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Copper: if your lotion is blue, trash it!

Copper is, for humans (and for plants, and for many animals and microorganisms) a trace element, a micronutrient. We need it but in minute quantities.

There is plenty of copper all around us, including in tap water and all foods. In short: we don’t need extra copper to cover that minute amount we need to keep our body and skin working as it should.

Unfortunately, a long-term publicity campaign has incorporated copper into the skin-care folklore. Similarly, there is a whole industry dedicated to using the placebo effect to sell copper bracelets to people who have arthritis. Copper can be useful in public facilities, where copper rails and doorknobs will keep microbes away.

It’s your choice to fall into the advertising trap, but you must remember that copper, however essential it may be at trace concentrations (parts per million), it WILL be toxic at high concentrations.

Copper, a metal, is “copper color”.  Salts of copper will have either the blue Cu(II) or reddish copper(I) oxide. The peptide we use at Skin Actives in products designed to accelerate skin healing has the blue Cu(II)- peptide complex. The final product will not be blue, even though it contains blue Cu(II) in it because at the parts per million concentration you can’t see the blue.

Should the product be blue? No! The high concentrations required to give the product a blue color would be toxic to the skin and your body, which would undoubtedly absorb some of that copper.

Some companies have found a way around the public expectations of a copper-containing product to be blue: you can add copper-free blue colorants, there are many options. This is also what companies do when they promise you very expensive gold in their products: they add gold-color pigments.

When you add copper to a skincare product, you have several alternatives. You can add a copper salt, like sulfate or chloride. You can also add it as a “peptide salt”, a complex of a peptide with copper. The, by now old, research on the benefits of copper for skin healing was done with a tripeptide. Later on, other peptides were introduced into skincare. This was simply because the methodology and equipment became available to make any synthetic peptide you may want and the industry used this in its publicity planning. More synthetic peptides, usually with no scientific evidence, were introduced by the skincare industry as the new “miracle cure” for skin aging.

Skin Actives offers two DIY ingredients that contain copper: copper tripeptide and a mix containing copper tripeptide and a tetrapeptide. Why? These two are popular ingredients and we want our DIY customers to have the option to use these (or not). Please remember that iron and copper will promote the oxidation of vitamin C, so don’t use them together in the same product or the same routine.

What can you expect from a product that contains enough Cu(II) to give it a blue color? Skin toxicity. This may express itself, in the long term, as more wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, and other symptoms of aging. Nobody has studied the long-term effects of copper poisoning on the skin, although thanks to the experimental use of copper by some “skincare” companies, a huge experiment is going on with the many women who keep buying and using products with too much copper in them.

Do I detect a misogynistic whiff coming from the industry?


DISCLAIMER: These claims have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent any disease.