The short chains of amino acids that comprise peptides are the building blocks of proteins such as collagen, elastin and keratin—the foundational elements of healthy skin. They help to keep the skin looking and feeling young. But as we age, the body slows down its protein generation, which results in a loss of firmness, a change in texture and less of that “bounce.” In skincare, peptides act as little messengers to help revitalize these building blocks and encourage the skin to look more youthful.
As far as the structure of peptides, they’re made up of two or more amino acids that are linked together through disulfide bonds. Insulin and IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor) are two examples of peptide hormones, which have multiple roles in the body related to metabolic homeostasis.
Peptides can be found in foods, such as egg yolks or whey protein. They’re also used in the development of pharmaceuticals and medical devices, including blood thinners, cancer drugs, antibiotics and analgesics.
When it comes to peptides in skincare, they’re known for their anti-aging effects, notably by helping to stimulate collagen and elastin production, which helps firm and tighten the appearance of skin, smooth out fine lines and wrinkles and even out skin tone. They also promote a strong and healthy barrier, support wound healing and help skin resist oxidative stress. Some peptides have even been shown to exhibit mild Botox-like activity, relaxing muscles and smoothing out the look of fine lines.