Commonplace in our cookware, pipes and purses, copper’s cultivated an indispensable (and somewhat unglamorous) place in our day to day lives. However, thanks to a range of skincare products and supplements containing the ingredient in their labels, it’s making the leap into our cosmetics and diets too.
Antibacterial, antifungal and a powerful antioxidant, it boasts both protective and reparative benefits. “Copper facilitates many functions in the body such as myelin, melanin, neurotransmitter and enzyme synthesis, in addition to collagen and elastin production too - the fibres that give our tissues strength and elasticity,” explains nutritional therapist and GTG Expert Henrietta Norton .
From boosting our skin’s essential building blocks to stimulating pigment production, here are five facts you need to know about this surprisingly precious metal.
1. It reduces wrinkles
When it comes to skin firmness, suppleness and structure, collagen and elastin play key roles. However as we age, levels decrease but topical solutions containing copper in them can help replenish supplies. “Copper activates many enzymes, including lysyl oxidase which increases the production of elastin and collagen,” explains Dr Pedro Catala, pharmacist and TWELVE Skincare founder. “This in turn, then reduces the appearance of wrinkles.”
What should you look for in your labels? Unsurprisingly, the word ‘copper’ is a clear giveaway. More specifically however, Dr Catala highlights the below, in addition to natural malachite extract, a mineral active ingredient rich in copper too.
Copper Tripeptide-1, Copper Ferment, Copper Powder, Copper Peptide, Bis (Tripeptide-1) Copper Acetate, Copper Gluconate, Copper Usnate (preservative), Copper Palmitoyl Heptapeptide-14, Chlorophyllin-Copper Complex.
Product-wise, our top picks include Alpha H’s Vitamin B and Copper Peptide Serum , £58.50, which also contains skin strengthening niacinamide , as well as Kiehl’s Powerful Wrinkle Reducing Cream SPF 30 , £43, for addressing skin texture.
For a hit of hyaluronic acid, NIOD Copper Amino Isolate Serum 1% , £60, makes for a high strength choice if you’re looking for something that’s particularly potent and if you're looking for a payday-friendly peel that scrubs up very nicely indeed, look no further than Omorovicza's gentle but powerful copper variation , £90 for 16 tubes.
2. It’s a powerful antioxidant
Protective as well as reparative, Dr Rabia Malik , Holistic Aesthetic Doctor at Grace Belgravia Medical and The Peel Boutique founder, credits copper’s free radical fighting properties as a particularly noteworthy benefit. “Copper is a component of the powerful antioxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase, thus making it a potent antioxidant,” she explains. Helping to protect collagen from environmental wear and tear, incorporating it into your skincare serves as an effective way for strengthening defences from the inside out. Cosmedix Opti Crystal , £81, a liquid crystal serum that replenishes damaged, thinning skin around the eyes is a favourite of Dr Malik's. Containing alpha lipoic acid together with copper peptides, it stimulates collagen and elastin formation for lasting reduction of fine lines. Cosmedix Rescue + , £60, a supercharged anti-inflammatory and antioxidant balm for dry skin, is also one of her top recommendations too.
3. It helps wounds to heal faster
In its peptide form, copper boasts healing abilities which, together with its collagen-building and free radical fighting properties, gives skincare a reparative boost. “Copper nanoparticles also have antibacterial and antifungal properties and as a result have been used for many years in products to help with wound healing,” explains Dr Malik. Furthermore, she highlights copper peptides’ role in maintaining the skin’s all-important barrier by stimulating capillary formation and protein synthesis, in addition to increasing its water-holding capacity too.
MORE GLOSS: Probiotic skincare - could bacteria boost your skin barrier?
4. It can prevent premature greying
Prematurely greying hair is due to a range of factors, diet being one of them. “Copper is an important mineral for hair and skin pigment due to its role in the production of melanin,” explains nutritional therapist Henrietta Norton. What are the best ways for getting your daily fix?
“Copper-rich foods include beef liver, avocado, buckwheat, olives, sunflower seeds, lentils, almonds, dark chocolate and asparagus,” recommends Henrietta. Also found in a number of Wild Nutrition’s Food-Grown supplements, we’d personally recommend the brand’s Women’s Daily Multi Nutrient , £30, which has provided a noticeable stalling to grey strands after continued use. Food and supplements can both have their place, however Henrietta notes the importance of incorporating complementary nutrients alongside copper, rather than taking it as a lone supplement, which brings us to...
5. There is such a thing as copper overload
While healthy copper supplies are beneficial for supporting several bodily functions, Henrietta points that high levels are actually much more prevalent than low ones among the population. So exercise caution from a nutritional perspective. “While copper is very important for many functions in the body, copper excess tends to be more common than deficiency due to copper pipes, pans and the contraceptive copper coil,” she explains. “It’s also caused by high doses of copper in some synthetic supplements without co-factors such as zinc, the mineral molybdenum and vitamin C,” she adds. “These all help to prevent copper overload, so it is important to maintain a healthy zinc to copper ratio.” A worthwhile reason for ensuring that a multi-mineral and nutritional approach is taken.
Signs of copper overload are easy to spot. “Excess copper symptoms include joint pains, hormone issues (especially oestrogen dominance), fatigue and depression.” Think you might have levels in excess? Henrietta recommends having your copper levels checked via a urine or hair analysis.
Looking for more ingredient inspiration? Read up on the moisture-boosting abilities of hyaluronic acid here .
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