Peptides, the skincare world’s latest darling, have been called “Botox in a bottle” because of their purported anti-aging benefits. But is this nickname due to the ingredient’s efficacy or simply due to good marketing?

Joining the ranks of retinol, Vitamin C, hyaluronic acid, and other buzzed-about skincare ingredients, peptides have found their way into moisturizers, serums, and other beauty products. Read on to find out if there really are peptide skin benefits and whether they’re worth adding to your skincare arsenal.


What Are Peptides?

Peptides are chains of amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein. The way they work on skin will require a bit of a science lesson.

If you remember your science classes or are an avid beauty fan, you’ll know that protein is an essential component of skin—collagen, elastin, and keratin are all proteins that make up your skin. Each of these proteins has a different function to keep skin smooth and supple. Collagen, in particular, are the sturdy bits that hold up the top layer of skin, giving skin that youthful plumpness. Your body naturally gets rid of old or damaged collagen and produces new collagen to replace it. However, this process slows down as you get older. Because of the decreased collagen production as you age, skin doesn’t naturally spring back and you develop fine lines and wrinkles—laugh lines and crow’s feet that used to only appear when you smiled become a permanent fixture.

It thus makes sense to boost collagen to maintain fresh-looking skin. However, collagen-infused skincare products haven’t been conclusively proven to increase collagen production, so the key is to look for ingredients that stimulate this action. This is where peptides come in.

In non-scientific terms, peptides tell your skin to produce more collagen. The chains of amino acids are able to penetrate the skin to work their magic, reinforcing your existing skin proteins. There are all sorts of different peptides, depending on the combinations in these amino acid chains, and each type can bring about a different anti-aging effect. Some can relax facial muscles, others can help smooth out wrinkles, while still others can have a brightening effect. Many products are a cocktail of different types of peptides so you get a range of beauty benefits.

Peptide vs. Retinol

There are other ingredients that have been shown to stimulate collagen production, such as Vitamin C and Vitamin A. Retinol, a type of retinoid or Vitamin A-based ingredient, is a favorite among experts as it has been shown to reduce fine lines and wrinkles, fade age spots, and smoothen out skin. However, the problem with this skincare powerhouse is that it can also cause dryness and irritation. It can also increase your skin’s sensitivity to the sun.

Peptides, on the other hand, are gentler on skin than retinol, so it’s a good option for those with sensitive skin. But if your skin can take it, why not include both ingredients in your skincare routine to maximize the anti-aging benefits? Just take note that due to its photosensitivity, retinol is best reserved for evening application.

Choosing the Right Peptide Product for You

Whether you’re in the market for a line-erasing peptide product or the best peptide cream for sagging skin, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Peptides aren’t a superhero product. Peptides aren’t the be-all and end-all of skincare. They’re a great addition to your skincare regimen but they won’t provide miraculous results. Given the current lack of conclusive evidence when it comes to their effectiveness, they’re best as an addition to your products, not the sole item on your beauty shelf.
  • Go for a trusted brand. Experts caution that the term “peptide” is a blanket term for any short chain of amino acids, so go for reputable brands that invest in research so you can be more confident that the peptide label isn’t all just a marketing ploy.
  • Consult your dermatologist. Because there are all sorts of different peptides, it might be challenging to read through ingredients lists of products. It’s best to talk to your dermatologist about the active ingredients you should be looking for to meet your specific skin needs.
  • Live a healthy lifestyle. The best skincare routine is a healthy lifestyle! Diets that have a lot of whole foods rich in good protein, good fats, Vitamins A and C, and low in sugar and processed foods plus enough exercise can do more for your skin than the best beauty products in the world.