With the aim of ‘repairing’ damaged skin, peptides communicate with the skin’s cells to buck up and increase collagen and elastin production. This plumps up the skin and reduces the appearance of wrinkles, as well as reducing inflammation and redness and evening out skin tone.
“Peptides are absorbed into the top layer of the skin and instruct the cells to produce collagen and elastin, encouraging the skin to look and act younger,” says Dr Hiba Injibar, Consultant Dermatologist and Founder of Dermasurge Clinic in London. “They also arm your skin cells to improve the dermal barrier as well as locking in hydration.”
So what makes this compound? “Peptides, or polypeptides, are short-chain amino acids that act as building blocks of proteins such as collagen, elastin and keratin,” says Dr Injibar—and indeed there are hundreds of peptides out there, and about a dozen incorporated as skincare ingredients. The ones to look for on the list of ingredients (although most brands will be shouting about their particular peptide levels on the packet), include carrier peptides—to boost collagen—while to slow down the degradation of collagen, look for inhibitor peptides.
What are the different types of peptides?Pentapeptides (penta means five in Latin) contain five amino acids and promote elastin for smoother skin; signal peptides send messages to different parts of the skin to promote collagen, elastin and other proteins. Neurotransmitter peptides are said to block the release of chemicals that cause the muscle contraction of expression lines—an ingredient that is sometimes compared to botulinum toxin but be warned, the effect will be much more subtle but a good place to start if you are pondering whether to go with the needle.
How should I use peptides?“Within your skincare routine, don’t bother with a face wash containing peptides because you will immediately wash them off” continues Dr Injibar. “Serum or moisturisers containing peptides are far more successful as they have prolonged contact with the skin and a smaller molecular size so they are absorbed more effectively.” Using a serum with a high level of peptides overnight and under moisturiser will start you on your journey to healthier, more youthful and even skin.
Also worth noting—don’t use them in conjunction with an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) as this will cause them to work less efficiently. But peptides can be combined with other ingredients such as vitamin C, while they have the advantage of being well tolerated unlike some ingredients such as retinol. And as for a 360 approach, it could help to eat collagen-rich foods like fish, chicken, cashew nuts, red and yellow vegetables and taking a daily collagen supplement to help the peptides in communicating with the cells and hitting up their production of collagen and elastin for firm, glowing skin.