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Peptides: Why They’re Good for You and How to Get More of Them

Skin care products with peptides from PCA Skin, SkinMedica and Neocutis

You’ve likely heard the buzz around peptides as an anti-aging must-have and hero ingredient to smooth, repair and hydrate skin, but have you ever wondered what a peptide is and what it does for the skin, exactly? More important, is having it as one of the key ingredients in your skin care products worth the hefty price tag? The short answer, according to two prominent dermatologists, is yes.

Here, they break down the science behind how peptides work, what they actually do for our skin and body, how we can get more of them, and the best peptide-infused skin care formulas to look out for.

The Basics: What Are Peptides and What Do They Do?

Before we talk about peptides, it’s important to understand what amino acids are. “Peptides are strings of amino acids, which are the building blocks that make up proteins in our body, including collagen in the skin,” explains Dr. Whitney Bowe, renowned New York City–based dermatologist and author. “Without these proteins, we will see wrinkles, brittle nails and dry hair that’s prone to breakage.”

“Peptides serve as the building blocks for not only new collagen, but also elastin fibers,” adds Dr. Deanne Mraz Robinson, partner at Modern Dermatology in Westport, CT. “These fibers are the building blocks of our skin and add to tissue firmness and elasticity.”

Aside from being essential to the skin’s structure and function (important factors in firmness, texture and overall appearance), peptides are found in every human cell and play an important role in how the body functions, often acting as a biologic messenger. “We need peptides at all times. If we are deficient in them, our body cannot function,” says Dr. Robinson. “Peptides have a myriad of uses in the body, from being the building blocks for enzymes, hormones and an energy source.”

How Peptides in Your Skin Care Work

So if peptides are already present within the body, why do we need more of them? The answer, according to experts, is aging. “We lose 1% of our remaining collagen per year after age 30,” says Dr. Robinson. “Our skin’s natural communication channels also slow down over time.”

But simply slathering peptides onto your skin doesn’t necessarily give you more of them. According to Dr. Bowe, how they work is a little more complex: “Your body sees these peptides as ‘signals’ that you need to heal, which tells your body to produce more collagen where you need it most,” she explains. “If you are healing from an injury in your ankle, those peptides will signal your body to focus its repair efforts in that joint. If your skin is aging prematurely, those peptides might signal your skin to boost its production of collagen and even hyaluronic acid, plumping up your skin and restoring a healthy skin barrier. When you introduce exogenous peptides onto the skin in the form of a moisturizer or serum, it tricks the skin into thinking there’s been an injury or wound, and it stimulates our collagen-boosting processes.”

When it comes to skin care, not all peptides are created equal. “While there are hundreds of peptides, there are specific peptides that are more efficacious for the skin than others,” explains Dr. Robinson. For example, carrier peptides deliver trace minerals to the skin to boost collagen, while enzyme inhibitor peptides work to slow down the skin’s natural breakdown of collagen. Signal peptides send messages to different parts of the skin to promote collagen, elastin and other proteins; and neurotransmitter peptides, touted as “Botox-like,” block the release of chemicals that cause the muscle contraction of expression lines, thus smoothing wrinkles.

How to Get More Peptides

When it comes to enhancing the skin, Dr. Bowe recommends getting peptides from topical skin care products. However, she stresses the importance of looking at the product’s formulation: the stability of its ingredients and its ability to penetrate the skin barrier. This is where a consultation with your dermatologist may be helpful.

Finding the right product type can go a long way too. For example, instead of choosing a peptide-enriched cleanser, Dr. Robinson recommends opting for products that are not easily washed off the skin, like a moisturizer, eye cream or serum. She also suggests opting for products with copper peptides, which “help not only generate collagen but also maintain the collagen you generate.” She also suggests looking for products that also introduce niacinamide, vitamin C and antioxidants into the mix, in addition to peptides. One of her product recommendations is NeoCutis Bio Cream Bio-Restorative Skin Cream.

Once you find the right cream or serum for you, Dr. Robinson recommends applying it to clean skin twice daily, under makeup and SPF.

Aside from topical products, incorporating collagen-rich foods like bone broth, and adding a reputable collagen supplement to your diet, can also work wonders for your skin.

The Best Peptide-Infused Skin Care Products

Are you ready to pack a punch with peptides? Here are Dermstore’s top tried-and-true products to boost collagen and kick up your skin care game:

  1. Peter Thomas Roth Peptide 21 Wrinkle Resist Serum
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    Peter Thomas Roth Peptide 21 Wrinkle Resist Serum

    [listimage brand_id=100157 prod_id=79320]
    This product features a 73% complex of 21 peptides and neuropeptides, plus two gamma proteins derived from Asian natto gum, to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, improve skin elasticity and even skin tone and texture. As if that’s not enough, this power-packed serum is also infused with squalane, a hyaluronic acid complex and vitamins A, C and E to nourish and hydrate your skin.

    Buy now with free delivery
  2. SkinMedica TNS Advanced+ Serum
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    SkinMedica TNS Advanced+ Serum

    [listimage brand_id=100155 prod_id=83028]
    The new and upgraded version of SkinMedica’s best-selling serum, this product comes in a dual chamber airless pump to combine two active formulas that target the appearance of deep wrinkles, fine lines and sagging skin. The first chamber dispenses TNS complex, with growth factors and a skin-nourishing peptide complex, while the second chamber contains the brands Renessensce Advanced complex, a combination of botanicals, marine extracts and peptides. The dual formulas work in synergy to encourage cell renewal and support collagen and elastin levels.

    Buy now with free delivery
  3. Neocutis BIO CREAM Overnight Smoothing Cream
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    Neocutis BIO CREAM Overnight Smoothing Cream

    [listimage brand_id=500517 prod_id=11059]
    Known in skin care circles as the “Cadillac of peptides,” PSP®, which stands for “processed skin cell proteins,” is a blend of proteins and polypeptides, formulated to revive skin and increase firmness, brightness and elasticity. It’s a dermatologist favorite for sensitive skin.

    Buy now with free delivery
  4. SkinCeuticals A.G.E. Eye Complex
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    SkinCeuticals A.G.E. Eye Complex

    [listimage brand_id=100113 prod_id=20344]
    A.G.E., or advanced glycation end-products is a major factor of the natural aging process and can lead to under-eye creepiness. Fortunately, peptides in this cream work with antioxidant flavonoids and blueberry extract to combat dark circles, puffiness and crow’s feet over time while optical diffusers give the eye contour instant radiance.

    Buy now with free delivery
  5. EltaMD PM Therapy Facial Moisturizer 
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    EltaMD PM Therapy Facial Moisturizer 

    [listimage brand_id=500300 prod_id=32761]
    This nighttime moisturizer is oil-free and enriched with ceramides and rice protein peptides to moisturize and repair skin while at rest. Cell growth and collagen formation within the skin is credited to peptides, resulting in a boost in elasticity. An affordable pick for peptide technology!

    Buy now with free delivery
  6. Vichy LiftActiv Peptide-C Anti-Aging Moisturizer
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    Vichy LiftActiv Peptide-C Anti-Aging Moisturizer

    [listimage brand_id=500984 prod_id=80581]
    Formulated with phyto peptides, vitamin C and mineralizing thermal water, this advanced anti-aging moisturizer works to correct multiple signs of aging, including wrinkles, dullness and loss of definition. Its creamy texture transforms into a powder-feel and hydrates skin for up to 48-hours, unveiling a lifted and firmer complexion.

    Buy now with free delivery
  7. iS Clinical Super Serum Advance Plus
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    iS Clinical Super Serum Advance Plus

    [listimage brand_id=500480 prod_id=15852]
    Copper tripeptide growth factor plus a 15% concentration of L-ascorbic acid (vitamin C) smooth skin and improve scar tissue, stretch marks and uneven skin. Known for its wound-healing powers, copper tripeptide is released naturally in the body during an injury, making it a perfect regenerating compound to be utilized in the skin.

    Buy now with free delivery
  8. PCA Skin ExLinea Peptide Smoothing Serum
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    PCA Skin ExLinea Peptide Smoothing Serum

    [listimage brand_id=100137 prod_id=12044]
    A spot treatment serum featuring the neurotransmitter peptide, argireline actively works for 12 hours to visibly reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles caused by repeated facial movements. It’s recommended to be patted onto the forehead, crow’s feet, and lines around the mouth. In addition to argireline, the serum features ultra-moisturizing sodium hyaluronate, able to hold 1000 times its weight in water, along with other nourishing ingredients from olives and rice bran wax.

    Buy now with free delivery
  9. Jan Marini Transformation Face Cream
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    Jan Marini Transformation Face Cream

    [listimage brand_id=100146 prod_id=5019]
    Peptides work to rebuild and repair damaged cells and signal skin to produce collagen, slowing the aging process. It’s a go-to moisturizer for a large range of women and men, including those with sensitive, dry and acne-prone skin. The “transformation” comes from a patented balance of not only peptides but also alpha hydroxy acid, aloe vera, hyaluronic acid and antioxidants.

    Buy now with free delivery

Beauty Reporter

Alisha Racker

Alisha Racker’s beauty career has spanned over a decade, beginning in the treatment room as a master esthetician, then onto the corporate world, working in PR for high-end skin care brands. A love for research and writing, coupled with her passion for beauty and wellness, blossomed into her new career: freelance writing. She’s had the privilege of contributing to DAYSPA magazine, Beauty News NYC and The Spa Insider, to name a few. When Alisha’s not spa-hopping, masking or investigating product labels, she can be found oil painting, planning her next book club meeting or hiking the beautiful Utah mountains, where she resides with her husband and daughter. Follow her on Instagram.