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Skin Remodeling With Copper Peptides

If aging, as some say, is a disease, then wrinkles can be as symptoms. More aptly, they can be viewed as small, improperly healed wounds. Wrinkles are characterized by incorrect mapping of the collagen network and flawed dermal cell layering. This happens to also be a characteristic of poorly healed wounds, which has led many researchers to associate agents that can improve wound healing with also having effects on wrinkles. One of the premier compounds that has been investigated for both wound-healing and wrinkles is copper peptides, sometimes called "blue copper" because of the characteristic color.


What exactly are copper peptides and how can they boost skin rejuvenation? Certain natural peptides (small fragments of proteins/amino acids) have an affinity to copper, to which they bind very tightly, resulting in a compound consisting of a peptide and a copper atom (i.e. a copper peptide). The tissue regeneration benefits of this compound were first discovered by Dr Loren Pickart in the 1970s when he found that the Glycyl-L-Histidyl-L-Lysine (GHK) peptide bound very well to copper to form GHK copper peptides (GHK-Cu) that were particularly effective in healing wounds and skin lesions as well as some gastrointestinal conditions. What was distinct about these particular peptides was that they helped heal wounds specifically by reducing scar tissue formation while stimulating normal skin to grow back to its original consistency and texture (this process is known as "skin remodeling").


GHK-Cu type copper peptides work by inducing the degradation of very large collagen aggregates found in scars and promotes the synthesis of smaller and more regular collagen fibers found in health skin. The peptides also promote the synthesis of elastin, proteoglycans, glycosaminoglycans and various other essential components of the skin matrix. Additional important effects of copper peptides include the ability to regulate the growth rate of certain types of cells, reduce inflammation in the skin, and prevent the release of oxidation-promoting iron into the tissues. The net result is a faster and more flawless healing of the wound.

Because copper peptides promote the degradation of abnormally large cross-linked collagen (the type found in scars and deeper wrinkles) and also stimulate the production of "regular" collagen found abundantly in young skin, it has direct implications for anti-wrinkle treatments. In one study, copper peptides stimulated collagen production in intact skin better than prescription tretinoin (retinoic acid found in Retin-A, Renova, etc) or Vitamin C.


But the use of copper peptides in skincare must only be taken upon by the most experienced of formulators because while moderate use of copper peptides stimulates collagen synthesis and has antioxidant effects (by stimulating the antioxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase), excessive amounts can have can have the opposite effect by increasing the levels of free copper and/or by triggering excessive production of metalloproteinases. Metalloproteinases can digest collagen and elastin, weakening the skin and causing it to sag, while as free copper (i.e. copper not stabilized by an amino acid peptide) promotes free radical damage and collagen breakdown leading to accelerated skin aging. Also, experienced formulators know that copper is appropriate when paired with some ingredients but not others. If copper is included with certain hydroxy acids in the same formula, for example, it can become unstable, making a formula intended for anti-aging end into one that is age-promoting.

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