What Are Peptides?
An introduction to this skin-smoothing ingredient.
ESTHETICIAN AT ATOLLA
3 MIN READ | NOVEMBER 9, 2020
Dylan Mustapich is a NYC-based lead esthetician who has been featured in New Beauty, Teen Vogue, Wired, and The Huffington Post. With a lifelong love of all things skin, he is incredibly knowledgeable about skincare ingredients, routine refinement, and personalized skincare, and follows emerging technology closely.
Peptides are one of the most exciting yet least understood new developments in skincare. Some of you may have heard about the benefits of using peptides — namely plumped up, firmer appearing skin — while others have experienced this for themselves. However, it’s not always clearly explained how they actually function when applied to the skin. Let’s dive into what peptides are, what makes peptide ingredients special, and how to safely add them into your skincare routine.
What are peptides and how will they benefit my skin?
Peptides are the younger siblings of larger proteins like collagen and elastin. Together, these proteins are responsible for the firmness and elasticity of our skin. Collagen is the most plentiful protein in the body, making up about a third of its total protein composition, while the less abundant elastin fibers help maintain our skin’s shape and ability to bounce back. A good analogy can be found in your bed, with collagen acting as the bed frame, and elastin the mattress springs.
Our body’s natural collagen production begins to decrease as we get older, and is impacted by environmental factors such as sun exposure, pollution, your diet, stress, and smoking. While collagen is often touted by some skincare brands as a “hero” ingredient, the molecules are often too large to absorb into the skin. Products containing collagen have the ability to moisturize, but they are not really the most effective at hydrating the skin. Including it in serums and moisturizers is often more about hype than actual skin benefits.
The way some peptides work is by sending messages to the skin that trigger cells to perform specific functions such as increasing the production of collagen and decreasing inflammation. Many dermatologists and estheticians recommend using a peptide product post-treatment for this reason. The goal with regular use is to keep our skin cells working as efficiently as possible.
What’s special about our peptide?
The type of bioactive tripeptide we are introducing in our individually customized serums acts to block a protein that accelerates cell-aging (progerin) and inhibit an enzyme that digests our skin’s elastin (elastase). This allows our skin cells to function better, and over time can achieve a mild plumping or mild firming effect.
We are also including the powerhouse antioxidant coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) in our peptide formulations, which helps protect collagen and elastin from skin-damaging free radicals. It is naturally found in the skin, and is a potent energy source that helps power its biological functions.
How do I safely incorporate peptides into my routine?
Peptides are fairly easy to add into an existing skincare routine. They play well with most other skincare ingredients, including oils, antioxidants, hyaluronic acid, and niacinamide.
The only products to avoid are leave-on Alpha-Hydroxy Acid (AHA) and Beta-Hydroxy Acid (BHA) exfoliants immediately before or after application, as they reduce the effectiveness of the peptides, though the combination is not necessarily detrimental to the skin. Overall, peptides are generally well tolerated by most, and are not known to cause irritation or leave your skin more sensitive to the sun.
- Peptides: Amino acids that form the components of larger proteins in the skin such as collagen and elastin.
- Collagen: Structural proteins found in skin and other connective tissue.
- Elastin: Proteins forming elastic connective tissue in the dermis of the skin.
- Enzyme (Elastase): Breaks down proteins such as Elastin.
- Antioxidants: Ingredients that inhibit oxidation, a chemical reaction producing free radicals.
- AHA (Alpha Hydroxy Acids): Water-soluble exfoliating acids like Glycolic, Lactic, and Citric acids.
- BHA (Beta-Hydroxy Acids): Oil-soluble exfoliating acids like Salicylic Acid.
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