Updated: May 7, 2020
Peptides are dubbed as the ultimate anti-aging tool and have been used in our skincare products and for scientific research for years now. But how effective are they?
Are peptides just another overly-used buzzword in the industry, or do they actually make a difference to our skin? Scroll down for a breakdown on this commonly-spoke-of ingredient, and understand how they work in skincare.
What is a peptide?
Peptides are a chain of amino acids and like hyaluronic acid they are naturally found in the skin. These amino acids are building blocks of proteins such as collagen and elastin.
An example of beta peptides. Image: Wikimedia
Peptides are quite fragile so are always lab-engineered, and are used in many other things besides skincare – to create antibodies in animals, to identify protein and in clinical research for cancers and other diseases.
How do peptides work in skincare?
It’s a common fact that our levels of collagen and elastin in our skin decreases as we age. Our skin gradually loses hydration and glow; fine lines and hyperpigmentation (brown spots) occurs during this process.
There are three main types of peptides used in skincare:
Signal peptides supposedly work by sending a message to the skin that it’s lost some collagen and therefore needs to produce more.
Carrier peptides help stabilise and deliver copper which aids the function of collagen and elastin synthesis.
Peptides that inhibit nerve endings can soften the appearance of fine lines temporarily, hence the popular phrase used for some products “Botox in a bottle.”
The main peptides to look out for are:
Matrixyl (also referred to as Palmitoyl Pentatpeptide) is the peptide most spoke about and preferably used. This helps with smoothing imperfections like fine lines and strengthening the skin’s barrier.
Copper peptides are fragments of protein combined with copper. This ingredient is particularly beneficial for dry skin types due to copper’s ability to promote the production of glycosaminoglycan’s, such as hyaluronic acid.
Myristoyl Hexapeptide 16 has a calming effect on the skin, and particularly effective for reducing the signs of redness and improving sensitivity.
Azelaoyl Bis – Dipeptide 10 is derived from azealic acid and is specifically good for brightening hyperpigmentation and post-inflammatory pigment.
Tripeptide 1 is good for plumping the skin and increasing firmness.
Who should be using peptides?
In the media, peptides are generally targeted to one audience: those concerned with reducing the appearance of general ageing.
But this type of ingredient not only beneficial for fine lines, but also scarring and post inflammatory pigment too because of the significant role peptides have in wound repair.
Peptides are considered a safer bet in comparison to trying out other trending ingredients like retinoids, BHAs and AHAs which can cause dryness, peeling, redness and irritation. Peptides work differently in skincare and doesn’t encourage rapid desquamation, limiting any chances of skin irritation.
So how effective are peptides in products?
Before you rush on over to BeautyBay or your local department store to purchase your first Botox in a bottle, there are a few things you need to know first.
There are many factors that contribute to the efficiency of a peptide product. Peptides are breakdown products of proteins, so they must be stabilised or these tiny fragments will just continue to break down when added to a cream or cleanser. How do we know that the product we’re using has stable ingredients? We don’t know, and marketing companies do not necessarily have to explain if it it does.
GIF: Desus and Mero
Another component that must be perfect in order for the peptide product to work, is that the base of the cream/serum actually has to be able to penetrate the skin. Some experts say that peptides are too large to to even do this.
In short, there is not enough data to prove the long-term benefit of using peptides regularly.
Peptide-based products are easy to get hold of. It is considered more effective to choose a peptide serum or lotion over a peptide-based cleanser or scrub, so that the product can sink into the skin and have a better chance of working more effectively.
Here are 3 great peptide products to try.
ON A BUDGET: Try The Ordinary’s Buffet
£12.99 for 30ml on Cult Beauty
The Ordinary Buffet uses 11 amino-acids to help stimulate HA levels and collagen synthesis to improve the skin’s hydration and glow. Peptide products are notoriously expensive, so this product is a bargain for just under £13. Use this twice a day.
FOR HYPERPIGMENTATION: Try Paula’s Choice Peptide Booster
£47 for 20ml at paulaschoice.co.uk
Image: Paula’s Choice
This Paula’s Choice product’s ingredients list is impressive – this booster uses 8 ‘highly-targeted’ peptides to reduce the appearance of fine lines and boost hydration and firmness. You only need a pearl-sized amount of this stuff to mix with your favourite moisturiser or serum. I like how the website also usefully references the informational sources related to the manufacture and research for this product.
FOR EYES: Try Drunk Elephant’s Shaba Complex Eye Serum
£50 for 15ml at Cult Beauty
Image: Drunk Elephant
There is so much hype for this eye serum on the internet right now. The Shaba Complex involves copper peptides, niacinamide and black tea ferment to reduce the appearance of wrinkles in the skin and brighten dull-looking eyes. The clinical trials available on the Drunk Elephant’s website boast great results – the majority of participants agreed this is gentle product, reduces puffiness and smooths out fine lines. Drunk Elephant advise you use this twice a day on the eye area and even on lashes and brows to give them a boost.
Always remember that peptides are not a one-stop solution for perfect skin. The skin will age no matter how stabilised the peptide. It is still too early to say how effective they are. We know that they are not as impactful on the skin as antioxidants and chemical exfoliants are, and still not as useful as wearing an SPF on your skin daily and staying out of the sun. But we cannot deny the products that have given our skin some improvement. Have you used peptides and noticed a difference? Comment below or find me on Instagram.