Copper peptides: what are they and what do they do for skin?

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Copper peptides increase the production of collagen and elastin in skin – here’s what you need to know and the best products to try. 

Collagen is one of the main building blocks of skin, but as we age levels of it deplete. That’s the reason skin can not only lose its elasticity, but it can also cause an increase in fine lines, wrinkles, and in some case, sagging.

All is not lost though and there are plenty of products available that help promote collagen production. One of those is copper peptides; while not necessarily one of the most talked about ingredients, it’s one of the most clever and is definitely something worth incorporating into your daily skincare routine.

That’s not all copper peptides are good for though, they’re a real multi-tasking skincare hero thanks to the endless benefits. Here, we speak to Prudvi Kaka, chief scientific officer at Deciem, to get the low-down.

What are copper peptides?

“In short, copper peptides, such as GHK (glycyl-l-histidyl-l-lysine), are also known as carrier peptides where their primary function is to carry copper ions,” says Kaka.

What are the benefits of using copper peptides for your skin?

“GHK is naturally present in the body and as we age, levels begin to deplete. On its own, GHK is a powerful antioxidant,” says Kaka. “But when it’s combined with copper (Cu) it forms something called copper tripeptide-1 (GHK-Cu), which creates a peptide complex that has a huge range of benefits for skin.”

“Its natural role, as found in the human body, includes the activation of a wide range of skin health functions, including healing, immune function, collagen synthesis, production of fibroblasts (which are cells that work as collagen/elastin ‘factories’) and anti-inflammatory responses. This in turn will help to reduce visible signs of ageing, improve the look of skin elasticity, density and firmness and enhance skin clarity.”

When should you start using copper peptides and how often?

“Copper peptides can be used when you notice the fine lines and wrinkles,” advises Kaka. As for how often they can be used? Kaka says twice a day is ideal, once in the morning and once in the evening.

Can copper peptides be used in combination with other ingredients?

“Yes. Copper peptides can be combined with other active ingredients that support skin hydration and barrier function, such as hyaluronic acid, amino acids and facial oils,” he says. “On the other hand, I do not recommend combining copper peptides with direct acids, retinoids, pure or ethylated Vitamin C or strong antioxidants.”

Are there any side effects of using copper peptides in skincare products?

“Copper peptides, such as GHK-Cu, are naturally occurring within our skin and have an array of benefits. At Deciem, we have not come across any clinical studies that raise concerns on the safety of topical copper peptides,” says Kaka. “However, we always recommend a patch-test before incorporating a new product into your routine. We do not recommend applying copper peptides on compromised, broken or peeling skin.”

What form does copper peptides usually take?

“Copper Peptides can be offered in different formats, such as serums or balms,” says Kaka. “However, the efficacy of topical copper peptides in the skin is dependent on multiple factors, including the composition of the formulation, the type and concentration of copper peptides incorporated, the intended purpose of the formula, and the combination of copper peptides with other skincare formulas.”

At what point in your routine should you use copper peptides?

“This depends on the format of the product. We suggest applying products in order from lightest to heaviest formulations,” he explains. “This allows serums and lightweight formulas to be absorbed into the skin without struggling to go through thicker formulations. For instance, a water-based serum should be applied before heavier and oil formulations.

The best copper peptide products

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Lucy Partington

Freelance beauty editor Lucy Partington is obsessed with all things skincare, collecting eyeshadow palettes that she'll probably never use, and is constantly on the hunt for the ultimate glowy foundation.