Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
Our skin changes as we age. Anti-aging therapies being researched today include natural solutions to help treat signs of aging and cosmetic products (like creams and serums) to help with wrinkles.
You’ve likely heard the excitement around peptides as an anti-aging must-have to smooth, repair, hydrate, and calm your skin. But peptides don’t get talked about nearly as much as other ingredients like hyaluronic acid, vitamin A (retinol), and vitamin C.
In this article, we’ll cover all there is to know about peptides for anti-aging — what they are, how they work, and the potential side effects.
What are peptides?
Peptides are short pieces of amino acids. Amino acids combine to make proteins in the human body. This is why amino acids are often called the “building blocks” of protein.
It’s important to remember that peptides and proteins are different. Peptides are tiny messengers that tell your cells to perform certain functions.
Naturally occurring proteins like keratin, collagen, and elastin make up the foundation of your skin, hair, and nails — giving your skin it’s strength and resilience. Peptides used in skin care products are lab-made. These peptides trigger your skin cells to make more collagen and elastin to help fight signs of aging.
How do they work for anti-aging?
There are four different types of peptides when it comes to cosmetic skin products. And while they all work by communicating with your skin, their effect will be different depending on the type of peptide.
Most cosmetic products with peptides are formulated to either increase the amount of collagen and elastin your cells make (e.g., signal peptides) or help prevent collagen loss (e.g., enzyme inhibitor peptides).
We make less collagen as we age — this is why you need peptides in your skin care routine. By increasing collagen production, the following benefits may occur:
- Reduction of fine lines and wrinkles
- More even skin tone
- Smoother, firmer-looking skin
- Increased hydration
- Increased skin elasticity
Neurotransmitter peptides work by blocking specific nerve signals, which in turn relax your facial muscles and may reduce fine lines and wrinkles.
Other cosmetic peptide products deliver trace elements such as magnesium and copper. These peptides may help with wound healing, skin elasticity, and improving skin appearance (e.g., carrier peptides). Think of collagen as a glue that helps hold your body’s cells and tissues together.
How to choose peptide products for skin care
It can be hard to know where to start with so many products available. The following is a guide to help you choose peptide products for your skin care:
- Choose the right form: Finding the right product type can go a long way. You’ll want to use a serum or cream that will sit on your skin longer and penetrate the skin. Don’t waste your money on peptide cleansers and masks that you’ll rinse off your skin.
- Read the label: Most peptide enriched products clearly state they have peptides within their formulation on the front of their packaging. But, you can check the ingredient list for the following words:
- Keep it simple: Too many skin care products may irritate your skin. The steps in which you apply your skin care products affect how well they work. The American Academy of Dermatology Association recommends that you apply your products in this order:
- Wash your face
- Apply medication or treatments (e.g., peptide cream or serum)
- Apply moisturizer and/or sunscreen (e.g., use a thick moisturizing cream for dry skin or a lighter gel moisturizer for oily skin). When choosing a sunscreen, choose a product that protects against UVA and UVB rays (SPF of 30 or higher).
- Apply makeup if desired
Are peptides for skin safe?
Peptides are generally considered safe. But it’s important to remember that certain ingredients in our skin care products may cause skin irritation. Peptides work well with other ingredients like vitamin C and hyaluronic acids (AHA). If you’re sensitive to vitamin C or hyaluronic acids, applying peptide products containing these ingredients to your skin could cause a skin reaction. Signs of a skin reaction include the following:
- Dry, flaky, scaly skin that may crack
- Burning or stinging feeling
- Fluid-filled blisters that may ooze and leave crusts and scales
Before using peptide skin care products that have vitamin C or AHA on a large area of your body, it’s a good idea to test the product on a small patch of skin, such as the underside of your arm or on your elbow. If you don’t experience any itching or redness after several days, it’s most likely safe to use on your skin. If you develop skin irritation, gently wash off the product and don’t use it again.
Which peptides are best for aging skin?
Peptides can be expensive. As mentioned, you’ll want to choose a peptide-filled serum or moisturizer that will penetrate your skin to help maximize your skin’s health. Here are some of our favorite peptide-containing skin care products that won’t break the bank:
- Drunk Elephant Protini Polypeptide Cream
- The Inkey List Collagen Booster Serum
- Naturium Multi-Peptide Moisturizer
- GoPure Glyco-Peptide Anti Wrinkle Moisturizer
- Olay Collagen Peptide 24-Max Serum
The bottom line
Peptides are short pieces of amino acids. In skin care, peptides trigger your skin cells to make more collagen and elastin to help fight signs of aging. Using a serum or moisturizer with peptides can lead to firmer, smoother, younger-looking skin.
Peptides are generally considered safe, but certain ingredients in our skin products can cause skin irritation. Therefore, it’s best to test a small skin area before using peptides on a large part of your body.
Peptides can be expensive, but the good news is, no matter your price range, there are plenty of options available that won’t break the bank.
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American Academy of Dermatology Association. (2021). How to test skin care products.
American Academy of Dermatology Association. (2022). Rash 101 in adults: When to seek medical treatment.
Review All References
American Academy of Dermatology Association. (2022). Should I apply my skin care products in a certain order.
el Hadmed, H.H., et al. (2016). Cosmeceuticals: Peptides, proteins, and growth factors. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology.
Errante, F., et al. (2020). Cosmeceutical peptides in the framework of sustainable wellness economy. Frontiers in Chemistry.
Escobar, S., et al. (2021). Effectiveness of a formulation containing peptides and vitamin C in treating signs of facial ageing: Three clinical studies. International Journal of Cosmetic Science.
Ganceviciene, R., et al. (2012). Skin anti-aging strategies. Dermato-Endocrinology.
Lim, S.H., et al. (2018). Enhanced skin permeation of anti-wrinkle peptides via molecular modification. Scientific Reports.
National Institutes of Health. (n.d.). Layers of the skin.
National Library of Medicine. (2022). Aging changes in skin.
National Library of Medicine. (2022). Amino acids.
Pullar, J., et al. (2017). The roles of vitamin C in skin health. Nutrients.
Shanbhag, S., et al. (2019). Anti-aging and sunscreens: Paradigm shift in cosmetics. Advanced Pharmaceutical Bulletin.
Varani, J., et al. (2006). Decreased collagen production in chronologically aged skin. The American Journal of Pathology.
Zhao, X., et al. (2021). Collagen peptides and the related synthetic peptides: A review on improving skin health. Journal of Functional Foods.
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