What Are Peptides?


Peptides have had a resurgence of popularity in skincare over the past few years in the form of creams (such as Protini from Drunk Elephant, the one pictured above) and serums. When applied to your skin, they demonstrate remarkable benefits, revitalising your skin and making it more resilient and stronger. Primarily, used in products targeted at anti-aging, peptides are a family of superstar ingredients but how much can they counteract the process of aging?

What are they?

Peptides in skincare products are chemical compounds composed of short chains of amino acids that form proteins such as collagen, elastin and keratin. These proteins are the foundations of your skin and are responsible for its texture, strength and resilience. Without peptides, our skin is less intact which can lead to a loss of firmness, the appearance of wrinkles, a change in texture and less ‘bounce’.

When applied topically to the skin, peptides act as messengers, triggering skin cells to perform specific functions such as building collagen and elastin, encouraging skin to look and act younger.

Extensive scientific research has proven that peptides can support your skin on multiple levels, for example firming, soothing and hydrating the skin.

What do they do in skincare?

Research has shown peptides have the ability to penetrate the upper layer of the skin and act as dispatchers capable of triggering specific functions, such as collagen support so that skin can be firmer, thicker, and more elastic.

For example, wrinkles are caused by hyperkinesia of the skin muscles. As certain peptides are able to block neurotransmitter signals, this could have a cosmetic effect and lead to more relaxed and smoother skin. Skin wrinkles also appear because of the degeneration of extracellular matrix proteins, such as collagen, which can also be helped by the function of peptides.

There are different kind’s of peptide’s that do different things. To make this easier to understand I’ve created the table below:

Type of Peptide
What It Does
CarrierUsed to stabilize and deliver copper, a very important element for angiogenesis, wound healing, and many enzymatic processes. Also,  building blocks of your skin are formed by copper and so are considered a skin restoring ingredient.
SignalSignal peptides act as messengers that trigger the synthesis of collagen by fibroblasts. This increase in collagen production presumably leads to firmer and more youthful‐looking skin.
Neurotransmitter-inhibiting The neurotransmitter‐inhibiting peptides currently on the cosmeceutical market soften wrinkles and fine lines because they relax muscles, thus reducing facial muscle contractions. 
Growth FactorEmerging therapy that will look at the potential role of these molecules in the repair and remodeling of skin structures.
Proteins The main benefit derived from the use of proteins in cosmeceuticals is enhanced skin hydration. Proteins increase the amount of water in the stratum corneum, which reduces wrinkles caused by dehydration and improves the thickness and quality of the skin barrier.


Much research has proven the ability peptides have as an essential ingredient in the fight against ageing and hence should be an important part of your daily routine. The need for cells to behave as healthy young cells requires daily attention to fight against the environmental stressors your skin will face on a day to day basis. However, the most benefit will come from using skincare products with a cocktail of beneficial ingredients (as well as daily sun protection). So, peptide’s do help to counteract aging but are most useful when you’re using the right combination of ingredients.

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