Copper peptides are fragments of proteins that naturally form in the human body. Human blood, the plasma in particular, contains high concentrations of copper peptides which normally peak in a person’s 20s and begin to decrease as they approach their 60s. Studies have concluded that, in humans, copper peptides play a role in promoting the healing of wounds in the skin, conferring antioxidant and anti-inflammatory defenses to the skin, stimulating the production of collagen by enabling glycosaminoglycan synthesis, and promoting the production of high levels of red blood cells.
The two main uses of synthetic copper peptides (Those which are manufactured in a laboratory or factory) are as a reparative agent and as an anti-aging agent in cosmetics. Controlled studies of copper peptides in cosmetics have indicated that they have anti-aging, firming, and anti-wrinkle properties.
One of the most common side effects from using any topical cosmetic product that contains copper peptides is irritation of the skin. Symptoms typically include inflammation or irritation of the skin, redness, sensations of burning, and developing rashes. Excessive levels of copper in the body can also lead to some more serious side effects. For instance, since copper is absorbed by the skin and stored in the liver, some people have developed disturbances in their digestive tracts. As the copper filters out of the liver, via either the intestines or the kidneys, bile forms with a high concentration of copper in it. This can induce severe abdominal pain, vomiting, nausea, and eventually chronic diarrhea.
The human body’s nervous system is similarly affected by the toxic levels of copper that are absorbed through persistent use of copper-based cosmetics. Headaches, dizziness, weakness and mood disorders typically developed after the nervous system adjusts to high levels of copper in the skin and blood. In the most extreme cases, persistent or excessive use of products with copper peptides in them can wear down the liver and kidneys, which filter the toxins and chemicals from blood and organs in the human body, causing them to stop processing bodily fluids. The first symptom of this scenario is a rapid and dramatic increase in copper levels in the blood and organs, followed shortly by complete liver failure and permanent damage to the nervous system. As with all cosmetic ingredients, women who are pregnant, may become pregnant, or are breastfeeding should consult a trained physician before applying any products that contain copper peptides. It is unclear how, or to what degree, these side effects could impact a developing fetus or infant.
As of 2012, there are no federally recognized clinical trials that confirm the benefits and/or side effects that can result from the use of copper peptides in cosmetic products. There are, however, several privately or corporately funded studies that highlight the possible pros and cons of absorbing copper peptides through the skin. Due to the biases inherent in such studies, consumers should take all pros and cons with a grain of salt.
For information about which anti-wrinkle products that contain this ingredient, click here to check out our anti-wrinkle cream comparison chart or anti-wrinkle serum comparison chart.