Years of sun exposure, stress and the inevitable effects of gravity find their way to wreak havoc on your skin in the form of every kind of ager from frown lines and sun spot to crow’s feet and forehead furrows. And while skin firming, smoothing and repairing solutions abound, one buzz word continues to resurface: Peptides. They’re a popular ingredient used in skincare that can stimulate skin-firming collagen and elastin production, helping skin look firmer, smoother and younger. But what makes them stand out from the rest? Not only are they less irritating than most potent skincare ingredients (but still pack as much of a punch), a new trend on social media has women saying that using a combination of two specific peptides on your skin can work almost as well as Botox — for less and without the pain! Read on to learn more about the benefits of peptides for skin.
What are peptides for skin?
One of the biggest reasons for skin aging is a loss in collagen (the protein that keeps skin firm) and elastin (a fiber that gives skin elasticity) as the production of both declines with age. “Topical treatments won’t generate new elastin, so to reverse skin aging, the key is to focus on collagen-boosting ingredients that will help compensate for the loss of elasticity,” explains Ted Lain, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist specializing in diagnosis and treatment of disorders of the hair, skin and nails in Austin, Texas. Research shows some of the most effective collagen regenerators are peptides, tiny particles that trick the body into thinking they are broken collagen proteins, which in turn prompt the skin to produce new collagen to repair the “broken” pieces making peptides a powerful anti-aging ingredient for skin.
The double peptide TikTok sensation
The latest buzz about peptides comes thanks to TikTok users who have been applying two peptide serums at once, The Ordinary Argireline Solution 10% (Buy from Ulta, $9.40) and The Ordinary Matrixyl 10% + HA (Buy from Ulta, $10.50) in hopes of mimicking the wrinkle-reducing effects of Botox. In one viral post shown below, @Sarahpalmyra says how well she found the combo to work after using it for a few weeks. “I am trying really hard to make this expression and you can tell it’s less intense,” she attests.
The likely reason: “These two peptides are known to smooth the skin and eradicate fine lines and wrinkles,” says esthetician Cassandra Bankson. Argireline not only rebuilds collagen, it also inhibits the release of neurotransmitters, so the muscle gently relaxes (like with Botox), allowing the skin to repair itself faster, explains Dr. Lain. And matrixyl is especially beneficial in helping to amp up collagen synthesis, according to research. To understand why and how this could work so well, we took a deep dive into how peptides create their magic.
The top 4 benefits of peptides
What else peptides can do according to research? One Oregon State study found that after eight weeks of twice-daily application, skin roughness, volume and elasticity were significantly improved by peptides compared to a placebo. Another study by scientists in Korea showed that peptides had clinical efficacy when used as an anti-wrinkle treatment. In England, a study showed that peptides can penetrate the skin barrier, and potentially reverse the signs of aging.
Doctors say there are several other benefits to incorporating peptides into your skin care routine:
1. Peptides alleviate skin puffiness + redness
Skin can take on a red or ruddy tone as we age thanks to common agers like skin sensitivity, rashes or rosacea and appear puffy and inflamed much more quickly as a result. “Peptides have anti-inflammatory properties and can benefit individuals with sensitive or inflammatory skin conditions. They may help calm redness, irritation and inflammation and they are helpful in moisturizing products,” explains Richard Bottiglione, MD, a board certified dermatologist in Phoenix, Arizona. Plus, peptides often have antioxidant properties, which means they can neutralize free radicals that cause damage to skin cells, adds the doctor. This helps protect the skin from environmental stressors like pollution and UV radiation.
To see results, look for products containing palmitoyl tripeptide five. This star peptide complex specifically targets redness and inflammation in the skin. It’s a synthetic peptide made from the amino acids lysine and valine combined with the fatty acid palmitic acid, which aids penetration into the dermis. “It’s also a collagen booster and improves the skin’s texture,” says Bankson. It’s especially beneficial if you have sensitive skin.
2. Peptides help retain moisture + target wrinkles
Lack of moisture is another main culprit in many common skin complaints. Excessive dryness can cause the skin to wrinkle and crack, leading to deep creases. “Peptides are humectants, attracting water and pulling that hydration into the skin,” says Bankson. “Most peptides are soothing to the skin and because many are made naturally by our bodies and are bio-compatible (meaning they work with us instead of against us), they are less likely to cause irritation, especially compared to products made with fragrances or retinoids.”
3. Peptides reverse skin damage and plump up skin
Some peptides have been found to promote skin repair when formulated in a moisturizer, says Dr. Bottiglione. As mentioned above, peptides signal the skin to produce more collagen. “This can assist in the recovery process after skin damage, whether it’s from environmental factors, sun exposure or other irritants,” he attests.
Look for products containing copper peptides. Perhaps the most plump-inducing of the peptides, copper can help replace that volume loss we suffer as we age. Copper peptides not only infiltrate the skin to regenerate lost collagen but also filter out the damaged collagen and elastin from the skin. It has been found to possess powerful cell-protective and anti-inflammatory actions.
4 top products containing peptides for skin
Peptides can be found in almost any skin care product, but the best and most beneficial ones will be the ones in products meant to be left on the skin. For example, toners, serums, moisturizers and even some sunscreens, says Bankson. And they don’t all cost a pretty penny so you don’t have to shell out to reap the benefits.
To de-puff underyes
Bubble Skincare Morning Rays Brightening Eye Cream (Buy from Bubble, $16)
Most eye creams are a “waste of money,” attests Bankson, but she says if you want a good one at a decent price with some hard-working peptides, Bubble skincare has one of the best. It’s especially good for de-puffing and brightening under-eye circles. “It’s chock full of good-for-skin ingredients like turmeric extract and vitamin C, but it also includes acetyl tetrapeptide 5 — one of the most hydrating and firming peptides that is great for the puffy undereye area,” she adds. Bankson notes that you can also use it elsewhere on the face, such as smile lines, or even 11 lines and forehead wrinkles.
To reduce lines and wrinkles
The Ordinary Multi-Peptide + HA Serum (Buy from Ulta, $17.50)
The Ordinary is undoubtedly the cult-fave for a peptide-packed serum that you’d apply over the entire face. Dermatologists and estheticians love this brand and always recommend the same product: “The Multi Peptide + HA serum (formerly called the buffet) because it has three different peptide complexes to support skin firmness, hydration, wrinkle reduction and barrier support, says Bankson. This affordable serum can be used on the wrinkle-prone neck as a bonus.
To plump and hydrate
Depology’s Peptide Complex 10% Argeraline Serum (Buy from Depology, $80)
This product is slightly pricier, but it is worth every drop, affirms Bankson. “This serum has fig extract and ceramides and three potent peptides: Acetyl Hexapeptide-8, Palmitoyl Tripeptide-5 and Hexapeptide-9. It is highly plumping to the skin, and after a month of use, studies found that people had skin hydration and wrinkle reduction in less than 28 days of use,” she says.
If that price gives you sticker shock, we found a dupe for much less from Good Molecules (Buy from Ulta, $12).
First For Women aims to feature only the best products and services. We update when possible, but deals expire and prices can change. If you buy something via one of our links, we may earn a commission. Questions? Reach us at email@example.com
For more anti-aging skin care tips click through these stories: