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Woman after the shower using skincare. Text: Copper peptides and tretinoin: How to use them together

Copper Peptides and Tretinoin: How To Use Them Together

Copper peptides and tretinoin are both potent skincare ingredients that can help you achieve a glowing, youthful complexion. When used correctly, they have been shown to slow the aging process, reduce acne, and even out skin tone [1, 2]—their potency. However, they demand respect and a careful approach, especially for sensitive skin.

One of the most common questions about these two ingredients is, "Can you use copper peptides with tretinoin?"

And technically, you can. But it comes down to finding a good skincare schedule with these compounds, which we'll help you figure out in this article.

What Are Peptides?

A small mountain of copper peptide blue powder

Peptides are the heart of many anti-aging skincare products. They're essentially short chains of amino acids that serve as the building blocks for proteins such as collagen, elastin, and keratin. These three proteins are key to maintaining the skin's firmness and elasticity.

What Are Copper Peptides?

Copper peptides are peptides combined with a copper molecule. This combination has an affinity to skin cells and has been found to support skin regeneration, healthy inflammation, stimulate collagen production, and encourage wound healing, making it a valuable ingredient for skincare and hair care products [1, 3].

What is Tretinoin?

A tube of creme and a blob of creme in the tips of a hand

Tretinoin is a potent form of vitamin A (retinol) extensively studied for its anti-aging and anti-acne properties [2, 4]. Retinols accelerate skin cell turnover, encourage collagen production, and diminish the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and even skin tone.

Because tretinoin is a potent version of retinol, it's only available by prescription for those looking to combat signs of aging and improve skin clarity.

Can Copper Peptides be Used with Tretinoin?

Yes, you can use copper peptides with tretinoin, and they make for a powerhouse duo when used correctly. Here are some tips for integrating them into your routine:

  • Start Slowly: If you're new to tretinoin and peptides, introduce one ingredient at a time to allow your skin to adapt to these strong compounds. You should also look at lower concentrations of the active ingredients, as higher concentrations don't necessarily mean they'll work better or faster. Rather, going in with a tretinoin or copper peptide concentration that's too strong is a recipe for skin irritation. Most dermatologists will recommend a first-time tretinoin prescription at (0.25–0.5%) and copper peptides can be used between (2–5%),
  • Time of use: Tretinoin is best used at night because it's a photosensitive compound that can degrade with UV. Copper peptides are versatile and can be applied as part of your daily routine or at night.
  • Buffering: To mitigate irritation when using both at night, apply moisturizer before tretinoin to act as a buffer. After absorption (roughly 15 minutes), apply your copper peptide product. A copper peptide cream would work well as part of the "sandwich method." Tretinoin is known to be extremely drying to the skin because it promotes fast cell turnover, so sandwiching a copper peptide cream can help you lock in moisture.
  • Alternating Schedule: For those with skin sensitivity, applying tretinoin nightly can be too much, so starting 2-3 times a week could help your skin adjust. You can use copper peptides on the nights you're not using tretinoin.
  • Monitor Your Skin: Take note of your skin's reaction to your new skincare routine. Any sign of irritation warrants a reassessment of your routine and perhaps a visit with your dermatologist.

Do Other Peptides Work Better With Tretinoin?

Woman in a bathrobe touching her face while looking at her image on her phone, she has nice skin

Copper peptides stand out in the research for their potential for supporting skin firmness, which complements the effects of tretinoin on anti-aging. Other peptides that complement tretinoin include Matrixyl (Palmitoyl Pentapeptide) and Argireline (Acetyl Hexapeptide).

Topical collagen also holds some merit in skincare routines alongside tretinoin and can be used simultaneously without any worry of interaction. However, the downside to most collagen products is that the collagen peptide molecule tends to be too large to absorb efficiently into the skin, which means it will deliver subtle effects compared to copper peptides. That being said, collagen can still support the skin barrier and provide a temporary plumping effect when used with tretinoin.

What Can You Mix With Tretinoin?

Besides peptides, tretinoin pairs well with vitamin B3 (niacinamide), known for its anti-inflammatory and skin barrier-strengthening properties [5]. Because of these properties, we've included niacinamide in our Copper Peptide Eye Serum and Face and Neck Serum.

Ceramines are another complementary ingredient to tretinoin. Ceramides are lipids that help form the skin's barrier and retain moisture. Using ceramide-rich moisturizers with tretinoin can help counteract dryness and reduce irritation.

Sunscreen is a must when using tretinoin because it increases the skin's sensitivity to sunlight. Look for broad-spectrum sunscreen during the day to help protect the skin from UV damage and collagen degradation.

Are Copper Peptides Better with Retinol than Tretinoin?

Retinol, a less potent vitamin A form than tretinoin, can be less irritating for some users. It's available in various over-the-counter skincare products. Though it might not be as fast-acting or effective as tretinoin, it provides similar benefits without the intensity or higher risk of ittiration.

When using copper peptides with retinol, a similar approach of staggering application is recommended to minimize potential irritation.

Side Effects of Copper Peptides and Tretinoin

Copper Peptides Side Effects

Even though topical copper peptides are generally well-tolerated, some people may experience mild irritation, such as redness and itching, when introducing them to their skincare routine.

Sometimes, overusing copper peptides can cause tightness and dryness in the skin. Still, these side effects can be mitigated by introducing the compound slowly, applying it every other day, or using a lower concentration of the active ingredient.

Tretinoin side Effects

Tretinoin is a strong retinol with side effects, particularly during the initial weeks of use. Common side effects include redness, peeling, dryness, and increased sensitivity to sunlight. Some users may also experience itching or a burning sensation upon application, which can be mitigated using the "sandwich method" or buffering tretinoin's absorption by first applying a cream.

Many people also experience a "purging phase" with tretinoin. The acceleration of cell turnover caused by tretinoin pushes impurities to the surface more rapidly, resulting in a temporary increase in acne, whiteheads, and blackheads lasting anywhere from 4-6 weeks.

Even though you might want to stop tretinoin altogether during the purge, you must stick with it as the purging phase is temporary, and skin texture and clarity improvements are just around the corner.

When using both ingredients, introduce them gradually and monitor the skin for bad reactions, adjusting usage as necessary to minimize discomfort. And if you have any concerns, you should speak with your dermatologist.

The Takeaway: Copper Peptides and Tretinoin

Skin care products, 4 bottles laying next to each other

Adding copper peptides and tretinoin to your skincare routine could be a way to achieve maximum results for a more youthful complexion. Their combined efficacy in enhancing skin texture, reducing signs of aging, and promoting overall skin health is impressive, and plenty of research backs it up.

For the best results and to mitigate some of the downsides of tretinoin, like redness and the dreaded "purging" phase that may lead to breakouts, it's best to consult with your dermatologist for advice.

Products like our Neurogan Health Copper Peptides offer a potent yet gentle formulation, making them a great choice for those seeking copper peptides' skincare and haircare benefits at an affordable price point.


  1. Pickart, L., & Margolina, A. (2018). Regenerative and protective actions of the GHK-Cu peptide in the light of the new gene data. International journal of molecular sciences, 19(7), 1987.
  2. Mukherjee, S., Date, A., Patravale, V., Korting, H. C., Roeder, A., & Weindl, G. (2006). Retinoids in the treatment of skin aging: an overview of clinical efficacy and safety. Clinical interventions in aging, 1(4), 327-348.
  3. Tian, L. W., Luo, D., Chen, D., Zhou, H., Zhang, X. C., Yang, X. L., ... & Liu, W. (2022). Co-delivery of bioactive peptides by nanoliposomes for promotion of hair growth. Journal of Drug Delivery Science and Technology, 72, 103381.
  4. Leyden, J., Stein-Gold, L., & Weiss, J. (2017). Why topical retinoids are mainstay of therapy for acne. Dermatology and therapy, 7, 293-304.
  5. Levin, J., & Momin, S. B. (2010). How much do we really know about our favorite cosmeceutical ingredients?. The Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology, 3(2), 22.
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Katrina Lubiano

Based in Canada, Katrina is an experienced content writer and editor specializing in health and wellness. With a journalistic approach, she's crafted over 900,000 words on supplements, striving to debunk myths and foster a holistic approach to healthi...

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