Peptides: What Do They Do? Are They Anti-Ageing Wonders?

By July 20, 2018Skingredients
peptides what they do skin

Peptides are a huge, buzzy ingredient in skincare. They ain’t new though – for the last decade, the use of peptides in skincare has been massively on the rise, especially when it comes to synthetic peptides (more on this later…). Why are we constantly trying to get our hands on more when they are found in every single cell in the hooman body? Keep reading for the nerdie lowdown on why peptides are key for anti-ageing.

What are peptides?

In the most basic sense, peptides are two or more amino acids holding hands. It is peptides that come together to form proteins and skinwise, proteins are fairly important – hello, collagen and elastin here, you rang?

There are different forms of peptides: you’ve got dipeptides, which are 2 amino acid residues held together, tripeptides aka 3 amino acids, tetrapeptides aka 4 amino acids… You see where this is going. It’s common that you’ll see them advertised as a “polypeptide blend” – as you can probably guess, this means more than one peptide together that act as a girl band.  

What do peptides do for your skin?

I describe peptides as bossy boots that tell the skin to do things, such as to make more collagen. That is what they do: they send signals to the dermis to carry out different processes, depending on the particular peptide.

Interestingly, peptides break the rules. On a scientific level, peptides are technically too big of a molecule to penetrate into the skin. However, studies have shown that peptides do improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles through an increase in collagen synthesis. Because of this, this is where the (widely-acknowledged) theory that they simply send signals to the dermis comes from. Synthetic peptides, such as Matrixyl 3000, can be changed so that they can penetrate into the skin better.

When it comes to the actual, specific benefits of a peptide, it comes down to the peptide itself. In a literal sense, there can be a nearly endless amount of peptides considering how amino acids are arranged in the peptides. How and ever, not all peptides have skin benefits.

Common peptides you’ll see in skincare & what they do

Matrixyl 3000

Matrixyl 3000 is a patented peptide created by a French company named Sederma. In the sense that it is patented, each brand that decides to use this specific peptide has to pay to use it. Matrixyl 3000 combines palmitoyl tetrapeptide-7 and palmitoyl oligopeptide so that the end result is a peptide that can do a whole lot.

Matrixyl doesn’t just tell the skin to make more collagen (different types of collagen, at that) but to make more elastin and GAGs (glycosaminoglycans) too.

Elastin is the substance that gives our skin its elasticity (aka the “bounce back” factor, the reason that it springs back into place if you pull it out). In the same way that more collagen will help to fill out wrinkles and lines, more elastin will help with sagging, drooping skin.

GAGs, or glycosaminoglycans, work within the skin to support our collagen and elastin and keep them doing well. GAGs are like the pal that collagen and elastin call when they’ve had a bad day and need someone listen to them moan.

peptides what they do skinMatrixyl 3000 is in probably hundreds of products, if not more. You’ll find it in Neostrata’s Skin Active Firming Collagen Booster Serum (€62.95) and you’ll find Matrixyl 3000 Plus in No7’s Lift & Luminate and Protect & Perfect Intense Serum Boost Sheet Masks (€32.00 for 4).  

Palmitoyl Tripeptide-5

Palmitoyl tripeptide-5 is a copycat for a protein that triggers a growth factor known as TGFβ (transforming growth factor beta) that causes an increase in the production of collagen. In studies, it seems that it can both help to increase collagen production and inhibit its breakdown, meaning that it is simultaneously preventing and helping to reduce the appearance of lines and wrinkles.

peptides what they do skin

Palmitoyl tripeptide-5 can be found in Dermalogica’s new Biolumin-C Serum (€90.00) (now stocked on The Skin Nerd store – get access to our store now) which also contains highly stable vitamin C to work on pigment and provide antioxidant protection. It is also in IMAGE’s Ormedic Balancing Bio-Peptide Creme (€78.00), a rich cream for those who love a comforting, thick night cream – this is full of antioxidants too, as well as hyaluronic acid for hydration.

Rice Peptides

Rice peptides are thought to have tyrosinase-inhibiting qualities meaning that they can help to prevent pigment from forming. You can find rice peptides in Academié Scientifique De Beauté’s Men’s Active Stimulating Balm For Deep Lines (€45.70). This is formulated for men as a post-shave balm with skin benefits so take note for the next man-gift you have to buy!

peptides what they do skin

Soy Peptides

Soy peptides, like the others, works to boost synthesis of collagen and increase GAGs. You can find soy peptides in YonKa’s Elixir Vital (€80.00, formerly Serum Vital) alongside beech bud peptides and vitamin E (potent antioxidant that protects you from environmental damage).

peptides what they do skin

The Argireline molecule


Argireline is another patented peptide. This one comes from a fragment of a substance found in botox and is sometimes called “Botox in a jar” because of this. It is also known as acetyl hexapeptide-8. In theory, argireline works in a similar way to botox in that it gets in the way of the signals that tell muscles to move.

However, studies show that the effect doesn’t come near the efficacy of botox in doing this. What can be said of argireline is that it can visibly improve the appearance of wrinkles and lines so long as it is formulated in such a way that it can penetrate into the skin.

You can find Argireline in IMAGE Skincare’s The Max range (alongside Matrixyl synthe-6 and oodles of other peptides).

What to look for in peptide products

Peptides are can be wonderful anti-ageing skingredients and can be fabulous but I wouldn’t suggest rushing out to buy a product simply because it contains peptides, especially if you don’t have any other anti-ageing products in your routine.

Opt for products that contain peptides whilst simultaneously containing high levels of antioxidants, vitamins, hyaluronic acid or other active ingredients. Peptide products do tend to be on the pricier side, especially those that are part of a formulation with the aforementioned ingredients too. If peptide skincare isn’t in your budget, don’t fret but do keep applying your sunscreen everyday!

Want access to our online store, stocking Neostrata, IMAGE, YonKa and Dermalogica as well as Environ, Biofresh and more? Book in for your initial consultation with The Skin Nerd online skin consultancy and join the Nerd Network.

peptides what they do skin