Copper Gluconate is not a Copper Peptide

Everyone makes mistakes. I certainly do, and I think they’re actually an incredibly useful learning experience. For example, I recently misinterpreted the conclusions of an experiment – which was then pointed out to me. Because of this discussion, I became aware of a gap in my understanding of sunscreens and now believe I have a better understanding of the issue.

As a community I think we want to know what the best ingredients, what the best products, and what the best ways to use them are. In order to move towards that goal – we need to be able to confront our mistakes as learning opportunities, not as personal attacks to our ego or ignore them.

There’s a seemingly innocuous error on the Paula’s Choice website, and it’s been there for more than 3 years.

Some wonder if a specific group of peptides – copper peptides (also known as copper gluconate) – are finally the anti-aging answer everyone’s been looking for.

Copper gluconate is not a copper peptide. It’s a relatively small error, but I’m seeing this article sourced and this error has spread. It’d be like if Anthony Bourdain misspoke and said rosé was a type of bourbon…and then a lot of people bought rosé and called themselves Bourbon Lovers. While rosé and bourbon may both be delicious, they are distinct, separate things. One is a wine made from grapes and the other is spirit made from grains.

Most recently it showed up in an article on Popsugar about copper peptides, I was quoted in this article and reached out to its author and let her know about the error and it has since been corrected.

OK, so why isn’t copper gluconate a peptide?

Paula’s Choice gets the definition, mostly correct.

Copper peptides combine the element copper with three amino acids.

There’s a minor error in this as well, and it’s to do with the number of amino acids. A copper peptide is simply a peptide with a strong affinity for copper. There are copper peptides with four amino acids, for example.

As it’s most basic definition, a peptide must contain at least one nitrogen atom. Peptides are made up of amino acids, and amino acids contain an amine group – which is based around a nitrogen.

If we look at copper gluconate, we’ll see that it’s made up of copper associated with gluconic acid. Copper does not contain nitrogen, and neither does gluconic acid.

The chemical formula copper gluconate is C12H22CuO14. This means there are 12 carbons, 22 hydrogens, 1 copper, and 14 oxygens. No nitrogen.

If we look at a copper peptide, GHK-Cu, we’ll see that it’s chemical formula is C14H22CuN6O4. This means it has 14 carbons, 22 hydrogens, 1 copper, 6 nitrogens, and 4 oxygens.

Now just the presence of nitrogens in GHK-Cu doesn’t make it a peptide, but we know for it in order to be a peptide it has to have at least one nitrogen. Hence, copper gluconate can’t be a copper peptide.

I reached out to Nathan Rivas (now at Drunk Elephant) and at the time of Paula’s Choice and he was aware of the mistake, but wasn’t able to fix it.

I get that Paula’s Choice is now a much larger company with investors and many moving parts, but the core values of Paula Begoun was to educate her community on cosmetics, without marketing, and in an unbiased manner.

Each member of The Research Team is personally trained by Paula to honestly and scientifically analyze thousands of product formulations. The team is dedicated to helping you find the absolute best products for your skin.

Every one of the 20 books I’ve written on cosmetics, including the current edition of my book Don’t Go to the Cosmetics Counter Without Me, fulfills my commitment to help women understand when product claims are lying or telling the truth.

This ethos was and has been an inspiration to me, from when I was younger and suffering from acne and seeking out her advice, to when I began researching and working within the cosmetic industry.

I do believe it’s a genuine mistake, but it does have repercussions. Some people have been misinformed, and at its worst may have spent money on a product that they would not have purchased otherwise.

Corrections: An error was made in the description of the chemical formula of Copper Gluconate, thanks to Tracey S for pointing this out.

4 thoughts to “Copper Gluconate is not a Copper Peptide”

  1. Hi Stephen, you said “The chemical formula copper gluconate is C12H22CuO14. This means there are 12 carbons, 22 hydrogens, 1 carbon, and 14 oxygens. No nitrogen.” I know you really meant 1 copper – hope this doesn’t seem like nit picking but as you’ve gone to the trouble to explain the copper peptide error I thought I would mention it. Totally love your posts 😀

  2. Hi Stephen,
    Sorry to bother you, as I am a complete diaster at science/physics/biology, I was hoping you can explain something to me.
    I have recently purchased this Niod product:
    It claims not contain copper peptides, yet in the ingredients lists it says peptides. What is the difference? What are your thoughts about this product as I have read about claims that prolonged use of copper peptides can actually accelerate aging/slacking of the skin.
    They also claim you can use it in conjuction with a Vitamin C ( l-absorbic acid) product but again, I have heard that they are not a good combination.
    Really hoping to hear from you and what you think of the possibile efficiency and side effects of this product

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