What Are Peptides For Skin Care & How To Use Them

What Are Peptides For Skin Care & How To Use Them

Peptides - what are they? Chances are you've already seen the advertisements and all the brand-new skincare products that boast of containing peptides. You've probably already purchased and tried a product that featured these (in)famous peptides. You might even have one in your skin care routine right now. And yet, you probably know next to nothing about them.

Just what are peptides? Are peptides harmful? Can they help you reduce sebumget rid of acne, or alleviate scars? Can you use peptides for the skin? You might have lots of questions but very few answers.

And, if you're looking for answers, you've come to the right place. We'll walk you through what peptides are, the benefits of peptides, and so much more.

peptides for skin

What Are Peptides?

You're not crazy to be confused about peptides. The answer is simple but also complicated - mainly because understanding peptides requires a bit of previous knowledge.

First, you need to be familiar with proteins. As one of the few essential nutrients for the human body, proteins are the building blocks of our body's tissues and are essential for certain body functions. From the skin, the bones, the muscles, and the dozens of inner organs, proteins build it all.

But what are proteins made of? The answer is simple: peptides.

Peptides Build Proteins

Imagine a large bundle of molecules. You're not far from the real thing if you imagine something resembling a ball of yarn. That tangled ball of yarn is a protein. There's an uncountable number of different proteins, some of which make up the tissues in our bodies.

peptides for skin

Imagine if we took that ball of yarn and began disentangling it. Whenever we pull a string, a section comes loose at certain points and breaks off. That section - a smaller portion of the molecular yarn comprising the protein - is called a peptide. The protein (the ball of yarn) is made up of dozens or even hundreds of shorter or longer strings - these being the peptides - all tied together, connected to one another.

So, proteins are the complex molecules that build our bodies, while peptides are the complex molecules that build proteins. Super clear, right?

But wait. What are the peptides themselves made out of?

Peptides Are Made Out of Amino Acids

If we take a single string (or a peptide) of that ball of yarn (or a protein) and look closer, we'll notice that the strings themselves, or the peptides, are comprised of smaller subsections. These smaller sections are called amino acids. These acids are the building blocks of proteins, but they can also arrange themselves in shorter, smaller structures - peptides.

peptides for skin

Amino acids play hundreds of crucial roles in our bodies, from regulating the construction of protein to keeping our organs healthy and helping our bodies regenerate. If proteins are the building blocks of our bodies, then amino acids are the building blocks of the building blocks.

So far, there is some debate regarding the number of existing amino acids. In nature, scientists have identified more than 500 amino acids that form plant or animal life. However, when it comes to the human body and our DNA, the number is far smaller. A commonly accepted number of human-related is 20, although some scientists think there are at least 21 or 22. At any rate, they are organized into two groups: essential and non-essential.

Essential amino acids have to be consumed from either plant foods or animal foods. These then help our bodies construct the rest of the 20-something non-essential amino acids. Not only that - some essential acids, like L-lysine, have very specific skincare properties.

peptides for skin

All of this means that to be healthy, we need to supply our bodies with essential amino acids, which form peptides, which will then form proteins. And when talking about our skin's health and skin care in general, which protein comes to mind? Collagen.

And which molecular structures link together to create proteins? That's right. Peptides.

How Do Peptides Work?

By now, we hope things make more sense, and you can already take a stab at why peptides are becoming used in the skin care and beauty industries.

In the previous section, we outlined that amino acids construct peptides and that peptides construct proteins. Well, then, the question arises: what should we do if we want to have more of a certain kind of protein?

peptides for skin

Well, the answer would be to add more peptides. Or conversely, add more amino acids to be transformed into the desired peptides. However, introducing more acids doesn't mean our bodies will produce the peptides and proteins we desire and strengthen our skin's structure. So, if we want to increase the production of a certain protein in our body, our best bet is to supply it with the exact, specific peptides to build the desired protein. Simple, right?

But how do peptides achieve this?

Aside from building proteins, peptides also function as biological messengers, signaling our bodies to do important things. Our bodies naturally produce every form of peptide necessary. Peptides are found within every human cell, where they arrange themselves to build enzymes and produce hormones. Not only that - a peptide bonds to other molecules to become an energy source. In a way, peptides roam around the body, moving from cell to cell like messages in a bottle. Whichever molecule reads the message receives a signal tailored to them and harnesses the peptide's benefit.

peptides for skin

But back to the practicalities of skincare. What does a topically applied peptide over the surface of your skin do for your skin and body?

Scientists aren't really sure how peptides manage to pull that off since human skin was deemed impermeable to compounds with a molecular weight of above 500 Daltons. However, exceptions exist (for example, the allergy to latex, which has an MW of over 50,000), calling into question the so-called "500 Dalton Rule." The topical application of peptides is one of the exceptions to the rule since studies show that peptides do, indeed, cause improvement to the skin. (Although it technically shouldn't, since the MW of peptides is well above 500, which means it's not supposed to be resorbed.)

Understandably, this leaves scientists scratching their heads. Just how are peptides able to achieve this? How can a substance that cannot penetrate the human skin influence its lower layers to generate collagen and, therefore, improve the skin?

peptides for skin

Well, there is a prevailing hypothesis.

If you recall, peptides seem to have some biological signaling properties. When our skin cells come into contact with peptides, they encourage more collagen to be produced. So, the skin cells receive those signals from the peptides applied on top of it, conveying them to the deeper cells in the body. This, in turn, boosts the production of elastin and collagen - two crucial proteins in maintaining skin elasticity and health.

So, how do peptides work? They signal the body to produce collagen, elastin, and other proteins that help our skin. In short, peptides trick the skin into believing there's been a wound or an injury, which restarts our body's wound-healing processes. The skin begins to renew from there.

But Wait, Do We Even Need Peptides?

That's a good question. But the reality is that as we age, our bodies produce less and less elastin and collagen. After we hit 30, there's a serious collagen breakdown, which contributes to mature, sagging, and photoaging skin (caused by UV rays).

Don't believe us? Just look around and pay closer attention to the differences between the skin of young people, adults, and old people. See all those wrinkles, blemishes, ruggedness, and sagging skin? All of that happens due to the slowing down of our metabolism and our peptides and protein production. This is when the skin barrier begins to break down too. It's more important than ever to support collagen production in our bodies.

peptides for skin

So, why should we add peptides to our skin care routine? Because with time, we age, and the supplies our bodies naturally produce gradually dwindle. That is why using peptides in our skincare routine is helpful, if not essential. And that's why there are more and more peptide skin care products becoming available on the market - because they're packed with anti-aging benefits. They can boost collagen and elastin. And boosting collagen and elastin helps the skin regenerate itself, regain its elasticity, and combat aging and fine lines, keeping skin firm.

What Are the Best Peptides for Skin?

Indeed, not all peptides are equal. Many types of peptides exist, so one specific peptide will only have a specific set of effects.

That's why it's good to be choosy about which peptides you use on your skin. To be sure, the skincare industry has already done its homework, and its products use peptides whose properties will help your skin the most. However, that doesn't mean that some peptides are as efficient as others or that there are no differences.

peptides for skin

Generally, doctors and dermatologists recommend carrier peptides for the skin. Carrier peptides attach themselves to trace minerals. They deliver useful minerals to the skin, along with signaling the body to boost collagen production, which will revive aging skin.

Enzyme-inhibiting peptides are useful since they signal your skin to stop dissolving collagen. Again, this results in more elastic skin and less skin damage as you have more collagen in your body.

Signal peptides send signals to your skin to improve collagen and elastin production.

Finally, there's a class of peptides called neurotransmitter peptides - compared to "botox." These peptides send signals to your nerve endings, causing certain facial muscles to contract. This muscle contraction reduces fine lines and wrinkles, giving you smooth skin.  

When it comes to specific peptides that have shown results in clinical trials and scientific research, the following two have shown the best results: Matrixyl (which is made up of Palmitoyl tetrapeptide-7 + Palmitoyl oligopeptide) and Palmitoyl pentapeptide-3.

How to Use Peptides

There are different ways you can reap the benefits of peptides.

You can always take collagen peptides supplements. In contrast, some people inject peptides into their bodies, but that's a whole different type of application that falls well outside of the scope of this article.

Using peptides for the skin is fairly simple - you just need to apply them topically. Most skincare and beauty products that contain peptides are intended for topical use, so all you need to do is follow the instructions on the package. Usually, applying the peptide products twice a day on the desired skin area is enough.

Peptide Product Options

From eye cream to face serum, there are many options available. Different skin care products will come with different benefits. Some might have additional ingredients to encourage cell renewal or contain things like hyaluronic acid to lock in moisture and enhance skin texture. Some will be better for sensitive skin, and other skin care products will be more suitable for dry skin. They may come in the form of copper peptides or vitamin C peptide serums.

However, each peptide product will have one thing in common: they'll improve collagen production.

peptides for skin

However, you should remember that peptides need plenty of time to work their magic. Even with a disciplined and routine application of peptides, they still need at least six weeks until you can notice the differences. But are peptides safe to use?

Are There Any Side Effects of Using Peptides?

Being completely natural, peptides are mostly harmless. However, some people may still experience adverse reactions of irritation and sometimes even allergies. While rare, typical adverse reactions to using peptides include itching, redness, inflammation, or a rash.

To avoid hurting yourself, it's always wise to perform a patch test on the outer layer of your skin before using a product that contains peptides. If you experience no side effects after 24 hours, it should be completely safe to use. However, if you experience any itching, redness, inflammation, and so on, consult your doctor and dermatologist.

Final Thoughts

As you've learned from this article, there are many benefits of peptides. Peptides are great for tackling different skin concerns, including fine lines and wrinkles, uneven skin tone, and more. Because they help promote collagen, they're great for reviving aging skin and mature skin, encouraging cell turnover. They will improve skin texture and increase skin firmness, helping you achieve younger-looking skin. There are many different topical skin care products you can try that contain peptides. So what are you waiting for? Give them a go!


The 500 Dalton rule for the skin penetration of chemical compounds and drugs 

Topical palmitoyl pentapeptide provides improvement in photoaged human facial skin

Cosmeceutical peptides

This information is meant to supplement, not replace advice from your doctor or healthcare provider and is not meant to cover all possible uses, precautions, interactions or adverse effects. This information may not fit your specific health circumstances, and its goal is to offer a general view of the subject. In case you are suffering from a severe case of acne, you should consult with a dermatologist or a certified medical professional.

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