Curious about copper peptides for skin?
These compounds are a breakthrough in skin and hair care and may also offer anti-aging benefits. They can be administered in multiple ways to help maximize their benefits, including topically (on the skin) and subcutaneously (under the skin) as an injection.
In this detailed copper peptide guide, we’ll walk through exactly what these peptides are, their benefits, how to use them, where to purchase them, and safety issues to know before using them as research chemicals.
Here at Peptides.org, our mission is to provide the most up-to-the-minute peptide information from research studies and clinical trials. Read on to learn more about exciting breakthroughs in copper peptide therapy.
What are Copper Peptides?
What exactly are copper peptides?
Let’s start from the beginning…
Peptides are short chains of amino acids. They’re closely related to proteins, in that proteins are simply longer chains of amino acids. Copper peptides are bound to the mineral copper, giving them some unique functions and properties.
While copper has long been used for skin care and anti-aging benefits, the potential of copper peptides for these reasons was not uncovered until the mid-1970s with the discovery of the copper peptide GHK-Cu. Since this discovery, other copper-binding peptides have been identified. These offer benefits when bound with copper, as well as when they’re unbound from copper .
Interest in research peptides for therapeutic uses has grown significantly over the past few decades. New peptide discoveries have led to breakthroughs in skin care, weight management, wound healing, hypertrophy (muscle growth), and more. To that end, interest in peptides only continues to grow and there are many opportunities for researchers to learn more about their potential.
There are several ways that copper peptides can potentially help with skin care, hair care, and anti-aging. First, they have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties—so they improve health at the cellular level. They also help to promote skin cell “recycling” to clear out old, damaged cells and replace them with more youthful, healthier cells. Finally, they can help to promote collagen synthesis to restore structure and firmness to the skin .
Copper peptides are available in various forms, including topical and injectable. They are generally deemed safe, with few reported side effects or potential complications for otherwise healthy individuals.
What is GHK-Cu?
GHK-Cu is the most well-known copper-binding peptide. Its full name is glycyl-l-histidyl-l-lysine, referring to its amino acid structure. It’s a tripeptide, so it’s composed of just three amino acids. GHK is found naturally in human plasma, but levels also decline as we age.
The peptide was discovered in 1973 by a prominent peptide researcher, Dr. Loren Pickart. This scientist discovered GHK in a study in which he observed aged liver tissue producing “younger” proteins after being introduced to plasma samples from younger people .
Some of the many benefits of GHK-Cu include reduced inflammation, improved skin health, increased collagen formation, accelerated angiogenesis and wound healing, stimulation of hair growth, reduced free radical activity, and its anti-aging properties. Many researchers are now interested in GHK-Cu for skin health and wrinkle reduction, hair regrowth following hair loss, and longevity and anti-aging [1, 2].
Additionally, GHK-Cu appears to be safe when administered to human subjects. No notable side effects or adverse events have been reported in GHK-Cu studies. However, one potential side effect is low blood pressure, due to GHK-Cu’s anxiety-reducing effect. Still, for otherwise healthy people, peptide therapy with GHK-Cu appears to be low-risk .
There are a couple of ways to incorporate GHK-Cu peptide therapy. GHK-Cu is commonly featured in topical products like serums. These serums absorb very well into the skin for maximum benefit. In addition, GHK-Cu is commonly available to researchers as a subcutaneous injectable—which may be better for systemic benefits.
What are Copper Peptides Used For?
Copper peptides are used for a wide variety of purposes, but several of their key functions center around skin care, hair growth, and anti-aging.
They are much less invasive than surgical options, and even some non-surgical options, requiring only topical application or a subcutaneous injection.
People with aging, wrinkled, discolored, or damaged skin often turn to copper peptide products in the hope of restoring their skin. This can be done by promoting the recycling of skin cells to replace older, damaged skin cells with younger, healthier cells. As part of a balanced skincare routine, copper peptides may help to reduce wrinkles and even out skin tone.
Copper peptides are also commonly used to support hair growth. Hair loss is a very sensitive issue for many individuals, and the use of topical copper peptides in combination with injectable peptides is a solution that some have used with great success. There are several underlying causes of hair loss, and copper peptides are able to address many of these problems. They support the scalp, giving it what it needs to produce healthy hair.
Finally, copper peptides may have anti-aging properties that penetrate below the skin to promote better overall wellness and more youthful energy.
Benefits of Copper Peptides
There are numerous potential benefits to GHK-Cu and other copper-binding peptides, far beyond the scope of this article.
GHK-Cu has been studied for over five decades as of writing, so it has a long history of research and many potential uses. We are going to focus on the benefits of copper peptides for skin health, hair growth, and anti-aging.
Below, we’ll present a review of existing research on copper peptides for each of these uses—along with a review of the mechanism of action (how it works) and what researchers need to know before they get started.
Copper Peptides for Skin
A quick internet search will bring up a bevy of topical products for skin care, all containing copper peptides. They are a trending skincare ingredient at the moment, but just because copper peptides are popular right now does not mean they should be written off as a fad.
The reason they’ve gained so much popularity is because they work so well. Copper-binding peptides like GHK-Cu can address multiple skin concerns in multiple ways. This makes copper peptide serums a great addition to skincare routines for aged or damaged skin.
First of all, copper peptides absorb into the skin remarkably well, allowing active ingredients to penetrate below the surface where they can be more effective. The use of microneedling may enhance the effectiveness of topical copper peptide products by encouraging even deeper penetration into the lower layers of the skin [3, 4].
Copper peptides can help to reduce skin inflammation, which is a root cause of many skin problems. Inflammation over time can cause damage to cells, thus contributing to wrinkles, discoloration, dryness, and even acne. However, research shows that copper peptides can be absorbed effectively enough through the skin to help reduce inflammation .
They may also be effective for the treatment of inflammatory skin conditions, in addition to inflammation-related cosmetic concerns .
In one study, researchers found that copper tripeptides including GHK and a similar peptide GGH could reduce the secretion of an inflammatory marker called tumor necrosis factor-alpha-dependent interleukin-6 in skin cells .
In addition, the copper bound with these peptides provides important benefits for the skin. Research shows that copper ions can promote the expression of collagen and elastin. These two compounds provide support and firmness to the skin, and they also form the flexible matrix in joints. Products containing copper ions may be firming, helping to reduce skin sagging and wrinkles while improving skin elasticity .
Finally, and most critically, copper peptide products have been associated with wound healing. While it’s a complex process, wound healing essentially involves the promotion of healthy new cell formation to replace the old damaged cells, which are then recycled into the bloodstream. In skin that’s not necessarily wounded—like wrinkled or discolored skin—this process is known as “skin cell turnover.”
But how and why exactly does skin cell turnover work?
Well, GHK is a naturally occurring peptide that’s found in our cells and bloodstream. However, its concentration peaks at a younger age, and it slowly declines as we age. By age 60, peak plasma levels of GHK-Cu are less than half of peak levels at age 20 .
However, researchers found that introducing GHK to old liver tissue caused it to start producing proteins that appeared younger .
In the skin, researchers have proposed that GHK actually signals the repair process, starting a cascade of reactions that manage inflammation, promote collagen synthesis, and support skin cell turnover while preventing excessive turnover to maintain the integrity of skin tissues .
Anecdotally, many researchers have reported the most success from a combination of topical GHK-Cu products in addition to cycles of injectable GHK-Cu. However, because of its high absorption rate in the skin, topical alone is a great starting point for anyone new to researching peptides for skin care.
In addition to copper peptide therapy, it’s important to have a good foundation of other skincare basics—like a solid morning and night routine for cleansing, makeup removal, and moisturizer. It’s also important for subjects to wear sunscreen to prevent further photoaging caused by sun exposure.
Copper Peptides for Hair Growth
Hair loss can be complex. There are multiple potential causes, including aging, stress, and inflammation.
Some of the most common types of hair loss include male pattern balding, telogen effluvium, and alopecia areata. Male pattern balding is caused by an excess of dihydrotestosterone (DHT) that typically occurs in middle-aged men. This type of hair loss is long-term, although it can be improved with treatment .
Telogen effluvium is a type of hair loss that occurs roughly three months after a period of intense stress, such as weight loss, childbirth, or critical illness. It’s normally temporary.
Finally, alopecia areata is an autoimmune condition that may be related to inflammation and immune health.
Fortunately, there’s some evidence that copper peptides could address all of these potential causes by starting at the scalp. Scalp health is key to hair growth, because a healthy scalp is necessary for healthy follicles, and healthy follicles are where the hair grows and is held in place .
As we’ve already discussed, copper peptides have anti-inflammatory properties and they’re able to easily penetrate the skin—so topical copper peptide products applied to the scalp could help reduce scalp inflammation.
In one study on copper peptides in human hair growth in vitro, researchers found that the application of copper peptides stimulated the growth of hair follicles. More elongated, active hair follicles support increased hair growth because the follicle is the structure from which the hair grows .
Another study has noted that this follicle-enlarging effect was similar to the mechanism of action of minoxidil, a widely-used hair growth medication .
There are a number of copper peptide scalp serums available that may help promote hair growth. For these serums, a little goes a long way—only a small amount needs to be dispensed and massaged into the scalp.
However, like with skin care, a combination approach that includes topical and injectable copper peptides may yield better results. Daily use of a copper peptide serum, plus cycles of injectable copper peptide is a potential hair growth combination that needs more research.
It’s also important to address any other underlying causes of hair loss for these therapies to be most effective. This includes nutrient deficiencies, stress, and inflammation.
Copper Peptides for Anti-Aging
Anti-aging is one of the most exciting applications of copper peptides. GHK has been shown to help aged liver tissue produce younger proteins, which means that it could possess massive potential to help promote wellness and longevity in older people.
Although aging is natural and unavoidable, there are a number of factors that can “age” us more quickly than we would otherwise—especially in our fast-paced, sedentary, polluted, and highly processed modern environment .
Our cells contain compounds called free radicals. In small amounts, these compounds are necessary for proper cell functioning. However, excessive free radicals often derive from processed foods, medications, polluted water or air, and high-stress environments, and can cause major cellular dysfunction that leads to premature cellular aging. This high free radical load is called oxidative stress .
However, antioxidants can help to neutralize free radicals, thereby reducing oxidative stress and cutting short the cellular damage leading to premature aging. Most people are familiar with antioxidants found in foods, like colorful fruits and vegetables. However, copper peptides also possess antioxidant properties. In addition to their anti-inflammatory action, copper peptides can help improve cellular health by reducing oxidative stress.
Copper peptides have likewise been shown to help reverse inflammation associated with cognitive decline in aged mice. This is thought to be related to the ability of GHK and other copper peptides to up-regulate and down-regulate genes related to nervous system function [14, 15].
While topical copper peptides are more favorable for cosmetic uses like skin health or hair growth, injectable copper peptides will be the most useful for whole-body, systemic effects. However, it’s important to also adopt an anti-aging lifestyle for maximum results. What does this entail?
First and foremost, diet is key. Avoid added sugars and highly processed foods as much as possible, and consume a varied diet of protein, fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, and whole grains. Next, aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each day—including two strength training sessions per week. Getting adequate sleep is also essential. Most adults need 7-9 hours per night.
Finally, stress management is extremely underrated for good health. Stress is overwhelmingly linked to poor health outcomes and premature aging, so it’s important to minimize stress and find ways to relax .
Following these anti-aging lifestyle principles can help to optimize results from copper peptide therapy for longevity and better health.
GHk-Cu Side Effects
Based on existing research, GHK-Cu appears to have very few side effects. While they also appear to be mild in nature, it’s important to be aware of all potential GHK-Cu side effects.
One potential side effect is low blood pressure. GHK-Cu is an anxiolytic, so it has properties that could reduce blood pressure. People who are taking blood pressure-lowering medications should not participate in research studies on GHK-Cu because of this potential risk.
Additionally, high doses of GHK-Cu may be toxic by lowering blood pressure to an extremely unsafe level. However, the lethal dose has been calculated to be roughly 22,500mg—which is an unrealistically high amount that would be nearly impossible to procure and administer .
GHK-Cu injections, like any other injections, may also cause redness, swelling, pain, or bruising at the injection site.
Dr. Loren Pickart, who discovered GHK-Cu, has remarked repeatedly on its good safety profile and low risk of side effects .
Still, it’s important to be vigilant with regard to possible side effects or adverse events related to GHK-Cu administration or use. There may be potential side effects of GHK-Cu that simply have not yet been observed or reported in clinical studies.
Peptides Dosage Guide
It’s important to understand dosing practices, aseptic techniques, and how to reconstitute and administer peptides before beginning peptide research, but this subject is out of the scope of this article.
However, Peptides.org has a dosage calculator that provides the information researchers need to confidently and accurately dose peptides.
Specifically, in the case of GHK-Cu, we have also published a GHK-Cu dosing guide for independent researchers to refer to when designing a study protocol.
Where to Buy Copper Peptides Online?
The wisest thing to do when purchasing research chemicals online is to choose a reputable peptide vendor.
This is easier said than done since shady vendors are everywhere online. Fortunately, we’ve done extensive research, placed orders for ourselves, and established relationships only with the best of the best peptide sources.
We recommend purchasing GHK-Cu through Peptide Sciences, a U.S.-based research peptide vendor.
They offer both injectable GHK-Cu 50mg and a 1g GHK-Cu topical cream.
The injectable costs $70 per 50-milligram vial, and the topical costs $500 per 1-gram vial. For larger orders, the vendor offers bulk discounts.
We like them for several reasons, including:
- Fast and free shipping: Peptides Sciences offers fast shipping in the U.S., and in many cases can offer same-day shipping when orders are placed early enough in the day. Shipping costs a flat $15 per order, and the vendor uses 2-3 day shipping through the United States Postal Service to deliver orders quickly and efficiently. The vendor waives the $15 shipping fee on U.S. orders over $200.
- High-quality standards: Peptides Sciences also has high-quality standards that they enforce through very strict testing protocols. From the arrival of raw ingredients to their facilities to the final packaging of finished products, there are in-house and third-party testing protocols in place to ensure quality and purity. For these reasons, Peptide Sciences offers peptides with a 99% purity level or greater.
- Large selection: Peptide Sciences also offers one of the most comprehensive catalogs of research peptides around, including multiple forms of peptides such as injectable, topical, and oral.
- Fantastic customer service: Finally, based on our experiences and reading other reports online, Peptide Sciences has outstanding customer service. They are responsive to questions, and they regularly offer valuable promos such as free shipping, free bacteriostatic water, and more. Additionally, they have a satisfaction guarantee. Although they cannot accept returns, they are happy to correct any mistakes on orders or defective products.
Buy 99% pure GHK-Cu with confidence from industry leader Peptide Sciences.
Are Copper Peptides Legal?
Topical copper peptides are found in many over-the-counter hair care, skincare, and anti-aging products.
However, isolated copper peptides—particularly in injectable form—are currently only available for use in research in the U.S., and may be bought by qualified researchers or laboratory professionals. As mentioned above, we highly recommend Peptide Sciences to eligible buyers.
GHK-Cu, which has not been shown to affect athletic performance in any way, has not been banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) or similar bodies. However, many research peptides are now banned substances according to the WADA and related organizations, so competitive athletes should generally avoid participation in peptide research.
International researchers should be aware that guidelines on the legal status of peptides may vary from country to country.
Is GHK-Cu Safe?
GHK-Cu has a remarkable safety profile. It was first discovered in the 1970s and has been the subject of ongoing research since then.
To date, no major safety concerns have arisen in any, or a result of, the studies conducted.
Although GHK-Cu may have some side effects in certain people, they are likely to be mild and transient in nature.
Still, it’s important to exercise due caution when experimenting with GHK-Cu. Just because there have not been any notable safety concerns in published research does not mean that none exist.
Fortunately, basic knowledge of product safety and laboratory safety procedures can help prevent many problems.
For example, if your research subject experiences a bad reaction to topical GHK-Cu (such as redness, flakiness, or severe stinging at the application area), discontinue use and take appropriate steps.
The same should be done for subcutaneous GHK-Cu. However, most of the risk from subcutaneous GHK-Cu comes from the injections themselves. When preparing GHK-Cu for injection, it’s important to be aware of how to reconstitute, dose, and administer injections safely and accurately.
Ideally, all injections should be performed by a trained laboratory professional—since there is a risk of infection if an aseptic technique is not used. Some of the other potential risks of injections include swelling, bruising, bleeding, or redness at the injection site.
It’s always important to be overly cautious when studying research peptides—even one with an excellent safety profile like GHK-Cu.
Copper Peptides | Overall
Considering copper peptides for skincare, hair care, or anti-aging? They are a solid choice for research on any of these topics. Many researchers have found great success in meeting their study goals using this class of peptides.
Copper peptides bind with the mineral copper, giving them unique properties that make them particularly well-suited for the skin and hair.
Peptides like GHK-Cu can be applied topically to the scalp to support hair growth, or to the skin to improve skin quality. Subcutaneous, injectable peptides may confer these benefits in addition to powerful cellular anti-aging properties.
Copper peptides are also known to be safe, with minimal side effects that are all mild in nature.
Ready to begin copper peptide experimentation? Be sure to choose a reputable vendor that provides quality, pure peptides for reasonable prices.