Peptides are the building blocks of proteins, including collagen, elastin and keratin, which are responsible for the skin’s structure, strength and resilience. They also act as a messenger, triggering cells to perform specific functions, encouraging skin to look and feel younger.
There are many naturally-occurring peptides of varying complexity, and a wide range of essential biological functions they fulfil. Generally, they are shorter than proteins (a chain of more than 50 amino acids), and less well-defined in structure, although the N-terminal end of peptides can often form a disulfide bond with cysteines present in adjoining chains, resulting in secondary, tertiary or quaternary structures.
They are synthesised by cells as longer “propeptides” or “proproteins” and then truncated prior to exiting the cell, where they are released into the bloodstream. Peptides include hormones such as oxytocin and glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1), which are known to reduce hunger, as well as growth factors, inflammatory mediators and immune modulators.
For these reasons, and their unrivalled ability to penetrate the skin, peptides are currently the darlings of the cosmetic industry. However, there are some things you should be aware of before taking a peptide supplement. Talk to your doctor before starting a peptide-based treatment, particularly if you have any medical condition or are pregnant or breastfeeding. And make sure the product is formulated by a reputable company that follows medical and pharmacological guidelines, rather than fly-by-night manufacturers. This will help ensure you get the maximum benefit and avoid side effects.