No matter your skin type, peptides might be the anti-aging, hydrating, plumping, skin-renewing, fortifying skincare addition you’ve been seeking.
What are peptides?
Peptides are the catalyst for protein production in our bodies. They’re composed of short chains of tiny amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein that make up our skin—and practically - every other organ.
Amino acids play many critical roles in our bodies. They stimulate muscle growth, build proteins, regenerate skin cells, and bolster our immune systems. They’re energizing, stabilizing, strengthening, and everything in between.
When amino acids come together and bond into short chains, they become peptides. When longer chains of amino acids come together, they create proteins. So, amino acids and peptides are the building blocks of proteins, and proteins are the building blocks of our organs.
Peptides signal our cells to create more proteins when our proteins are breaking down. Our proteins naturally break down and generate at a slower rate when we age, and when we face certain environmental factors, like sun exposure and pollution. Alarmingly, at only 20-years-old, our bodies start producing 1% less collagen each year.
Because peptides are the powerhouses behind the production of skin-strengthening proteins, like collagen, keratin, and elastin, peptides are our best friends in skincare.
They nudge our skin cells, signaling them to create new proteins that generate firm, tight, flexible, and hydrated skin. These magical entities give our skin its texture, suppleness, flexibility, and vitality—all the skin qualities we love.
Where do peptides come from?
Peptides are naturally occurring in all living beings. Our skin and muscles are abundant in peptides and, specifically, collagen peptides. Unfortunately, as we age, our peptide production—and therefore protein production—slows down. This is why our skin starts to sag and lose its firmness and resilience.
The proteins in our bodies aren’t limited to our muscles or skin either. Proteins are found in every single one of our vital organs, from the heart, to the liver, to the eyes.
When we consume proteins, our bodies break them down to their respective amino acids. Then, with unfathomable intelligence, our cells actually reorganize these amino acids to reconstruct the specific peptide we’re missing or in need of.
Because collagen and elastin proteins are integral to healthy skin, and skin is our largest (and most apparent) organ, peptides routinely assemble to create collagen and elastin proteins.
Although we already have copious skin-regenerating peptides in our bodies, our skin can benefit significantly from additional peptides that we ingest or apply topically on our skin.
Various peptides are blended with skin care products to visibly (and cellularly) improve overall skin health. Using peptides for skincare can heighten your appearance and preserve your youthful skin.
How do peptides benefit from the skin?
Peptides signal our cells to create more proteins. They’re very specific and can only signal a cell that has the associated receptor. All cells in our bodies have receptors, but they’re only receptive to the right peptide. This is why it’s key to know which peptides to integrate into our skincare routine. Choosing the peptide that targets specific cells is how we can garner the exact benefits we want.
1. Peptides for collagen production
Our skin is mostly composed of a particular protein—the protein we seek in our skincare products; the protein that is (unfortunately) produced at a significantly slower rate as we age; the protein that gives our skin its brilliant youthfulness—collagen.
2. Collagen is the pinnacle of anti-aging skincare.
Peptides are the source that feeds and stimulates new collagen production. They signal our bodies to generate more collagen proteins as collagen breaks down, so you can imagine how instrumental peptides are in maintaining young, healthy, and beautiful skin.
Specific peptides will signal elastin and collagen proteins to look and act ‘younger’. Not only do collagen proteins give our skin its youthful and fresh appearance, but they enable our skin cells to behave in a tight, firm, and resilient manner.
3. Peptides have been known to significantly reduce, and even eradicate, wrinkles and fine lines.
Skincare gurus often rave over anti-aging products, like tripeptide 5 cream, that stimulate collagen synthesis by use of specific peptides known to firm the skin and correct wrinkles. (Or, if you really want to give your skin some love, be a glow-getter.)
One study showed intense reduction of wrinkles in subjects who used collagen-like peptides.
4. Peptides for skin hydration
When we absorb or ingest peptides, they know where to travel in our bodies to provide us with the utmost benefit. Peptides are essentially magnetized to our needs. If our skin is lacking in hydration or moisture, our bodies will reorganize the amino acids in the peptides we consume or apply, and reassemble them into hydrating structures.
Peptides that are small enough in composition for our skin to absorb will signal our skin to repair itself and alleviate dehydration by producing more water-retaining cells and proteins.
Not only do these intelligent protein-builders prompt our skin to produce new collagen, but they boost our hyaluronic acid production too. Hyaluronic acid is key to retaining moisture in our skin. A single gram of hyaluronic acid can hold up to six liters of water, and peptides effectively increase our natural production of this miraculously hydrating substance.
We can take peptides orally or topically to realize their hydrating effects. Studies by the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology have shown that “oral collagen peptide supplementation significantly increased skin hydration after 8 weeks of intake.”
Peptides can effectively supplement a skincare routine to increase our cells’ ability to attract and retain moisture in the skin.
Best Peptides for skin
There are many different peptides and countless benefits of peptides when it comes to skincare. Different groups of peptides will benefit the skin in different ways. The different peptide subgroups are:
Transport essential elements (like copper) in our bodies to induce wound-healing;
Used by neurons to communicate with each other; responsible for memory, metabolism, and anti-inflammatory responses on the skin;
Guide proteins to their appropriate location in our cell membranes and send messages to our bodies to fulfill missing proteins;
Applied to the skin’s surface, signaling skin cells to produce more collagen and elastin proteins;
Let's see them in detail:
1. Matrixyl 3000
Matrixyl 3000 is a peptide often found in moisturizer cream to repair collagen proteins, improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, reduce the effects of photoaging, and combat loss of firmness in the skin
2. Copper peptides
Copper peptides prove as effective moisturizers for the skin. Dermatologists often suggest copper peptides specifically for their tendency to remain on the surface and moisturize the skin, because these peptides are considerably larger and more difficult for the skin to fully absorb.
3. Palmitoyl tripeptides
Some of the most popular anti-inflammatory peptides for skincare, palmitoyl tripeptides, work to hydrate the skin, reduce the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines, and reduce signs of skin damage caused by the sun and environmental pollution.
Argireline is a synthetic peptide found in many skincare products that’s known to give an anti-aging, firming effect similar to Botox®. Argireline has actually been considered a type of topical Botox as it prevents sagging and drastically reduces signs of aging.
A lot of skincare hype exists around tetrapeptides, because they’re highly effective at increasing skin elasticity, evening skin tone, and reducing discoloration caused by blemishes, sun exposure, wounds, and similar traumas.
Peptides are often compounded with other skin-strengthening ingredients, such as hyaluronic acid and vitamin C. While peptides work to strengthen the skin by way of protein production, hyaluronic acid works synonymously to hydrate the skin.
Vitamin C, an antioxidant known to minimize signs of aging, is excellent to pair with hyaluronic acid and peptides. This antioxidant combats free radicals, or unstable molecules that damage our cells, to aid the skin in generating new, firm, evenly-pigmented and evenly-textured skin cells.
Try incorporating peptides and a vitamin C booster with a hydrating hyaluronic acid serum in your daily regimen, or use them separately in your skin care routine. Any way you choose to integrate these nourishing, hydrating skin care products, you can’t go wrong by adding them to your routine.
It’s also important to try to mitigate the factors that cause damage to the skin. Although peptides are highly effective at reversing skin damage, it’s smart to prevent damage before it even occurs.
One of the great benefits of peptides is reduction of photoaging, or skin damage caused by sun exposure. To prevent photoaging before peptides become necessary, use an anti-aging sunscreen daily. Not only does this sunscreen protect the skin from harmful UVA/UVB rays, but it reduces the rate of aging on the skin and creates a protective barrier to shield the skin from stress and aggressors of city life, specifically fine particles and heavy metals.
The bottom line is: peptides work exceptionally well for our skin, because they’re already familiar to our bodies. Our bodies recognize peptides as their own, so they know what to do with them and how to benefit from them.
Our bodies respond to peptides, rather than reacting to them, as our bodies do with many foreign products and ingredients.
When we reintroduce the right peptides into our bodies, we can reap their benefits and preserve our buoyant, brilliant skin for as long as our biological clocks allow.
As long as you opt for peptide skin care products sold by reputable skin care companies, it’s unlikely that you’ll experience any significant side effects. As always, and with any skin care product, it’s important that you are cautious with the products you choose to integrate into your skin care routine.
Identify your unique skin type and your skin goals to understand which peptides will benefit you best, and which peptide-infused skincare products work best for you.
By Lauren Dellarocco, staff contributor