MINING COPPER FOR SKIN CARE

Byline: Laura Klepacki

NEW YORK — In the quest for ever-better antiaging treatment items, a handful of product developers have begun tapping copper as a skin-firming agent.
Copper, or specifically copper peptide — active copper combined with protein so that it can be absorbed by the skin — has been cited for its ability to rebuild and restore damaged skin.
The use of copper peptide first emerged in the medical community as an aid in wound healing and subsequently was discovered for other uses.
The ProCyte Corporation of Redmond, Wash., has been developing copper peptide technology since the mid-Eighties, first using it in products for acute wound care, said Robin Carmichael, vice president of marketing. After witnessing its impact in other areas such as hair growth and scar removal, the company began to envision even more applications.
And 2 1/2 years ago, it started marketing a patented copper therapy for antiaging cremes. Its first license went to Osmotics, the prestige skin care brand, which has offered Blue Copper Firming Elasticty Repair for face and neck since 1998. On the Osmotics Web site, a 1-oz. jar of Blue Copper is $55.
In May 2000, ProCyte introduced its own professional product line — Neova — exclusively sold through physicians’ offices. Meanwhile, Loren Pickart, Ph.D., a scientist who helped develop the copper technology for ProCyte, but left the company in 1991, has since begun marketing his own products online through a new company — Skin Biology of Bellevue, Wash. Pickart has also been awarded new patents. And other pharmaceutical firms are known to be working with copper peptide including Merck and Bard Medical.
But what could give the technology its biggest boost and most widespread recognition yet could come this spring with the debut of two antiaging products from Neutrogena. [Neutrogena licenses its technology from ProCyte.]
Cindy Zielinski, vice president of marketing for Neutrogena, refers to its introduction of Visibly Firm Night Cream and Visibly Firm Eye Cream, “as the largest launch in Neutrogena skin care history.” It also signals a more focused approach to the antiaging segment by Neutrogena, which has a reputation for targeting younger audiences. And with prices hitting $20 a jar, Neutrogena joins Olay’s Total Effects and RoC in the high-priced end of the mass skin care market.
Neutrogena already boasts a top-selling antiage creme with its Healthy Skin Anti-Wrinkle lotion designed to diminish fine lines and wrinkles. Visibly Firm is recommended as a complement product for firming and is targeted at women in their 30s and 40s. Zielinski noted that a woman’s product choice and usage, however, will depend on her specific needs. The Visibly Firm products have a natural bluish tint. “We are confident the new gold standard is going to be blue for this year,” quipped Zielinski.
Neutrogena executives were reticent about marketing and promotional plans but did say the items, to be in store in May, would be advertised in print and TV. According to Information Resources Inc., sales of Neutrogena’s Healthy Skin antiaging creme hit $30 million last year, and sources predict the new Visible Lift products could eventually exceed that.
According to researchers, copper, a naturally occurring compound, performs several functions that improve skin health.
Pickart, who first began studying the effects of copper peptide in the Seventies, said a key reason for its effectiveness is “that it uses the body’s natural signal for regeneration.
“It increases new capillary development, rebuilds collagen and elastin and increases water retention in skin,” said Pickart. “Finally, it also activates the system that removes damaged proteins such as those resulting from sun exposure. And, it is extremely safe.” However, ProCyte’s Carmichael warns that there are already imitation items on the market that don’t deliver an effective form of copper and consumers need to beware. Yet, she predicts copper peptide will become a household term like retinol and AHA. Said Carmichael, “I think it [copper peptide] is very much in its infancy.”

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