What are peptides exactly?
Peptides are naturally-occuring. Human skin is comprised mainly of collagen. Collagen is a protein comprised of long segments of amino acids arranged like a chain. It provides a foundation and thickness for our skin. Unfortunately, over time, collagen breaks down, revealing more fine lines and wrinkles and thinning of the skin. When collagen breaks down, short segments of amino acids are formed. These amino acids are the tiny proteins and active molecules known as peptides.
What about peptides in skincare?
Moisturizers, serums, eye creams and other peptide-containing skincare products are popular and effective. There are also many different kinds of peptides, each designed to produce a different effect. Peptides fall into three main categories: signal peptides, carrier peptides, and those that inhibit nerve signals.
As I mentioned above, collagen breaks down over time. Simultaneously, it produces certain peptides. These peptides send a “signal” to alert your skin that it has lost collagen and needs to generate more. However, when peptides are applied to the skin topically, your skin “thinks” that it’s a collagen break down product and that your body needs to produce new collagen. To put it simply, signal peptides in skincare trick your fibroblasts to manufacture collagen to successfully reduce the look of wrinkles and give your skin a more youthful appearance. Pretty clever, right? Carrier peptides work to stabilize and deliver copper to certain enzymes, which are critical for functions like collagen and elastin growth as well as wound healing. Finally, peptides that inhibit nerve signals have the potential to soften fine lines caused by muscle movement, sort of like topical Botox.
Where can I find peptides? Do they actually work?
Now that you know how peptides work, are you ready to start slathering them on? There are many peptides available on the market, but the most commonly used peptide in skin care is Matrixyl (palmitoyl- or oligopeptide pentapeptide). Research shows that the right peptide skin product can play an important role in smoother texture, fewer wrinkles, decreased pore size, repairing wounds and improving skin conditions like eczema and dermatitis. But are these too-good-to-be-true sounding claims legitimate?
Unfortunately, there isn’t much scientific data out there to support those claims and peptides may not be as effective as the tried-and-true AHAs, retinoids and antioxidants. BUT, if you’re going to go down the peptide rabbit hole, try a moisturizer, serum, neck cream, or eye cream - never a cleanser or toner that you’re going to wash or wipe off.
Not all peptides or peptide products are created equal! Shop and apply strategically - your skin’s future may be brighter.