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The Truth About Copper Peptides

the truth about copper peptides
October 2, 2014 Reviewed by Marta 13 Comments

Copper peptides have an impressive clinical pedigree going back to the 1970s. They are proven wound healers, can help hair growth and have been in skin care products for past 20 years. Today, they are regarded as one of the most potent skin regeneration actives, and much more is understood about how they work and how we can get the most out of them as an anti-aging active for skin and hair. There are still a few urban myths persisting though, so here’s the truth about copper peptides.

What are copper peptides?

Copper is something that exists naturally in our tissues. Depletion of it has for a long time been correlated with many degenerative diseases. One of the main roles of copper is being anti-inflammatory — it works by suppressing inflammatory cytokines — and there is a growing school of thought that increased inflammation brings about aging.

Copper peptide and collagen production

Cleveland Clinic points out that studies have shown copper peptide promotes collagen and elastin production and also acts as an antioxidant. It also promotes production of glycosaminoglycans. Clinical studies have found that copper peptides also remove damaged collagen and elastin from the skin and scar tissue because they activate the skin’s system responsible for those functions. Copper is the key mineral in lysyl oxidase, an enzyme that weaves together collagen and elastin.

Copper peptides boost LED performance

Research has shown that copper peptides and red LED light make a powerful combination. Red light alone maintains fibroblast activity and increased collagen synthesis. When used with copper peptides, collagen 1 expression increases even more. This is why I’ll be introducing a copper peptide based serum for use with the True Vitality Lux Renew ultrasound and LED device.

Copper peptides and hair growth

Copper’s ability to assist in hair growth was discovered when it was noticed that the hair follicles around treated wounds were exceptionally large. It works on the follicle in two ways: increasing follicle cell proliferation and decreasing programmed follicle cell death, which results in smaller follicles. In a study on rat hair, researchers noted an increase in follicle size and concluded that copper works on hair growth in a similar way to minoxidil. Copper peptides are the active ingredient in our own Truth Vitality hair care line.

Myth or truth — only  GHK-Cu counts?

GHK-copper complex of a glycyl-L-histidyl-L-lysine peptide. Since it has three amino acids it is called a tripeptide. The GHK tripeptide is touted because the molecules are small and can bind to receptors more easily than larger ones. It is also the version that has been used since the 1970s in various studies. In recent years, new versions that are gentler to use while still being effective have been developed. Our Truth Vitality line uses a proprietary complex of five amino acids — glycine, L-histidine, L-lysine, L-serine, L-citrulline — with copper chloride. Copper PCA also works.

Myth or truth — overuse of copper peptides can be aging?

The idea that overdoing copper peptides can make you look older is one that surfaces in online forums from time to time, including some who claim a loss of elasticity. The problem is that overuse is never defined. I certainly have never seen any research on this (and I have spent a long time looking) nor have I personally experienced it. All the published research that I have come across — and it is extensive — points to copper peptides working on collagen and elastin with positive effects. I would say that this is a wound healer and should only be used on something that needs repairing (e.g., visible lines). This is not an ingredient to use as a preventative by someone who has no signs of aging.

Myth or truth — copper is toxic?

Inorganic copper promotes free radical formation. However, when copper is converted to organic form by binding to peptides it can be applied to the skin with little risk.

Myth or truth — copper peptides cannot be combined with vitamin C?

There is a theory that copper peptides and vitamin C cannot be combined without negating the effects of the copper. As this is a concern that people raise from time to time, I delved as deeply as I could into the research. Now, there is evidence that the two substances would interact by vitamin C replacing the peptide as the chelating agent around the copper center, but it is a very uncommon occurrence. Although it would somewhat depend on the relative concentrations of the two substances, the effect in a product would be near negligible. So while there is a shred of truth to the rumors about combining the two, it's largely overblown in my opinion.

Marta Wohrle is an anti-aging skin care and beauty expert and the founder/CEO of Truth In Aging. Marta is dedicated to uncovering the truth behind anti-aging product claims.

  • March 27, 2017

    by cynthia wiles

    It was quite an informative one. Thanks for sharing.

  • June 18, 2016

    by Ray

    I've been using NIOD's Copper Peptide serum, and I think nothing has given me as dramatic a result as this in a week. Thankfully, unlike other Copper Peptides, NIOD does not insist on too many dos and donts. In fact, they even have a 30% Vitamin C serum ELAN included in their Copper Peptide regimen.

  • February 10, 2016

    by Marta

    Hi Ariana, the copper we are talking about here are proteins. It's not the same as a heavy metal such as used for a pan.

  • February 10, 2016

    by Ariana

    hello dear

    Is it a good idea if I make a brush out of copper, then brush and comb my hair with it in order to have thicker and longer hair?

    Or maybe cook food in a copper pan? Would this be helpful, too ?

    look forward to hearing from you

  • December 6, 2015

    by Marta

    Hi Deborah, we haven't reviewed the Isomers, but the ingredients list looks OK. You could also take a look at our selection of Five Best with copper peptides:

  • December 6, 2015

    by deborah

    what do you think or know how good is Isomers copper p concentrate serum? because i'm think on purchasing it on

  • October 11, 2014

    by Marta

    Hi Beth, it is my understanding that about 15% of women note unwanted facial hair due to menopause. I haven't heard about copper exacerbating this. I use copper peptide products all the time and have no personal experience of increased fuzz or facial hairs.

  • October 11, 2014

    by Beth

    In regards to hair growth and pore size, would this ingredient increase the "peach fuzz" or chin hair growth that is common with menopause?

  • October 7, 2014

    by Marta

    Hi Victoria, the end of the sentence had somehow been cut off, so no wonder it was confusing. Anyway, it is now restored and the answer is that copper peptides work on age damaged skin - wrinkles, loss of elastin, sagging etc. The point is that someone in their 30s without wrinkles will not benefit.

  • October 7, 2014

    by Victoria

    Hi Marta--Can you please clarify your third sentence in the "overuse of copper peptides can be aging" paragraph (the one starting with "All the published research that I have come across")? The wording in that sentence seems a little confusing. Are you saying that copper peptide creams should only be used on damaged areas like wrinkles? I am currently using Osmotics Blue Copper 5 and would like to ensure that I'm using it correctly. Thanks!

  • October 3, 2014

    by Marta

    Hi Lolly, one thought is that the Ultra Elastin Cream has glycolic and lactic acid high on the ingredients list. These exfoliators would make you and your hyperpigmentation more sun sensitive. This could cause darkening. Wearing a good sunscreen over this cream would be essential.

  • October 2, 2014

    by lolly

    hi, I used 2 bottles of Brad's peptides & had some success especially with dark
    pigmentation. I am now trying Brad's ultra elastin and the dark spots are MUCH
    darker. Suggestions??
    Many thanks, Lolly Jensen

  • October 2, 2014

    by Steph

    Almost the entire Copper confusion came about because historically all of the skin research was on GHK Copper (GHK-Cu), yet that research was being promulgated by a company who on their same web sites sold primarily their own unique (non-GHK) version of Copper.

    So theirs was (is) a different chemistry altogether, with no published research on it at the time, and no clarification of that fact.

    That is the form of Copper that many people had severe trouble with, whilst others loved it. I was one of the former. Even extremely low, careful, methodical use resulted in a horrible acceleration of wrinkling and skin thinning. It was an extremely unpleasant experience that took around a year to put right after stopping.

    I do perfectly fine with GHK Copper though. I really quite like it for firming and soothing, but avoid regular use just because of the pigmentation darkening effect.

    I don't believe there is a significant concern for anyone about encountering the risky form of Copper unless bought from that one company. I'm not aware of other companies using it in their products, though similar things could pop up from time to time. Just be careful and trust your instincts. Do not follow the IMHO cruel advice to continue using it and "push through" a lengthy wrinkling "stage", if your instincts tell you it's incompatible with your skin type.

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