

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