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How is copper used?

Copper is a trace element essential to the body. Present in the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries, copper can be used in various ways to take advantage of its numerous benefits. Let's explore together the different ways of using copper.

Summary
Published February 6, 2024, by Pauline, Head of Scientific Communication — 5 min read
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Copper, in brief.

The copper is a natural trace element that plays a role at various levels in the body to ensure its proper functioning. Indeed, it is a crucial cofactor for many enzymes involved in diverse biological processes such as cellular energy production, neurotransmitter synthesis, collagen and elastin formation, and protection of the body against damage caused by free radicals.

Furthermore, copper plays a role in the synthesis of hemoglobin, the protein responsible for oxygen transport in the blood. It is therefore essential for maintaining good oxygenation of cells and tissues. It's also worth noting that copper is involved in the regulation of the immune system. Indeed, a copper deficiency can lead to neutropenia. This is a deficiency in white blood cells, or neutrophils, which fight against infections.

Topical application of copper.

Copper is predominantly found in skincare products due to the various benefits this element provides. It is often present in the form of copper derivatives , such as copper gluconate, copper PCA, or copper peptides. Generally, these copper derivatives are hydrophilic , meaning they are substances soluble in water and aqueous solutions in general. Therefore, they are typically included in the formulation of serums, creams, and cleansing gels, but never in oils.

The use of copper in cosmetics largely depends on its form. Thus, copper PCA is typically found in gels or creams intended for combination to oily skin due to its sebum-regulating and antibacterial properties, which are beneficial for purifying these skin types. In these treatments, it is not uncommon to find copper PCA combined with zinc PCA, for enhanced effectiveness.

However, the majority of copper used in cosmetics is found in the form of copper peptides. Peptides are short chains of amino acids, typically fewer than twenty. Studies have shown that certain copper peptides have a beneficial effect on skin sagging. They work by stimulating the synthesis of collagen and elastin by fibroblasts and enabling the so-called "cross-linking" reaction between lysine residues and aldehydes, thus ensuring the formation of collagen. Because of these various properties, copper peptides are often incorporated into treatments targeting signs of skin aging.

Copper for taking care of one's scalp.

Copper can also be found in shampoos or hair care products. Indeed, when it is present in the form of copper PCA, its sebum-regulating properties allow it to regulate oily scalps. It has also been shown that copper peptides can be used to strengthen hair growth and prevent hair loss. A study ex vivo specifically looked at the effects of the copper tripeptide AHK-Cu on the cells of the dermal papilla, playing a significant role in the morphogenesis and growth of hair follicles.

Researchers observed that after being cultured with AHK-Cu for twelve days, the cells experienced more significant growth than usual, and the elongation of human hair follicles was accelerated. This study thus suggests thatAHK-Cu promotes the growth of hair follicles and that this effect is due to the stimulation of proliferation and the prevention of apoptosis in the cells of the dermal papilla. Now renowned for their strengthening effects on hair growth, copper peptides are often found in shampoos or densifying treatments.

Oral intake of copper.

As a dietary supplement or medically prescribed, copper can also be taken orally to address deficiencies in this trace element in certain individuals. Copper supplements are generally offered in the form of copper salts, such as copper gluconate or copper sulfate. Copper-based treatments can be prescribed for individuals suffering from gastrointestinal diseases that affect nutrient absorption, those following restrictive diets or diets deficient in copper , or even those who have undergone a bariatric surgery. This is a procedure that modifies the anatomy of the digestive system with the aim of reducing the amount of food consumed. Bariatric surgery is performed with the goal of reducing the patient's weight.

However, it is important to note that copper, whether used as a dietary supplement or as a medication, should be used in accordance with medical recommendations or manufacturer's instructions. The daily recommended dose of copper is 1.5 to 3 mg. Excessive consumption of copper can lead to copper poisoning, which manifests as digestive disorders, vomiting, and low blood pressure. Copper poisoning requires rapid hospitalization and etiological and symptomatic treatment based on the administration of D-penicillamine and the transfusion of packed red blood cells. Without this, the poisoning can have a severe progression.

Sources

  • CHASSARD D. & al. Intoxication aiguë au sulfate de cuivre : physiopathologie et traitement d’après un cas. Annales Françaises d'Anesthésie et de Réanimation (2003).

  • KIM K. & al. The effect of tripeptide-copper complex on human hair growth in vitro. Archives of Pharmaceutical Research (2007).

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

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