What are peptides? How do they make you look younger?
Skin is made up mostly of collagen; it is the foundation that gives your skin its support and thickness. Collagen holds cells together. It’s the foundation of our skin as well as other tissues. Young people have lots of collagen and their skin is taut, thicker and smooth. Thicker skin wrinkles and sags less. In contrast, older people have much less collagen resulting in thin, wrinkled skin with less volume—a visible sign of aging. Of course, people who have abused their skin with excess, unprotected sun exposure will have even less collagen and skin volume and more damage and wrinkles along with age spots and increased skin cancers.
Stimulating the production of collagen would thus result in some reversal in the appearance of age in these patients. There would be more skin thickness, less wrinkles and sagging and more volume.
Collagen is a protein made of amino acids strung together. Short segments of 3-5 amino acids are called peptides. Peptides are actually mini-proteins and are active molecules and are quite effective, which is why they are found in higher quality skin products.
How do Peptides work?
Here are two ways that peptides claim to improve wrinkles and make you look younger:
1. Peptides signal your skin to produce more collagen.
Collagen is destroyed from aging as well as various hazards we are exposed to such as UV light, smoking, pesticides and poor diet habits, and it is not replaced. As a result young looking, smooth skin becomes thin, wrinkled, saggy and de-volumized over time.
One strategy to improve winkles and to make you look younger is to replace lost collagen. Thicker skin does not wrinkle as much with animation. Peptides are formed when collagen breaks down, and these peptides act as a signal to tell your skin that the collagen is damaged and to make new collagen. In addition, these peptides stimulate the production of glycosaminoglycans, which is the ground substance between particles such as collagen, the cells, and elastin which hold these particles together. This also adds volume to the skin, which we now know is important in reducing wrinkles and other signs of aging.
Thus, applying certain absorbable peptides directly to your skin is a way to trick your skin into thinking that it has lost collagen and that it needs to make more. The most popular “signal” peptide for cosmetic is Matrixyl (ispalmitoyl pentapeptide). It is found in many peptide skin products and has been shown to be effective in improving the appearance of fine lines.
2. Neuropeptides that may act like Botox
Theoretically, some peptides might block transmission of impulses from nerves to your facial muscles. A neuropeptide called argireline, one of the earliest peptides used in skin products, has been shown in the laboratory to block the release of neurotransmitters from nerves. For Argireline to be effective, it must be absorbed all the way through the skin to the level of the muscle so that it can block contraction of the muscle, much like Botox. However, up to now, there is no scientific evidence of its efficacy. The absorbed dose may not concentrated enough. There are plenty of anecdotal stories of their efficacy but essentially no good published scientific data. Although they sound great, until there are good studies to show they actually work, there are better alternatives, in my opinion.
There are some peptides that actually have no benefit. Peptides are break-down products of proteins, and have to be broken down to the proper combination of amino-acids to be effective. In some cases they are not effectively stabilized and they might continue to break down further when used in a topical cream becoming useless. Also, they must be in a high enough concentration and in a cream or serum that allows them to penetrate the skin. If a very excellent peptide is in a thick cream that only sits on the surface and cannot penetrate, it will lose all of its benefits, even though it may be an effective peptide.
Thus, the peptides that signal skin to produce more collagen seem to be the most beneficial for the purpose of turning back the clock on aging skin. We are changing our peptide in our Peptide body Lotion to Matrixel, and are soon to have a high potency Anti-Wrinkle Serum with Matrixel as well as other important ingredients. We continue to remain on the leading edge of ingredients for our New Youth products to achieve the very best in anti-aging creams and serums.
E. Ronald Finger, M.D
Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery