All About Peptides and How They Benefit the Skin

Peptides are the building blocks of collagen. In this article, learn all about peptides and why they’re so important in today's cosmetic industry.
All About Peptides and How They Benefit the Skin

Last update: 17 March, 2021

Nowadays, there’s an overwhelming number of new products and technologies for aesthetic or cosmetic purposes. These include peptides for the skin.

Peptides are short amino acid chains. They’re important for the skin, as they’re the building blocks of collagen and elastin.

Although the body naturally produces peptides, collagen production decreases at a rate of 1% per year after the age of thirty.

This is why the skin loses its smoothness and starts looking wrinkled, flabby, and less shiny. That’s why peptides are included in many self-care products nowadays.

Now, given that there are many trends and components that claim to be “miracle” products to regain youth, are peptides really effective? We’ll try to answer this question below.

All about peptides: different types

A woman applying peptide cream.
Peptides are the building blocks of collagen, a substance that the body begins to produce in less amounts after the age of 30.

We need to start by noting that there are several types of peptides, each of which has different functions and effects on the skin. Here are the main ones:

Cell-penetrating peptides (CPPs)

They can cross the cell membrane. They deliver minerals (such as calcium, manganese, and iron), which may increase collagen levels.

Enzyme inhibitor peptides

This type of peptide, as its name implies, inhibits certain enzymes. For example, angiotensin, which is found primarily in the vascular system. On the other hand, they help stop the skin’s natural collagen breakdown process.

Signal or transit peptides

Signal peptides are the first to appear in the polypeptide chain synthesis and indicate the destination of proteins. Once their “message” is delivered to the skin, they helps promote collagen and elastin production.

Neuropeptides

Neurotransmitter peptides are chemical substances that are composed of amino acids. They’re secreted by nerve endings and affect the activity of various organs.

This blocks certain chemicals, the release of which causes muscle contraction. Thus, in terms of aesthetic effects, they smooth wrinkles and fine lines.

Tetrapeptides and hexapeptides

Depending on the length of the peptide chain, there are tetrapeptides, pentapeptides, and hexapeptides. They all have different functions and effects:

  • The former, tetrapeptides and pentapeptides, act on delicate areas (such as bags under eyes) and are firming agents. In turn, pentapeptides stimulate tissue repair, contribute to healing, and enhance and boost collagen synthesis.
  • For their part, hexapeptides help relax the muscles by acting on dynamic wrinkles. They have an effect similar to that of Botox, without needles or the side effects of the use of this substance.

Other peptides

Peptide Q10 promotes the synthesis of coenzyme Q10. Experts have studied the effects of this on athletic performance. They also consider it an antioxidant that slows premature aging and neutralizes free radicals.

Lastly, there are also copper peptides. Experts are still studying its properties, as they estimate that it could prevent the oxidative activity of this metal on cells. However, its aesthetic effects have yet to be proven.

All about peptides: its benefits for the skin

A woman with a face cream on.
Peptides help keep skin hydrated, smooth, elastic, and, in conclusion, younger.

Peptides have many functions in the body. They’re the building blocks of enzymes and hormones and are also sources of energy.

It’s important to remember that peptides “tell” the cells they must produce more collagen when it breaks down to replace what’s lost.

Therefore, the main function of peptides is to aid in collagen production, protection, and replacement. We could say that its other benefits are derived or are a consequence of this.

Particularly, peptides benefit the skin in several ways:

  • Hydration. Decreased collagen levels lead to dehydration. As peptides increase the production of this substance, they reverse or mitigate the effects of skin moisture loss.
    Skin softness, elasticity, and firmness. The immediate consequence of collagen and moisture recovery is visible skin softness, elasticity, and firmness. Remember that peptides also make up elastin fibers.
  • Wrinkle and expression line reduction. Increased collagen translates into smoothness and a youthful appearance. This is because wrinkles and expression lines are less visible when the skin is firmer and smoother.
  • Skin barrier. Peptides are the first line of defense against infections. Increased collagen production makes the skin stronger and more resistant.

This article may also interest you: 4 Foods that Favor the Production of Collagen

All about peptides: how they work

Peptides are amino acid chains, and amino acids are the building blocks of proteins throughout the body.

When you use products and treatments that contain them, they basically penetrate the skin and send a message to the body’s cells that tells them that they must produce more collagen. In a way, it’s as if you were tricking your body. But in this case, the end justifies the means.

There are other ways to stimulate collagen production, in addition to using cosmetic products. Some foods are rich in this substance, such as gelatin, salmon, peppers, and tomatoes, among others.

What to look for in a peptide skincare product

Generally speaking, they’re beneficial for the skin. However, they’re not all created equal. We explained above that some emit signals to stimulate collagen production, while others inhibit enzyme production. Nevertheless, most types work as water collectors.

Also, you can combine peptides with other ingredients. By binding to particular skin receptors, different peptides can produce many effects, such as: anti-aging, hydration, antioxidation, firmness or elasticity, tissue repair, skin brightening, and acne reduction, among others.

You should take the following into account when choosing a peptide skincare product:

  • Make sure that it does indeed contain peptides. Nevertheless, remember that it can sometimes appear under another name (such as palmitoyl).
  • Choose the most appropriate product presentation. For example, creams are more effective because they’re in contact with the skin for longer. This means that the skin would absorb the peptides more.
  • No one product contains everything, so you should base your choice on your needs. It’s important to note that tetrapeptides boost elasticity and firmness, while hexapeptides help with shine or appearance.
  • Finally, take a look at the other ingredients. Some peptides work better when combined with other elements. For example, vitamin C and niacinamide. Thus, it’s great if a peptide skincare product contains them.

All about peptides: Contraindications and things to keep in mind

A woman with dry skin.
Peptides generally have no contraindications, although there have been some rare allergy cases.

Yes, these substances may seem miraculous, but there’s always a downside.

For starters, the word “peptide” can be used generically to refer to any short amino acid chain.

In fact, there are many different types, and not all of them have effects on the skin. Thus, it’s possible for the term to be used as a “label” for marketing purposes, even if the product doesn’t contain an ingredient that could regenerate the skin.

Studies are being conducted. Some peptides have already been analyzed, although only in controlled-group clinical studies. In other words, small samples or under laboratory conditions (in vitro). While peptides can be beneficial for the skin, there’s still a long scientific way to go to be able to make resounding claims.

The good news is that no unfavorable reactions have been observed, they aren’t toxic, and they only have a few side effects. Very rare allergy cases have been reported. The only catch is that they’re often expensive.

Are peptides a youth tonic?

Like many other products, they’re advertised as the ultimate treatment for aging. You can find them in creams, masks, and other products in big chains or online stores.

Yes, peptides can help, but they aren’t miraculous. It takes a combination of various factors, from diet and exercise to adequate hydration and stress reduction, to reduce or delay aging. You also need to remember that peptides are already in your body.

You can apply them in moderation, twice a day tops. Also, make sure to choose the right product that your skin will absorb in a better way.

Meanwhile, medical researchers are still studying the skin rejuvenation effectiveness of peptides.

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