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Peptides are portions of short or long-chain amino acids, and amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Skin is composed primarily of a protein known as keratin, so peptides have a role to play as part of a complete skincare routine—though as with any anti-aging ingredient, it’s important to keep your expectations realistic!

Ongoing research has shown that all peptides have some amount of skin-restorative ability, assuming the formulation supports the type of peptide used and is packaged to protect it from degrading from light and air exposure during use (no jars!).

Ironically, peptides can become unstable in water-based formulas. Further, because peptides are vulnerable to attack by enzymes, the abundant enzymes present in skin can break the peptides down to the point where they have no effect. Knowledge of these inherent weaknesses has led many ingredient manufacturing companies to produce synthetic peptides engineered to be more stable on and within skin. Such peptides can survive intact on skin and better reach their target areas—so you’ll see anti-aging benefits!

Some peptides have demonstrated a remarkable skin-soothing effect, while others can improve the appearance of wrinkles, loss of firmness, and even help to soften the look of expression lines.

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 and 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 aging, they can do amazing things!

But despite claims to the contrary, peptides cannot plump lips (at least not to a noticeable extent), stop sagging skin, work just like cosmetic corrective procedures, or eliminate dark circles or puffy eyes. You’ll see all of these claims and more on products with peptides, but such claims are not supported by published, peer-reviewed research.

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, pages1850-1855

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

See skin-restoring ingredients

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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!