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Copper: both friend and foe

The evidence published in scientific journal shows that, as many other chemicals, vitamins, etc., copper (and copper complexed in a peptide) can be beneficial at very low concentrations and detrimental at higher concentrations. This makes sense: a significant portion of the toxicity of copper comes from its ability to accept and donate single electrons as it changes oxidation state, producing reactive free radical. This same property of copper is used by come enzymes that are crucial to cell metabolism, like superoxide dismutase, tyrosinase and more, and this is why copper is an essential micronutrient.

Enzymes use copper in a carefully orchestrated reaction, free copper is another matter.

With its capacity to generate free radicals, you can see how too much copper can wreck havoc on our body, including our skin. We know that oxidative stress is related to many unpleasant human illnesses, and also with aging. We accumulate copper as we age, and the copper that was badly needed when we were young, by the time we are in our forties it may be damaging our mitochondria, making us ill or at least making us age faster.

Before you buy a face cream that is blue with the pretty color of copper, please remember that copper is all around us, in water and food. Any extra copper may easily take you from “essential micronutrient” concentration to “way too much, this is toxic!”.

You may ask how copper became such ubiquitous ingredient is skin care. The answer is that results from in vitro experiments were extrapolated to real life which no in vivo, long term research to support it. Even worse, copper is marketed to women as an anti-aging active at an age when we already have enough copper accumulated to last for the rest of our lives.
Is there any benefit to copper in skin care? Yes, during healing. But that’s more or less it. It does not make sense to use antioxidants and at the same time supplement the copper we already have in our bodies plus what is ingested in water and food.