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Guide to Peptides: The Cutting-Edge Miracle Skincare Ingredient?

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Peptides are one of the newest and most fascinating group of multi-talented ingredients in skincare today. While Retinol has been for a long time considered as the ‘gold standard’ for anti-aging, Peptides are so fascinating because each peptide can be created to have unique qualities which can target specific concerns in skin.

Like Retinol and Ceramides, Peptides are skin-educating/cell-communicating ingredients. Peptides tell the skin to behave in a certain way – to produce healthier or ‘normal’ skin cells. The ongoing research behind Peptides in skincare have already shown that they can address multiple concerns such as with wrinkles, loss of firmness, discolorations, dehydration, and dullness.

We hope and predict that many skincare products in the near future will be formulated with this promising ingredient, as continual research and development deliver new and exciting breakthroughs.

As we understand and learn about Peptides, there are also two other important things which are closely related to it – amino acids and protein, which are also naturally present in skin.

What are Amino Acids?

Let’s start with the smallest constituent of them all – Amino acids. These basically are the building blocks of Peptides and are found alongside Ceramides in the topmost layers of skin as part of its barrier. A healthy skin barrier allows the skin to better retain moisture and protect itself from environmental damage.

While there are many types of amino acids, there are 20 specific types which play an important role in our bodily health. These 20 amino acids are grouped into ‘essential’ & ‘non-essential’ amino acids.

Essential amino acids are those that our body cannot naturally produce, so we have to obtain them through our diet in foods or supplements. These essential amino acids are present in animal meat and by-products such as milk and eggs. The 9 essential amino acids are: histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine.

Non-essential amino acids can be produced naturally by our body, but not always so. Some of these amino acids are only produced by our bodies when we are sick or stressed. These are: alanine, arginine, asparagine, aspartic acid, cysteine, glutamic acid, glutamine, glycine, proline, serine, and tyrosine.

What are Peptides?

Now that we understand what amino acids basically are, Peptides are basically when two or more amino acids are ‘combined’ together to form a chain. In general, the different names basically denote how many amino acids are present in the peptide compound, and what other ingredients are they ‘built’ with.

E.g. Dipeptide (2 amino acids), Tripeptide (3), Hexapeptide (6), etc.

E.g. Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-7 is composed of palmitic acid and 4 amino acids; Azelaoyl Bis-Dipeptide-10 is composed of azelaic acid and 10 amino acids.

Peptides are also generally grouped into two groups – Oligopeptides and Polypeptides. Oligo means ‘few’, and Poly means ‘many’. While there is no hard rule, anything more than 50 amino acids are referred to as Polypeptides, and fewer than that – Oligopeptides. When the structure gets sufficiently large – containing hundreds of amino acids, these are then called Protein.

What are the Best Peptides for Skin?

Unfortunately, like there is no one best ingredient, there is no singular or a group of ‘best peptides’ for your skin. As with everything we formulate, we believe that the best approach to skincare is the cocktail approach – and that is how Peptides should be looked at. Especially so, as there are countless types of Peptides – both natural and synthesized, which can have unique properties to target specific concerns.

That being said, here are some useful Peptides which you can look out for or may recognize in ingredient lists:

  • Myristoyl Hexapeptide-16 and Myristoyl Pentapeptide-17

Found in many haircare products to lengthen, strengthen, and thicken eyelashes and hair. These Peptides can also relief redness while also helping skin look and feel stronger.

  • Tripeptide-1

Visibly enhances skin firmness by fostering key elements that give skin critical support. Works by promoting the production of fibroblasts in the skin which works with collagen to give skin its firmness and elasticity.

  • Palmitoyl Hexapeptide-12

Improve moisture, prompt healthier-looking skin, and smooth the look of wrinkles by promoting collagen production and stabilizing cells. This peptide is being studied for its anti-aging abilities similar to Retinol but being gentler.

  • Azelaoyl Bis-Dipeptide-10

Synthesized around Azelaic Acid, this peptide delivers whitening and brightening benefits, antioxidant benefits to protect the skin from environmental attack, and interrupts the natural aging process in skin that leads to loss of firmness.

Matrixyl® 3000

Matrixyl® 3000 is a patented mix of Peptides created by French company Sederma which can be found in many popular anti-aging products today. It’s often marketed as a “next generation” peptide blend which contains Palmitoyl Tripeptide-1 and Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-7.

Matrixyl® 3000 works by stimulating the production of collagen and hyaluronic acid in the skin. Collagen is part of the structural protein in our skin – it is what keeps skin firm and plump. As we age and are exposed to environmental and sun damage, the production of collagen naturally slows down. Not only does our skin gradually loses the ability to produce collagen, but to store it as well.

Not all manufacturers who use this peptide blend call it out on their marketing copies. But, if you find both Palmitoyl Tripeptide-1 and Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-7 on the ingredient list, then chances are it contains Matrixyl® 3000.

Copper Peptides

These raved about Peptides are basically Peptides containing copper with three amino acids (Tripeptide). Listed as Copper Tripeptide-1 on ingredient lists, they are also referenced by a few different names: GUK-Copper, GUK-Cu, or Glycyl-L-Histidyl-L-lysine peptide

The claim is that, because the copper molecule is so small, and that copper exists in skin as building blocks, copper peptides are able to penetrate into the deeper layers of skin to repair it. While copper peptide is indeed a skin-restoring ingredient which can deliver multiple anti-aging benefits, it’s not a miracle solution to all your anti-aging problems.

While there is some research around copper being potentially toxic to skin (ironically!), it revolves around the ingestion of copper and not topical application. The negative effects occur when there is an imbalance of copper in our body.

While Copper Peptides can play a positive role in your anti-aging skincare routine, it needs to have ‘friends’ in the formulation such as other peptides and antioxidants, for a product to deliver the best results for you.

PerfectionPeptide P3

Also known as Hexanoyl Dipeptide-3 Norleucine Acetate. Created by Swiss company Mibelle, this peptide works similarly to (but not a replacement of) chemical exfoliants. This peptide helps skin’s surface shed properly and increases cell turnover rate for refined, more vibrant skin. Used together with AHA and/or BHA exfoliants, it can complement to deliver more potent multi-level benefits for skin.

Side Effects of Peptides for Skin

There are no known side effects of using peptides for skin. There have been research papers about copper being potentially toxic to skin, however, this is mostly about pure copper in the body and not as a peptide applied to skin. The negative effects are only present when too much copper is present.

So, Should I use Peptides?

Peptides are indeed intriguing and are understandably the newest hype in the beauty industry. If you’re looking for an anti-aging ingredient to target multiple signs of aging, then Peptides are indeed one of the options you have today at your disposal. There are many great products in the market you can buy today which contain Retinol, Ceramides, and other potent antioxidants such as Resveratrol that can help you along your anti-aging journey.

But beyond that, a good daily skincare routine which includes exfoliation and sun protection can do so much more for you than just one product and/or ingredient. Furthermore, topical skincare can never replace what cosmetic procedures (both in-patient and out-patient), can achieve. Any brand or company which tells you so is flat out lying.

We highly recommend Peptides if:

  1. You are allergic or sensitive to Retinol. Peptides are a great alternative to Retinol, providing similar benefits and results with a lower risk of irritation.
  2. You are on prescription Retinoids like Isotretenoin or Differin for acne. We wouldn’t recommend using over-the-counter (OTC) Retinol products alongside prescription Retinoids due to the already high likelihood of irritation, dryness, and peeling. So, a peptide-product would be great if you’re looking for an anti-aging product while you’re on your course of Retinoid.
  3. Are pregnant or breastfeeding, and are looking for an anti-aging alternative for Retinol during this time.

What Peptides cannot do:

  1. Plump lips noticeably
  2. Stop skin sagging
  3. Eliminate dark circles, or puffy eyes

Introducing Our New Peptide Booster

For more of our products with Peptides, click here (Singapore), or here (Malaysia).

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