Copper Peptides: What They Are, And Why They're So Popular In Skin Care

Dermatologists explain why people think this ingredient is so magical for anti-aging.
Left to right: Biossance Squalane + Copper Peptide Rapid Plumping Serum, The Ordinary "Buffet" + Copper Peptides 1% and iS Clinical Super Serum.

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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The Ordinary Multi-Peptide + Copper Peptides 1% Serum
“[This serum] has made this ingredient wildly popular of recent, formulated with copper peptides and other peptides such as Palmitoyl Tripeptide-1, also found in Matrixyl 3000, the most sold peptide complex in the world. It’s glycerin-based and known to be hydrating. However, it also has hyaluronic acid so not my favorite product if you are using it in a routine with other products that contain HA.” – Idriss

“It is formulated with Matrixyl and Argirelox, which helps with wrinkles. This works for anti-aging. Also, I saw an article that said that it’s Botox in a bottle and I wouldn’t necessarily say that’s 100% true. There are other products such as Revision Revox that have ingredients that can relax the muscle.” – Farhang

“Targeting signs of skin aging, this incorporates peptides, amino acids and hyaluronic acid to improve the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles and improve overall elasticity, smoothness and firmness, while also protecting against free radical damage through the use of copper peptides.” – Garshick

“One of the more affordable (although still pricey) options to try the ingredient.” – Bhanusali
Biossance Squalane + Copper Peptide Rapid Plumping Serum
“This one has other great ingredients that also hydrate the skin and camellia that soothes the skin. Leaves nice non-oily finish.” – Farhang

“This hydrating serum helps to plump the skin, boost moisture as it includes hyaluronic acid, polyglutamic acid and squalane and boosts collagen production through the copper peptides.” – Garshick
iS Clinical Super Serum
“This has a nice combination of actives including copper peptides, vitamin C and HA.” – Bhanusali
HydroPeptide Face Lift Advanced Ultra-Light Moisturizer
“This has vitamin C, E and also hyaluronic acid, which is a great antioxidant profile.” – Bhanusali
Strivectin SD Advanced Plus Anti-Wrinkle Intensive Moisturizing Concentrate
“Containing copper peptides in addition to a Collagex-CE Complex and NIA-114, this helps to boost elasticity, and improve the overall appearance of wrinkles, fine lines and stretch marks.” – Garshick

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