It seems there’s a hot new skin care ingredient trending every other week. The one everyone’s talking about right now is copper peptides, which claim to offer a variety of benefits, including stimulating collagen, clearing up acne scars and even limiting muscle contraction to slow the formation of wrinkles. But is this ingredient as effective as brands claim? And who can benefit from it most? We spoke to dermatologists to find out.
What ARE copper peptides, anyway?
There are various types of peptides, such as carrier peptides, enzyme inhibitor peptides and others. “Copper peptides are carrier peptides built up of amino acid proteins. Proteins provide the structure and support of our skin. Like many things, these decrease as we age,” said Dr. Sheila Farhang, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Avant Dermatology & Aesthetics in Arizona and Beverly Hills, California.
Peptides occur naturally in our skin and act like alarms. “They work as signals telling our skin to produce more collagen where we need it the most. Carrier peptides, like copper peptides, deliver trace minerals to the skin to boost collagen,” said Dr. Shereene Idriss, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Idriss Dermatology in New York.
Dr. Marisa Garshick, a board-certified dermatologist at MDCS in New York, explained that carrier peptides essentially deliver minerals necessary for wound healing, which in turn helps with sagging skin, improves the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and can improve texture and firmness.
The benefits of copper peptides
Dr. Dhaval Bhanusali, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Skin Medicinals, explained that copper peptides have become popular for a good reason: “They provide a variety of benefits, ranging from stimulating collagen to even limiting muscle contraction to slow down wrinkle formation.”
“Copper peptides boost collagen production and elastin, which in turn can improve skin texture, firmness and the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles,” Idriss said. They also promote the production of glycoaminoglycans, which (like hyaluronic acid) help hydrate and plump up fine lines while boosting the skin’s moisture, Farhang said.
Copper peptides have antioxidant properties, but it’s incorrect to think of them as a replacement for vitamin C, Idriss noted. Still, they can brighten the skin and protect it against free radical damage, Garshick said.
“They also have anti-inflammatory benefits and interestingly enough can help with wound healing by stimulating the breakdown of large collagen in scar tissue,” Idriss said. Because of their anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial benefits, copper peptides can help to calm the skin, Bhanusali said. Further, they have been shown to help with acne scarring, Garshick noted.
Who can and can’t use copper peptides?
The experts agreed that everyone can benefit from adding copper peptides to their routines, and there are few to no contraindications. If you want to target fine lines and wrinkles, adding such a product in your late 20s and early 30s might be beneficial, Farhang suggested.
There are some cases where you might not need them, though. “If you are using ingredients in your routine that offer the same benefits that you would see from copper peptides, such as other antioxidant- or collagen-boosting ingredients, then I would say it’s not absolutely necessary in your routine,” Idriss said. Some examples would be hyaluronic acid or retinol.
In any case, patch testing before using a new product is important. “I always recommend doing a test spot on the neck or by the ear, especially if you have a history of allergens and/or really sensitive skin,” Farhang said.
Some care should be taken if you use vitamin C, as it may be deactivated by the copper peptides, Idriss and Farhang said. You can use vitamin C in your morning routine and copper peptides in your nighttime routine, or use them on alternate mornings, to avoid that.
Garshick added that “using copper peptides at the same time as retinol or alpha hydroxy acids can potentially reduce the efficacy. It is thought that the combination can potentially disrupt the bonds between the peptides.”
How to include copper peptides in your routine
“If it’s a moisturizer, depending on the consistency of the product, climate and your lifestyle, twice a day morning and night, or only at night if your skin doesn’t need the extra moisture in the morning,” Idriss said.
The experts agreed that copper peptides are well-tolerated and can be used both morning and evening in one’s skin care routine. Usually, copper peptides come in a serum formula, so it should be used after cleansing and before moisturizing. Farhang recommended using such a serum in place of a hyaluronic acid serum, as copper peptides support the skin’s moisturizing process.
Copper peptide products the experts recommend
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Wander Beauty Upgraded Lashes treatment mascara
“This mascara is different because even though you would use it once daily as you would your normal mascara, it also serves as an eyelash booster in that incorporates ingredients including Widelash and copper peptides to help boost eyelash length thickness volume and reduce eyelash loss.” – Garshick