Peruse any shelf in your favorite beauty store — virtual or otherwise — and read the label. Chances are, you'll see many mentions of ingredients like hyaluronic acid, ceramides, vitamin C, and retinol. While you're likely pretty familiar with those buzzwords, it's safe to guess that you're not as acquainted with copper peptides. However, more and more products are taking advantage of copper's powerful properties, so it's time you got a quick lesson on the science and skin care benefits.
The Science and History
Copper peptides were first developed and utilized in products that helped expedite wound healing. But over the last couple of decades, scientists and researchers have studied the ingredient as it pertains to the regeneration of collagen production and antiaging. What they've found has been promising and has led to more brands incorporating copper peptides into products.
"Copper peptides are supported by voluminous scientific research and play an integral role in age prevention skin care regimens," said Francine Porter, a product development expert and the founder of Osmotics Cosmetics.
She explains that copper is something our bodies produce naturally and that it serves as both an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. According to recent studies, copper peptides in skin care have been found to not just increase collagen and elastin (the materials responsible for firm, taut skin) but also nix old, damaged collagen and elastin to make way for a more youthful complexion.
The Skin Care Benefits of Copper Peptides
Products utilizing copper peptides are best for those who want to slow down signs of aging. Will it give you an instant facelift? No, the only thing that can do that is, well, a facelift. But according to many researchers, it can improve the quality of your skin.
"Proteins are the key building blocks of most living tissues," explained Bella Schneider, a clinical skin care expert and founder of Bella Schneider Beauty. "Copper peptides can help minimize the damage from daily wear and tear of the skin. They also have the potential to improve wrinkles, skin texture firmness, and thickness. Copper peptides are effective against various forms of skin irritation, mainly due to their anti-inflammatory effects."
Products Containing Copper
Sunday Riley Bionic Anti-Aging Cream ($125) contains an antiaging cocktail of copper, resveratrol, coenzyme Q10, and prickly pear. I find that a little goes a long way with this thick, custard-like formulation and that it's ideal for mature or dry skin types since it's so moisturizing. I apply a thin layer at night after cleansing and toning, and as the night progresses, my skin slowly sucks up the sweet-smelling product. In the morning, my skin is noticeably softer and plumper.
CU Shine Copper Mask ($46) is a shimmery peel-off mask that looks like molten metal and contains a mixture of copper, magnesium, and zinc. I apply it to clean, dry skin and let it set for about 10 minutes before peeling it off in one layer. Afterward, my skin feels exfoliated, soft, and firm. Bonus: it makes for fun Instagram selfies.
Lastly, Korres Golden Krocus Ageless Saffron Elixir ($98) combines copper with saffron, hyaluronic acid, and oat. These ingredients work together to plump skin, minimize fine lines, and hydrate and soothe your skin. I like that it has a velvety slip to it and my skin drinks it up within minutes after applying.
Established Ingredients vs. New Ones
"Remember that many cosmetic ingredients come into popularity in cycles," said Stephen Alain Ko, a cosmetic chemist. "Copper peptides, in combination with retinoic acid, was popular in the mid-2000s as a treatment for acne scarring on online forums."
Ko says that the jury is technically still out in the case of copper peptides and that many of the studies are currently "in vitro," which means they're still being tested on skin models within a lab. For that reason, some arguments say you should avoid new ingredients (like copper) entirely and stick to those that have a long and solid history. While it's hard to argue with that line of thought, there's still something to be said for innovation, even if it's young.
Product Credit: Tibi Top, Kathleen Whitaker Earrings