Can Copper Peptides be Used with Retinoids?

No, copper peptides shouldn’t be used with retinoids, at least not in my opinion, not for those with sensitive skin, and not for those who tend to “push the limit” when it comes to the strength of retinoid. This is a “cautious” recommendation, mind you, but I stand behind it.

The reason why I don’t support the use of copper peptides with retinoids is because copper peptides can exacerbate damage in skin that is damaged. A study in Nature found that copper peptides may activate matrix metalloproteinase-2 enzymes — enzymes that degrade or breakdown collagen. But this activation occurs only in instances of wound healing, in which the skin is broken, bleeding, or injured.

With normal use of retinoids, your skin may become inflamed — somewhat red and irritated, and probably not enough so that copper peptides will activate collagen-degrading enzymes. However, I get enough emails from readers who have particularly sensitive skin, or are upping the strength of the retinoid in the formulation too quickly. In these cases, readers write to me with deeply inflamed, irritated, and even ultra-delicate/easily-cut or burned skin.

So if copper peptides can activate collagen-degrading enzymes in damaged skin, it’s probably best to avoid concurrent use of copper peptides and retinoids if you’re one of those people who overdoes it with retinoids or is sensitive to them. Either apply the copper peptides as a part of your morning regimen and the retinoids separately as a part of your nighttime regimen, or use retinoids nightly for 3-4 months, and then switch to copper peptides for 3-4 months.

Interestingly enough, copper peptides may have this “collagen-degrading” function as a part of the wound-healing process. As the study in Nature suggests, when skin is first damaged, it is possible that partially breaking down collagenous tissues via matrix metalloproteinase-2 enzyme activation is actually useful. In fact, according to a 1993 study by Maquart et. al., the use of copper on broken skin may increase the rate of wound closure. But this says nothing about whether the matrix metalloproteinase-2 release stops or is reduced over time.

To be on the safe side, I won’t use copper peptides and retinoids at the same time. But this is just my preference. It’s not a “definitely must not do” — more of a, “to be cautious, I don’t recommend this, and I won’t do this.”

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