- Peptides are short chains of amino acids which help to build proteins such as collagen and elastin, both of which facilitate firmer, plumper, more youthful looking skin.
- Protein molecules are too large to be absorbed properly, but peptides, made by breaking protein molecules down, can penetrate the skin more easily to offer a range of skin care benefits.
- Different types of peptides have different mechanisms for achieving healthy skin depending on the needs of the individual.
A large variety of peptides are promoted for skin care purposes, most of them promising to diminish the appearance of wrinkles and firm up skin.
In order to choose the correct peptides product for your skin care needs, it’s important to understand the best uses of the most commonly offered peptides.
What Are Peptides?
Proteins, broken down, become peptides. Peptides are essentially smaller versions of proteins, typically comprising 2–50 amino acids–necessary building blocks of proteins.
Peptides are easier for the body to absorb than proteins because they are smaller. They can more easily penetrate the skin and intestines, which helps them to enter the bloodstream more quickly.
Many health and cosmetic products contain different peptides for their potential anti-aging, anti-inflammatory, and muscle building properties.
Some of the most popular peptides include creatine peptide supplements for building muscle and enhancing athletic performance, and collagen peptides for anti-aging and skin health.
Peptides vs polypeptides
Peptides and polypeptides are both recognized as very small proteins made up of amino acid chains of various lengths. A peptide contains two or more amino acids and a polypeptide contains ten or more amino acids.
The terms “peptide” and “polypeptide” are often used interchangeably in the world of skin care products, and one is not understood as superior to the other.
What is the Purpose of Peptides Used in Skin Care Products?
People often use peptides in skin care products to slow the aging process.
Taking collagen peptides can signal to the body that its collagen stores are depleted in order to initiate further collagen production (facilitates collagen synthesis). Collagen improves skin health, countering signs of aging such as sagging, fine lines and wrinkles.
Peptides may also improve skin elasticity and hydration, protect against sun damage, and facilitate faster wound healing by reducing inflammation and acting as an antioxidant, which can quicken healing.
Who are they for?
If you’re trying to slow the aging process, taking collagen peptides may improve overall skin health, boosting your skin’s moisture, firming up its texture, and improving its elasticity.
If you spend a lot of time in the sun and it can’t be helped, peptides may be a wise choice as well. They have been shown to stimulate the production of melanin, which can “tan” the skin from the inside out, offering stronger protection against UV exposure.
Those recovering from injury or other inflammatory conditions may also consider taking peptides, as research points to their anti inflammatory, antioxidant and antimicrobial powers, all of which can hasten wound healing.
Benefits of Peptides for Skin
The use of peptides in your skin care routine offers a range of skin care benefits from anti aging to sun protection to faster healing. The following are tangible benefits of peptide use for the skin.
Reduces fine lines
By increasing skin hydration and elasticity, peptides, particularly collagen peptides, have been shown to have a strong anti wrinkle effect, stimulating collagen growth and boosting levels of elastin.
Due to their ability to stimulate new collagen growth, peptides in skin care products work to tighten skin. GHK peptide functions as a complex with copper to tighten loose skin, improve elasticity, skin density and firmness.
Reduces pore size
Decreased elasticity around pores is associated with larger pore size. By improving elasticity, the use of peptides may reduce and stabilize the size of your pores for an overall healthier looking complexion.
Protects against UV damage
Given peptides’ ability to stimulate melanin production, peptide-induced ‘sunless tanning‘ may help reduce the risk of skin cancers associated with sun exposure. Some peptides may also work to reduce UV-triggered hyperpigmentation for an overall more even complexion.
Due to the potential anti inflammatory, antimicrobial and antioxidant properties of peptides, research is showing that their wound healing potential is promising.
Types of Peptides
When used topically in cosmetic skin products, cosmeceutical peptides are most commonly classified as signal (or matricins) peptides, carrier peptides, or neurotransmitter inhibitor peptides.
The peptide type best for your specific needs will depend on the precise causes of your skin condition (i.e. aging vs repeat facial expressions) and your preferred treatment type. The differences between peptide types lies largely in their mechanisms (their way of accessing your skin), as many of their benefits overlap.
Carrier peptides boost collagen by delivering trace minerals to the skin which are critical to skin elasticity particularly as you age, the growth of new blood vessels, and wound healing.
Signal peptides send messages to your skin promoting collagen, elastin and other proteins, ultimately reducing age-induced wrinkles and photodamage and upping elasticity.
Neurotransmitter peptides soften the fine lines and wrinkles caused by repeat muscle movements by blocking the release of chemicals that cause the contraction of ‘expression lines.’ They relax your facial muscles in a way similar to neurotoxins.
Enzyme inhibitor peptides
Enzyme inhibitor peptides work to slow down the skin’s natural breakdown of collagen so your skin doesn’t age as quickly. Most of them work by inhibiting matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs), a group of enzymes that degrade collagen when they multiply too much.
Collagen peptides may come in any of the above forms. They provide fibroblasts (cells in your connective tissue responsible for making collagen) so your body continues to produce new collagen. Collagen peptides can defend against the signs of aging like fine lines, wrinkles and dryness.
Copper peptides typically fall into the category of carrier or signal peptide. They help not only to generate collagen but also to maintain the collagen you generate.
How to Choose the Best Peptides For Your Skin
When peptides are combined with certain supporting ingredients they can be more effective at addressing your skin’s anti-aging needs.
When selecting the best peptides for your skin, go for formulas blended with antioxidants like vitamin C or fruit extracts, as well as skin soothing and replenishing ingredients such as aloe vera or the ultra-moisturizer sodium hyaluronate.
Peptide Skin Care Products
There are many different peptide skin care products on the market, all of them offering both pros and cons for skin care use.
Although some experts believe that peptide skin creams or moisturizers are not able to be absorbed fully via the skin, instead recommending oral supplements, some research has shown it to have a positive effect on skin health nonetheless.
Creams have the advantage of providing extra hydration to skin, making it potentially suitable for dry, wrinkled, or aging skin. Its effectiveness may depend in part on what supporting ingredients are included in the formula.
Peptide supplements usually come in the form of powders or pills and are generally considered more effective for skin care purposes than topical creams. Research indicates that best uses of peptide supplements include achieving better elasticity and hydrating the skin.
Powders can sometimes have a bad taste but can be blended into a smoothie, while pills have the benefit of being tasteless but are generally large and you may need to swallow multiple pills each day.
Although traditionally peptides had to be injected in order to work, the advent of more effective oral supplements and topical creams has made this less necessary. However, it is possible to take a more targeted skin care approach when injecting peptides directly into affected areas.
Like all injections, injectable peptide treatments may pose a higher risk of allergic reactions, and are generally considered a more invasive approach. Peptide injections are typically used to combat the signs of aging by improving skin tone and texture and facilitate wound healing.
Natural sources of peptides for the skin
The peptides in supplements may come from plant or animal sources of protein, including eggs, milk, meat, fish and shellfish, beans and lentils, soy, oats, flaxseed, hemp seeds, or wheat. Some peptides, however, such as copper, cannot be derived from your diet.
Bone broth is a popular source of skin enhancing collagen peptides. While it can be made by cooking chicken, beef, or other animal bones to extract collagen and minerals, there are many quality bone broth products on the market as well.
Dietary intake of peptides, collagen in particular, has been shown to improve skin elasticity, although many prefer to opt for supplements as it is easier to ingest regular, measurable doses.
Side Effects of Peptides
Peptide supplements are unlikely to cause adverse reactions in healthy individuals as they are largely present in everyday foods. However, it is important to exercise caution when taking any supplement.
Although unlikely, topical peptide creams may cause skin symptoms such as sensitivity, rashes and itching. Always perform a spot test first.
Consider speaking to a dermatologist before implementing peptide supplements as a skin care ingredient, particularly if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, on medication, or living with a health condition.
Always discontinue use of your peptide product if adverse reactions occur.
Although peptides are naturally present in certain foods, their use in skin care purposes has been popularized due to the common goal of slowing down the aging process.
While more research is needed to ascertain the effectiveness of peptide products, they have been shown to impact signs of aging positively, working to reduce fine lines and wrinkles, firm up skin, counter photodamage, and generally boost collagen and elastin levels.
When incorporating a peptide supplement into your skin care routine, always do a spot test first in the case of topical creams, and discontinue use if any adverse reactions occur.
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