Peptides are definitely having a moment in skincare right now. They’re certainly not new, but they’ve become a little bit of a buzzword when it comes to anti-aging.
Unfortunately, it can be pretty confusing to try to shop for effective peptide products.
First of all, there are a LOT of peptides that can be found in the wild. Like, there are dozens at least. Second, not all of these peptides are created equal. Third, these peptide names can get really confusing, really fast.
Add this to the fact that basically every peptide serum claims to “make you 10 years younger!” and “turn back the hands of time!” and I wouldn’t blame you for just throwing up your hands and yelling your favorite swear words in the middle of the Target skincare aisle.
Fear not, weary traveler. I am here to guide you through the minefield of peptide products to the fabled Fountain of Youth.
Okay so really it’s probably more like a Lake of Looking a Little Younger, but hey, we take what we can get, right?
It can be pretty confusing to shop for effective peptide products. First of all, there are a LOT of peptides and not all of these peptides are created equal.
First Things First: What Even ARE Peptides?
Peptides are short chains of amino acids that perform tons of important biological functions. Some are created naturally in your body, and others are created synthetically by scientists to act like the ones that are already present in your body.
In the most basic of terms, peptides are the essential foundation of how your skin maintains a firm, smooth texture. They are the building blocks of the “scaffolding” of collagen and elastin that gives your skin a youthful, bouncy glow. They’re an important part of keratin production for healthy nails and hair, too.
In some cases, they can also act as messengers that alert your body to when it needs to flood an area with extra collagen or hyaluronic acid production (like if you’re recovering from an injury). This is how topical peptide products work!
Some skincare ingredients are more or less just hype and don’t do a lot when applied topically (looking at you, collagen serums), but putting the right peptides on your face actually can help to make your skin look younger and firmer with patience and consistency.
A Sidebar: Navigating the Peptide Hype
Let me just go ahead and tell you right now to avoid any topical product that makes claims about Botox-like effects or replacing dermal fillers.
Why? Because they can’t deliver on those promises, and they know they can’t.
Sure, there is a small bit of evidence that certain peptides, called neuropeptides, can act like Botox by blocking nerve signals to your facial muscles. However, applying them topically just isn’t going to give you the same kind of results.
The same goes for claims of filling out your lips, getting rid of eye bags, lifting your brows, or reversing deep lines. Peptides alone just can’t do that kind of heavy lifting.
What the right peptide products CAN do is encourage your skin to produce more collagen and elastin, and this is what will give you the noticeable firming, brightening, and smoothing effects you’re after.
Choose Your Fighter: The 4 Types of Peptides
There are four main types of peptides that you can find in skincare. Some products have blends of multiple types, but it’s helpful to know what you’re looking at when you’re examining ingredient lists because these peptide names can really be a mouthful.
1. Enzyme inhibitors
These guys work to stop your body from breaking down the existing collagen structures in your skin. Certain enzymes can build up in your body and degrade the collagen in your skin, and these peptides work by preventing them from doing so.
Enzyme inhibitor peptides include:
- Soy oligopeptides
- Rice peptides
- Trifluoroacetyl tripeptide-2
Carrier peptides are probably the most familiar to you. These are the ones that are found in products like Drunk Elephant’s polypeptide cream or NIOD’s Copper Amino Isolate serum.
They work by delivering small amounts of elements like magnesium or copper directly to your skin, which encourages collagen and hyaluronic acid production.
Common carrier peptides are:
- Copper tripeptide
- Manganese tripeptide-1
- X-50 Myocept
Signal peptides are the ones that do the job I mentioned earlier of pointing out areas of the body that need to be flooded with production of extra collagen, elastin, or other protein.
Many of these proteins will also probably sound familiar to you:
- Matrixyl-3000, or just Matrixyl
- Copper peptides
- Palmitoyl oligopeptides
4. Neurotransmitter peptides
These are the guys that usually have the claims of Botox-like effects. They work by inhibiting muscle contraction. The theory is that if your muscles can’t move as much, they can’t form wrinkles as readily.
While they won’t be as good as Botox, they do have the ability to smooth out shallow expression lines for some people.
Some common neurotransmitter peptides are:
- Palmitoyl tripeptide-38
- Pentapeptide-3 and 18
How to Make Peptides Work For You
When you’re choosing a peptide product, keep in mind that you won’t see overnight results. Choose something that you can (and will) use consistently. It can take weeks before you notice any real improvement, so you need to be prepared to be patient!
And remember this little mantra when you’re shopping: Peptides need pals.
A peptide blend by itself isn’t enough to produce results. You need to make sure that the peptide serum or moisturizer that you choose is formulated with other skin-loving ingredients like antioxidants, hydrators, amino acids, and other things that are meant to renew your skin.
Finally, the best anti-aging products in the world won’t help you if you don’t protect your skin. If you want real, lasting results, wearing sunscreen every single day should become as natural as wearing clothes when you leave the house.
So let’s talk peptides! Do you have more questions that I didn’t answer? Do you have a favorite peptide skincare product? Tell me in the comments!