Learn all about the benefits of peptides for your complexion and the peptide skin-care products worth adding to your regimen.
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The Anti-Aging Benefits of Peptides In Your Skin-Care Products
Credit: Photo by Ron Lach from Pexels

In the world of anti-aging skin-care ingredients, there are some major players experts talk about all the time: retinol, hyaluronic acid, and antioxidants. And while peptides aren't necessarily always at the top of the list, they're more commonly used (and more effective) than you may think. Here, top dermatologists answer all of your burning questions, including the exact benefits of peptides for your skin and how to add them to your routine.

The Benefits of Peptides for Skin

"Peptides are a collection of short-chain amino acids that are the foundation of all proteins in your body, of which there are many," says Jeremy Brauer, M.D., a dermatologist in New York. "In your skin, collagen and elastin are the proteins responsible for a plump and firm appearance. More collagen and elastin means fewer wrinkles and greater skin resiliency."

Peptides play an intricate role, but boiled down, they deliver instructional messages and ingredients to your cells so that they increase production of these proteins. And you can spark this activity with peptide-infused skin care. "Unlike collagen itself as an ingredient, these molecules are small enough to permeate the skin's outermost layer and be effective," says Dr. Brauer.

There are various types of peptides that can be included in skin care, each performing a unique function. The most common are signal peptides, which tell your skin cells to shift into repair mode so that they increase collagen production. There are also carrier peptides. These hook themselves to another ingredient, like retinol, vitamin C, or a hydrator, to deliver it deeper into the skin cells, says Joshua Zeichner, M.D., a dermatologist in New York. Other peptides block the enzymes in our body that degrade collagen.

Who Should Use Peptides?

You probably haven't met anyone who doesn't want smoother, firmer skin. So really, anyone can benefit from using them, even as a preventative measure. The biggest pro when it comes to peptides: Pretty much anyone and everyone can use them. Unlike many other collagen-boosting ingredients — such as retinoids and vitamin C, which can often have irritating side effects — peptides are generally fairly well tolerated by everyone, says Dhaval Bhanusali, M.D., a dermatologist based in New York City. While you should always check with your ob-gyn, they're typically okay to use during pregnancy, too. (Related: Safe Skin-Care Products for Pregnant Women)

How to Incorporate Peptides Into Your Skin-Care Routine

Choosing a peptide product can be tricky because it's tough to determine what you're actually getting. "Given that you can call any short chain of amino acids a 'peptide,' many of the products out there tend to be more about marketing hype than actual efficacy," says Dr. Bhanusali.

To ensure you're getting the most bang for your buck — and scoring all the benefits of peptides for skin — he suggests choosing peptide products from science-based brands that conduct studies to back up their claims. And while you can find peptides in all kinds of topicals, Dr. Bhanusali and Rhonda Klein, M.D., partner at Modern Dermatology of Connecticut, agree that it's best to look for them in a serum. Not only will these contain a higher concentration of peptides, they're also better able to penetrate the skin than thicker moisturizers. (Here's the entire low-down on why serums are oh-so-good for your complexion.)

It's also helpful to seek out specific types of peptides, depending on your skin goals, says Dr. Klein. Hexapeptides have a relaxing effect on your facial muscles, helping to minimize movement and the formation of wrinkles in a way similar to Botox; pentapeptides induce and stimulate new collagen growth; palmitoyl oligopeptide and palmitoyl tetrapeptide-7 promote the production of collagen and hyaluronic acid, fight inflammation, and help protect against UV damage; copper peptides enhance regeneration and healing, as well as increase skin elasticity and firmness.

So, which peptide-infused skin-products are worth adding to your regimen? Dr. Klein and Dr. Bhanusali recommend Alastin Restorative Skin Complex (Buy It, $195, alastin.com), a daily facial serum that helps combat all visible signs of aging, and PCA ExLinea Peptide Smoothing Serum (Buy It, $117, dermstore.com), a serum with peptides, hyaluronic acid, and vitamin E to minimize fine lines. To score those Botox-like hexapeptides, try No7 Laboratories Line Correcting Booster Serum (Buy It, $42, ulta.com), and for inflammation-fighting  palmitoyl oligopeptide and palmitoyl tetrapeptide-7, use Peter Thomas Roth Un-Wrinkle Turbo Face Serum (Buy It, $150, peterthomasroth.com)

These days, skin-care brands are also leveraging the powers of different peptides and combining them with other beneficial actives. Dr. Zeichner recommends Bliss Bright Idea Vitamin C + Tri-Peptide Collagen Protecting & Brightening Serum (Buy It, $20, amazon.com), which pairs a signal peptide with vitamin C to firm and brighten. If you have sensitive skin, we like Revision Skincare DEJ Face Cream (Buy It, $100, dermstore.com), which includes two peptides (acetyl tetrapeptide-2 and palmitoyl hexapeptide-14) and hyaluronic acid to smooth fine lines, soothe, and hydrate. Apply to clean skin as part of your morning and evening routines.

Alastin Restorative Skin Complex
PCA SKIN ExLinea Peptide Smoothing Serum
No7 Laboratories Line Correcting Booster Serum
Peter Thomas Roth Un-Wrinkle Turbo Face Serum
Bliss Bright Idea Vitamin C + Tri-Peptide Collagen Protecting & Brightening Serum
Revision Skincare DEJ Face Cream

Should You Eat Your Peptides to Boost Your Skin?

After recognizing the potential of these anti-aging skin heroes, a slew of ingestible powders and gummies have hit the market (think: like collagen powders).

"Consuming peptides or hydrolyzed collagen [intact collagen is too large of a molecule to absorb] might be beneficial to our skin and body," says Dr. Zeichner. "There just hasn't been enough strong research to make a clear conclusion. But collagen is hydrating, so it may help soften and moisturize skin." Try sustainably sourced Dose & Co. Collagen Peptides (Buy It, $23, amazon.com) and Ancient Nutrition Multi Collagen Protein (Buy It, $40, amazon.com).

The Bottom Line On Peptides

At the end of the day, the benefits of peptides for your skin run aplenty, and you have nothing to lose by incorporating them into your existing anti-aging regimen. While retinoids remain the wrinkle-fighting gold standard, if you can't tolerate them, peptides are a great replacement. But, even if you're already using a retinoid, a peptide-based product will be a nice complement to your current skin-care lineup.