Deciem NIOD CAIS : The Copper Peptide Review

I woke up one day to discover that all beauty bloggers slathered blue liquid on their faces and spoke in a string of acronyms. What did NIOD stand for? Or CAIS, for that matter? Five days and 45 euros later I was to find out for myself. NIOD is one of the brands of Deciem, the same company that makes my favorite skincare, The Ordinary. CAIS is Copper Amino Isolate Serum. I selected the 1% concentration.

The online praises for CAIS reached a fever pitch by the time I had learned of it. It was supposed to activate body functions, although the collective wisdom couldn’t figure out which ones. It was to produce results on the fifth day, although NIOD said that the serum “departs from the traditional thinking of addressing visible aspects of skin aging individually and instead forms a foundation to respect skin health.” As you can see, much remained mysterious about this blue potion before I got my hands on it, but it sounded tantalizing enough to take the plunge. Moreover, I had such faith in Deciem that I was willing to overlook their befuddling descriptions.

The serum arrived with a two page manual and in two bottles, one of which contained Copper Amino Isolate Serum and the other one the activator. Once I mixed them together, I saw that the liquid was bright blue. I started using it every morning after washing my face and I followed CAIS with a light moisturizer and sunscreen.

Perhaps I should explain why the idea of a copper peptide serum tempted me. A peptide is a chain of amino acids held together by peptide bonds, and it’s an important building block for proteins and enzymes. As such, it’s been the subject of intensive research on its role in wound healing and skin health. Some studies have shown that certain peptides, such as copper peptides, promote collagen production. Among many skincare brands, these ingredients are advertised as the latest in the solutions for sun damage, loss of elasticity, tone and general skin aging.

NIOD says that in its Copper Amino Isolate Serum, it’s using Copper Tripeptide GHK-Cu. This peptide is found in skin naturally, and it is thought to activate “wound healing, immune function, collagen synthesis, blood vessel development, fibroblast production and anti-inflammatory responses.” Fibroblast, by the way, are types of cells in our connective tissues that are responsible for the production of collagen. And collagen, a type of protein, is what keeps skin looking plump and smooth. As we age, less collagen is produced, and there appear many typical signs of aging–wrinkles, sagging, etc. In NIOD’s words, “This extraordinary concentration [CAIS] targets signs of skin aging, including visible textural damage, uneven tone, visibly enlarged pores and a general lack of a visibly healthy radiance normally present in younger skin. In short, the skin will look younger starting within 5 days with continued visible improvements with continued use.”

Anti-aging is not my skincare goal, but if peptides could keep my skin even toned and healthy, I was glad to use them. So, while dutifully applying CAIS every morning, I began to read various dermatology magazines that come my way as a beauty industry professional seeking out articles about copper peptides. Right away, I noticed a gap between the claims and the actual findings. For instance, a peptide can play an important role in keeping tissues healthy, but does slathering it on top of the skin have such effect? Not only are there numerous peptides, the causal relationship between a string of specific amino acids and healthy skin (to speak nothing of skin that resists the natural aging processes) is far from straightforward.

After two months of using NIOD’s serum almost daily, I didn’t see any changes. My skin looked fine, but then again, it looked this way when I was using The Ordinary serums as part of my skincare. I was about to give up when a friend gave me a bottle of CAIS as a gift (it pays to have a reputation as a skincare nerd), so I continued my regimen with CAIS for another 1.5 months. All in all, it was a pleasant product to use, but I didn’t see any difference in the way my skin looked before and after.

As I discovered, one drawback of CAIS is its fragility. One day the serum’s color changed from bright blue to dark grey. I suspected that the higher summer temperatures in my non-air conditioned apartment made the serum oxidize. Many skincare products are quite temperature sensitive, including Vitamin C serums, but CAIS seems especially so.

CAIS oxidized

But of course, the main reason I grew cool on CAIS was because in comparison to my other skincare favorites, it didn’t produce the results. As soon as I stopped with CAIS and went back to my routine using The Ordinary Alpha Arbutin serum followed by Niacinamide serum, I noticed that my skin looked more radiant than it did over the previous months. And just like this I was cured of the CAIS mania.

So are copper peptides as skincare ingredients the panacea for skin? I don’t think so, because no single ingredient is. Copper peptides are good ingredients to use as part of your routine, and some of my favorite serums like The Ordinary Buffet include them in their cocktails of antioxidants. Relying on copper peptides alone, however, won’t make a great difference. Better invest in a good sunscreen and try to get enough sleep.

Photography by Bois de Jasmin



  • Allison: Thank you for explaining! Copper peptides were also a mystery for me. I’ve used a serum that contained them, but it made my skin too dry. July 24, 2017 at 8:39am Reply

    • Victoria: They’re very good ingredients, but I’m not convinced that they are the solution for everything. July 24, 2017 at 10:19am Reply

  • Trudy: Thank you! I totally agree and had a similar experience with NIOD CAIS. In fact, I did notice a change in my skin but not for the better. I have long since discontinued the use of CAIS. I do like the Ordinary’s Vitamin C and other serums and continue to use them. Thank you for this honest review based on your actual experience. July 24, 2017 at 10:07am Reply

    • Victoria: What was the effect on your skin, Trudy?
      I love the whole Deciem family and many of their products, but this one is one of my favorites. July 24, 2017 at 10:20am Reply

      • Trudy: Mostly dryness and my lines seemed more noticeable. I too like a lot of Deciem products and will continue to purchase but the CAIS just didn’t work for me. July 24, 2017 at 10:31am Reply

        • Victoria: Not the one for me either, apparently, although I know that many love it. July 24, 2017 at 10:50am Reply

  • Ann: Wonderful article, and especially of interest since you have such lovely skin!

    I agree with your logic – I have bypassed many products because they seem to just glop on products that sound good onto the skin.

    It was explained to me that Vitamin A produces Collagen, so I started using a retinol cream at night. And I oil cleanse using oils that are supposed to be good for the skin – rosehip & geranium.

    Great to know about your favorite line, it seems very affordable too! July 24, 2017 at 10:31am Reply

    • Victoria: Retinols are excellent ingredients in skincare, and as long as you start slowly, you can derive many benefits from them. The results are also long term, but for me they were visible.

      Rosehip oil can also be used as a final step in your skincare routine. I use it in the winter. July 24, 2017 at 10:50am Reply

  • Tara: Hi Victoria,
    Thanks for this post because I’ve also been reeled in by the hype and actually placed an order CAIS last night. If I don’t see a difference at least I’ll know I’m not the only one.
    I persisted with some hyaluronic acids for way too long when the molecular size meant it wasn’t penetrating. Funnily enough, it’s the NIOD one that works for me.
    I saw on Gothamista’s new video that she applies CAIS before retinol or vit C which I was surprised about because I thought those 2 needed to hit the skin first. There are SO many factors to consider but your posts really help. July 24, 2017 at 10:34am Reply

    • Victoria: NIOD’s other products I’ve tried were excellent, and I will do a separate review.

      The European dermatologists don’t advise layering such active ingredients together, thinking that they work best on their own. I generally don’t layer copper peptides and retinol and Vitamin C, because each works best at different pHs. NIOD says that you could layer CAIS and retinol or Vitamin C as long as you wait for a few minutes, but I prefer to start with a product and see how my skin reacts to it. July 24, 2017 at 10:54am Reply

  • Danaki: What luck! I was about to plunge into a 15ml bottle yesterday online, but thought to wait. Glad to read this today. As a busy academic, I’m glad someone else did the intelligent research and reading for me.

    Better spend my money on The Ordinary Vit C, which made the most difference for me (even though it tingles) and Alpha Arbutin. I’m also going to try Niacinamide as it wasn’t available the last time I did The Ordinary online haul.

    I have been a loyal user of LRP SPF 30 or 50 for years, but as for enough sleep….well…I’ll speak to my head of faculty. July 24, 2017 at 10:45am Reply

    • Victoria: Ha, the enough sleep part is a hard one for me, especially if I start a new, interesting book in the evening.

      The Ordinary’s Niacinamide serum is one of my top 5 favorite products. Together with Alpha Arbutin it really made my skin more radiant. July 24, 2017 at 10:56am Reply

  • Jillie: Brilliant, Victoria! I’ve been wondering about the hype and whether I should cave in and try it, but my skin is so sensitive these days I was hesitant in case I wasted my money and – worse – caused a reaction. Your honest review is just what is needed. I get the feeling these days that there are an awful lot of emperors parading around in their new clothes! July 24, 2017 at 10:47am Reply

    • Victoria: I think that it’s an interesting product, but copper peptides in general have been overhyped. Our skin is a complex organ and no one ingredient can be the answer. July 24, 2017 at 11:03am Reply

  • Debby: Thanks for this, I’ve been dithering over this stuff for quite a while because of the hype. It just cost more than I like to spend though!
    Thinking of trying retinoid though it’s a bit daunting.
    I’ve been diligently using The Ordinary Argireline for a month but I think that’s another one the hype hasn’t lived up to. I’ll finish the bottle and reassess, it’s certainly not made my skin worse. July 24, 2017 at 11:07am Reply

    • Victoria: If you would like to use a product with copper peptides, I would recommend The Ordinary Buffet. It’s a good serum and the price is very affordable. July 25, 2017 at 10:05am Reply

  • Austenfan: Thank you for saving me some money. 🙂

    There was never going to be one ingredient to save one’s skin. That said, I like Deciem and their vitamin C, retinoid and peptide serums have made a difference in how my skin looks and feels. July 24, 2017 at 11:54am Reply

    • Victoria: Yes, some ingredients definitely make a difference, and it’s a good to have such a selection within one brand. And it be affordable! July 25, 2017 at 10:07am Reply

      • Austenfan: I also actually like their one active ingredient approach as it has made me much more aware of what works. Mind you I’m thinking of getting some Hylamide things for days when I don’t feel quite so inspired to compose a good regime. Are there NIOD products that you are a fan of? All I have tried is their Flavanone mud (see below) July 25, 2017 at 10:25am Reply

        • Victoria: I like their Vitamin C serum (ELAN, to continue with the acronyms.) I also liked Mastic Must. Their hydration vaccine caught my attention, but I don’t like that it has silicones. I prefer Hylamide’s silicone free hyaluronic acid serum for my moisturizer. I haven’t tried many other boosters long enough to tell, but all in all, it’s another fine range.

          Yes, I absolutely love their active ingredient approach, which makes so much more sense. I find it easier to build a good routine with their products. July 25, 2017 at 11:29am Reply

  • Nancy Arnott: Thanks for the review, Victoria! I remember the previous copper-peptide trend, back in the early years of the millennium. I tried Osmotics’ Blue Copper (which is still around, I see) and some other copper-peptide product and did not see any great benefits. I think I’ll give this one a pass, too.

    I do like The Ordinary’s alpha arbutin and vitamin C, which I learned about from you. When I reorder the, I’ll try the niacinamide.

    The skin care product I’m using more often than any other right now is Skinfix Nourishing Cream, which seems to be helping to calm my most recent outbreak of the dermatitis that occasionally appears on the skin between my lips and my chin. July 24, 2017 at 1:22pm Reply

    • Lily: Nancy, if you don’t mind will you give a bit of detail on your dermatitis? The chin area is an ongoing problem spot for me, so if you have issues similar to mine perhaps that product is one I should look into 🙂 July 24, 2017 at 4:35pm Reply

      • Nancy Arnott: Lily, it’s just two small patches about a half-inch below the corners of my mouth that periodically get red, flaky and itchy. Stress seems to be one of the triggers.

        My dermatologist recommended Cerave for one of the previous occurrences of this, but it clogged my pores. This time a friend recommended the Skinfix line, so I decided to give the Nourishing Cream a go, and it’s working well for me. I hope that it or something else works as well for you! July 24, 2017 at 4:46pm Reply

        • Sandra: I have the same problem on my chin as well! I got dry skin with little bumps that are not pimples but flake a lot. When I use foundations I feel like you see it more. My dermatologist recommended the same cream as yours, or antibiotics, which I refused to take. It’s awful and so annoying July 24, 2017 at 7:53pm Reply

          • Lily: I will look into your product! Describes my issue perfectly – and I could not use cerave for the same reason. 🙂 July 24, 2017 at 10:18pm Reply

            • Sandra: I will look into it too July 25, 2017 at 6:34am Reply

          • sandra: I am also trying the moisturizer from The Ordinary and will report back July 25, 2017 at 10:08am Reply

            • Victoria: Which one, Sandra? July 25, 2017 at 10:15am Reply

              • sandra: natural moisturizing factors..have you tried that one? July 25, 2017 at 11:00am Reply

                • Victoria: Not yet. Please let me know how it goes. July 25, 2017 at 11:30am Reply

          • Andrea: My dermatologist used to give me samples of Biafine for peri-oral dermatitis. It works wonderfully! You may need a script in the US but I buy it on Amazon or eBay from someone who gets it in France. I even gifted my derm’s esthetician with a tube-she was so happy! It works great for burns or any rash as well. August 4, 2017 at 1:12am Reply

            • Sandra: I actually have some of that! I will give it a try.

              Since I switched to the ordinary moisturizer it hasn’t made my dermatitis worse so far. August 4, 2017 at 9:52am Reply

              • Andrea: Just an FYI for ladies with this peri oral dermatitis… Sometimes it is caused/aggravated by toothpaste. I think sulfates in toothpaste worsen it. I use a non-sulfate toothpaste called Clo-SYS. It helps my son and me from getting aggravating mouth sores (even during chemo last year!) No cavities in years and compliments on my teeth so it’s doing its job.;-) August 4, 2017 at 11:58am Reply

    • Victoria: Niacinamide + Alpha Arbutin is a good combination, and the one I often use. So, if you’ve already included the latter in your routine, adding Niacinamide would be easy.

      I feel like many trends in skincare are cyclical. Wait long enough, and they return. 🙂 July 25, 2017 at 10:08am Reply

      • Austenfan: As with clothes. I’m kind of hoping that those Sissi dresses will one day be fashionable again. I have a feeling I would look great in them 😉 July 25, 2017 at 12:16pm Reply

        • Victoria: I have no doubt you would! But how to accommodate crinolines into a car? 🙂 July 26, 2017 at 12:24pm Reply

          • Austenfan: I will have to abandon this whole car thing and start using a barrouche-landau (which holds four perfectly)! July 26, 2017 at 1:10pm Reply

            • Victoria: More environmentally friendly, in addition! The only thing left is to widen the streets around here, and you can come and visit me. 🙂 July 27, 2017 at 1:25am Reply

              • Austenfan: And we could go for a drive together. Traffic in Brussels can’t get any worse than it is anyway. July 27, 2017 at 2:39pm Reply

                • Victoria: It sure can’t! At least, we will provide a dose of entertainment. July 30, 2017 at 6:30am Reply

  • kayliz: Thank you for this review! I ordered my now-staples of The Ordinary only this morning and wondered whether to try CAIS — am glad I didn’t! I’ll stick with the Vit C 23%, MAP, Buffet, Advanced Retinoid — and Deciem’s Fractionated Eye serum, which I’m really pleased with. July 24, 2017 at 6:20pm Reply

    • Victoria: You can still try it, but if you use Buffet, I don’t know how essential CAIS really is. July 25, 2017 at 10:09am Reply

  • Addie: My experience was the opposite. I am in my mid 50’s so this may explain things. Love it. I apply it first and then apply the ordinary hyaluronic acid followed by DECIEM elan (vitamin c). July 24, 2017 at 7:33pm Reply

    • Victoria: I’ve also used ELAN (Vitamin C), and I like how elegant it is as a formula.

      What difference did CAIS make in your skin? I’m glad you’ve commented, because I hoped that someone whose experience differed would. July 25, 2017 at 10:11am Reply

  • Sandra: I love ❤️ your skin care posts
    I visited the deciem store in Canada and had a great time. I noticed a lot of women on my husbands side of the family are huge fans,one person adores Flavanone mud mask.
    I have only used The Ordinary, and have been very happy.

    I saw your Instagram photo of some summer makeup, what addiction colors do you like? July 24, 2017 at 7:49pm Reply

    • Victoria: I’m not a huge fan of Flavanone Mud Mask, which just makes my skin red. I haven’t figured out what it’s supposed to do. And I really dislike the awkward jar packaging. Have you tried it?

      I need to look up the colors, but I love their soft tones, like Yesterday and Storm. They have the right amount of sheen, with a beautiful range of shades. July 25, 2017 at 10:13am Reply

      • Austenfan: I have a tube of Flavanone mud and I must admit it leaves my skin a lot softer and cleaner (for want of a better word). I don’t know if I will repurchase it though. July 25, 2017 at 10:23am Reply

        • Victoria: I would prefer it in a tube, I think. I recently tried their Mastic Must, and that one I like a lot. It makes my skin so smooth. July 25, 2017 at 11:27am Reply

      • sandra: I haven’t tried it but one of my relatives went on and on about it because it got rid of all her dry patches in the winter and reported that her face is a lot smoother.. July 25, 2017 at 11:02am Reply

        • Victoria: Gotcha! It’s a favorite of many, from what I’ve read. July 25, 2017 at 11:30am Reply

      • sandra: ok! i will look up those colors
        we (meaning me) are due for a lipstick/makeup blurb soon (pretty please) July 25, 2017 at 11:32am Reply

        • Victoria: I will do one soon, and I will take photos of the Addiction colors up close. July 26, 2017 at 12:21pm Reply

  • mj: Thanks for this post! I’m currently using several The Ordinary products and I’m very happy with them, so I was thinking on stepping up to NIOD, but I think I will pass.
    I’d like you to thank you for The Ordinary recs. Particularly, the Niacinamide serum has been a godsend for the rosacea patches on my face. I had a very ugly rosacea flare in one of my cheeks, that calmed with some doctor prescribed antibiotics. The cream was good for the pimples, but did little to calm the redness. The Niacinamide has helped my skin to become “normal” again, no redness. July 25, 2017 at 2:58am Reply

    • Victoria: I’m so glad to hear it! The Niacinamide serum is really one of their star products, in my opinion. July 25, 2017 at 10:14am Reply

  • maja: Hi Victoria, I am always happy to read your reviews, positive or unenthusiastic. I have just placed my first order of The Ordinary serums (ones concerning pigmentation mostly) and I can’t wait to start using them. Unfortunately, I had to avoid for now all of their exfoliating/acid/retionoid stuff since I spend a lot of time outdoors. I will try those during winter.
    Thanks for inspiration, as always. <3 July 25, 2017 at 6:05pm Reply

    • maja: ps. The biggest difference is enough sleep indeed. So underrated and becoming such a luxury. July 25, 2017 at 6:07pm Reply

    • Victoria: Yes, better to wait till winter and stick to something else for the time being. I hope that you like the Vit C serum from their range. July 26, 2017 at 12:25pm Reply

  • January: I used mine for 3 months. No the color remained deep blue till the last drop. Did it stop aging my face? No, but that is a fantastical goal anyways. Skin did become very smooth – that’s all. July 26, 2017 at 4:55pm Reply

  • Irene: Dear Victoria, with my new CAIS same issue, happened, it turned grey. I can not use it anymore, is it? 🙁 Its quite expensive, so feeling horrible about it January 1, 2020 at 2:51am Reply

    • Victoria: Please toss it! It’s oxidized. I’d try to get a refund from the company. January 1, 2020 at 4:52am Reply

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