This Wrinkle-Smoothing Ingredient Doesn't Get Nearly Enough Hype
We say it all the time here at mbg: Your skin is a reflection of your overall health and your body's largest organ. So that being said, if you're really serious about increasing longevity and health span, you'll want to make skin health a significant part of the equation.
Just take it from Dave Asprey: On a recent episode of the mindbodygreen podcast, the professional biohacker and founder of Bulletproof discussed the importance of minerals for energy and overall health—some of which you can actually absorb through your skin.
"When you rub copper on your skin, then your skin can make really healthy collagen," he notes. After probing a few derms on the subject, we found Asprey is absolutely right. Here's everything you should know about the oft-neglected mineral for firm, youthful skin.
What are copper peptides?
When Asprey mentions rubbing copper on your skin, what he's really referring to is copper peptides. Peptides are chains of amino acids linked together by peptide bonds that act as chemical "messengers" for the skin when applied topically, signaling your cells to produce more collagen, elastin, and keratin, board-certified dermatologist Hadley King, M.D., previously told mbg.
Copper peptides, in particular, are naturally occurring tripeptides found in plasma. And just like Asprey notes, "These are thought to enhance skin regeneration1 and are supposed to increase skin elasticity and firmness," says King.
Benefits for skin.
There are many types of peptides, each with a unique efficacy and function; for instance, some peptides are known for reducing inflammation, while others are superb at barrier support. You can read all about the different types here, but just know that copper peptides are A+ for collagen production.
See, "The skin does naturally contain copper," says board-certified dermatologist Dhaval Bhanusali, M.D., FAAD, founder of Hudson Dermatology and Laser Surgery, and it's essential for fibroblast proliferation, upregulating collagen and elastin fiber components, and wound healing. By applying copper peptides topically on the skin, he says you can stimulate collagen production and slow down wrinkle formation.
"They have specifically been shown2 to stimulate fibroblast production in vitro and are used to increase collagen and elastin production, which helps plump the skin to reduce the appearance of fine lines," Bhanusali continues. "It's also thought to have anti-inflammatory properties, which is great for calming the skin."
How to use it.
You'll likely find copper peptides in various antioxidant serums and moisturizers since its main gig is to provide collagen-building benefits. "In formulas, it pairs well with other skin care actives like vitamin C and hyaluronic acid," Bhanusali notes. You might even want to use copper peptides alongside other known collagen-enhancing ingredients, like AHAs (only at night), collagen powders, and the aforementioned vitamin C.
Curious about copper? Just look for "copper tripeptide-1" on your ingredient lists: This Biossance Squalane + Copper Peptide Rapid Plumping Serum and Peach & Lily's Peptide Pro Firming Moisturizer are both stellar options to try.
Any side effects?
Here's the thing about copper: It's an essential mineral, but it can cause GI discomfort, abdominal pain, and even organ toxicity3 if you get too much. True toxicity is pretty rare for most people, and even more so in skin care formulations. The products you use will not have nearly enough of a copper concentration to wreak havoc (especially if you use them as directed), but still, it's something to keep in mind with the mineral.
A more realistic side effect would be irritation from the product itself since copper peptides are usually formulated with other actives. Always patch-test a product before slathering it all over your face; just to make sure you don't have an adverse reaction.
Of all the topicals known for restoring collagen, retinol, glycolic acid, and vitamin C arguably receive the most hype. But we should certainly add copper peptides to that list: According to the experts, the mineral is known for promoting collagen production and skin regeneration, and that's just from the data we do have—research hasn't even scratched the surface of their skin-aging abilities.
Jamie Schneider is the Beauty & Wellness Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan, and her work has appeared in Coveteur, The Chill Times, and Wyld Skincare. In her role at mbg, she reports on everything from the top beauty industry trends, to the gut-skin connection and the microbiome, to the latest expert makeup hacks. She currently lives in New York City.