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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 are, the different types of peptides, their benefits, 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, I’ve put together everything there is to know about peptides in skincare -all backed by science.
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 in Skincare?
Peptides are made up of amino acids. Basically, a peptide is a chain of amino acids linked together (1). When two or more of those amino acids come together, they form a peptide. But there’s more. 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. A few examples of proteins are collagen and elastin.
In the grand scheme of things, peptides play an important role in the process of collagen production and are most commonly used in anti-aging products.
How Do Peptide Skincare Products Work?
In essence, peptides are used in skincare to mimic the behavior of your natural peptides.
So in skin care, synthetic or plant-derived peptides are formulated into creams and serums. The idea is to deliver certain peptides into the skin and ‘trick’ the skin, so to speak, to do certain things like stimulating collagen formation.
Depending on the certain peptide, peptides can give signals to cells to do certain things. They can act as messengers and carry things around. They can also interfere with certain processes. More on this in a bit.
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. 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 and each peptide has its own mechanism of action. Keep reading to learn more.
What are The Different Types of Peptides in Skincare Products?
In terms of function, there 3 main types of peptides used in skincare products and another peptide that’s a bit less popular and lacks enough research and data.
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 and deepening 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!
4. Enzyme Inhibiting Peptides
As I mentioned, this is a less popular type of peptide, which I only include here to be thorough. They can be derived from soybean, silk, and rice (5). Enzyme-inhibiting peptides are supposed to inhibit the activity of certain enzymes involved in the skin aging process.
To give you an idea, tyrosine is an enzyme responsible for giving you dark spots. In theory, an enzyme-inhibiting peptide that works on tyrosine could prevent it from producing melanin and giving you uneven skin tone. But again, this peptide lacks the necessary data to be proven effective in skincare.
The Benefits of Peptides in Skincare
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 hyperpigmentation.
- 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 generally 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.
So choose your peptide cream or serum depending on your main skin concern. Additionally, remember the main function of each type of peptide and choose your product accordingly.
The Best Peptide Skincare Products
From creams to serums, find below the best peptide skincare products.
1. Peter Thomas Roth Peptide 21 Wrinkle Resist Serum
Contains all major types of peptides
Has both instant and long-term benefits
More expensive than most peptide serums
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 polyglutamic acid, 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 the 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.
Key Ingredients: Signal peptides, neuropeptides, vitamin C, squalane
Key Benefits: Hydrates, encourages collagen production, smoothes fine lines
Great For: All skin types, preventative skincare, anti-aging skincare, skin with dehydration lines
Size: 1 oz/30 ml
2. Dr. Brandt Skincare Do Not Age With Dr. Brandt Triple Peptide Eye Cream
Targets all aging signs under the eyes
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. If you’re into peptides for wrinkles around the eyes, this peptide eye cream will keep your under-eye area smooth, replenished, and radiant.
Key Ingredients: Neuropeptide, signal peptide, caffeine, vitamin C, green tea
Key Benefits: Softens under-eye wrinkles, minimizes the appearance of dark circles
Great For: Dry under-eyes, dark circles, anti-aging eye care
Size: 0.5 oz/15 ml
3. HydroPeptide Face Lift Advanced Ultra-Light Moisturizer
Very light texture
Leaves skin visibly smoother 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 peptide 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.
Key Ingredients: Signal peptides, neuropeptides, vitamin C derivatives, licorice extract
Key Benefits: Moisturizer, plumps up the skin, softens fine lines, helps with hyperpigmentation
Great For: All skin types dealing with signs of aging, dull and uneven skin
Size: 1 oz/30 ml
4. StriVectin Peptight Tightening & Brightening Face Serum
Hydrating, lotion-like texture
Layers easily with other serums
As mentioned earlier, 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.
Key Ingredients: Signal peptides, niacinamide, Kakadu plum extract, licorice extract
Key Benefits: Brightens skin, evens skin tone, hydrates, and plumps
Great For: People struggling with sun damage, dark spots, loss of elasticity
Size: 1.7 oz/50 ml
Good To Know: Vegan
5. Paula’s Choice Pro-Collagen Multi-Peptide Booster
Multi-tasking skin booster
Light, gel consistency
Can be used around the eyes
Suitable for sensitive skin
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.
Key Ingredients: Signal peptides, amino acids
Key Benefits: Boosts hydration, minimizes wrinkles
Great For: All skin types with fine lines and wrinkles
Size: 0.67 oz/20 ml
Good To Know: Vegan, cruelty-free
6. Drunk Elephant Protini Polypeptide Moisturizer
Gentle anti-aging peptide cream suitable for all skin types
Gel-like pleasant texture
Contains several types of peptides
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 bouncy and firm. The moisturizer is vegan, fragrance-free, cruelty-free, and one of the best peptide moisturizers.
Key Ingredients: Signal peptides, growth factors, amino acid blend
Key Benefits: Locks moisture in, improves skin texture, minimizes lines and wrinkles
Great For: All skin types especially dry, dehydrated skin
Size: 1.69 oz/50 ml
Good To Know: Cruelty-free, vegan
7. The Ordinary Argireline Solution 10%
Targeted neuropeptide serum
Leaves no residue on the skin
Can be used around the eyes
For anti-aging products, the price point is usually up there. As always, The Ordinary anti-aging products are an exciting exception. Even though it’d be so much better to get a serum with added actives, this one is just too affordable to pass! You can’t really go wrong with it.
The drugstore serum 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! Additionally, you can try The Ordinary Buffet Anti-Aging Serum, which contains signal peptides too.
Key Ingredients: Neuropeptide
Key Benefits: Softens fine lines, gives a smoother skin texture
Great For: People with prominent expression lines
Size: 1 oz/30 ml
Good To Know: Gluten-free, cruelty-free, vegan
8. The Inkey List Collagen Booster Firming Peptide Serum
Affordable signal peptide serum
Has a firming effect on the skin
And speaking of affordable peptide products, this is another budget-friendly peptide serum that hydrates the skin and works like a skin-tightening face serum. It makes the skin appear firmer and lifted. It’s made with Matrixyl, the famous signal peptide to boost collagen.
And its base is super lightweight and incredibly hydrating all thanks to glycerin and hyaluronic acid. It absorbs fast and works instantly to make the skin look plumper and smoother.
Key Ingredients: Signal peptides, hyaluronic acid
Key Benefits: Hydrates and plumps skin, encourages collagen production
Great For: People with visible wrinkles, sagging skin, dull skin
Size: 1 oz/30 ml
Good To Know: Cruelty-free
9. Eve Lom Age Defying Smoothing Treatment
Targeted wrinkle smoother
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.
Key Ingredients: Neuropeptide, vitamin E
Key Benefits: Reduces the appearance of wrinkles, guards the skin against free radicals, hydrates
Great For: Sun-damaged skin, dehydration lines, smile lines
Size: 90 single-use capsules
Good To Know: Vegan
10. Estee Lauder Resilience Multi-Effect Tri-Peptide Face and Neck Creme
Works instantly and over time
Available for different skin types
This is a daily peptide moisturizer for your face and for your neck and comes with SPF 15! And it’s an amazing option if you have mature skin, aging skin, and prominent wrinkles and really looking for something with instant benefits. It’s so satisfyingly moisturizing and so nourishing with several antioxidant-rich botanicals. And of course, it packs Argireline for instantly smooth, youthful-looking skin.
Besides, it has vitamins C, and E to protect the skin against free radicals. The peptide-rich formula leaves the skin looking dewy and fresh and is an absolute favorite of mine to illuminate dull skin. You can also try the night cream with the same formula. On a side note, if you want something a tad bit more potent, try Estee Lauder Rapid Renewal Retinol Treatment. It combines gentle retinol with Argireline and works overtime to retexturize skin.
Key Ingredients: Argireline, vitamin C, vitamin E
Key Benefits: Maximizes moisture, softens surface wrinkles, helps undo free radical damage
Great For: Mature skin, aging skin, people with multiple skin concerns
Size: 1.7 oz/50 ml
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 active ingredients or need urgent wrinkle-smoothing action. So have at them!
Read Next: The Best Wrinkle Patches
- 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
- Ferreira, M.S.; Magalhães, M.C.; Sousa-Lobo, J.M.; Almeida, I.F. Trending Anti-Aging Peptides. Cosmetics 2020, 7, 91. https://doi.org/10.3390/cosmetics7040091