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Copper: How is it obtained?

Copper is an essential trace element for the body. Present in various cosmetic treatments, this active ingredient provides numerous benefits to the skin and hair. How is the copper used in the formulation of these products obtained? Let's discover this together.

Summary
Published February 6, 2024, by Pauline, Head of Scientific Communication — 4 min read
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Why use copper in cosmetics?

Present in small amounts in the human body, copper is nevertheless an essential element for the organism. Anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, healing... This trace element possesses numerous interesting properties for the skin. Copper also plays a crucial role in the formation of collagen, an essential protein of the extracellular matrix (ECM). The ECM is an assembly of macromolecules that provides a framework for tissues. These various properties of copper help explain why it is so frequently used in the cosmetic field.

The copper is not used alone in skincare but is incorporated in the form of copper derivatives such as the copper PCA, the gluconate of copper and the peptides of copper. The properties of these derivatives slightly differ from each other. Thus, copper PCA is primarily used for its antibacterial and sebum-regulating effects, useful for combination to oily skin and oily scalp tendencies. Copper gluconate, on the other hand, promotes cell regeneration and wound healing. Finally, copper peptides are known for their regenerative properties and their ability to stimulate the production of collagen and elastin, two essential proteins for skin flexibility and elasticity. They also offer an antioxidant action beneficial for delaying skin aging.

How is copper obtained?

The copper used in cosmetics comes from a mining extraction process, specifically from copper mines. The main ones are located in South America, more precisely in Chile and Peru. The extraction of this ore involves several steps, detailed below:

  1. Copper Extraction : Copper naturally occurs in various ores, such as chalcopyrite, bornite, malachite, or azurite. To obtain copper from these ores, mining extraction is carried out. There are two main methods for this: open-pit mining and underground mining, depending on the depth and location of the ore. Since copper is typically found in low concentrations over large areas, the first method is preferentially used.

  2. Crushing and Grinding : following mining extraction, the copper ore is crushed and ground into fine particles to facilitate the separation of copper from other components of the ore and to eliminate other minerals and particles.

  3. Flotation Concentration : The most common method for separating copper from other minerals is flotation. This enrichment process involves selectively floating a finely ground ore suspended in water using a foam formed by air injection to separate its constituents.

  4. Melting and Refining : once separated from other ores, copper is melted in a high-temperature furnace to purify it. This refining process removes impurities present in the copper extracted from the ore. At the end of this process, the copper is typically 99.9% pure.

  5. Final Reaction : The purified copper is then subjected to a reaction to achieve its final form: copper PCA, copper gluconate... The techniques vary depending on the desired form of copper. The copper thus obtained is then ready to be incorporated into a cosmetic formulation.

Source

  • BORKOW G. Using copper to improve the well-being of the skin. Current Chemical Biology (2014).

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