If you’re at all familiar with peptides, you’ll know the ingredient is banded about the beauty sphere as a miracle anti-ageing ingredient.
It has been likened to Botox; it has been compared to retinol; it’s been incorporated into skincare products the world over: but does it really work?
Let me start by saying, there is no topical skincare product currently in existence that will miraculously turn back the clock, and there is less scientific evidence available on peptides versus some of the more established components like your acids and your vitamin As. That said, these amino acids can play a role in signalling your skin to produce more collagen and elastin. That’s why they deserve a place in your bathroom cabinet.
We consulted Dr Natalie Geary, one of the leading aesthetic doctors in the UK and founder of The Light Touch Clinic to find out more.
What are peptides?
Peptides are a short string of amino acids that are linked by a peptide bond and when organised within complex structures, peptides become proteins. Peptides have several distinct functions depending on their configuration. Peptides are found naturally in the skin, but as time progresses they become less effective. That is why they are beneficial to be used within skincare, allowing your skin to have an extra boost when natural productions start to drop.
What do peptides do and why are they used in skincare?
Due to the variety of different peptides, each contribute to different roles within the body. Peptides have many uses within skincare, with the most beneficial being giving your skin a boost.
Anti-ageing benefits: Collagen peptides help to produce collagen and elastin, all of which are proteins found in healthy skin. An antimicrobial peptide found within the skin may help aid the production of melanin and contributes to skin whitening - therefore a synthetic version may help with hyperpigmentation and discoloration damage. Peptides can support in diminishing fine lines, wrinkles and redness.
Skin barrier improvement: Antimicrobial peptides studies have shown that they can help your body fight bacteria and contribute towards wound healing.
Antioxidants: Peptides have been proven to help repair damaged skin.
Skin hydration: If you suffer from dry skin, using peptides within your skincare can help provide a fresh and revitalised appearance.
Firm and tighten the skin: Peptides, amongst other things, help firm and tighten the skin.
Skin beautification: Peptides can sense that your skin needs a pick-me up and get to work.
Redness: Peptides can work by lessening the appearance of occasional redness within the skin. If you suffer from rosacea or flushed skin, then using a product containing peptides can help by targeting that area and reducing the redness on the surface of the skin.
How do peptides differ from retinol?
Both retinols and peptides have the potential to improve skin’s quality and appearance over time. Even though retinols are incredible exfoliators, they require caution when exposed to UV rays. As you can only use them at night, retinols act very slowly.
Peptides on the other hand produce faster results if they are compatible with your skin type. Peptides do require a little more research due to the many different varieties within the peptide family, however consulting a dermatologist will fasten the process of pinpointing what works for you.
Peptides work for those who have sensitive skin as they are less invasive than retinol. So, you can use peptides alongside other skincare ingredients without having to be concerned whether you will get a negative reaction. Retinol is used in anti-aging products due to its strength, so mixing ingredients with this can cause a reaction and is not recommended.
What is the best product type to include peptides in?
Use a product that you can leave on your skin for a prolonged period like a moisturiser to allow the peptides to penetrate the skin throughout the day and evening - do not leave out the eyes. By including an eye cream with peptides within, you are ensuring that the lines and wrinkles around the eye area, as well as the dark circles are being targeted. The same for face creams - ensure that your peptide eye product remains on the skin for some time to allow the ingredients to penetrate fully. Applying at night is recommended.
Which ingredients should you pair with peptides?
Hyaluronic acid: The pair make a potent skin duo and can remain highly effective whilst ensuring the protective barrier remains healthy and in its happiest state. You will also find that hyaluronic acid is able to benefit from being layered with a peptide serum as it will absorb the water found in the formulation and lock it into place.
Peptides are great for anti-ageing; however, they do not replace products such as retinol that are strong active ingredient-based products. You will want to incorporate both retinol and peptides into your nightly routine. You can use them together at night, or just use peptides throughout the morning and daytime and then retinol in the evening.
Shop the best peptide products below
Paula’s Choice Peptide Booster
Within this serum, the experts over at Paula’s Choice pack eight age-defying peptides that address specific concerns. The targeted ingredients tackle fine lines and wrinkles, discolouration, uneven skin tone and counteract a dull in luminoisity, communicating with your skin to boost its own reparative capabilities. How’s that for scientific?
There is also amino acids, antioxidants and the inclusion of hydrating components so that you get a boost in your complexion in every which way and to ensure that the product can be used by all skin types, including those with sensitivites.
Buy now £51.00, Paula’s Choice
Allies of Skin Peptides & Antioxidants Firming Daily Treatment
If you are familiar with the anti-ageing powerhouse that is retinol, you will know that you take a gradual approach to increase your skin’s tolerance (while some may not be able to use at all). By involving peptides in the formula, the product from Allies of Skin still provides that fine line-busting effect but in a daily treatment that is much easier to incorporate into your routine.
This is a reparative solution that uses the brand’s signature complex that includes antioxidants and brightening agents to restore the complexion. Think of it like a leave-on mask that boasts the same easy-to-incorporate texture of a moisturiser, feeling velvety soft. Use morning and night and be sure to bask in the glow, plumpness and hydration that it provides.
Buy now £105.00, Space NK
Drunk Elephant Protini Polypeptide Cream
Drunk Elephant is up there with the most hyped about beauty labels, renowned for its no-nasties approach to product formulation. The entire line-up has been created without any SLS, silicones, essential oils, fragrances or anything that can cause skin irritation, instead opting for biocompatible actives that are either synthetic or derived from plants.
This water-gel moisturiser is a bestseller for a reason. It is brimming with amino acids, growth factors and of course peptides that combine to offer firming, hydrated and revived effects. There are nine of these specialised signalling peptides to get to work from the very first application in seeing to fine lines, wrinkles, sun damage and loss of elastin.
It has the seemingly miraculous ability to be both lightweight in texture yet highly nourishing - this is one you’ll be repurchasing for years to come.
Buy now £59.00, Cult Beauty
Biossance Squalane + Copper Peptide Rapid Plumping Serum
Every product in the Biossance collection features squalane - a hugely moisturising ingredient that mimics that of squalene, a compound found naturally in the skin to hydrate and protect.
In this supercharged serum, the component - derived from renewable sugarcane - is included alongside copper peptide that is designed to boost collagen and elastin production for firmer and plumper skin respectively. To up the injection of moisture that extra step further, there’s also hyaluronic acid and and polyglutamic acid for long-lasting hydration.
The texture is of a thicker gel that smooths and absorbs quickly into skin without leaving a tight, sticky feeling.
Buy now £52.00, Space NK
Kate Somerville Peptide K8 Cream
This moisturiser from Kate Somerville is a godsend to parched complexions. Whether it’s air con, central heating or the ever-changing weather that has got your skin dry, dull and down in the dumps, this high-performing cream is on hand to turn it all around. The combination of babassu and hemp seed oils offer nourishment and leaves skin looking bouncy and soft - a feat further enhanced by the complex at its heart.
It has been formulated to be rich in peptides as well as oligopeptides and ceramides to smooth out fine lines and wrinkles. Each application feels like a luxury experience and the effects speak for themselves - you just need to be consistent with usage. Layer up with SPF and even makeup as it sits nicely underneath without causing pilling and flaking.
Buy now £132.00, Kate Somerville
The Ordinary “Buffet” + Copper Peptides 1%
The Ordinary has reformulated this product to now include copper peptides in the ingredient line-up. As with the case of the entirety of the brand’s collection, it offers a far more cost-friendly way to incorporate powerhouse solutions into your bathroom cabinet. The serum includes a concentration of pure copper peptides as it is found in human plasma in order to boost collagen and anti-inflammatory responses. It also gives the formula a blue hue.
The copper peptides are placed alongside the original “Buffet” complex that includes the label’s Matrixyl 3,000 peptide complex to further minimise the signs of ageing and support the health of your complexion. The product is lightweight but can feel sticky on application so is best suited to makeup-free days or nighttime.
Buy now £28.90, Space NK
SUMMER FRIDAYS Light Aura Vitamin C and Peptide Eye Cream
For the delicate under-eye area, SUMMER FRIDAYS has your peptide hit covered. The gentle formula punches above its weight in terms of the firming, hydrating and depuffing properties that it provides.
While the star ingredient brings much-needed proteins like collagen that depletes as we get older, glow-giving vitamin C brings the radiance. It is also hugely moisturising, has caffeine to encourage blood flow and the soothing cocktail of allantoin and vitamin E act as redness reducers.
Buy now £40.00, Cult Beauty
111SKIN Celestial Black Diamond Contour Gel
One of the best parts of this product from 111SKIN is the cooling applicator tip. This allows the product to work like a targeted treatment for areas of concern like crow’s feet or laughter lines to bring a concentrated hit to ease deep-set lines.
From the science-backed label, it coats the complexion in a high-performance gel that contains a combination of anti-ageing components like Argireline, a form of hexapeptide that is compared to botulinum extract (botox) in the way it can freeze muscle contraction - no needles necessary - as well as the complex Matrixyl3000 that is rich in peptide goodness. There’s also retinol and antioxidant-rich rosehip.
Buy now £110.00, Space NK
Medik8 Bakuchiol Peptides
Medik8 places two of the most buzzed about beauty ingredients at the heart of this serum. First and foremost, you have bakuchiol that is lauded for its similar anti-ageing effects to retinol but while remaining natural and kinder to the complexion. This makes it a great alternative for those with more sensitive skin types as well as for pregnancy and nursing.
There is 1.25 per cent of pure bakuchiol that is combined with peptide precursors to add a luminosity and the added bonus of cica extract that is beloved for its ability to calm and soothe aggrevated skin. All of these combined gets you an effective way to leave you with a healthy, youthful skin without any downtime.
Buy now £39.95, FeelUnique
Wishful Honey Whip Peptide Moisturizer
You can find a version of the Wishful Honey Whip moisturiser without the addition of peptides but why not incorporate the firming ingredient into your skincare routine? What do you have to lose?
From the brain behind Huda Beauty, the Wishful skincare range is made up of hero products of which this is certainly one. The hydrating and sealing part of your skincare routine is enriched with a winning cocktail of antioxidant-rich manuka honey, calming cica, collagen for youthful skin and peptides that gets to work on fine lines.
You should see smoother, hydrated and plumped skin in just under two weeks of use.
Buy now £37.00, FeelUnique
The INKEY List Peptide Moisturizer
Flood the skin with moisture, while benefitting from the amino acid goodness of peptides with this moisturiser from The INKEY List. The product puts peptides front and centre with this formula and contains a duo that encourages the your skin’s natural creation of collagen and has a hydrating effect.
The formula is lightweight, which makes it ideal for the summer months but if you’re looking for something ultra-nourshing, layer over a hyaluronic acid serum or richer textured moisturiser.
Buy now £14.89, FeelUnique