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woman applying skincare after a shower. Text: Can you use peptides and retinol together?

Can You Use Peptides and Retinol Together?

Two well-researched powerhouse ingredients support slow-aging skin and uneven skin texture: copper peptides and retinol [1, 2].

These two compounds have slightly different mechanisms of action. Copper peptides are molecules made of proteins and amino acids bound to a copper molecule and focus more on healing, regeneration, and encouraging the skin's structural proteins like collagen and elastin. On the other hand, retinol emphasizes skin cell turnover, gene expression modulation, and regulation of sebum production.

Now, you might be wondering if you can use copper peptides with retinol products, and the short answer is yes. When used correctly, this combination can take advantage of the strengths in both compounds to help diminish the appearance of fine lines and even out the skin tone.

We'll examine peptides' workings, the effects of retinol use, and how to combine these ingredients in your skincare routine safely.

What's the Difference between Retinol, Retin A, and Tretinoin?

Retin-A is a prescription brand name for tretinoin (retinoic acid), a direct derivative of vitamin A. Tretinoin, the active ingredient in Retin-A, is a more potent form of vitamin A than retinol. Unlike tretinoin, retinol can be purchased over the counter.

Retin-A formulations like consist of more than just the active ingredient. They contain several inactive compounds that help stabilize the formula, improve its texture, and ensure that the tretinoin is delivered effectively into the skin. The tretinoin content in Retin-A can be found in different concentrations (0.25%, 0.05%, and 0.10%).

Choosing the right concentration is important for achieving desired results while minimizing side effects. Your dermatologist will likely recommend that you start with a lower concentration and gradually increase as your skin builds tolerance.

Retinols, like the ones in most over-the-counter products, are a much milder version of vitamin A. The skin converts them into retinoic acid at the cellular level, meaning it typically takes longer to see results than prescription-strength options.

Retinol is often formulated in various skincare products at concentrations that are suitable for daily use, making it a gentler choice for gradual improvements in skin texture and tone and treating fine lines and wrinkles.

Can You Use Copper Peptides with Retinol?

A young woman and a mature woman putthing on lotion on their face

You can use copper peptide products with a retinol serum or cream in a skincare routine.

When introduced correctly and used consistently, both compounds have benefits: retinol accelerates skin cells, and copper peptide supports the skin healing process through collagen production.

The tricky thing is that retinol can be extremely drying and irritating, especially if you use a more potent form like Retin-A. If your skincare professional prescribes Retin-A or tretinoin, you should consult them for more personalized advice on incorporating them into a routine that will yield the best results for your skincare goals.

When Should You Use Peptides and Retinol Together?

A side table with guasha tools and 3 bottle of skin care products

If you're brand new to retinol and peptides, you might want to start by acclimatizing your skin to retinol, as it has a trickier adjustment period.

Choose a low concentration (e.g., 0.0025% if using a prescription form like Retin-A or a gentle over-the-counter retinol) and apply retinol to clean, dry skin 2 to 3 times a week in the evenings.

Retinol is a light-sensitive compound, so it should only be used in the evenings. Staggering its application helps your skin to adjust to it without overwhelming it.

Ensure you apply a rich moisturizer after application and wear sunscreen during the day. Retinol is extremely drying to the skin and can make it more sensitive to sun damage, so using a broad-spectrum SPF is a must.

You can start introducing copper peptides after a few weeks (3-5 weeks). We recommend introducing them to your morning routine so they do not need to be used simultaneously with your retinol application.

Copper peptide serums work great because they're lightweight and absorbed quickly into the skin. For thinner and more sensitive skin around the eyes, opt for a copper peptide eye serum with a milder concentration.

Copper peptides are much gentler on the skin and are usually better tolerated, so they can be used daily. With consistent use, some people may also want to include copper peptides in their evening routines. Just make sure you allow each ingredient to soak into the skin (15 minutes) before applying the next ingredient to ensure each compound works at its best potential.

Most importantly, listen to your skin. If you notice significant irritation, you should scale back on the frequency of your retinol use and focus on moisturizing your skin. You can also use copper peptide creams to help soothe and repair the skin barrier during this adjustment period.

Are Copper Peptides Best with Retinol?

Copper peptides are generally a good choice to pair with retinol because of their properties to support collagen production and skin repair to deal with wrinkles and dark spots. Still, other peptide options are available, and the best one for you will depend on your skincare goals.

Other popular peptides include Argireline (Acetyl Hexapeptide-8) and Palmitoyl Tripeptide-5, which also contribute to slow aging skincare in their own ways and are easy to use.

Argireline is also commonly available in many skincare formulations. Its specific action on neurotransmitters in the skin makes it a popular ingredient in products targeting fine lines around the eyes and forehead.

Palmitoyl Tripeptide-5 isn't as common, but it's gaining traction in the skincare space to improve skin firmness by mimicking the body's mechanisms to boost collagen production.

These peptides are generally well tolerated alongside a skincare routine with retinol, but you must gradually introduce new active ingredients to avoid irritation.

Effects of using Copper Peptides and Retinol

Woman with a small round mirror reflecting her gourgeous skin

Copper peptides and retinol can work synergistically to address fine lines, wrinkles, uneven texture, and scarring. Let's examine this combination more closely and its specific benefits.

Plumper-Looking Skin

Peptides are known for supporting the synthesis of glycosaminoglycans like hyaluronic acid. This process helps retain moisture in the skin, leading to a plumper, more hydrated appearance. Additionally, copper peptides help maintain the skin's firmness and elasticity by stimulating collagen and elastin production, contributing to a youthful look.

Retinol enhances this effect by promoting the turnover of skin cells, which removes the outer, more damaged layers of skin. This reveals the newer, healthier skin underneath, which can retain more moisture and appear plumper.

Stronger Skin Barrier

Copper peptides have been studied for their ability to support the skin's natural healing process, which includes reinforcing the skin's natural barrier [3]. A stronger barrier means your skin can retain moisture more efficiently while protecting against environmental stressors.

Retinols initially cause some irritation and skin peeling, but over time, they help normalize the skin's renewal process, contributing to healthier skin barrier function. It encourages the production of new, healthy skin cells and can improve the barrier's lipid composition [2].

Improved Skin Tone

Copper peptides have anti-inflammatory properties that may help to reduce redness and uneven skin tones caused by acne or sun damage. By encouraging the removal of damaged collagen and elastin, copper peptides can also reduce the appearance of scars and hyperpigmentation, leading to a more even complexion.

Retinols are well-documented to improve skin tone through the acceleration of skin turnover significantly [4]. This helps to fade hyperpigmentation, sunspots, and discoloration more quickly than the skin would on its own. The increased cell turnover also helps to clear pores, reducing acne outbreaks that can lead to post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.

Hair Growth

Copper peptides aren't just beneficial to your skin. Their regenerative properties extend to scalp health and hair growth. Copper peptides have been found to stimulate hair follicles in studies, potentially increasing the size of the hair follicles and, subsequently, hair diameter [1]. This can result in thicker, fuller-looking hair.

Precautions for Using Retinol

When using retinol, particularly at the beginning, the skin may go through a "purging" phase, during which acne and irritation temporarily worsen.

This ingredient also increases sensitivity to sunlight, which is why sunscreen is non-negotiable.

To reduce the risk of irritation, start with lower doses of retinol and opt for over-the-counter versions before potentially moving to prescription with guidance from your skincare professional.

The Takeaway: Peptides and Retinol

Woman on a bath robe putting on lotion on her skin

The synergistic use of these two well-researched skincare ingredients could answer common concerns for mature skin, such as fine lines and wrinkles, and address uneven skin tone from acne.

Our collection of Copper Peptide skincare products is formulated with a concentration of copper peptides that's safe and effective for daily and nightly use, even for sensitive skin. For those looking for extra copper support internally to support skin health from within, copper peptide tablets may also help complement your wellness routine.

When considering adding copper peptides or retinol to your skin regimen, start slowly, with low concentrations, moisturize, and apply SPF to protect your skin from irritation.

We always recommend that you speak to your skin care professional for tailored advice for your skin type before reaching for a strong skincare ingredient like retinol.


  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. Borkow, G. (2014). Using copper to improve the well-being of the skin. Current chemical biology, 8(2), 89-102.
  4. Zasada, M., & Budzisz, E. (2019). Retinoids: active molecules influencing skin structure formation in cosmetic and dermatological treatments. Advances in Dermatology and Allergology/Postępy Dermatologii i Alergologii, 36(4), 392-397.
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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...