You’ve probably heard about peptides and seen them listed as an ingredient in skincare products. You may know that they are a buzzed about ingredient, and are supposed to be good for the skin, especially for anti-aging concerns. But what exactly is a peptide, what do they do, and how do they work? Are all peptides created equally, and should you add some into your skincare routine? Peptides may seem mysterious and confusing, but we’ll break it all down. Here’s a closer look at peptides, what they do and some of the best peptide packed creams and serums.
What Are Peptides?
To put it into the simplest terms, peptides are made from short chains of amino acids. These are the building blocks of collagen which are found all over the body, and in every human cell. Collagen is what keeps skin plump and firm and gives the skin structure– just picture the full, juicy cheek of a newborn baby. Collagen is also found in bones, tendons, cartilage and ligaments. Think of it as the “glue” that holds it all together.
Peptides are also the building blocks for elastin and keratin, which play a part in keeping skin looking smooth and supple. According to The Cleveland Clinic, collagen peptides make up about 75-80% of the dermis, which is the layer of skin below the epidermis. As we age, our bodies don’t produce as much collagen which can lead to wrinkles and sagging skin. By some estimates, people lose 1% of their collagen after age 30. The sun, pollution, smoking and a poor diet can also speed up collagen loss. Without peptides, the skin doesn’t look as firm and the texture may not look as smooth.
If you want to take a deeper dive into what exactly is a peptide, it is similar to a protein but not exactly the same. According to the University of Queensland, the main difference between a peptide and a protein is size- peptides are made of smaller chains of amino acids. As a rule of thumb, peptides consist of between two and 50 amino acids, while proteins are made up of 50 or more amino acids.
What Do Peptides Do?
Some skincare experts describe the role of peptides as “air traffic controllers’- meaning they tell other cells what to do. Another way to think about peptides is that they act as messengers on a cellular level.
Different peptides have different roles and functions. This means that peptides send messages to the skin about everything from collagen and color to hydration levels and muscle control. Let’s say you have a cut on your thumb or an injury to a joint. Peptides help tell the body to zero in on that wounded area and repair it. While some peptides may help assist in wound healing and repair, others help boost hydration.
Certain peptides may have anti-inflammatory properties, while some, such as hexapeptides, have a muscle relaxing effect which could help in temporarily minimizing the appearance of fine lines. Peptides may also help reduce the look of redness in skin as well as help to fade the appearance of dark spots.
How Do Topical Peptides Work?
While our bodies naturally contain peptides in every cell, laboratory created peptides can be found in skincare products including creams, serums, cleansers and masks. Peptide laced products are primarily used to address anti-aging concerns, such as softening the look of wrinkles, and helping to hydrate the skin. In case you’re wondering, laboratory created peptides can be derived from yeast or oat kernels, as well as wheat, shellfish or eggs.
Lab created peptides are meant to mimic naturally occurring ones, which send messages to the body about repair and hydration. As Dr. Erin Gilbert, a board-certified dermatologist and neuroscientist, explained to Byrdie, “Peptides tell your cells to produce more collagen: one of the major building blocks of the skin. So by applying them directly to your skin, you’re telling your body it needs to make more collagen.” Since collagen is what helps the skin look plump and firm, products that may help protect and encourage collagen levels could be a key part of an anti-aging skincare routine.
Some peptide packed products may help boost hydration levels while others may tell a muscle to temporarily freeze, which could help soften the look of a wrinkle. Specific peptides could also help skin feel softer and smoother, while others are focused on collagen.
Are There Different Types of Peptides?
Yes. There are hundreds of types of peptides but the most commonly used peptides in skincare are often listed as argireline, matrixyl (palmitoyl pentapeptide), and dermaxyl as well as pentapeptides, palmitoyl oligopeptide and copper peptides.
According to an article by Dr. Leslie S. Baumann in Dermatology News, the primary class of topical peptides are signal peptides, enzyme-inhibitor peptides, neurotransmitter-inhibitor peptides (or neuropeptides), and carrier peptides. Here’s what they do.
According to Dermatology News, carrier peptides “promote human skin dermal fibroblast growth in vitro and in vivo, and reduce the length and depth of wrinkles.” They also “stabilize and transport trace elements essential for healing wounds and enzymatic processes.” It is marketed as matrixyl. Enzyme-inhibitor peptides suppress enzymatic activity, directly or indirectly, and can be extracted from soybeans. Some studies suggest it may help slow down collagen loss and may help moisturize skin. Neuropeptides help with skin inflammation. They are sometimes referred to as “nature’s Botox” as they may help temporarily freeze a muscle. As Dermatology News notes, it is “thought to suppress the release of neurotransmitters, easing facial tension…”
What is a Copper Peptide?
Arguably the best known peptide is copper peptide, and you may have seen it highlighted as an ingredient in anti-aging creams. What exactly is a copper peptide? In technical terms it is a carrier peptide, which means it can help transport trace minerals that can assist in wound healing. It is also an antioxidant. Copper peptides are thought to help skin feel soft and smooth, and help to minimize the appearance of fine lines.
It has been used in skincare and haircare since around 1990 although its historical use dates back much further. The use of copper for skin healing and cleansing dates back to the ancient Egyptians and the Aztecs who used it to sterilize wounds. It is also known as GHK-Cu and it combines copper with three amino acids, making it a tripeptide. Copper peptides are found naturally in the body in blood plasma, saliva and urine.
Copper peptides are used in creams, serums and gels as well as in shampoos and hair products designed for those with hair loss.
How Should Peptides Be Used?
When it comes to skincare and tackling the signs of aging, there is no such thing as a single magic bullet. Peptides are often one of many key ingredients in an anti-aging cocktail. They are often combined with hyaluronic acid, a moisturizing ingredient that can hold up to 1,000 times its weight in water, as well as retinol (a vitamin A derived ingredient that helps encourage cell turnover), vitamin C (which helps to brighten the appearance of skin) and niacinamide, a form of vitamin B. Some skincare professionals advise against combining peptides with products containing AHAs (alpha hydroxyl acids) as they may cancel out each other’s effectiveness.
Not all skincare products containing peptides are created the same. Some formulations are more stable than others. If you decide to add peptides to your routine, your best bet is to choose a product that will be on the face for a long time, such as a cream or lotion, rather than a face wash which is quickly rinsed off.
Are There Any Downsides to Peptides?
In general, products with peptides are tolerated by the skin as they are not known to cause irritation in the way that retinols can sometimes cause redness, irritation and peeling – but it’s always a good idea to do a test patch first.
What is the Best Way to Get Peptides?
While peptides are found in creams, masks, face washes and serums, many skincare experts advise choosing a serum. Why? Serums are highly concentrated and penetrate deeply into the skin. A cream is another good option as the product sits on the face for a prolonged period of time, while a face wash is only on the skin temporarily.
What Are The Best Peptide-Infused Creams and Serums?
When it comes to skincare, peptides are only one piece of the puzzle. The most effective skincare routines take a holistic, multi prong approach to skincare and include a combination of ingredients that work well together to help you achieve your best possible looking skin.
Formulyst makes it easy to create your own skincare routine. Each skincare concern is assigned a number, and your personal combination will be just as unique as you (and your skin) are. All you have to do is find your formula, and follow the numbers.
A key part of the Formulyst’s approach to skincare is finding the right serum for your skin. Why serums? They’re highly concentrated and penetrate deep into the skin, making them the workhorses of any routine.
Here’s a look at some key Formulyst products powered by peptides.
Formulyst’s Pro-Collagen Serum is formulated for aging skin and contains a potent mix of peptides and proteins. Gently pat a few drops of this hydrating serum on the face to help to minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
One of the tell-tale signs of aging is dark spots, which can be caused by everything from sun exposure to hormones. Formulyst’s Luminous Skin Serum zeroes in on skin discoloration with Triple Brightening Technology, a powerful blend of naturally derived alpha arbutin (derived from the bearberry plant), Rumex extract (a plant that helps stop the production of melanin) and a biomimetic peptide. The serum leaves skin looking lighter, brighter and more luminous.
Wrinkles can be caused by a wide variety of factors, from sun damage to smoking and repeated facial expressions – not to mention the loss of collagen and elastin as we age. The right serum can help keep the telltale signs of aging at bay. Formulyst Anti-Wrinkle Peptide Serum is packed with six different types of peptides to help leave skin looking and feeling smoother, stronger and more radiant.
Sources: The Cleveland Clinic, University of Queensland, Dermatology News