Here’s the good news; you’re not going to have to do any more research on peptides, ever! Because when you’re done reading this, you’ll know exactly what peptides do for your skin, the benefits of different types of peptides, and the best peptide skincare products to get started.
And let me stop you right there. It’s not a “buzz” nor an “empty promise”. The science behind using peptides in skincare products is quite substantial.
However, much of what’s out there is either too superficial to make sense of or too nerdy to understand. And to clear the air, we’ve put together everything there is to know about peptides in skincare.
We’re going to try and keep this as English as possible. But you guys, seriously, you’re going to want to know everything about this amazing anti-aging ingredient. Let’s jump right in!
What are Peptides?
The cells in your body, including the skin cells, are made up of amino acids (1). When two or more of those amino acids come together, they form a peptide. As a side note; two amino acids form a dipeptide. Three amino acids form a tripeptide, and so on.
And if 50+ amino acids come together, you get a polypeptide. And to take it one step further; one or more polypeptides come together to form proteins. Just to be clear, proteins refer to collagen and elastin.
In the grand scheme of things, peptides play an important role in the process of collagen production and regulation.
How Do Peptide Skincare Products Work?
In general, peptides can give signals to cells to do certain things. They can act as messengers and carry things around. They can also interfere in certain processes.
The number of amino acids and the exact order they come in have a defining role in what a peptide can do for your skin. Peptides have various functions in keeping your skin healthy.
Here’s an example to simplify things. Let’s say you’ve cut your hand. A number of amino acids gather and create a certain peptide or peptides. That peptide signals the skin to switch to the healing mode and fire up some growth hormones.
Or let’s say you’ve got a sunburn. Another group of amino acids come together and form another peptide. And that peptide delivers nutrients to that area so that it heals.
That’s what happens in your body on a daily basis. And your body knows which amino acids to call up to form a specific peptide or peptides.
In skincare, synthetic or plant-derived peptides are formulated into creams and serums. The idea is to deliver certain peptides into the skin and program them to do certain things like stimulating collagen formation.
In a sense, these peptides are mimicking a natural process that happens in your body every day. But the challenge is grouping the right amino acids and sequencing them in the right order.
Otherwise, they’re not going to do anything! Also, there’s a sea of peptides out there. Even though they do the same thing, each peptide has its own mechanism of action.
What are The Different Types of Peptides in Skincare Products?
In terms of function, there are 3 different types of peptides used in skincare products.
1. Signal Peptides
Signal peptides are the ones that stimulate collagen production (2). With their “signals”, the whole process of new collagen formation begins. Signal peptides are also able to protect the existing collagen and reduce pigmentation.
Collagen is essential in keeping the skin youthful, firm, and wrinkle-free. So, signal peptides make the most important peptides in skincare.
Some of the most common signal peptides found in skincare products are palmitoyl oligopeptide, palmitoyl tripeptide-3/5, and palmitoyl pentapeptide-4 aka Matrixyl.
2. Carrier Peptides
There are two types of carrier peptides; copper peptides and manganese peptides (3). Because the former is more popular, carrier peptides are more commonly referred to as copper peptides. Carrier peptides deliver copper or manganese to where they’re needed in the skin.
They’re crucial in skin repair, restoration, and wound healing. They also improve skin texture and reduce scars because of their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
Creams and serums formulated with carrier peptides are widely used after treatments like microdermabrasion, micro-needling, and chemical peels to speed up healing. The most common carrier peptide is copper tripeptide. And it can also act as a signal peptide.
3. Neuropeptides (Neurotransmitter Inhibitor Peptides)
One cause of wrinkles is muscle contraction. We smile, we frown, and we squint. And excess muscle movement accelerates the formation of wrinkles.
Neurotransmitter inhibiting peptides limit the communication between certain cells in the skin (4). So, they interfere with muscle movement. The facial muscles are not able to contract as much. And as a result, these peptides reduce wrinkle depth and soften lines.
The most common neurotransmitter inhibitor peptides are pentapeptide-3 and acetyl hexapeptide-3/8. Acetyl hexapeptide is also known as Argireline. It’s the peptide that’s known to have a Botox-like effect on the skin. And it makes so much sense!
The Benefits of Peptide Skincare Products
In light of this information, here are the benefits of peptides for your skin.
- Peptides are effective anti-agers as they stimulate collagen formation in the skin and reduce fine lines and wrinkles.
- With collagen, the skin is firmer, tighter, plumper, and more youthful.
- Peptides are restorative in treating photodamaged skin and can reduce pigmentation.
- Carrier peptides are incredibly helpful in wound healing and skin repair. This makes them the go-to ingredients for skin repair after microdermabrasion, chemical peels, and micro-needling.
- Neuropeptides (neurotransmitter inhibitor peptides) reduce wrinkles by limiting muscle contraction.
- They smooth the skin texture by relaxing facial muscles.
- Peptides are non-irritating and non-sensitizing ingredients.
- This makes them an amazing anti-aging ingredient for people with sensitive skin or rosacea.
- People who can’t tolerate retinol can use peptides as part of their anti-aging routine.
How To Choose Peptide Skincare Products?
Peptides are not enough on their own to fight wrinkles. That’s why peptide creams and serums come with additional active ingredients or a combination of different peptides to make them more targeted.
This doesn’t reduce the effectiveness of the peptides. On the contrary, it kind of puts things into context. For example, when you’re trying to get rid of dark spots, a serum with signal peptides as well as vitamin C will work way better than an isolated peptide serum.
The Best Peptide Skincare Products
From creams to serums, find below the best peptide skincare products.
This is one of the most potent peptide serums you can get your hands on! It’s an absolute gem to effectively treat and prevent wrinkles and fine lines. The light serum is made with hyaluronic acid and squalane. So, you get a very hydrating base, to begin with. But more importantly, it contains both signal peptides (matrixyl) and neuropeptides (acetyl hexapeptide): a total of 21 peptides!
And finally, the serum contains antioxidant vitamin C to protect the skin against free radical damage. And it also contains retinyl palmitate to speed up skin turnover. In short, this is the best peptide serum to tackle wrinkles, fine lines, dehydration, and pigmentation. It’ll plump up the skin, increase its radiance, even the skin tone, and soften wrinkles.
This is a super replenishing peptide eye cream. Palmitoyl oligopeptide (signal peptide) and acetyl hexapeptide (neuropeptide) come in an emollient base made with shea butter as well as barrier-restoring ceramides.
The eye cream also contains vitamin C and caffeine to brighten the eye area, reduce the look of dark circles, and diminish fine lines. The peptide eye cream will keep your under-eye area smooth, replenished, and radiant.
This one is a daily moisturizer for aging skin. So it’d be more appropriate for 30+ skin that’s getting slower in producing collagen. The lightweight cream is made with hydrating hyaluronic acid and vitamin B5. And it contains several antioxidants including rosemary leaf extract to make sure the skin is nourished.
And of course, it’s brimming with neuropeptides and signal peptides. The moisturizer replenishes the skin and stimulates healthy collagen production for firmer skin. And it diminishes wrinkles by limiting muscle contraction.
We mentioned earlier how peptides become more targeted when they’re combined with other actives. This is a brightening serum that reverses free radical damage on the skin and evens out the skin tone. It’s formulated with Kakadu plum, which is rich in vitamin C, to reduce hyperpigmentation. But with the help of peptides, the serum works double duty.
And it increases collagen production and reveals healthier skin with reduced dark spots. Besides hyaluronic acid, the serum also has niacinamide to brighten the skin and support the skin barrier function. It infuses the skin with nutrient-rich botanical extracts like honeysuckle and sunflower extracts. This one is an overall multi-tasker and is a great addition to a preventative as well as an anti-aging skincare routine.
An amazingly practical product to get started on peptides! The skincare booster contains several signal peptides to regulate collagen production. And it has amino acids to promote healthier and more resilient skin.
It’s packed with humectants to instantly plump up the skin and visibly reduce the look of lines and wrinkles. Peptides are skin-friendly. So feel free to use the booster with your favorite serum or cream to increase its anti-aging properties.
I mean, this one was already a favorite for the entire planet. But your whole view is about to change towards this one now that you know all about peptides. This is an effective anti-aging cream and is perfect for all skin types. It’s packed with signal peptides to keep the skin bouncy.
And it has plant-derived epidermal growth factors to maintain a healthy skin barrier. Plus, it has amino acids to provide nutrients. And also, the folic acid derived from fermented soybean prevents dehydration and keeps the skin full and firm. The moisturizer is vegan, fragrance-free, cruelty-free, and one of the best peptide moisturizers.
For anti-aging products, the price point is usually up there. As always, The Ordinary is an exciting exception. Even though it’d be so much better to get a serum with added actives, this one is just too affordable! You can’t really go wrong with it.
The solution has a neurotransmitter inhibitor, Argireline, to reduce excess muscle activity and soften wrinkles. If you’re new to the trend and don’t want to splurge, get one of these to test out peptide skincare products in your routine!
Peptides aren’t exclusive to creams and serums. These skin capsules offer highly potent actives packed conveniently inside single-dose capsules. The capsules contain acetyl hexapeptide to relax the hyperactive facial muscles and smooth wrinkles.
Vitamin E protects the skin against free radicals while squalane keeps the skin nice and hydrated. The capsules are highly concentrated and the active ingredients stay potent and fresh for longer.
This is another innovative way to add peptides into your daily routine. These eye patches have built-in micro tips to deliver actives deep into the skin around the eye area. As you press them onto the skin, the tiny microneedles release hyaluronic acid, a signal peptide, and a neuropeptide into the skin.
The patches are perfect for reducing puffiness, crow’s feet, and fine lines around the eyes. You get to freshen up and tighten the eye area in as short as 2 hours!
So these are some of the best peptide skincare products. Peptides are exciting. And they’re really helpful when you simply can’t tolerate heavy actives, don’t want to commit to retinol, or need urgent wrinkle-smoothing action. So have at them!
- Ganceviciene, R., Liakou, A. I., Theodoridis, A., Makrantonaki, E., & Zouboulis, C. C. (2012). Skin anti-aging strategies. Dermato-endocrinology, 4(3), 308–319. https://doi.org/10.4161/derm.22804
- Lubkowska, Beata & Grobelna, Beata & Maćkiewicz, Zbigniew. (2010). The use of synthetic polypeptides in cosmetics. Copernican Letters. 1. 75. 10.12775/CL.2010.010.
- Schagen SK. Topical Peptide Treatments with Effective Anti-Aging Results. Cosmetics. 2017; 4(2):16. https://doi.org/10.3390/cosmetics4020016
- Husein El Hadmed, H., & Castillo, R. F. (2016). Cosmeceuticals: peptides, proteins, and growth factors. Journal of cosmetic dermatology, 15(4), 514–519. https://doi.org/10.1111/jocd.12229
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