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Peptides for skin: Unpacking their skincare influence

These powerhouse proteins can be found in many different cosmetic products—and they might be worth incorporating into your skincare routine.

Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Mar 11, 2024 • 8 min read
Medically reviewed by Camille Dixon, PA-C
Peptides for Skin
Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Mar 11, 2024 • 8 min read
Medically reviewed by Camille Dixon, PA-C
We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.

In this article

What are peptides?
More

Maintaining youthful and healthy skin is no easy feat—especially given the numerous age-related skin concerns like fine lines, wrinkles, dark spots, you name it. Fortunately, there are a multitude of skincare products with ingredients that may help fight the appearance of aging.

Peptides are one such ingredient. These small proteins offer several benefits to the skin, including helping combat wrinkles and fine lines—no wonder they’ve become popular in a wide array of skincare ingredients!

Here, our licensed dermatology providers unpack the skincare influence of peptides to help you determine if they’re suitable ingredients for your skin.

What are peptides?

Peptides are short strings of amino acids, the building blocks of proteins. Generally, they are comprised of 2-50 amino acids and are vital for various physiological and biological processes.¹

Peptides usually occur naturally in the skin. However, they’re also included in skincare products, and rightly so, as they help boost collagen production.² Peptides are often used in cosmetic ingredients because of their low molecular weight, high specificity and affinity, and low toxicity. They’re also easily absorbable.³

What do they do?

Peptides are small proteins that undertake various biological functions. They facilitate the interaction between proteins, which is crucial in bio-processes.⁴ When peptides (polypeptides) are applied topically to the body, they may stimulate collagen synthesis. They may also activate dermal metabolism.⁵

Types of peptides

There are different types of peptides used in skincare products, with each offering unique benefits to the skin. These peptides act using different mechanisms—some are epidermal, some are neurotransmitters, and others are growth factors. Here are the common types of peptides for skin:

  • Carrier peptides: These peptides transport and stabilize elements like copper and manganese. They carry these elements to the skin, allowing the epithelial cells to absorb them. Copper plays a crucial role in wound healing.⁶

  • Signal peptides: These peptides stimulate skin fibroblasts, resulting in increased production of elastic fiber and collagen. Signal peptides also act as growth factorsthey activate protein kinase C, which helps with cell growth and migration.⁷

  • Neurotransmitter peptides: These peptides may help increase minimal muscle activity. They’re often used in anti-aging products because of their attenuating actions on wrinkle formation.⁸

  • Copper peptides: These peptides may help promote wound healing and remove damaged cells. Copper peptides also produce proteins that are vital for tissue healing.⁹

Benefits of peptides

Peptides may offer numerous benefits to the skin. Still, extensive research is necessary to fully understand their benefits.

Reduces facial lines and wrinkles: As people age, their skin becomes less firm, leading to facial lines and wrinkles, due to the decline of elastin and collagen in their bodies. Peptides increase collagen production, helping improve facial wrinkles. In a study aimed at determining the anti-aging effects of peptides, anti-wrinkle effects were discovered on the neck area and face after two weeks of use.¹⁰

Eases Inflammation: Peptides possess several biological functions, with one of them being reducing inflammation. A study evaluating a cell-penetrating peptide (CPPAIF) discovered that it didn't disrupt the skin barrier nor sensitize or irritate the skin.¹¹ It also had anti-inflammatory benefits without causing adverse effects. The study pointed to this peptide’s anti-inflammatory and skin penetration capabilities helping improve skin condition.¹²

May help treat acne: Some peptides, especially antimicrobial peptides, have antimicrobial properties that may benefit the skin. Studies suggest that antimicrobial peptides may be able to help in conditions like acne. However, additional research is necessary to fully explore and understand this potential.¹³

Improves skin barrier: The skin barrier is the body’s defense against various toxins that cause skin damage. Studies have shown that certain peptides help restore the skin barrier in individuals with conditions such as atopic dermatitis (AD). With that said, further studies are needed to determine if antimicrobial peptides may be effective in the management of AD.¹⁴

Helps heal wounds: Recent studies have found that bioactive peptides may promote wound healing. These peptides have a wide range of pharmacological bioactives, such as antioxidant, antimicrobial, and immunomodulatory activities, which aid in their wound-healing capabilities.¹⁵

Limitations of peptides

There’s no denying that peptides may be beneficial to the skin. But they still have a few drawbacks to consider. For instance, clinical evidence shows that peptides may have weak efficacy.¹⁶ They also have low lipophilicity, which may result in poor absorption. Additionally, their high molecular weight impacts their ability to bind with other ingredients.¹⁷ And notably, products containing peptides may also be on the pricier side.

How to choose peptide products

There are so many products containing peptides in the market. Therefore, finding a suitable product for you may be challenging. If you plan to shop for peptide products, here are a few tips to remember.

  • Choose the proper topical formulation. Dermatology providers generally recommend using serums and moisturizers since they have more contact with the skin. Check the product’s label to confirm that it lists peptides as ingredients.

  • Check whether the product contains ingredients that work well with peptides. Clinical studies show that a formula containing biopeptides, natural vitamin C, and hyaluronic acid may effectively improve signs of aging.¹⁸

  • Avoid products with comedogenic ingredients. Check out a comprehensive list of potential pore-clogging ingredients here.

As a good practice, you should opt for products recommended by a dermatology provider, such as Curology.

Peptide-infused products to consider

If you’re keen on adding peptides to your skincare routine, here are some peptide-infused products to consider.

Rhode peptide glazing fluid: The dewy hydration layer peptide glazing fluid is a quick-absorbing serum that plumps and hydrates the skin to make it look healthier. Besides peptides, other key ingredients in this product include niacinamide, hyaluronic acid, and marula oil. It's suitable for all skin types.

Drunk Elephant Protini™ Powerpeptide Resurf Serum: This serum helps improve skin tone and skin texture. It also helps increase radiance of the skin. Its key ingredients include signal peptides, lactic acid, amino acids, and growth factors.

Depology Peptide Complex 10% Agrireline™ Peptide Serum: This peptide serum may help reduce the movement of muscles that cause wrinkle formation. It also hydrates the skin and combats fine lines.

Oneology Peptides-CU 0.6% High Performance Multi-peptides Serum: This serum combines peptides, copper, dextran, lactic acid, and other ingredients that help ensure it maintains skin hydration, unify skin tone, smooth fine lines, and restore the skin barrier. It’s suitable for all skin types.

Consult with your dermatology provider before purchasing these products.

How to add peptides to your skincare routine

Conducting a patch test when adding a new product to your skincare routine is advisable. The test may help you determine whether you’re likely to react before you use the product on a large area of your skin.

A patch test begins with applying the product to a test area. The test area should be a small part of the skin, preferably on the inside of your elbow or inner forearm.¹⁹ Use the exact amount and thickness of the product as you would when applying it normally.

You should apply the product twice a day for 7–10 days.²⁰ Let it stay on your skin long enough for it to be effective. Suppose you’re using products like cleansers that you wash off after some time—leave them on your skin for five minutes or so, or as long as the instructions say, and then wash the product off.If you don't experience any adverse reactions such as itching or redness after the 7–10 days test period elapses, you may add the product to your skincare routine.²¹ However, if you experience adverse reactions, wash off the product immediately and don’t use it again. If need be, apply petroleum jelly on your skin to relieve it of the negative effects.²²

Finding a skincare product that works for you

Peptides are increasingly gaining popularity as a go-to skincare ingredient with anti-aging benefits. They’re usually available in various topical formulations if you’d like to give them a try.

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If you’re interested in a more personalized skincare routine, talking to a licensed dermatology provider such as those at Curology might help. Simply take our quiz and a few selfies for a professional evaluation. If Curology is right for you, we’ll send a personalized prescription formula to treat your specific skin concerns. Sign up for your trial today!*

FAQs

Are peptides safe for all skin types?

Peptides are generally considered a safe skincare ingredient for all skin types. However, you should consult your dermatology provider before using products containing peptides to discuss if this may be right for you.

Are peptides safe for daily use?

Peptides are generally safe for daily use and may be applied twice a day for best results. Consult your dermatology provider for recommendations on how often to use peptide-infused products.

What are copper peptides?

Copper peptides are naturally occurring tripeptides found in human saliva, plasma, and urine. They help stimulate skin repair and wound healing.²³

What are the advantages of using peptides as cosmeceuticals?

Peptides offer many advantages when used as cosmeceuticals, including their selectivity, involvement in several physiological skin functions, and lower chance of triggering an immune response. There’s also no premarket requirement for their use.²⁴

Are there any side effects of using peptides?

Although peptides are less likely to have side effects than other biologic agents, they still may cause allergies and induce immune responses.²⁵

• • •

P.S., We did the homework, so you don't have to:

  1. Forbes, J. and Krishnamurthy, K. Biochemistry, Peptide. StatPearls. (2022, August 29).

  2. An, J., et al. Review on Extraction, Modification, and Synthesis of Natural Peptides and Their Beneficial Effects on Skin. Molecules. (2023, January 16).

  3. Apostolopoulos, V., et al. A Global Review on Short Peptides: Frontiers and Perspectives. Molecules. (2021, January 15).

  4. Apostolopoulos, V., et al. A Global Review on Short Peptides: Frontiers and Perspectives. Molecules. Ibid.

  5. Ganceviciene, R., et al. Skin anti-aging strategies. Dermatoendocrinol. (2012, July 1).

  6. Lima, T.N. and Moraes, C.A.P. Bioactive Peptides: Applications and Relevance for Cosmeceuticals. Cosmetics. (2018, March 5).

  7. Lima, T.N. and Moraes, C.A.P. Bioactive Peptides: Applications and Relevance for Cosmeceuticals. Cosmetics. Ibid.

  8. Lima, T.N. and Moraes, C.A.P. Bioactive Peptides: Applications and Relevance for Cosmeceuticals. Cosmetics. Ibid.

  9. Dou, Y., et al. The potential of GHK as an anti-aging peptide. Aging Pathobiol Ther. (2020, March 27).

  10. Jeong, S., et al. Anti-Wrinkle Benefits of Peptides Complex Stimulating Skin Basement Membrane Proteins Expression. Int J Mol Sci. (January 2020).

  11. Fu, T.K., et al. Cell Penetrating Peptide as a High Safety Anti-Inflammation Ingredient for Cosmetic Applications. Biomolecules. (2020, January 7).

  12. Fu, T.K., et al. Cell Penetrating Peptide as a High Safety Anti-Inflammation Ingredient for Cosmetic Applications. Biomolecules. Ibid.

  13. Zhang, Z., et al. A Small Peptide with Therapeutic Potential for Inflammatory Acne Vulgaris. PLoS One. (2013, August 28).

  14. Nguyen, H.L.T., et al. Role of Antimicrobial Peptides in Skin Barrier Repair in Individuals with Atopic Dermatitis. Int J Mol Sci. (2020, October 14).

  15. Nguyen, H.L.T., et al. Role of Antimicrobial Peptides in Skin Barrier Repair in Individuals with Atopic Dermatitis. Int J Mol Sci. Ibid.

  16. Pai, V.V., et al. Topical peptides as cosmeceuticals. Indian J Dermatol Venereol Leprol (January-February 2017).

  17. Pai, V.V., et al. Topical peptides as cosmeceuticals. Indian J Dermatol Venereol Leprol. Ibid.

  18. Escobar, S., et al. Effectiveness of a formulation containing peptides and vitamin C in treating signs of facial ageing: three clinical studies. Int J Cosmet Sci. (2020, December 22).

  19. American Academy of Dermatology Association. How to Test Skin Care Products. (2021, August 10).

  20. American Academy of Dermatology Association. How to Test Skin Care Products. Ibid.

  21. American Academy of Dermatology Association. How to Test Skin Care Products. Ibid.

  22. American Academy of Dermatology Association. How to Test Skin Care Products. Ibid.

  23. Pickart, L., et al. GHK Peptide as a Natural Modulator of Multiple Cellular Pathways in Skin Regeneration. Biomed Res Int. (2015, July 7).

  24. Pai, V.V., et al. Topical peptides as cosmeceuticals. Indian J Dermatol Venereol Leprol. Ibid.

  25. Deptula, M., et al. Antibacterial Peptides in Dermatology-Strategies for Evaluation of Allergic Potential. Molecules. (2018, February 14).

Camille Dixon is a certified Physician Assistant at Curology. She received her Master of Medical Science in Physician Assistant Studies from Midwestern University in Downers Grove, IL.

*Cancel anytime. Subject to consultation. Results may vary.

• • •
Our medical review process:We’re here to tell you what we know. That’s why our information is evidence-based and fact-checked by medical experts. Still, everyone’s skin is unique—the best way to get advice is to talk to your healthcare provider.
Our policy on product links:Empowering you with knowledge is our top priority. Our reviews of other brands’ products in this post are not paid endorsements—but they do meet our medically fact-checked standards for ingredients (at the time of publication).
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Camille Dixon, PA-C

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