July 24, 2017

For youthful skin—copper to eat, copper to sleep on

copperCopper is an essential trace element involved in numerous metabolic processes and it helps to synthesize and stabilize the extra matrix skin proteins critical for skin formation and wound repair. One copper-dependent enzyme helps to control the damage from free-radical activity in tissues. It’s most vital role is to help hemoglobin and collagen.

The best food sources of copper are organ meats, seafood, nuts and seeds. Water may also supply copper when copper plumbing is used. The recommended daily allowance of copper for adults is about 1 mg per day. Copper toxicity from foods is unlikely but supplements can cause it. The upper tolerable intake level for adults is set at 10 mg.

Copper has been shown to be safe. Copper intrauterine devices for example are widespread and have been used safely for prolonged periods of time by millions of women worldwide. Copper is used orally, as subcutaneous injections, and as an ointment to help the body heal itself.

Copper oxide particles have also been introduced into textile products endowing them with broad spectrum anti-microbial and anti-fungal properties. Wearing copper oxide-containing socks, for example has proven efficacious against acute or chronic fungal infections. These products do not cause skin sensitization or irritation.

On the basis its known role in skin regeneration and on the capacity of facial skin to absorb copper, a research team from the Skin Research Centre in South Korea, together with Cupron Scientific-Israel, undertook to study the cosmetic effect of sleeping on pillowcases containing copper fibres. Results showed that the use of the copper oxide-containing pillowcase resulted in significant decrease of crow’s feet after 4 (P = 0.01) and 8 (P = 0.002) weeks. No adverse reactions were observed or reported during the 8 weeks study.  (Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology 11, 193-200).

Additional studies currently underway are looking more closely at the potential toxicity of copper oxide nano-particles in human skin organ cultures. Some researchers found that nano-particles were more toxic than micro-sized particles and their effects were stronger when supplied in a growth medium than in a topical application. Still topically applied CuO nano-particles can induce inflammatory cytokine secretion and necrosis, especially in epidermis deprived of its protective cornea.

OUR TAKE: Copper may very well be the NEW kid on the block with respect to its skin anti-aging properties. Although research results seem promising, the type and format of copper and means of application still need further study to satisfy our concern of potential toxicity. In the meantime, a moderate holistic skin care approach and healthy eating is our recommendation.