What are Peptides? What to Know About the Collagen-Boosting Ingredient

What are Peptides? What to Know About the Collagen-Boosting Ingredient featured image
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We hear the word over and over again, but what are peptides? And do we want them in our skin-care products? According to basically every skin-expert on the planet, the answer is a resounding yes. Here’s why.

What are peptides in skin care?

New York dermatologist Julie Russak, MD puts it simply. “Peptides are a powerful skin-care ingredient that firms the skin and promotes collagen and elastin formation.” Celebrity aesthetician Biba de Sousa adds that peptides are “matrikines” that influence or command the cells of the body in some way. “Different types of peptides influence different types of cells,” she adds. “The peptides used in skin care communicate with and direct the skin cells to behave in a certain way, such as producing more collagen, or inhibiting certain chemicals that cause excess pigment or wrinkles, for example.”

To explain the benefits of peptides, New York dermatologist Ellen Marmur, MD explains their relationship with our BBF, collagen: “Collagen is a protein comprised of long segments of amino acids arranged like a chain,” she says. When collagen breaks down—an unfortunate, but very normal byproduct of aging—short segments of amino acids are then formed. “These are the tiny proteins and active molecules known as peptides.” Simply put, peptides in skin care are “building blocks for new collagen and elastin,” says Dr. Marmur.

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Who should be using peptides?

According to Dr. Russak, “anyone concerned with aging skin and facial lines should consider peptides in their skin-care routine. You can use peptides everyday, as they’re known to not have any irritating factors, even for sensitive skin,” says the doctor. “If certain patients are considering in-office procedures like Botox or fillers, I often recommend peptide-rich products as a supplementary part of their routine as it can decrease the amount of Botox they need, prolong treatment results, and help stimulate the way the skin regenerates.”

How quickly do we lose collagen?

You might be surprised. After the age of 20, we lose about 1 percent of our collagen production each year, which results in thinner, more fragile skin as we age. To help counteract this, incorporating collagen-boosting ingredients such as peptides in your skin-care routine is a good idea. “Everyone in their twenties should protect their youthful beauty with healthy lifestyle habits and by the age of 30, they should consider adding serums and masks to amplify their collagen,” adds Dr. Marmur.

Which peptide should I look for?

There are five different types of peptides used as skin-care actives, and all function slightly differently: signaling peptides, carrier peptides, enzyme-inhibiting peptides, neurotransmitter-inhibiting peptides and antimicrobial peptides. The most common of these? Matrixyl (palmitoyl- or oligopeptide pentapeptide), a neuropeptide that Dr. Marmur says is often used in serums and creams because of its ability to reduce fine lines.

Dr. Russak offers up some options to look for depending on your skin-care goals: “Palmitoyl oligopeptide is a well-known fibroblast-stimulating peptide that stimulates the production of elastin and collagen; oligopeptide-8 inhibits factors that cause increased pigment production, the appearance of brown spots, and melasma, so it is great for skin with melasma or hyperpigmentation; and acetyl hexapeptide-3 is the peptide similar to Botox as it helps with wrinkle-smoothing.”

How should I use peptides in skin care?

Peptides are everywhere in skin care, and can be found in everything from exfoliating pads to serums and masks—and while the delivery system doesn’t really matter, De Sousa notes there’s one rule to follow to reap the most benefits from the ingredient. “Peptides must be used in a product that will be left on the skin’s surface, and its continuous use is imperative in order to see great results,” she says.

High-quality products also make a huge difference in skin health, says Dr. Marmur. “Research shows that the right peptide skin cream can play an important role in repairing wounds and improving skin conditions including eczema and dermatitis,” says Dr. Marmur. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg: Certain peptide-infused products can also aid in removing damaged collagen from scar tissue, acne scarring and promote healing after chemical peels or laser resurfacing treatments.

Additionally, Dr. Russak says peptides should be used in conjunction with other anti-aging powerhouses for the best results. “To support various skin structures, use peptides to boost collagen, retinol for the regeneration of cells and vitamin C for antioxidant benefits.”

Which peptide-infused products should I use?

More and more skin-care brands are calling on the multitasking powers of peptides, but there are some standouts worth considering. Dr. Russak says her favorite peptide-infused product is Revox7 by Revision Skincare ($130). “This is the ultimate ‘Botox in a Bottle’ product,” she says. “It contains seven peptides that smooth and firm the appearance of expression lines on the face, and the peptides in this product are capable of inhibiting neurosecretion, and therefore can attenuate muscle contraction that leads to wrinkle formation.”

Safe for all skin types, the gentle yet hugely effective Biba Los Angeles Plant Stem Cell & Peptide Serum ($85) not only counts Hailey Bieber as a fan, but is one of De Sousa’s best-selling products. Infused with natural, plant-derived bioactives, the lightweight, hyaluronic acid–boosted formula is great peptide-packed option to incorporate into your routine.

Another peptide-packed favorite is Dr. Marmur’s own MMRevive Serum ($85), which contains Palmitoyl Tripeptide-5: “A small tri-peptide similar to the bodies own TGF-B that has powerful wrinkle smoothing activity, boosts collagen and protects against its degradation,” explains the doctor.

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