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.

84 thoughts on “Do Peptides in Skin Care Products Work?

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

    • @ 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?

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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?

  6. 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

  7. Pingback: Do Anti-Aging Creams Actually Work? | NakedHealth

  8. 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

    • 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.

  9. 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?

  10. 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!

  11. 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.

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

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

  14. 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!

    • 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.

  15. 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.

    • 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.

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

  17. 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.

    • Michelle, I’m sorry to hear that. It is frustrating, I’m sure. I can’t say for you, specifically, but any cosmetic/beauty product, even from natural health stores, has ingredients that can cause an allergic reaction or drying. You might consider stopping it for a while to see if it improves. As for water hydrating your skin, it simply doesn’t. Moisturizer, applied to still-damp skin, helps lock in moisture. You mention having seen an endocrinologist. Have you seen a dermatologist yet? I would recommend it.

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