Every once in a while, a new health or cosmetic product will start to make its rounds across the beautysphere, and suddenly it’ll seem like you’re seeing it everywhere. It happened with antioxidants, it happened with fiber, and now it’s happening again with peptides.
But here’s the deal. Just like antioxidants and fiber are great for both your health and your appearance (can’t beat that free-radical fighting magic, right?), so are peptides. As the building blocks of protein, they create the foundation for your skin and add both structure and strength to it. (1)
That said, most – if not all of us – are probably more than a bit unsure as to what they are and exactly what they do. While the topic itself can be a bit chewy at first, the good news is that they’re little powerhouses when it comes to skincare and a breeze to use.
Seriously, though, friends. Incorporating them into your lifestyle is literally as easy as dabbing them onto your face when doing your skincare routine. No fuss, packed with benefits, and seriously transformative… what’s there not to like about them?
Curious to learn more and excited to get started on introducing peptides for skin health into your beauty regimen? We are, too, and we’re super stoked to share this not-so-secret ingredient with you. Let’s go ahead and break it down further together, okay?
What are Peptides?
Before we dive further into what peptides are in skincare and explore what they do, we first need to do a quick field trip back to high school biology class. (And no, before you ask, we won’t be making you dissect a frog today. You’re welcome.)
If you remember the basic structure of the human body and what it’s composed of, then you probably already know that amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Well, what are those amino acids? Peptides, that’s what.
Short for “polypeptides,” these chains of amino acids aren’t quite proteins on their own, but they do help form the structure of the existing proteins in our bodies. On that note, you’ve probably heard a bit of buzz about collagen and elastin these days, and that’s where the overlap between peptides and skincare occurs. (1)
We need collagen to help lend structure to our skin, but as we start to get older, our collagen production levels start to decline. That’s what leads to skin laxity and those fine lines and wrinkles cropping up on our faces. (2 & 3)
Even if your moisturizer game is on point to smooth out those dynamic wrinkles, your face can still start to droop as you get older. Without collagen, your skin won’t seem as firm and taut.
That said, you can use AHA’s, bakuchiol and other topicals to help increase that collagen production and banish your fine lines back to the netherworld, where they belong. If you’re in the team sensitive skin camp, though, retinols & tretinoin (arguably the most famous retinoid out there) can strip your skin and lead to dryness and irritation so always recommend avoiding that.
In that case, in the age-old debate of bakuchiol vs retinol for fine lines and skin texture, you’re going to love bakuchiol. It’s much more gentle and it can deliver the results without leaving you feeling like the Sahara Desert. Of course, that’s not the only ace in your sleeve, and peptides can also be a major game changer.
Fortunately, using peptides for skin structure and fine lines can help return some of that firmness and vibrancy to your face, shaving literal years off it. Even better, it won’t dry you out like retinoids will, and you don’t have to titrate up your usage to get your skin used to it, either.
Excited to learn more? Step away from the lab bench and push up your sleeves, friends, as we’re now going to do a deep dive into what these peptides do – and why you should start incorporating them into your skincare routine like, yesterday.
How Peptides Work
Now that you know what are peptides, let’s go ahead and break down what they do and how they work. The mechanism of action for them is pretty awesome, if we do say so ourselves. You remember how we were talking about how peptides are necessary for collagen production?
While it would be tempting to dab some straight collagen directly onto your face to reap those benefits, the molecules are a touch too large to be able to penetrate deeply enough into your skin. Peptides, though, have no such issues. Because they’re so teeny-tiny, they are easily absorbed into your epidermis and are able to get right to work. (4)
Now, this doesn’t mean that all collagen serums don’t work. You just want to make sure you reach for one that’s formulated with peptides or stem cells. So if you’re wondering, “Does topical collagen work?” the answer is yes – as long as it has those itty-bitty hydrolyzed collagen peptides and stem cells in it to help penetrate deeper into your skin and kickstart those repairs.
Again, your body’s collagen levels start to diminish as you get older. Since you can’t just slather on some straight collagen onto your face and call it good, peptides have to do the heavy lifting. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that they’re going to immediately start ramping up your body’s collagen production.
Instead, it’s a bit more nuanced. Your body uses peptides for healing, so when you apply topical peptides, your body sees them as that much-needed prompt to get into action. The presence of these peptides sends the message to your body that something’s amiss at the site, and it needs to start working on repairing it. (5)
In other words, using topical peptides signals to your body that it’s time to stop slacking off and get back to work in aiding in wound healing. Now, having a fine line or two on your face isn’t exactly a medical emergency, but your body doesn’t know the difference between a flesh wound (‘tis but a scratch!) and a false alarm when you use these peptides.
In turn, this triggers the collagen production factory in your body, leading to an uptick in their levels at the site. You’re basically tricking it into working for you, allowing you to get healthier, fuller, more supple skin. Pretty clever, don’t you agree?
Different Types of Peptides
If you thought that there was only one type of peptide for skin benefits out there that can help improve your skin, think again. There’s a staggering total of at least five that we know about right now, and each one brings its own benefits to the skincare party.
Type 1: Signaling peptides.
These are the types of peptides we were discussing earlier. When the body sustains an injury, peptides send the message to the body that a little bit of healing is in order. These signaling peptides can help boost the collagen production in your body, leading to firmer, tighter skin. (6)
Type 2: Carrier peptides.
Carrier peptides work somewhat differently than signaling peptides, but it doesn’t mean they’re any less important. These peptides work to transport the elements that are necessary for that aforementioned wound healing, such as copper and manganese, to the site. (7)
Type 3: Enzyme-inhibiting peptides.
These peptides do exactly as their name implies: they inhibit enzymes, either directly or indirectly. One of the types of enzymes that they inhibit is one called “tyrosinase,” which is the bad guy that has been known to harm skin tissue and darken it. (8)
Type 4: Neurotransmitter-inhibiting peptides.
This peptide is kinda exciting, as it can be compared to Botox-lite. They block the release of a specific neurotransmitter by the name of “acetylcholine,” which is the one that’s responsible for muscle movement. Block it and voilà – those fine lines on your face are gone. (7)
Type 5: Antimicrobial peptides.
Then, last but not least, there’s the antimicrobial peptides. These have been shown to have, as their name suggests, antibacterial properties. For those of you who are still struggling with acne breakouts, you’ll definitely want to add this peptide into your skincare routine. (9)
Benefits of Peptides
Now that you know what peptides are and what are the various types of them, the only thing left to do is break down their incredible benefits. Buckle in, friends, because we’re about to hit you with some hard facts about the many benefits of peptides for skin care. By the time we’re done reveling in their glory, you’re going to be singing their praises, too!
Benefit 1: Boosting collagen production.
This is arguably the best benefit of using peptides for skin health. Because they’re composed of the enzymes that make up amino acids, but they’re also teensy-weensy enough to penetrate deep into your skin, applying a topical collagen serum with peptides can help increase your skin’s collagen levels. (10)
Benefit 2: Providing preventative maintenance.
Many people think that taking good care of their skin is a one-and-done kind of thing. That couldn’t be further from the truth, and peptides are here to add a vote for healthy skin in your future. Because they can help repair your skin and restore its structure, you can help undo years of damage while also paving the way for years of radiant skin ahead of you. (11)
Benefit 3: Improving the skin’s texture.
While peptides can help increase the collagen levels in your skin, that’s not the only thing they can do. They can also help generate something called elastin, which is necessary for firm, supple skin. If your skin’s been looking a touch more, well, droopy than you’d like, peptides can roll back the clock and restore that youthful bounce to it. (12)
Benefit 4: Soothing away any irritation.
Because these peptides have antimicrobial benefits to them, they can actually help combat inflammation in your skin. Not only can they soothe away any existing redness and erythema, but they can also kick C. acnes (the bacteria that causes breakouts) to the curb. (13.)
Benefit 5: Bolstering your acid mantle.
Your skin’s acid mantle is the first line of defense against all of the nasties out there in the world. UV damage, bacteria, pollutants, and other things are always trying to sneak into your body, but the use of peptides can increase hyaluronic acid production and restore your skin’s lipid layer. (14)
How to Choose Peptide Products
When it comes to choosing the best peptides for your skincare needs, you definitely have your work cut out for you. The problem is that there are many brands out there that aren’t going to be exactly ethical, and they may try to bilk you out of your hard-earned dollars to sell you sub-par peptides for skin products.
That’s why you need to carefully do your research before pulling the trigger on any skincare investment. With that said, if you’re in the market to add some peptide love into your beauty routine, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Learn about the ingredients. When picking out the right peptide product for your skincare goals, it’s important to make sure you know what you’re getting. For instance, some peptides play nicely with certain ingredients (such as vitamin C or niacinamide), while others can make it less effective (like certain types of alpha hydroxy acids).
- Choose the right one for your needs. Let’s just put this bluntly. Anyone who’s trying to sell you a peptide face wash is just out to rip you off. Those aren’t going to stay on your skin long enough to be effective. A peptide serum or peptide moisturizer, though, is going to be your best bet.
- Check (and double-check!) the label. Not only do you want to make sure it’s got the right kind of peptides for your skincare needs, but you also want to avoid any fillers, toxins, or comedogenic ingredients in it. That way you’re not undoing all of your hard work with the wrong peptide product.
In addition to using peptides, you can also help boost your skin’s collagen production by reaching for exfoliants like alpha hydroxy acid (AHA). These help promote turnover to encourage collagen and elastin production. (And if you’re torn on choosing between AHA vs BHA, AHA is going to be your best bet for fine lines and BHA is better for breakouts.) (15)
When it comes to looking your very best, it’s easy to get caught up in the hype. This product claims it’ll do this, and that one swears up and down that it’ll do that. But what’s actually legit and what’s bunk?
Fortunately, while there are a lot of iffy, sketch skincare products out there, you can rest assured that using peptides for skin benefits is the real deal. Clinically proven to help restore your skin’s firmness and protect it against the many signs of aging, they’re one of the most important things you can use in your skincare routine.
Even better, with so many different varieties out there, you have your choice as to which one can help you attain those oh-so-coveted skincare goals you’re seeking. And they’re a breeze to use, too, making adding peptides into your routine a no-brainer.
As long as you have the right one in your arsenal, you can always feel confident that you’re putting your best face forward – a face that’s true to yourself, what you believe in, and one that is an all-natural beauty, just like you!
Source 1: Biochemistry, Peptide https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK562260/
Source 2: Collagen Structure and Stability https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2846778
Source 3: Decreased Collagen Production in Chronologically Aged Skin https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1606623/
Source 4: Collagen Hydrolysates for Skin Protection: Oral Administration and Topical Formulation https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7070905/
Source 5: Antimicrobial Peptides and Wound Healing: Biological and Therapeutic Considerations https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4789108/
Source 6: A comprehensive review of signal peptides: Structure, roles, and applications https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29958716/
Source 7: Cosmeceutical Peptides in the Framework of Sustainable Wellness Economy https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33195061/
Source 8: Novel peptides with tyrosinase inhibitory activity https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17241698/
Source 9: Antimicrobial Peptides: Classification, Design, Application and Research Progress in Multiple Fields https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33178164/
Source 10: A Collagen Supplement Improves Skin Hydration, Elasticity, Roughness, and Density: Results of a Randomized, Placebo-Controlled, Blind Study https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6835901/
Source 11: Collagen in Wound Healing https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8151502/
Source 12: Elastin is heterogeneously cross-linked https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6166741/
Source 13: Suppression of Propionibacterium acnes Infection and the Associated Inflammatory Response by the Antimicrobial Peptide P5 in Mice https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26197393/
Source 14: Oral Intake of Enzymatically Decomposed AP Collagen Peptides Improves Skin Moisture and Ceramide and Natural Moisturizing Factor Contents in the Stratum Corneum https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8707759/
Source 15: Hydroxy Acids, the Most Widely Used Anti-aging Agents https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3941867/