Copper gluconate is an ingredient that delivers the important trace element copper to the skin. Research has found that copper gluconate shows promise as an effective anti-aging ingredient. Copper gluconate also functions as a potent biocide.
Copper gluconate is the copper salt of gluconic acid, a naturally-occurring carboxylic acid. The reason copper is combined with gluconic acid is to increase the bioavailability of copper. Copper is an important trace element for human nutrition and is involved in numerous physiological and metabolic processes that are vital for the appropriate functioning of almost all tissues in the human body. For instance, the body needs copper in order to absorb and use iron. Together with iron, copper enables the body to form red blood cells and also helps maintain healthy bones, blood vessels, nerves, and immune function.
In the skin, copper is involved in the synthesis and stabilization of extracellular matrix skin proteins, such as collagen. Copper is also essential to wound healing, as it promotes angiogenesis (the development of new blood vessels) and skin regeneration. For these reasons, the skin care industry has recently began to use copper gluconate as an active ingredient in products, primarily as an anti-aging ingredient.
In cosmetics and personal care products, copper gluconate primarily functions as an anti-aging ingredient. There are several ways that copper gluconate can help to prevent and reverse the signs of aging. During aging, there is a reduction of collagen and elastin production by dermal fibroblasts, as well as breakdown of the collagen and elastin fibers, resulting in wrinkled skin that has lost its firmness and elasticity. Copper stimulates dermal fibroblast proliferation and functions as an essential coenzyme in the production of collagen. Therefore, topical application of copper gluconate increases the amount of collagen in the skin, resulting in a more firm, youthful complexion.
Another way that copper gluconate functions as anti-aging ingredient is due to its antioxidant activity. Copper serves as a cofactor of superoxide dismutase, a powerful antioxidant enzyme present in the skin. Superoxide dismutase helps to combat free radicals, the unstable molecules that contribute to the formation of premature wrinkles and fine lines on the skin. Copper also inhibits cellular oxidative effects such as membrane damage and lipid peroxidation.
Copper gluconate can also be used in cosmetics and personal care products as a biocide, which means that it has the ability to prevent microbial growth. In fact, copper has been used as a biocide for centuries by many different civilizations. Copper has the ability to kill both gram positive and gram negative bacteria. It is even effective against antibiotic resistant bacteria as well as hard to kill bacterial spores, fungi, and viruses when used in high concentrations. The use of biocides is important because cosmetics and personal care products have a high potential for microbial contamination and growth.
Copper is a very weak sensitizer as compared with other metal compounds. The risk of adverse reactions due to dermal contact with copper gluconate is very low. According to a 2014 publication in Current Chemical Biology, application of ointment preparations containing up to 20% metallic copper were found not to cause any adverse reactions or toxicity.
The safety of copper gluconate has been evaluated and rated on EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Database. According to the Cosmetic Database, copper gluconate is rated as a 2 on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the lowest risk to health and 10 being the highest. However, the Cosmetic Database does note that there is limited available data on the use of copper gluconate in cosmetics and personal care products.
References: Wikipedia “Copper”, Curr Chem Biol 2014 Aug; 8(2): 89–102, EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Database “Copper Gluconate”