Peptides are one of the most highly promoted anti-aging ingredients– but do they actually work? The short answer is — wait for it– maybe. The value of peptides to the skin goes back to the 1930’s when doctors discovered that yeast extracts promoted wound healing. Further studies showed it was the peptide proteins in the yeast that were responsible for the beneficial effects including increased collagen production. Researchers now believe that peptides can boost circulation AND trigger new collagen synthesis. Excellent!
Three Types of Anti-Aging Peptides
There are actually three types of peptides that are popular cosmetic ingredients:
1. Signal proteins are able to increase collagen production AND slow collagen destruction. ( FYI collagen fibers are what gives the skin its strength and flexability. Old, weak collagen leads to unwanted lines and wrinkles). A study that was published in the journal Cutis followed women using a peptide marketed as Matrixyl 3000. At the end of the 3 month study there was significant improvement in fine lines. That’s good news, but there is even better news– Matrixyl can be found in both affordable and luxury products such as the Oil of Olay Regenerist line and Boots#7 Protect and Perfect line.
2. Neurotransmitter peptides are promoted as Botox without needles. They have the potential to inhibit muscle contrctions so they can potentially diminish fine lines, especially above the lip and around the eyes. The most popular form of these peptides is marketed as Argireline. There are some studies that support its benefits but consumer advocates point out that many of the studies were done by the companies which marketed these peptides.Two popular Argireline products are Wrinkle Relax ( DDF) and Avon Anew Deep Crease Concentrate.
3. Carrier peptides deliver essential trace elements ( eg copper) which is needed for wound healing. Not to be a broken record, its helpful to know that copper is vital for healthier collagen and elastin.
All three types of peptides are backed with solid research, but the actual benefits are still not proven. One problem is the lack of info on the concentration of peptides used in a commercial product. Most of the studies are done with very specific peptide levels and we just don’t have this data when buying an anti-aging peptide product.
Even when peptide formulations are fully charged, the difference they make is smaller than the benefits you can get from a Retin A /daily sunscreen combination. For this reason most dermatologist recommend using peptides in addition to the retinoid/ sunscreen routinue. For example use a peptide moisturizer at night over the nightly Retin A application. Peptide rich products like Protein Booster Eye Rescue ( Jack Black) can also be helpful around the eyes where Retin A cannot be used safely.