Over the past few years, we've noticed a major trend gaining ground within the beauty industry and among skincare enthusiasts like ourselves. From 24k gold-infused facial oils to diamond dust–encrusted setting powders to colloidal silver eye masks, metallics are taking over. And most recently, copper—specifically copper peptides—has repeatedly caught our eye as we peruse the ingredient lists of our favorite serums. And apparently, we aren't alone. We spoke to dermatologists, a facialist, and a nurse practitioner to get their take on copper peptides in skincare.
Meet the Expert
- Nancy Pellegrino, NP, is the cofounder of THE ROUTE.
- Joanna Vargas is a celebrity facialist and founder of Joanna Vargas Salons and Skin Care.
- Adarsh Vijay Mudgil, MD, is the founder of Mudgil Dermatology in NYC.
- Marie Hayag, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist and founder of 5th Avenue Aesthetics.
Keep reading to learn more about the ingredient that acts like nature's Botox.
Type of ingredient: Retexturizer
Main benefits: Antioxidant, stimulates collagen production
Who should use it: In general, anyone looking to get rid of hyperpigmentation.
How often can you use it: Twice a day.
Works well with: Copper peptides don't have an enhanced performance when used simultaneously with any particular ingredient, but in general, it's recommended that they are used in conjunction with a barrier-protecting moisturizer.
Doesn't work with: Dermatologists typically recommend that you don't use copper peptides simultaneously with vitamin C, but each case is different depending on the formulas you're using. Consult a dermatologist before using.
What Are Copper Peptides?
"Copper peptides are well known in the skincare world with decades of data as a skin-restoring ingredient. They improve skin including firmness, smoothness, reduction of fine lines and wrinkles, by promoting collagen, elastin, glycosaminoglycan (think HAs) and improved antioxidant activity," says Pellegrino.
They're increasingly popular—for instance, in just one month, "copper peptides serums" was searched more than 1000 times on Google. And considering the acclaimed benefits of this particular kind of peptide (like the collagen-increasing and wrinkle-reducing), we're not all that surprised by the apparent fascination.
Benefits of Copper Peptides for Skin
Copper peptides "serve as an antioxidant, promote collagen and elastin production and also remove damaged collagen and elastin from the skin," says Joanna Vargas, a celebrity facialist. Mudgil reiterates: "Copper peptides work as antioxidants and are also thought to stimulate collagen and elastin production, which can help soften the appearance of fine lines." Keep in mind that the key phrase here is that copper peptides are thought to boast these benefits. Dermatologists have mixed feelings, and there isn't any quantifiable evidence.
However, there are definite benefits copper peptides have: "I like products with copper peptides for wound healing," says Hayag. "Another benefit is that it can help with acne by normalizing the bacterial concentration on the skin."
Side Effects of Copper Peptides
Overuse of copper peptides in any form of skincare can be bad, but your best line of defense is just not ingesting them. While they're way gentler than retinoids are, they can still cause a rash. Also of note, too much copper intake can make you nauseous and give you gastrointestinal issues. But that's not the worst of it—they may cause serious organ system toxicity.
How To Use It
Copper peptides should only really be used in their designated concentrations within skincare products. Because of the way they're absorbed into the body, it's just too dangerous to use too much of them. Thankfully, it's pretty hard to find copper peptides in their isolated form; they kind of have to be mixed into stuff
Which other products can reduce the effectiveness of copper peptides?
Ingredients such as retinol, vitamin C, and alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) in other skincare products can reduce the overall effectiveness of copper peptides.
How should you apply copper peptides to skin?
You can apply twice daily on clean skin in an upward motion.
Who should proceed with caution when using copper peptides?
Those with sensitive skin should be wary of using copper peptides as they could cause irritation.
Pickart L, Vasquez-Soltero JM, Margolina A. GHK peptide as a natural modulator of multiple cellular pathways in skin regeneration. Biomed Res Int. 2015;2015:648108. doi:10.1155/2015/648108
National Center for Biotechnology Information. PubChem compound summary for CID 91820615, copper peptide(GHK-Cu)/. Updated October 31, 2020.
Borkow G. Using copper to improve the well-being of the skin. Curr Chem Biol. 2014;8(2):89-102. doi:10.2174/2212796809666150227223857