Copper peptides first came on the scene in 1988. Since that time, studies have found that copper peptide complexes stimulate even greater collagen synthesis than potent anti-agers like Retin-A (tretinoin) or ascorbic acid (vitamin C). That’s pretty promising, explaining why treatments with copper like NEOVA Copper Moisture Mask and Osmotics Blue Copper 5 Firming Elasticity Repair Serum have become more popular.
Dermatologists love it too. “Copper definitely plays an important role in maintaining healthy skin,” says dermatologist Dr. Joshua Zeichner, M.D., director of cosmetic and clinical research at Mount Sinai’s Department of Dermatology in New York. “It helps to develop collagen and elastin, which maintain the strength of the skin, and it promotes the production of skin-plumping hyaluronic acid.”
Can copper peptides drastically improve skin firmness?
Yes — it seems likely. Copper peptides have been known in studies to induce collagen production in fibroblasts in vitro. In fact, some studies have found that copper peptide complexes stimulate even greater procollagen synthesis than potent anti-agers Retin-A (tretinoin) or ascorbic acid (vitamin C).
Does this mean that copper peptides are more effective anti-agers than Retin-A or vitamin C?
Not necessarily. Although copper peptides were established by Abdulghani et. al. to be more effective in stimulating collagen synthesis than Retin-A active tretinoin or L-ascorbic acid, copper has not been found to improve the texture of skin, as both Retin-A and vitamin C have been found to do.
How Does Copper Improve the Skin?
Although the exact mechanism of action is not known at this time, it is known that copper is involved in the formation of enzymes that are crucial for skin health. These enzymes include superoxide dismutase, a potent antioxidant in the skin, and lysyl oxidase, which is involved in the cross-linking of elastin and collagen. Therefore, it is possible that copper stimulation of youth-boosting skin enzymes is at least partially responsible for the increase in collagen synthesis.
Do copper peptides potentially have any negative effects?
It depends on who you ask. According to Dr. Zeichner, “Unlike with other heavy metals, like silver, the risk of toxicity from topically applied copper is low because it is metabolized by the body.”
An oft-misinterpreted 1999 study in Nature found that copper peptides activate matrix metalloproteinase-2 — enzymes that degrade or breakdown collagen. But this activation occurs only in instances of wound healing, in which the skin is broken, bleeding, or injured. As the study suggests, in these instances of healing, it is possible that partially breaking down tissues via matrix metalloproteinase-2 activation is actually useful. In fact, according to a 1993 study by Maquart et. al., use of copper on broken skin increases the rate of wound closure.
No research evidence suggests collagen-degrading matrix metalloproteinase-2 enzymes would be activated on skin that is intact or non-injured. I personally am in favor of copper peptides, believe the research suggests they are safe, and support their use on non-injured or injured skin.
A Top Product with Copper: The NEOVA Copper Moisture Mask
The NEOVA Copper Moisture Mask takes a break from NEOVA’s usual DNA repair enzymes (which I also love), and infuses copper into this rinse-off mask. The copper is designed to improve skin firmness and the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and sagging over time. The mechanism is believed to be via enzyme activation, as stated above, but the verdict is truly still out.
In using the mask, it has a medium-weight texture and no noticeable scent. The light blue gel glides across the skin. It does not feel sticky. It did not pull or sting at my skin. I had no noticeable burning.
After 10-20 minutes, I thought it left my skin feeling super soft and hydrated. I especially like that it is rumored the NEOVA Copper Moisture Mask was originally used only by aestheticians and dermatologists after chemical peels or microdermabrasion to soothe and heal the skin. It’s definitely a professional-grade product, and I highly recommend it, especially for those with aging concerns or dry, patchy skin.
Ingredients: Water (Aqua), Hydroxypropyl Methylcellulose, Benzyl Alcohol, Bis (Tripeptide-1) Copper Acetate, Sodium Chloride.
Another Top Product with Copper: Osmotics Blue Copper 5 Firming Elasticity Repair Serum
Osmotics Blue Copper 5 Firming Elasticity Repair Serum is a better choice for those who don’t like a mask and would rather slap on a product in the evening and be done with it. I am not one who likes to dilly-dally at the bathroom mirror myself, so I would definitely be in this category if I weren’t doing this for a living!
That said, Osmotics Blue Copper 5 Firming Elasticity Repair Serum has copper PCA, plus a few firming peptides, including palmitoyl oligopeptide and palmitoyl tetrapeptide-3. What is great about palmitoyl oligopeptide is that it significantly stimulates collagen production in human fibroblasts, as shown in a 2007 study in Dermatologic Therapy. When used twice daily for a significant period of time – about six months – this means firmer skin, provided that other factors remain the same (i.e., weight, sun exposure, etc.).
As for palmitoyl tetrapeptide-3, also known as matrixyl, concentrations of 4-8% may stimulate collagen production when used consistently over time. Matrixyl is best when combined with a fatty acid component in order to increase its penetration into the skin. At the 2002 World Congress of Dermatology in Paris, France, use of a cream containing 8% Matrixyl was found to decrease wrinkle depth by 68% and wrinkle density by 47% over six months. Matrixyl, like argireline, promotes fibroblasts to produce collagen, but has the additional benefit of promoting hyaluronic acid production in the skin.Osmotics Blue Copper 5 Firming Elasticity RepairSerum has a thick texture, but absorbs within a minute into the skin. I like Osmotics Blue Copper 5 Firming Elasticity Repair Serum for use after a retinoid and before a moisturizer at night.
Purified Water, Sodium Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Isononyl Isononanoate, Avena Sativa (Oat) Kernel Extract, Hydrogenated Polydecene, Octyldodecyl Neopentanoate, Lentinus Edodes Extract (Shii Take extracts), Glycerin, Butylene Glycol, Carbomer, Palmitoyl-Oligopeptide, Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-3, Copper PCA, Ethylene, Acrylic Acid Copolymer, Diazolidinyl Urea, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Propylene Glycol, Polysorbate 20.
Bottom Line: If Your Skin Care Needs a Boost, Try Copper!
Copper peptides have been established in the Abdulghani et. al. study to induce surprisingly high levels of collagen production, helping to improve the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and sagging skin. However, they have not been established to improve age spots and other signs of hyperpigmentation or skin roughness, as retinoids and L-ascorbic acid have been proven to do.
I would recommend sticking with the “FutureDerm Seven” — retinoids, vitamins C and E, antioxidants, peptides, AHAs, amino acids, and sunscreen. Adding copper in certainly does not hurt, as studies suggest copper may stimulate collagen-activating enzymes superoxide dismutase and lysyl oxidase. If you do try it, I like both the NEOVA Copper Moisture Mask and Osmotics Blue Copper 5 Firming Elasticity Repair Serum.