The History of Copper in Beauty Products

Copper is a very ancient metal initially used in cosmetics.  Women and men have used cosmetics for thousands of years to enhance the skin. The bust of the Egyptian queen, Nefertiti (1367–1350 BC) is an example to the level of cosmetic art available and used in those early years. Eye makeup was probably the most characteristic of the Egyptian cosmetics.

The person whose innovation has made possible the use of copper in skin care products is a biochemist, Dr. Loren R. Pickart, who developed the first “face lift” products in the1970s. As a result of Dr. Pickart’s work, by 2001, over 40 products based on copper-peptide-induced tissue regeneration are marketed by at least 12 companies throughout the world. Copper peptides are used in the following:

  • in products that aid skin healing post-surgery; after laser resurfacing, dermabrasion and chemical peels;
  • to stimulate hair growth and during the transplantation of hair;
  • to aid skin conditions in persons with acne, diabetes and psoriasis;
  • for use as sun tanning lotion for increasing the efficiency of melanogenesis and reducing post-tanning skin peeling;
  • in after shave lotions; and
  • in veterinary wound cleanser and healing products.

Studies have shown that copper peptide-containing products are more effective than topical application of vitamin C, tretinoin or melatonin for the structure of the skin. 

What exactly are peptides?

Peptides play a role in the function of cells, tissues and hormones in the body. Peptides are shortened versions of proteins. Peptides contain two or more amino acids linked by a peptide bond. Peptides are great ingredients that provide multiple anti-aging benefits. Using products that include peptides, skin will start to look more radiant, luminous, firmer and smoother. Due to the increase in collagen production, the skin will be more vibrant and younger looking. Peptides used topically offer anti-aging benefits in various ways and are divided into four classes:

  1. Signal peptides communicate with cells on how and when to function. They mimic naturally occurring triggers that signal the body to produce collagen, elastin and glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) to help skin and other tissues repair themselves. This is the class of peptide most widely used in skin care because it supports an increase in the skin’s firmness, strength, suppleness, and elasticity.
  2. Carrier peptides transport active ingredients, such as copper and zinc. Copper is a mineral that aids in wound healing, assists in collagen production, and enhances antioxidant activities.
  3. Neurotransmitter peptides block the release of chemicals that cause muscle contraction using a mechanism similar to that used by Botox. These function to help relax muscles in order to reduce the appearance of expression lines and wrinkles.
  4. Enzyme-modulating peptides inhibit the function of key enzymes in some metabolic processes. Many of these peptides are extracted from botanical sources. They work to inhibit degradation of dermal matrix, melanin production, or inflammation.

When peptides are combined with other ingredients, it can enhance their benefits to make products more effective. The combination of these ingredients may also make the formula act quicker and provide faster results.  Peptides are not only the building blocks of proteins, and nearly all living tissues, they also are an important category of ingredients in today’s skin care products.

What are the benefits of copper in skincare?

Copper peptides are the latest scientific breakthrough in skin rejuvenation. Copper peptides are small segments of copper proteins that are tiny enough to easily penetrate the skin.  Copper has been found to naturally firm the skin, enhance elasticity, and reduce fine lines and wrinkles.

Studies show that copper peptides encourage a boost in collagen and elastin levels, causing more elasticity and visibly smoothing fine lines and wrinkles. Copper peptides also act as antioxidants, accelerating the production of glycosaminoglycans. Copper peptides may do the following:

Slows Aging of Skin– Exposure to sunlight, other environmental hazards and free radicals all contribute to the decline in the skin’s appearance that is associated with aging. In addition to promoting the growth of collagen and elastin, copper peptides help to activate and stimulate superoxide dismutase, or SOD, a powerful antioxidant enzyme that occurs naturally in the body. SOD combats the free radicals that cause premature aging of the skin.

Speeds Healing of Damaged Skin– Copper peptides have an ability to regenerate tissue in cases where skin had been scarred or damaged, as in a burn or as a result of other medical conditions, such as acne and diabetes-related wounds. Copper peptides helped to break down scar tissue and replace it with the smaller or more regular collagen found in normal skin.

Promotes Hair Growth- Naturally occurring copper peptide complex (GHK) is widely used in the treatment of hair loss and post-hair-transplant maintenance. A copper peptide product for wound healing has been known to promote hair growth and also strengthened existing hair.

As far as skin and aging, peptides are the hero products to use in the treatment room and for home care.  Those who wish to diminish the signs of photodamage, while diminishing fine lines should look for products that contain copper peptides. 


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