If you’ve been looking into anti-aging skincare ingredients, then peptides have likely popped up in your research several times. There’s currently quite a bit of hype surrounding them, but with plenty of studies to back up their benefits.
While this may be the case, understanding the science behind how they actually work and distinguishing between the different types can seem overwhelming. Don’t worry, we’ve broken all of this information down for you, sharing exactly what you need to know about peptides for skin and skincare.
What are Peptides?
Also known as polypeptides, peptides are chains of amino acids. Naturally produced in the skin, polypeptides are basically the building blocks of all of the proteins in your skin. This includes your collagen and elastin fibers – the two main proteins responsible for keeping your skin smooth, firm, and youthful.
When natural peptide production declines with age, your skin then doesn’t have enough of those vital building blocks to produce collagen and other proteins. As a result, the skin on your face and body turns looser and inelastic, leading to the formation of wrinkles and fine lines.
What Do Peptides Do for Your Skin?
There are several different peptides for skin out there (which you’ll learn more about later on), and they each have their own unique effects. However, in general, the benefits of using peptides on your skin are as follows:
A Stronger Skin Barrier
On the outermost layer of your skin sits a protective barrier. This barrier not only protects your skin from environmental damage, such as pollution, UV rays, and bacteria, but it also seals moisture into your skin, preventing it from evaporating out into the air.
There are so many factors out there that weaken and damage this protective barrier, leaving the deeper layers of your skin vulnerable to serious damage. Fortunately, data shows that polypeptides are one of the most effective ingredients when it comes to strengthening and supporting the skin barrier, making them a must-have for all skin types.
A Reduction in the Appearance of Fine Lines and Wrinkles
As you know, polypeptides provide the building blocks for the collagen and elastin protein fibers in your skin. A decline in these proteins causes a loss of skin elasticity. This leads to wrinkles and lines appearing on the skin, meaning that you need to increase your skin’s collagen and elastin content if you’re seeking a smoother and tighter appearance.
Providing your skin with extra peptides will then allow it to produce more of these proteins. A study carried out by Robinson et al. confirmed this, noting a rapid reduction in the visible signs of aging. Robinson et al. also found that combining antioxidants, such as vitamin C, with a formula containing a high peptide content would provide even better results.
A Brighter and More Even Skin Tone
Certain peptides have the ability to block specific enzyme reactions in the skin. This is extremely beneficial for those looking to brighten their skin tone and fade away dark spots.
Some peptides are also capable of blocking the reaction that leads to melanin production in the skin. With melanin being the pigment that gives your skin a darker color, inhibiting this will help to keep your skin tone light and even.
Peptides are revered for their skin-firming benefits, but they also have powerful anti-inflammatory properties too. Inflammation is one of the main causes of skin aging, while also being behind several other skin conditions too, from acne to psoriasis. The way in which peptides have the ability to keep inflammation levels low not only helps with these inflammatory skin conditions, but also keeps the cells in your skin running optimally.
A Novel Acne Treatment
As mentioned above, the anti-inflammatory properties of peptides make them a great ingredient for treating and preventing acne breakouts. However, research shows that peptides also offer up antimicrobial benefits. This means that they are able to destroy the bacteria on the skin that leads to acne breakouts, leaving you with a clear and blemish-free appearance.
How to Choose the Best Peptides for Your Skin
There are a few different types of peptides out there, and this is where things get a little confusing. The main ones used in skin care usually fall into one of the following categories:
- Carrier peptides – these carry trace elements to your skin cells, which not only allows them to function more efficiently but also helps with the skin healing process
- Signal peptides – these send signals to skin cells, encouraging them to produce more collagen, elastin, hyaluronic acid, and other important substances
- Enzyme inhibitor peptides – these inhibit specific enzymatic functions in the skin, such as the enzymes that cause dark spots to appear
- Neurotransmitter peptides – these inhibit muscle contraction mechanisms in the skin, which relaxes the face and therefore smooths away any expression lines
What About Copper Peptide Products?
One special peptide that doesn’t quite fit into the above categories is copper peptides. There has been a huge amount of hype surrounding this compound recently, mainly because copper plays a key role when it comes to skin cell production and restoration. For this reason, many brands have been using the ingredient almost as a marketing term, adding it to everything from their latest eye cream to their entire serum range.
However, the data that’s currently available hasn’t yet managed to convince dermatologists that copper peptides are any better than the other polypeptides out there. In fact, some of the research that has been carried out on copper itself (rather than on the peptide form) shows that this ingredient could potentially be toxic to human skin.
Since research into the effects of applying a copper peptide is still minimal, any good dermatologist would tell you to be wary of this skin care ingredient. You would probably be better off opting for some of the other peptides out there with more studies backing them up.
Peptides vs Amino Acids
One common question that often arises when people first begin looking into peptides in skincare is how these ingredients compare to amino acids themselves. As you know, peptides consist of a chain of aminos, so is it better to apply a peptide product to your skin, or should you be looking for products that contain individual amino acids instead?
When it comes down to it, both ingredients are beneficial, but peptides tend to be more effective. They provide your skin with ready-made amino chains. If you applied an amino acid product instead, your skin would then need to use those compounds to create peptides. Skipping straight to the peptide stage will save your skin this extra step, meaning faster results.
Adding Peptides to Your Skin Care Routine
Polypeptides are one of those rare ingredients that can be used on all skin types, and, with more and more skin care brands now coming up with their own peptide beauty formulas, peptide skincare products have never been easier to find.
Of course, any discerning skincare shopper will look into the brand’s website and product information, making sure that peptides feature heavily enough in that product’s ingredient list for them to actually make a difference. Where it gets a little confusing is when it comes to the different peptide forms out there, with each type having a different name.
Whether it may be palmitoyl pentapeptide or acetyl tetrapeptide-9, a quick search online will no doubt turn up a website that gives you the information that you need. However, so long as you can see the words “peptide” or “phyto peptides” in there somewhere, then you’ll know that the product contains the ingredients that you’re looking for.
Choosing Peptide Skincare Products
Just about any polypeptide product that’s designed to remain on your face or body for an extended period of time (for example, a serum or a cream, rather than a cleanser or an exfoliant) will be beneficial for your skin.
However, a peptide serum is usually the most effective way to make the most of the ingredient, no matter your skin type. The thin and lightweight consistency of a serum allows it to penetrate deeper into the skin than other products, meaning more noticeable improvements. This is especially the case when it comes to stimulating collagen production.
Peptides work even better when combined with certain other ingredients. Hyaluronic acid is one example, but antioxidants are a great choice too. Skincare brands are well aware of this and commonly mix all of the above in their best face products. Many also offer free shipping and a money back guarantee when you order from their website, meaning that you’ve got nothing to lose by giving their products a try!
Are peptides better than retinol?
When it comes to their lack of side effects, then yes, peptides are better than retinol. However, retinol also has its own set of benefits, and there’s nothing wrong with using the two, along with other antioxidants, together!
Do peptides really work?
Yes, peptides really do work, especially when it comes to boosting collagen production, and just about every dermatologist out there would agree with this. In fact, with so much investment being put into skincare product development, peptide products have become even more effective over the years!
How often should you use peptides?
Peptides are safe enough to be used twice a day. The more you use them, the more of an effect they’ll have, especially when combined with other collagen-boosting ingredients. However, make sure that the other ingredients and antioxidants in the skincare products you’re using are also safe to be used at this frequency.
How long do peptides take to work?
Rather than producing superficial changes, peptides work on a deeper level, so it’ll take a few weeks before you notice any signs of improvement in your skin. However, the most significant effects will take a couple of months to show, since this is how long it takes your body to produce new collagen fibers.
If your goal is skin that looks smoother, tighter, and wrinkle-free, then peptides are what you need. They really are among the best ingredients for increasing your skin’s collagen and elastin content, which is why anyone looking to supercharge their anti-aging routine needs to look into them.