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Peptides for Skin

Peptides for Skin

If you haven’t heard about the use of peptides in skincare products, especially from companies who make miraculous claims about what they can do for just about every skin flaw imaginable, we’re going to tell you what you’ve been missing. Some of the information is just nonsense and vastly overblown, but other aspects of peptides and the growing research about their really stunning benefit for skin deserves your attention.

What Are Peptides?

First we need to start with the science: Peptides are fragments of proteins. On their own, peptides are made up of amino acids. When amino acids are combined in certain formations they create specific peptides (and there are hundreds of peptides), and when peptides are formed in a certain way, they make specific proteins.

Proteins are the fundamental building blocks of skin. Without peptides, skin doesn’t remain intact and the results is loss of firmness, appearance of wrinkles, texture changes, and skin that doesn’t bounce back as it once did.

What’s so fascinating about peptides is that abundant research has clearly shown they can help revitalise those building blocks and, in turn, help revitalise skin.

Peptides in Skincare

Although there are truly intriguing reasons to consider peptides as a significant part of a skincare formula, the hype around what they can do is often completely blown out of proportion. Peptides are absolutely not the anti-ageing magic bullet you’ve been hoping for. There's no single solution for all the signs of ageing and other skin problems we endure, and peptides are no exception. You would be cheating your skin to think that any peptide is your skin’s solo rescuer.

What disturbs us the most are the absurd claims about peptides being able to replace the cosmetic procedures doctors perform. This is utter nonsense and simply not possible. However, as we said, what’s exciting about peptides in skincare products is their ability to help revitalise skin’s building blocks so it becomes more resilient. That’s a wonderful asset for skin, but keep your expectations realistic or you will be disappointed.

Peptides Need Friends

What’s most important for you to keep in mind is that as special as peptides are, they aren’t enough to address all the needs of skin. Any skincare formula worthy of your hard earned dollars must include the specialised ingredients we talk about all the time such as antioxidants, skin-replenishing ingredients, and skin-restoring ingredients (which includes peptides). Peptides on their own aren’t capable of doing it all if your goal is to achieve long-lasting smooth, soft, hydrated, radiant, firmer-appearing and younger-looking skin.

One more point: Don’t get seduced by the notion that there’s a best peptide or peptide blend, because there isn’t. There are dozens and dozens of remarkable peptides plus more being discovered (or made in a lab) every day. Just like antioxidants, skin-soothing ingredients, and skin-replenishing ingredients there a dozens of brilliant peptides. When all of these elements are combined in a skincare product to address multiple signs of ageing, they can do amazing things—and you’ll see the results!

Copper Peptide: Fact or Fiction

Speaking of a single skincare ingredient being overly-hyped, copper peptide is certainly one of them. The spin begins with the notion that skin’s building blocks are assembled by copper. So, the logic would follow that you must have copper peptide in your skincare products to get that benefit. Although it’s true copper peptide is a skin-restoring ingredient, there are lots of other peptides with equally if not more impressive properties.

To keep it in perspective, although there are studies showing the dramatic positive effects of copper peptide those studies rarely, if ever, compare copper peptides to other peptides or other ingredients like potent antioxidants. It’s important to realise that many ingredients have extraordinary research proving their value for skin, not just copper peptide. That’s the pitfall of getting too wrapped up in one single ingredient. Skincare isn’t that simple!

Ironically there’s also research about copper being potentially toxic to skin. However, this research is mostly about pure copper in the body not as a peptide applied to skin. The negative effects are about what happens when copper is out of balance, meaning too much copper is present.

The Bottom Line

Peptides can be great anti-ageing ingredients for use in skincare products. But as with all other anti-ageing ingredients, they're not the only ones you need to make your skin appear as young and healthy as you'd like. Take those seemingly fantastic claims on products with peptides with a grain of salt, and remember that using products with a cocktail of great ingredients (plus daily broad spectrum sun protection) is the best thing you can do for the health and appearance of your skin!

For more details on peptides, see our Ingredient Dictionary definition.

References for this information:

Journal of Drugs in Dermatology, April 2016, supplemental, pages 63-71
Bulletin of Experimental Biology and Medicine, May 2016, issue 1, pages 175-178
ChemMedChem, August 2016, issue 16, pages 1850-1855
Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine, April 2013, pages 1–8
Biological Trace Element Research, August 2013, issue 2, pages 268-274
Dermato Endocrinology, July 2012, issue 3, pages 308–319


About the Experts

Paula Begoun is the best-selling author of 20 books about skincare and makeup. She is known worldwide as The Cosmetics Cop and creator of Paula’s Choice Skincare. Paula’s expertise has led to hundreds of appearances on national and international radio, print, and television including:

The Paula's Choice Research Team is dedicated to busting beauty myths and providing expert advice that solves your skincare frustrations so you can have the best skin of your life!