One of my regular clients messaged me asking “What the heck are peptides and why should I be putting them on my skin?”
What a great question, and one I thought would be worth answering in a blog post, rather then just a text reply.
The first thing we need to know (or do we?) is that proteins are the ‘building blocks’ of our skin, peptides are a fragment of a protein, and peptides are made up of amino acids. When these amino acids are combined in different ways they form different peptides, and these peptide formations create different proteins. A protein is usually comprised of over 100 amino acids and a peptide usually has less than 100 amino acids in the chain
There are only 20 different amino acids that occur in the human body, but these can be put together in different ways to change the function of the peptide they create.
Examples of these are
- Palmitoyl Tripeptide which has three amino acids
- Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-7 which has four amino acids
- Palmitoyl Pentapeptide which has five amino acids
- ARG-LYS Polypeptide which has 20 amino acids
Proteins molecules are too large to penetrate the skin, however peptides can be created in various sizes so that they absorb into different levels of the skin – in fact there are hundreds of peptides, and each one has different skin benefits.
That’s a cool fact – but what does this actually do??
Collagen is the most abundant protein in our body, and it is this protein that gives our skin elasticity, helping it look youthful and healthy.
Collagen production starts to decline once we are in our mid-20’s and is almost completely stopped by the time we reach 40, causing us to show fine lines and wrinkles. Collagen molecules are too large to be absorbed by our skin, which is where peptides come into play. Being a smaller molecule they are able to penetrate the skin and can trigger the process in our skin to make it start producing more collagen, and help it start to repair itself.
Increasing collagen in our skin can help us achieve healthier skin, with less wrinkles, more even texture and reduce pore size.
The anti-wrinkle benefits have been observed in a double-blind clinical study that you can read about here.
So what peptides should I be looking for
You can look for peptides that will help improve your skin in specific ways. Pentapeptides induce and stimulate new collagen growth; hexapeptides may help relax wrinkles; palmitoyl oligopeptide and palmitoyl tetrapeptide-7 promote the production of collagen and hyaluronic acid and help protect against UV damage, as well as fight inflammation; copper peptides enhance regeneration and healing, as well as increase skin elasticity and firmness.
You can also find products with multiple peptides to help in more than one way.
How do I pick the right products to use?
For peptides to work they need to be in a formula that allows them to be absorbed by the skin so try lightweight serums so that the ingredients are able to be absorbed. Look for products that have other beneficial ingredients added such as hyaluronic acid, antioxidants, anti-inflammatories for best results, or if you are purchasing a targeted ingredient products with single ingredients you can layer your products.
Choose the peptide that addresses your specific skin concerns. If you are looking to help relax wrinkles hexapeptides might help you. Pentapeptides induce and stimulate new collagen growth giving your skin a plumper more youthful appearance. Palmitoyl oligopeptide and palmitoyl tetrapeptide-7 promotes the production of both collagen and hyaluronic acid and can help protect against UV damage (although it’s always advisable to wear a sunscreen) and copper peptides can enhance regeneration and healing and increases skin elasticity and firmness.
What else can I do?
Peptides only form one part of the skincare puzzle. We should be increasing antioxidants (in our diets and in our skincare products), protecting our skin from UVA and UVB every day, cleansing and moisturising our skin morning and night, staying hydrated and eating a healthy, varied diet and keeping away from harsh cleansing products.