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A simple guide to peptides in skincare

What they are, how they work and why you might need them

Peptides have been gaining popularity in skincare products in recent years, popping up in moisturisers, serums and more, and often make their way into the skincare routines our team build for Renude members. To understand the benefits peptides can bring, we need to understand the importance of the peptides that occur naturally within the skin already. 

What are peptides?

A peptide is a fragment of a protein, the difference between the two being size. Both peptides and proteins are made up of amino acids. The sequence of amino acids in the peptide chain is what makes a protein unique – think about how both your skin and your bones are made up of protein but are hugely different in strength, appearance and flexibility. In fact, proteins are the building blocks for your entire biological makeup, which is why it’s important to get enough in our everyday diets. But how about in our skincare? 

What do peptides do for the skin?

Collagen is a protein that is naturally present in the skin. It is a crucial component in giving our skin firmness, radiance and bounce. The aging process, exposure to UV and other environmental stressors cause our collagen production to slow. Decreased collagen levels compromise the structural integrity of the skin, resulting in sagging, wrinkles, changes in texture and dryness. The peptides used in skincare products are included to help reinforce our naturally occurring proteins. Collagen and elastin are simply too big to get through the skin’s barrier, but the smaller, fragmented peptides used in skincare are small enough to penetrate the skin and work from within. 

What are the different types of peptides used in skincare?

Peptides are used in skincare to act as messengers, triggering a specific activity depending on their unique shape. Peptides can be created synthetically to form a specific shape, in order to produce a set response in the skin. This can be increasing production of collagen, blocking certain enzymes or neurotransmitters (to relax muscle contraction), or signalling between cells to achieve a specific response. 

How do peptides really work on skin?

There is a wealth of research showing the benefits of various peptides in skin. If we take the example of a peptide that can trigger collagen synthesis by stimulating fibroblasts (where collagen is produced) within the dermis (the deeper layer of our skin). Over time this results in smoother, firmer, more youthful looking skin. A boost in collagen levels will also help to reduce dryness as the skin’s barrier is strengthened and water loss through the skin (known as trans-epidermal water loss) is reduced, helping skin to remain plump. When used long-term as part of a routine, peptides can delay (but not prevent) the formation of fine lines and wrinkles.

How do I use peptides?

Generally, peptide-containing skincare products are safe to be used twice daily – morning and evening – and on all skin types. It is easy to add peptides into your routine as they work best when they are surrounded by other skin-loving ingredients! Using peptides alongside antioxidants, humectants, vitamin c or retinoids will allow your anti-aging products to be most effective. It is best to use peptides in a leave-on product such as a serum or moisturiser in order for them to absorb into the skin and work their magic.  

How long does it take to see results?

While you may see an immediate result in the way of hydration and radiance, you need to use peptides for at least 6-8 weeks before you start to notice a significant increase in firmness and plumpness. Healthy young skin regenerates itself every 27 days, but as we age this process of skin renewal slows to 6 weeks, then to around 8 weeks. Your skincare product needs to be in use for at least one full skin regeneration cycle before you can really see its benefits, and should continue to improve during cycles two and three, where you should then see the full benefit.

Are peptides right for my skin? 

Considering the relationship between peptides and collagen synthesis, it is no surprise that peptides feature heavily in anti-aging products. These formulations are going to be highly moisturising and nourishing to cater to drier skin types (as natural oil production slows with age, skin tends to get drier as it matures). Peptides make fantastic additions to most anti-aging routines, helping to achieve firmer, more youthful looking skin. Younger skins can incorporate peptides as a method of preventative aging, or may include other functions such as soothing sensitive skin.

See Renude-Approved Products Containing Anti-Ageing Peptides

Ashiana Fraser
Ashiana Fraser
MSc Cosmetic scientist