Hollywood already knows the latest anti-aging secret: copper! In addition to Iluminage's rejuvenating pillowcases, which are made from copper oxide fibres to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles while you sleep, you can now find the latest must-have beauty ingredient in serums, creams, gels and even eye masks. Among A-listers, it has been used after cosmetic surgery to help skin heal, as well as before red-carpet appearances to get the stars ready for their close-ups.
The popularity of copper is all because of its special properties that directly benefit the skin. “Copper is a mineral in the skin that has anti-fungal and antibacterial properties while, at the same time, it helps the skin to build collagen and elastin, the fibres that keep skin supple, strong and plump, and promotes the production of hyaluronic acid, a natural moisturizing factor that binds water into the skin,” explains Dr. Joshua Zeichner, director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital.
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Certain seeds, nuts and vegetables are excellent dietary sources of the mineral, but can your skin really get the copper it needs from external sources like a serum or eye mask? Beauty companies believe so, and they are not the first to try to harness copper’s healing benefits. As Dr. Nicholas Perricone explains, the mineral has been used since the 1960s in dressings for burns and scars. “Historically, copper has been used as a healing agent that calms and soothes the skin,” the dermatologist says. “We are now using copper in topicals, as it repairs and promotes skin health.”
The trouble is that there are different types of copper molecules and they will not all have the same benefits for your skin. Copper sulphate is the type associated with wound healing, while copper PCA is a salt that is a soothing, hydrating humectant and has some antimicrobial effects, making it great for winter-dry skin. Then there is copper gluconate, which shows promise as an anti-aging ingredient. Research has shown that copper peptides, which have been formulated and designed in a lab to penetrate the skin, can boost skin fibres and moisture levels.
While the medicinal use of copper is well-known, much of the science around its latest use as a skin-care ingredient is new. “Although there’s some convincing research demonstrating that copper bound with peptides has anti-wrinkle, firming and skin-smoothing benefits, those studies were set up and paid for by companies selling the ingredient complex or selling products that contain it,” says Paula Begoun, founder of Paula's Choice skin care and curator of the Beautypedia website. “Keep in mind what’s called the Fenton reaction, a process whereby copper generates free radicals, which cause inflammation, and we know inflammation is pro-aging.”
So, in the case of copper, you can have too much of a good thing. By all means try the latest anti-agers that feature copper in its many forms, but read the ingredients list and choose your copper with care.