Skincare science: Copper peptides versus vitamin C, which is best?

By Fiona Embleton

Photo: Getty

You may not have heard of copper peptides before, but they are rivalling vitamin C when it comes to glowing, firm skin

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Vitamin C is one of skincare’s biggest hitters and a ubiquitous active in most serums and creams. But there’s an under-the-radar ingredient that is set to steal vitamin C’s crown when it comes to softening wrinkles, shielding against damaging free radicals and improving skin tone. Enter: copper peptides, the dark horse of the skincare world that makes even sensitive skin sing.

Copper peptides are naturally present in the body but, as is the case with most good things, levels decrease with age. Here we speak to aesthetic doctor and skincare expert Dr Ana Mansouri, to get the low-down on how to supplement our skincare routine with this hero ingredient.

What are copper peptides?

“Peptides are short chains of amino acids that make up the proteins in your skin,” says Dr Mansouri. “These proteins are essentially the ‘building blocks' of our skin and have different functions depending on the type of amino acids they’re comprised of.

“Copper peptides commonly refer to the complex medically known as copper Tripeptide-1 or GHK-Cu, which is found naturally in some bodily fluids and is composed of three amino acids (glycine-histidine-lysin).”

What are the benefits of using copper peptides for your skin?

“Studies have shown that GHK-Cu has multiple benefits for the skin,” explains Dr Mansouri. “It is known to play an important role in the body's healing process by promoting anti-inflammatory pathways, meaning it’s great for treating scarring and redness. Copper also acts as an essential co-enzyme in the process of producing collagen and elastin to improve our skin’s elasticity. There is also evidence that copper peptides can increase hyaluronic acid, which helps to hydrate skin and soften fine lines, and that it plays a role in maintaining an even skin tone.”

Are copper peptides better antioxidants than vitamin C?

“It’s difficult to make a comparison as scientific data shows both vitamin C and copper have antioxidant benefits," says Dr Mansouri. "Where copper peptides perhaps have an advantage is that they mop up free radicals but are still well-tolerated and can be conveniently integrated into your current skin regimen without causing issues or interactions.”

Are there any side effects of using copper peptides in skincare?

“The data suggests copper is a safe skin ingredient and it is not known to be an irritant," Dr Mansouri notes. "It may therefore be more suitable for sensitive and reactive skin in comparison to vitamin C, but in my opinion both are solid ingredients in a skincare routine.

"That said, they shouldn't be used together as there’s a possibility that copper may oxidise vitamin C.
Apply them at different times of the day or different days of the week to reap the maximum benefits and limit the possibility of this happening.”

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