Peptides in Skincare: Why They Matter


Medically Reviewed by Dr. Lee Hwee Chyen

MBBS MRCP (UK) FAMS (Dermatology)

Peptides in Skincare: Why They Matter

What are Peptides?

Peptides are short chains of amino acids that are linked together by peptide bonds, hence the name. They are the base unit of proteins, which are essential components of cells. In skincare, peptides are often used due to their potential to signal the body to produce collagen, a protein vital to skin health.

Benefits of Peptides in Skincare

Peptides in skincare products can provide several potential benefits. They can help stimulate collagen production, which can improve the skin’s elasticity and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Some peptides can also help promote skin healing and act as antioxidants, protecting the skin from damage caused by free radicals.

Skincare products may contain an array of diverse peptides, each with a unique potential benefit for the skin. These include but are not limited to:

  • Signal peptides: These stimulate the production of collagen and elastin. Some common examples are palmitoyl pentapeptide-4, palmitoyl oligopeptide, and copper peptides.
  • Carrier peptides: They deliver trace minerals that boost collagen. An example is the copper peptide GHK-Cu.
  • Enzyme inhibitor peptides: They work to slow down skin’s ageing process. For instance, one such peptide is the rice-derived soybean peptide.
  • Neurotransmitter peptides: These peptides can aid in softening expression lines by effecting facial muscles. Examples include acetyl hexapeptide-8 (Argireline), and pentapeptide-18 (Leuphasyl).

Peptides Found in Skin Care Products

The sheer number of peptides and their often-long names make it challenging to identify them on an ingredient list. Here’s an easy way to know if the ingredient you’re assessing is a peptide or not.

A telltale sign you’re looking at a peptide is if the ingredient name ends in ‘peptide’ or begins with ‘palmitoyl.’ It’s also common to see numbers following a peptide’s name. These rules of course don’t apply to every peptide name. Here are some peptides commonly found in skincare:

  • Tridecapeptide-1: a folded peptide that helps reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
  • Palmitoyl Dipeptide-10: a synthetic peptide with skin conditioning and anti-ageing benefits.
  • Sh-polypeptide-121: a vegan, collagen-identical peptide that exhibits soothing properties.
  • Palmitoyl Tripeptide-38: AKA MATRIXYL synthe’6, assists in the maintenance of skin’s structure.
  • Tetrapeptide-72: supports the skin’s architecture.
  • Palmitoyl Hexapeptide-12: a synthetic peptide that helps boost the barrier and skin’s firmness.
  • Tripeptide-5: helps skin appear plumper and more youthful.
  • Argireline (acetyl hexapeptide-3): Often touted as ‘topical botox’, Argireline is a peptide that can relax muscle tension, thus reducing the appearance of ‘expression wrinkles’
  • Pentapeptide-18: This peptide targets in reducing the depth of fine lines and wrinkles, and is often found in conjunction with other peptides to enhance its skin-smoothing effects.
  • Copper peptides: Generally found in products aimed at skin restoration, copper peptides can help to promote elastin, collagen and act as an antioxidant.
  • Palmitoyl Tripeptide-1: This signal peptide promotes the production of collagen and hyaluronic acid in the deeper layers of the skin. It is extremely beneficial in anti-aging products.

How to Choose Peptide Skin Care Products

The choice of peptide skincare products relies significantly on individual skin concerns. For ageing signs, products with signal peptides like Matrixyl and Palmitoyl Tripeptide-1 can benefit due to their collagen-boosting effects.

For expression lines and wrinkles, consider products featuring neurotransmitter peptides like Argireline and Pentapeptide-18 which can ease muscle tension and reduce the appearance of lines. Do consider the formulation of the product, absorption rate, and synergy with other ingredients.

What Can Peptides Be Used With?

Peptides can be used in conjunction with other skincare ingredients for enhanced benefits. Antioxidants like vitamin C or E work well with peptides, safeguarding your skin against environmental stressors.

Moisturising components, such as hyaluronic acid, can be used alongside peptides to ensure adequately hydrated skin. Ingredients promoting cell turnover, like retinol, can boost the action of peptides, allowing them to work more efficiently by replacing dead skin cells with new ones.

How Safe Are Peptides in Skincare?

Peptides are generally considered safe for use in skincare. They are part of proteins naturally present in the skin, and thus, are typically well-tolerated. However, like any new skin product introduced to a skincare regimen, it’s advised to perform a patch test previously to ensure an adverse reaction does not occur. Speak to your dermatologist to find out more.

What Are Collagen Peptides?

Collagen peptides, also known as hydrolysed collagen, are small chains of amino acids, produced from collagen proteins. The smaller size allows them easier absorption into the skin. Skincare products containing collagen peptides aim to increase collagen supply for the skin, potentially improving firmness, elasticity, and hydration levels.

Copper Peptides: is There Any Science Behind It?

Copper peptides are peptides bonded with copper. Numerous studies suggest that copper peptides can stimulate collagen and elastin production and promote wound healing, which makes them a popular ingredient in skincare products. Research supports copper peptides’ potential ability to reduce inflammation and oxidative damage, as well as stimulate hair growth, adding to their multifaceted skincare benefits.

Pros and Cons of Peptides in Skincare

Peptides bring numerous potential benefits to the skincare arena. Their ability to stimulate collagen production can lead to improved skin elasticity and firmness, reduction in fine lines and wrinkles, and enhanced skin barrier function. They may also carry antioxidant properties and modulate wound healing and inflammation.

However, there are considerations to keep in mind. The potency of these peptides highly depends on their concentration and their ability to be absorbed into the skin. The science behind some peptides is still in the early stages, requiring more research for definitive conclusions. Moreover, skincare products featuring these innovative ingredients often come with a higher price point.

Consult with your dermatologist before starting any new skincare routine.

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