Do Peptides in Skin Care Products Work?

Many skincare products use peptides to treat wrinkles. But what are peptides? And do they actually make you look younger?

Skin is made up mostly of collagen; it is the foundation that gives your skin its support and thickness. Young people have lots of collagen and taut, smooth skin. In contrast, older people have much less collagen and thin, wrinkled skin.

Collagen is protein and is made up long chains of amino acids strung together, like chains of linked building blocks. When it is broken down, short segments of 3-5 amino acids form, called peptides. Peptides are not just junk collagen; these “mini proteins” are active molecules — and you pay a whole lot for them in your wrinkle cream.

Here are three ways that peptides claim to improve wrinkles and make you look younger:

1. Peptides Signal Your Skin to Make More Collagen

When we age collagen is destroyed but not replaced. As a result young, smooth becomes thin and wrinkled over time.

One strategy to improve winkles and to make you look younger is to replace lost collagen. When collagen breaks down, it forms specific peptides. These peptides act as a signal to tell your skin it was damaged and to make new collagen.

Applying peptides directly to your skin is a way to trick your skin into thinking that it has lost collagen recently and needs to make more. The most popular signal peptide for cosmetic use is palmitoyl pentapeptide (Matrixyl). It can be found in many peptide skin products and might be effective in improving the appearance of fine lines. Be a smart skin care consumer — you can find this active ingredient in Strivectin and many other expensive peptide creams. Yet, it can also be found in the much less expensive products like Oil of Olay’s Regenerist, which I recommend to my patients.

2. Peptides Deliver Copper into Your Skin

Because peptides are small, they can penetrate the skin’s protective barriers to get to the deeper layers. When copper is attached to a peptide, the peptide can deliver copper to the living layers of the skin. There is research showing that copper is an effective agent in skin healing which is why it has been used for years to treat chronic wounds.

Copper peptides seem to promote collagen production and act as antioxidants. They are needed for natural healing and regeneration of your skin and to help remove damaged collagen. Copper peptides can be found in pricey product lines such as Neova or Osmotics as well as less expensive products like Neutrogena’s Visibly Firm Night Cream.

3. Neuropeptides Might Act Like Botox

Some peptides might block transmission of signals from nerves to your facial muscles. In particular, a neuropeptide called argireline has been shown in the laboratory to block the release of neurotransmitters from nerves. If argireline was absorbed all the way through the skin to the level of the muscle, then it might block contraction of the muscle, leading to smoother skin, similar to Botox. However, it would be like pouring a small glass of water onto a mattress and expecting it to soak through the underside of your box spring– it’s very unlikely.

Neuropeptides are sold in products often called wrinkle-relax creams and are a big part of Dr. Perricone’s line. There are plenty of anecdotal stories of their efficacy but essentially no good published scientific data. Although they sound great, until there are good studies to show they actually work, I would skip neuropeptides for now.

Peptides Might Not Do Anything

There are many things that have to go right in order for peptides to actually have a benefit. Because they are break-down products of proteins, they have to be stabilized or they might continue to break down further in a topical cream, becoming useless. Also, they have to be in a cream that allows them to penetrate the skin. If a great peptide is in a thick cream that only sits on the surface, then it will never penetrate and will eventually be washed off, without any benefit.

That being said, signal peptides and copper peptides seem to have the most evidence for their efficacy and can be found in products that cost less than a tank of gas.

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Photo credit: Misha Brittleson

Disclaimer: I do not receive any money or free products from any of the companies listed. I have no conflicts of interest to disclose.

81 thoughts on “Do Peptides in Skin Care Products Work?”

  1. We have a whole line based around peptides and they work great. The more peptides the better…

  2. I’ve got to get my wife to read your blog.

  3. Never heard abt peptides but after reading this topic i became crazy and want 2 apply it asap on my face.

  4. Appeciate the insight on matrixyl. What can you tell us about matrixyl 3000? Difference between the two; which may be more deserving of use; and less expensive products containing the 3000. Thanks!

  5. Jeff, so great meeting you last weekend and I am loving your blog. I already use the Regenerist Daily Regenerating Serum (which I love) and will definitely try the Neutrogena Visibly Firm Night Cream.

  6. What is a neuropeptide? Also, do you know anything about Peter Thomas Roth Un-Wrinkle serum? if so do you think it is effective?

  7. Great to read more and more on peptides! I sell a range of amazing cosmetics here in New Zealand which are all made from peptides and the results are dramatic with continued use!!! So GO PEPTIDES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  8. I use the Olay regenerist face cream and at first I really loved it, but it seems that it’s not doing anything anymore. Should I be doing something else, serum (?). How do I reduce pore size and increase elasticity? I’ll be 48 in a few weeks and altho people can’t believe it, I see it. I recently moved from the beach of So California to the northwest of Idaho. So that might be part of it. HELP

  9. Very informative

  10. i had terrible dry patches after this winter – it was itchy and blotchy, flaky and just ugly… and i have such a poily nose – so the whole thing was very annoying. my mom adviced to use peptides on my itchy dry skin and it worked wonders, a week of la rochey-posey cream with peptides and my skin had its relief… i’m 22 though, so don’t need the antiaging properties of them yet.

  11. Thelma Sansome says:

    Does peptides in skincare really wotk?

  12. Thelma Sansome says:

    Does peptides in skincare really work?

  13. If neuropeptides were used on the forehead, often the site for Botox injection, might it not be more likely to go deep enough to reach the muscle as the skin seems most thin there?

  14. In order to slow down or stop the aging process and enjoy perfect health your intra and extra cellular fluids, and surface membranes must be kept youthful, and if damaged they must be repaired.

  15. I am using peptide based cream from last 4 months.No improvement in my skin texture.

  16. Care for skin should not only be done with skin care products. You want to care for skin by making sure that you eat a healthy diet and drink plenty of water. Getting exercise on a regular basis and plenty of rest will also help in your quest for healthy skin. You just have to remember that it is imperative that you are committed to a skin care treatment because you won?t be able to see any visible results if you don?t. Getting the desired results will depend on how committed you are to the care for skin.

  17. I appreciate your positive attitudes to peptides in skin care. I also agree that claims of muscle relaxation trhough topically applied products (peptides or other) are probably highly exaggerated; furthermore, the type of formulation (serum, cream, lotion, even preservatives) may have a big impact on the efficacy of a peptide, even when it is used at the right level.
    However, I do not agree that “peptides” are just “protein break down” products. In our body, yes, that was the basis for their development. But the truly active peptides you mention (in Strivectin, Regenerist) are stable, synthetic, pure molecules. Unfortunately, sometimes cheaper products containing protein hydrolysates (of wheat, milk or soy…) also claim to contain “peptides”, but these are just undefined mixtures of truly “protein breakdown fragments” that have little or no documented biological activity.
    thanks for keeping this in mind.

  18. Nice article. I really liked it. Can I have your e-mail address, so I can ask you a few things?

  19. I also believe in products that are made w/peptides specialy this cream I used the other day at Dillard’s I hardly believe how wonderful my skin look and my deepest wrinkles were gone w/ one application. I am shocked w/ this skin line . It is certified organic the line is called “Organicare” is anti-aging. Look I have used Sisly, La Mer , Lapraire ,and the most expensive creams but none worked like this line .
    My husband could tell the difference and that really impress me! The serum is the most effective it call “Rescue me”.Look if anyone want to check it out here is the website: http://www.icareorganics.com
    I am using and so is my daughter ,she also was very impressed w/ the line.
    Ane Eubanks

  20. Very good write-up. I really liked reading it. Can I have your e-mail , so I can ask you just a few things?

  21. Thelma Sansome says:

    I have heard quite a bit about peptides for good skincare. What skincare product would you recommend with this ingredient?

  22. barbara kowalski says:

    I just found out about peptides. Your column was very educational. I have spent alot of money on expensive cosmetics. It was refreshing to find someone who did not push high priced cosmetics and let peole know there are cheaper alternatives. Will check your web site again for your help.

  23. Conrad Mananes says:

    Thank You so much!!! This was very helpful. I must admit that being a person who is concerned of growing old and not having much to consider as achievements, I somehow want to maintain my youth until I actually achieved something. Hahahaha.

    Sounds crazy? Well, consider yourself lucky you don’t have this problem…that is consolation enough.

    At any rate, Thanks again. Wonderful article!

  24. I’ve just started using dermaE Peptides plus, which I bought at whole foods. I noticed a big difference after the first day. It has Matrixyl, Argireline, Vit C and Green Tea. I’m really impressed with it.

  25. i noticed great difference while i was using derma peptides plus.

  26. Dr B-

    I have searched pretty exhaustively for this info and can’t seem to find it anywhere: I’m wondering if there’s an established concentration level that peptides need to be at in a product in order to be considered effective. Obviously, US packaging won’t tell us a particular product’s exact percentage, but if the peptides are toward the bottom of a 50+ item ingredient list, is it even worth trying?

  27. I attended a seminar recently on skin care products related to peptides. Amongst the information imparted were as follows:
    1) nano molecules of peptides – more penetration (its general knowledge)
    2) not encouraged to use daily as it can cause dryness due to the ‘pulling’ and ‘locking’ of collagen strings effect. Need to combine with hydrating and moisturing products.
    3) results will go according to age and skin condition (current good skin will definately see faster results compare to problematic skin)
    4) advised to use peptide products before bedtime.

    Is there any good thoughts and comments on the above?

    Cheers.

  28. Hi Jessica,

    I have tried, it works for me after 3 days, as I practise quite a diligent home care regime. I experienced further smoothness and clearer skin appearence. But I also suggest you to seek professional advice before starting any new products (every skin reacts differently to different products)
    Hope I have assisted you in some way.

  29. Hi Jilian, neuropeptides are small protein-like molecules used by neurons to communicate with each other. They are neuronal signaling molecules, something like telling our brain that our strings of collagen is failing and quickly repair and provide help. That is in lay man terms.

  30. @Robyn
    Mary Kay has great products for the face and body that truly do help rebuild the skin, especially at our age that we want our skin to look younger and more radiant. Take a look at my website for all the products and if you have any questions please let me know. If you have tried other product that would really help in the comparison and let me know your opinion.
    Have a great day.

  31. Never heard of them, do they really work as you say?
    I’ll try I hope it works, thanks.

  32. Good Article. Try the Gerovital Products, long ago Dr. Ana Aslan knew the secrets to keep skin young and beautiful including peptides. Yes you do not have to pay alot for good skin care products

  33. Bio-Synthesis continued to provide quality DNA products and services for the research community, but it has also become a world leader in providing custom peptide products and services.Bio-Synthesis provides high quality peptides,custom peptides, carrier conjugation, antipeptide antibody production, antigenic peptide design, long peptides, modified peptides, and more.As a peptide manufacturer, we also have the capability to perform a wide variety of synthetic peptide chemistries.

  34. The information is really nice on the blog ,the best way of dealing with these skin marks is to prevent them to happen in the first place. The whole idea is to maintain the skin as elastic as possible and this should be done through any way possible: Visit our site

  35. jbfanchorage says:

    Tried Prototype 37-C. Clearly made my number of face wrinkles double. My daughter finally said, stop daddy, you’re looking older. 30 days use and I’m going 15 more days and moving on. Had just a few minor wrinkles to worry about, now many more. Forehead especially – 2 wrinkles became 6 deep lines. I don’t know, perhaps this is because as my skin became collagen rich again, the skin deeply attached stayed and the rest rose upward showing more wrinkles. Does feel like there’s more puff under all the skin, but I was after getting rid of a few stubborn wrinkles more than anything else. Not for me.

  36. If neuropeptides were used on the forehead, often the site for Botox injection injection may deep enough to reach up to the bone.
    Thanks for the nice post.
    It indeed a valuable information.

  37. This is definitely one of the best articles I have located on this topic. Have you looked into the other side of the argument of natural health? Personally, I think a decent case could be made either way, but let me know if you know of more sites or articles on the Internet that back up what you are saying.

  38. Go to lotioncrafter.com, they sell all kinds of peptides and tell u what percentages to use. Prices are also reasonable!

  39. Lotioncrafter.com offers a wide range of peptides they tell u the percentages to use and are very reasonably priced.

  40. It appears you have placed lots of effort and hard work into your post and I need much more of these on the internet these days. I sincerely got a kick out of your post. I don’t really have significantly to talk about in response, I only wanted to comment to reply amazing work.

  41. Antimicrobial peptides give brand new opportunities pertaining to dealing with contagious illnesses. It’s popular that bacteria, induced by stress, create bacteriocins that could cure infectious illnesses. They prevent the growth of pathogenic microorganisms, without affecting the host or even the animals and plants that produce them, and also have an extensive spectrum of antimicrobial activity.

  42. Milk-protein derived bioactive peptides may function as regulatory substance defined exorphins or formones (food hormones).

  43. JessiesGirl says:

    So which do you recommend over the other, rx Retinol or something with Peptides? I have both, but recently started using Clinique Laser Focus with peptides.

  44. Peptide skin care products can stimulate collagen production and help prevent the breakdown of collagen already in the skin.In youthful skin, collagen is a primary protein component that acts as a support structure to skin cells and keeps skin supple and thick. As skin ages, the gradual loss of collagen results in wrinkles, age spots and other problems.Peptides are known to be the most effective anti-aging ingredient.

  45. Not sure if my last comment got though. But does retinol become a peptide?

  46. intake of peptide releasing hormones can help in skin regeneration ,human growth and body system regulation. it activates numerous enzymes and it also binds and activates protein, which can really help us in preventing health disorders and problems.

  47. After facelift with surgery & there may be a problem with managing expectations after surgery. Bruising, puffiness, and other negative side effects are also associated with facelift surgery. How be on safe side?

  48. copper peptides says:

    Section #2 (Peptides Deliver Copper into Your Skin) needs to be updated since Neutrogena no longer offers this product. There are several other products containing copper peptides offered on the market, from: Neova, Skin Biology, Osmotics, Tricomin, or Folligen

  49. curioschick says:

    what percentage should peptides be in a product to be effective?

  50. @ night you could use either retinol or peptide, but its best to use the both, either a RX retinol then a peptide cream over- the laser focus is along the lines of RX retinols- topical exfoliants. they remove dead surface skin, which stimulates collagen production- the peptides will help enhance the production and nourish your skin, as well as w/ the retinol, or alpha- beta hydroxy enables the peptides do absorb allowing them to work- retinol + peptides are your 1 + 2 punch against aging. did that help?

  51. no retinol does not become a peptide.

  52. I am not a Dr or so, i am in business, and after reading this interesting info about peptides and collagen, i would like to know if there are pills that one can take, to stimulate collagen production in the body as we age.
    thx

  53. Are there any concerns about estrogen mimicking in peptides? I’ve read a bit about xenoestrogens in parabens, sunscreens, and copper peptides. Does that apply to sigal peptides as well?

  54. What is the typical dosage of peptides that someone with mild to moderate skin irritation issues? I’m excited to hear there are no side effects. Thanks for sharing this!

  55. Olive Anne McLaughlin says:

    Does drinking liquid colligen help the body build colligen?

  56. Olive Anne McLaughlin says:

    Does drinking liquid colligen rid the body, face, skin of wrinkles?

  57. You can now have a treatment called “fraxel laser” which is safe and requires little downtime. It essentially sends laser beams down deep into the skin signally a need to repair collagen. The effects are long lasting and not too expensive.

  58. Peptides if ingested in pill, liquid or any other form get broken down by our digestive juices and thus become useless

  59. The name of the supplement is Colvita. This supplement is produced from lyophilized fish collagen. Lyophilization means freezing of pure collagen up to minus 40 Celsius degrees in vacuum and elimination of water (drying). It “swells” in the alimentary canal several dozen times according to its volume. This process makes amino acids (ingredients of collagen) highly absorbed by the system and their synthesis is supported by vitamin E, minerals, and vitamin C (present in algae) . The newest sensational invention Biologically Active Collagen with the structure of amino acid chains identical to humans.

  60. Can you put a moisturizer over the peptide serum. My skin always feels dry and slightly uncomfortable.

  61. Ok so I’m still confused, do I use both peptides and rentin A at the same time at night with a moisturizer? Should I use my Vit C during the day? Thanks for the help!

  62. maryana irons says:

    where do i buy peptipe cream??

  63. Marika S. McDonald says:

    where can I buy the peptide cream? And how do I know what brand/kind to buy?
    This is instead of buying creams/lotions with peptides in them.

  64. You can buy them online, at drugstores, and cosmetic counters. You don’t have to buy the most expensive ones to get benefits. I like Oil of Olay Regenerist which is under $20.

  65. Good question. I can’t say for you specifically, but generally, you can alternate Retin A at night with peptides. The Vit C should be applied at night because it oxidizes.

  66. The links in your article don’t work, just thought you might like to know this. Thanks, Leela

  67. My skin is super dry. I drink plenty of water and liquids throughout the day and my caffeine and alcohol intake are minimal, maybe once per week. My skin is always dehydrated and peeling. It started around my nose and sides of the temples and now is on the cheek area. I am using a lift and firm cream from a natural health store, could this be the cause? I’m not sure where to turn. I’ve been to an endocrinologist and all my tests came back normal.

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