Copper peptides are the subject of a lot of talk in the hair loss community, but what are they and what do we actually know about them?
As the name suggests, they contain the element copper, and also three amino acids linked together, which is what makes it a peptide. That’s simple enough, so what’s so special about them?
They’ve only relatively recently come to our attention – it wasn’t until 1973 that Dr. Loren Pickart was able to isolate one.
Initial research into the effects of the peptides suggested that they may well have healing and rejuvenating properties.
Dr. Pickart’s subsequent research has been reviewed, confirmed, and built on by scientists around the world and copper peptides have been big news ever since.
Studies have shown that copper peptides play an important part in the healing of wounds in animals (1).
Further developments have led to the launch of copper peptide-based anti-ageing cosmetic products.
Research is being carried out at the moment which might show that copper peptides can heal damaged nerves and work against inflammations. Tests have shown that copper peptides can eliminate wrinkles in skin.
The peptide GHK has been called ‘The Holy Grail’ due to its healing properties and the fact that it is found less in humans with age. This molecule may one day be able to return older humans to a younger biological state.
What Does it Do for Hair Loss?
There have been a number of exciting developments in this field. A particular copper peptide, GHK-Cu has been shown to stimulate hair growth in a number of ways:
- Topical application of copper peptides to the scalp has been shown to strengthen existing hair and stimulate growth.
- Copper peptides have been proven to improve the results of hair transplants.
- A wide range of tests has shown the molecule to play a role in hair growth in animals and human patients.
It is thought that the role of copper in our bodies includes fighting inflammation, and that it could be that we age – our skin starts to wrinkle, our hair thins and we become weaker – due to the depletion of copper over the years.
When using the GHK-Cu molecule to treat wounds, it was noticed that the hair follicles around the treated wounds were very large.
It seemed that the copper peptide played a role in preventing follicle death and even increasing their size. In light of this, its role in hair growth began to be studied.
How Does it Work?
GHK doesn’t just get to work on hair growth in one way. It has a number of tools in its box, which it can employ at the same time (3):
- It has angiogenic properties. This means it improves circulation at capillary level. This is important for hair growth, as each follicle receives its blood and oxygen from a solitary capillary. As we get older, peripheral circulation in the capillaries can deteriorate, which in turn can lead to hair loss on the scalp. GHK-Cu improves circulation at this micro-level, enabling follicles to continue to grow hair normally.
- This molecule, as we have seen, has anti-inflammatory properties. As hair loss is often triggered by an autoimmune reaction, which causes inflammation, this damage can be repaired quickly with the presence of GHK-Cu.
- As if that weren’t enough, GHK-Cu stimulates production of another inhibitor protein, which prevents follicles from becoming gradually smaller.
What Evidence is There for It?
The most compelling evidence in favor of copper peptides’ positive role in hair growth was discussed by Dr. Pickart in an interview with Cosmetics & Medicine of Russia.
He discussed his early testing on rodents, providing photographs showing clear, exaggerated hair growth in areas where the molecule had been injected.
He went on to discuss how further testing showed that the molecules enlarged the anagen follicles in rodents, causing extended hair growth.
From there, he discusses Bernard Kalis’ tests on the effects on human follicles and the discovery that they could be converted successfully from the dormant telogen state to the anagen growth state.
And while Dr. Pickart’s interview is interesting, there is more recent research that sheds light on the potential use of copper peptides.
Study: The human tri-peptide GHK and tissue remodeling (2008)
In a scientific review published in 2008, Dr. Pickart once again outlines the benefits of copper peptides (5).
In particular, the benefits as they pertain to human tissue remodeling.
Hair loss doesn’t occur in a vacuum. It’s often triggered by inflammation of the surrounding tissues, but it can also cause inflammation itself.
This is why understanding tissue remodeling is crucial to hair growth research.
According to Dr. Pickart, the peptide GHK-Cu “activate[s] a plethora of remodeling related processes.”
These include chemoattraction of repair cells, anti-inflammatory actions, collagen synthesis, and keratinocyte proliferation.
In short, copper peptides can go a long way in assisting the healing process.
Study: Regenerative and protective actions of the GHK-Cu peptide in the light of the new gene data (2018)
As highlighted by the previous study, the regenerative benefits of GHK-Cu peptide have been known for years. But in that span of time, there have been ever more discoveries on the benefits and actions of the peptide. These were outlined in the latest study on the topic, published in 2018 (6).
To name just a few:
- Improve skin firmness, elasticity, and clarity;
- Repair protective skin barrier proteins;
- Reduce photodamage, mottled hyperpigmentation, skin spots and lesions;
- Reduce inflammation and free radical damage; and
- Increase hair growth and thickness, enlarge hair follicle size.
Of particular interest to us, however, are the last two points.
Inflammation is believed to play a major role in many types of hair loss. In fact, it contributes significantly to Androgenetic Alopecia (AGA), or male-pattern baldness, which is the most common cause of hair loss in men (7).
By reducing inflammation and free radical damage, the GHK-Cu peptide can create a healthy scalp environment for the hair follicles. And according to the same research study, the peptide can also enlarge hair follicle size so as to combat miniaturization.
As concluded by researchers, “GHK is a safe, inexpensive, extensively studied compound that has a wealth of positive and health-promoting effects in many tissues and systems.”
Does this mean that copper peptides are the answer to your hair loss woes? Not necessarily. But they may offer some hope.
Is There a Risk of Side Effects?
Side effects are rare, but there may be allergic reactions.
Copper can be harmful to the body when there is too much present, so it is essential to consult with a doctor as to whether copper peptide serum is suitable for you, and if so, in what dosage.
What is the Best Way to Take Copper Peptides?
D.S. Laboratories produces a topical treatment called Spectral RS, which contains a number of ingredients, but is based on copper peptides.
The treatment is claimed to trigger the anagen, or growth phase, in hair follicles, causing hair to grow where it had previously ceased.
Copper peptide serum is popular as a skin treatment, but is becoming more and more associated with hair growth.
Typical copper peptide serums designed for hair treatment will also contain ingredients such as capsicum, which increases blood flow to the follicles, and adenosine, which extends the growth phase of the hair.
Is copper peptide the next big thing in hair loss treatment?
While the research on the topic has offered much hope, there are still many questions that need to be answered.
These include how much growth it can stimulate in men with moderate to severe AGA, as well as whether it can maintain the growth after supplementation.
But if you’re wanting to give copper peptides a try, there’s very little risk. You should consult with your physician, however before doing so.