I became quite excited when I first found out about copper peptides. It has been referred to as the most effective skin regeneration ingredient, even though it’s only been on the market since 1997. And then I became baffled. In all those ten years, there is a relative paucity of products containing copper peptides. Why should that be? Perhaps it turned out not to be so good after all. Or perhaps there are ghastly side effects.
As far as I can tell, copper peptides are effective and proven to be so. The reason why they aren't as common as, say, AHAs seems to be because there is a stranglehold on the patent. So much of a stranglehold that some products that claim to be based on copper peptides aren't really and will not work at all at improving skin texture. Here’s why:
The benefits of copper peptides for tissue regeneration were discovered by Dr. Loren Pickart in the 1970s. He found and patented a number of specific copper peptides (in particular, GHK copper peptides or GHK-Cu) that were effective in healing wounds and skin lesions as well as some gastrointestinal conditions. Pickart still controls these patents and, therefore, very few products contain the GHK copper peptide. An exception is Neutrogena, which has a deal with Pickart to include GHK in low doses. As you might have now guessed, one of the few ways to buy a potent and genuine product is from Pickart himself.
A peptide is a short chain of amino acid (protein is a long chain), while the presence of copper in living tissues has been known for more than 200 years and was popularized by those copper bracelets that Grandma wore to ward off rheumatism. But can copper peptides diminish wrinkles as well as they seem to heal scars?
Theoretically, it is possible since copper peptides promote the degradation of abnormally large cross-linked collagen (the one found in scars and, to a lesser degree, in wrinkles). They also stimulate the production of 'regular' collagen found in normal skin. In one small study of about 20 volunteers, copper peptides stimulated collagen production in the intact skin. In fact, in that study copper peptides produced a stronger stimulation of collagen synthesis than tretinoin (Retin A, Renova) or ascorbate (vitamin C).
A study performed upon 20 volunteers showed that after 30 days, the formation of procollagen, a precursor of collagen, increased 70% (shown by skin biopsy) compared with 50% formation from Vitamin C and 40% due to Tretinoin.
This all seems to promising that its worth going back to Dr Pickart (a maverick who doesn't believe that sun damage is the primary cause of wrinkles). He favors a two-step program: out with the old and in with the new. An exfoliant (mild hydroxy acids) is applied to the skin in the morning to slough off the old skin cells. The copper peptide is then used in the evening, to encourage the production of new, healthy skin cells.
I have ordered two of his products: Neova Eye Therapy and Super Cop. I intend to use the latter very cautiously on my neck - it is really a product for reducing scars (eg post acne) but used judiciously can help rejuvinate skin. I'll post a report after a few months.