Skin Care Ingredient Focus: Peptides

Written by Katie Fowler, MPAS, PA-C, Certified Physician Assistant on May 15, 2019 9 Comments

peptides in skin care

What Are Peptides?

Peptides are short segments of amino acids that are formed when proteins like collagen or elastin break down. These proteins are fundamental for maintaining the firmness, elasticity, and overall skin health. Skin with low levels of collagen is more prone to developing lines, wrinkles, and sagginess (please read this blog post to learn more about collagen). Peptides serve as the building blocks for the creation of new skin proteins.

Peptides are naturally found in every human cell in the body. Beyond their structural and functional effect on the skin, peptides play a role in many other body functions from the production of hormones and enzymes to the functioning of the body’s metabolic processes. They also play a role in strengthening both the hair and nails.

How Do Peptides Work?

Peptides work in several ways. Primarily, peptides function as a warning signal to the body that more collagen (and other proteins) are needed in order to properly heal tissue damage. The body interprets the existence of peptides as a sign of collagen loss. Thus, the body compensates by manufacturing new collagen as a replacement.

This principle applies to the skin, as well as other tissue like joints and muscles. For example, if your knee becomes injured the existence of high levels of peptides in the area will focus the body on protein growth in that specific body area in order to heal the injury.

Topically applying peptides (through a serum or moisturizer) to aging skin tricks the body into thinking the skin in the area has a shortage of skin proteins. This results in the production of collagen, elastin, and other skin healthy enzymes like hyaluronic acid; all of which help to plump and firm the skin. Over time, the area will experience a firming or plumping of the skin which can decrease the appearance of lines and wrinkles for a more youthful appearance.

How Can Peptides Benefit the Skin?

Through natural aging, the body loses collagen and other proteins essential to the skin health and appearance at an alarming rate. Starting in our 30’s, most people will lose 1% of their remaining collagen each year. Daily exposure to other environmental factors like UV and free radical exposure results in the additional depletion of both collagen and elastin. As a result, youthful-looking and firm skin becomes thinner and more wrinkled.

How Are Peptides Used in Skin Care?

Peptides can be found in many different topical formulations including anti-aging serums, moisturizers, cleansers, face creams, and eye creams. It’s important to remember that there are many different types of peptides, each addressing a different skincare need. In fact, there are hundreds of peptides currently being studied for potential skincare benefits. Signal peptides, for example, work by sending messages to the body in order to promote collagen growth. Enzyme proteins actually help collagen become more resilient, slowing their breakdown. Carrier peptides provide collagen boosting minerals to the skin. Neurotransmitter peptides (similar to Botox) block chemical signals that cause muscle contractions to smooth expression lines and wrinkles. Finally, copper peptides have been known to maintain current collagen while simultaneously stimulating new collagen development.

Adding Peptides to Your Skin are Regimen

With so many different peptide-enriched products on the market, potential users should pay particular attention to formulations. The ideal peptide product is one that features high ingredient stability and has the ability to penetrate deep down into the skin. Choose a serum, cream, or rich moisturizer that will not easily be washed or wiped away from the skin. Cleansers are not ideal for delivering peptides into the skin.

Are There Any Side Effects?

To date, various clinical studies have found no adverse effects for the topical application of peptides. They will not cause irritation, redness, or dryness of the skin and are thus safe to use on all skin types. However, potential users should be aware that peptide skin care products could contain other ingredients that may result in irritation or inflammation.

Katie Fowler, MPAS, PA-C

Katie Fowler, MPAS, PA-C, Certified Physician Assistant, graduated from The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas where she earned a Master of Physician Assistant Studies. Katie joined Westlake Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery in the spring of 2012. Katie is certified by the National Commission of Certification for Physician Assistants and is licensed through the Texas Medical Board.

9 Responses to “Skin Care Ingredient Focus: Peptides”

  1. Avatar Rae says:

    Your blog is very helpful. Thank You for sharing this information!

  2. Avatar Anna says:

    Helpful info. I can honestly say adding a peptide serum was one of the best things I’ve done for my skin. So I can attest to their power.

  3. Avatar Cooper says:

    peptides are really effective ingredient!!!

  4. Avatar Ashley says:

    I can say that peptides are amazing. Completely turned my skin around. I’m using SkinMedica HA5 and love it

  5. Avatar Karen says:

    Thanks for the post, Katie, just wondering a friend of mine suffers from acne and is on medication, would there be a Peptide cream that would help her? She does not like taking medication and the side effects are not great. Thanks again for the article great read.

    • WD Staff WD Staff says:

      Hi Karen,

      Thanks for reading our post and submitting your question! Peptides are actually used for more of an anti-aging benefit. Your friend may want to try a product containing benzyl peroxide or salicylic acid, both of which are great for opening the pores and killing the bacteria that can cause breakouts. You’ll usually find these in cleansers formulated specifically for acne.

      Hope that helps!

      WD Staff

  6. Avatar Harvey says:

    Great guide! I really like this article so much and found it very helpful. Thanks for sharing a great post.

  7. Avatar Zachary says:

    Wow, it’s interesting to learn that peptides can help your skin look young again. Thanks for the post, I shared it on Insta

  8. Great post! I would just add that peptides can be found in many different topical formulations including anti-aging serums, moisturizers, cleansers, face creams, and eye creams. It’s important to remember that there are many different types of peptides, each addressing a different skincare need.

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