Innovative peptides, their role in skincare

The skincare industry is so saturated with miracle ingredients and buzzwords and lofty promises to take years off your face, its sometimes difficult to separate fact from fiction.

But these innovative peptides should bot be overlooked, as they are important performance specific ingredients for your skin.

Each one is designed to communicate a different skincare role; such as firming the skin, improving skin colour, making new fibroblasts, and calming inflammation.

With so many available on the market, knowing how to use them properly and what products to pair them with can be a little daunting, so here is a peptide protocol – as to what they can do, what they can’t, and how to spot them:

What are peptides

If the skin is injured, proteases break down the tissue that is damaged into different peptide fragments. These peptides then act as little messengers, signaling the skin to produce different types of tissue that promote healing. So what does all this mean exactly? In order to understand this, we are going to have to get a bit technical.

Topically applying peptides can trick the skin into thinking that it’s injured and needs to make additional types of proteins.

The peptides will typically contain an active amino acid sequence that can induce or inhibit the formation of a specific type of protein. These short-chain amino acids are combined within formations that create peptides – and when peptides are formed in a certain way they make specific proteins that are responsible for the production of elastin, keratin, and collagen which give us our foundational support for healthy skin.

The five different peptides and their role on the skin

In skincare five different peptides are used; carrier peptides, signaling peptides, enzyme-inhibiting peptides, antimicrobial, and neurotransmitter inhibiting peptides.

Antimicrobial peptides: The cutaneous production of antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) is a primary system for protection, they form the first line of defense against infection and play an important role in balancing the homeostasis of the immune system. Our skin is constantly challenged by microbes when we topically apply small, cationic peptides, they interact with the anionic phospholipid membrane of the ski providing a broad-spectrum microbicidal activity against both bacteria and fungi, they also improve barrier homeostasis, modulate inflammation responses, and promote wound healing. This is why peptides are an extremely important part of our skin health and vital for rebuilding the barrier function, which is why you can find it in our DNA age delay complex. There is growing evidence that AMPs might contribute to overcoming the problems of antibiotic resistance, so this may be the antidote when working with severely damaged skin.

Carrier peptides: These act as facilitators, transporting important trace elements including Copper and Manganese to the skin which is necessary for wound healing and enzymatic processes. This is discussed below when we look at the ingredient copper peptide.

Enzyme-inhibitor peptides: These clever peptides inhibit enzymes in the skin. Enzymes such as tyrosinase stimulate the matrix metalloproteases (MMPs 1, 2, and 9) which can degrade tissue and cause it to pigment, so topically applying certain enzyme inhibitors can lighten pigmentation issues.

Neurotransmitter peptides: Neurotransmitter inhibitors mimic botulinum neurotoxins. Similar to Botox in a bottle they inhibit acetylcholine, a chemical that activates muscle movements, relaxing the contractions of facial expression muscles and significantly reducing certain types of wrinkles such as crow’s feet and laughter lines.

Signaling peptides: These peptides contain an active amino acid sequence that inhibits or induces the formation of specific proteins in the skin, telling our skin to behave in a certain way such as boosting collagen and elastin.

The role of peptides

I liken peptides to a ‘light switch,’ sending signals and turning off and on specific functions. They are the building blocks in our skin, they build and repair our cells and support key cellular functions. Research has shown these innovative peptides have a number of roles on the skin:

  • stimulates collagen and elastin – our internal scaffolding
  • improves hyperpigmentation, stimulating the melanocyte-stimulating hormone (MSH)
  • calms inflammation demonstrating a remarkable skin-soothing effect
  • encourages thrombospondin I (THBS1) a glycoprotein that mediates cell-to-cell and cell-to-matrix interactions
  • increases the amount of water-binding substances in the skin, boosting humectants such as hyaluronic acid
  • encourages epidermal growth factor (EGF) making them ideal for improving changes in skin texture, or skin that is newly scarred or that has been traumatised
  • research shows they encourage dermal fibroblasts – granulocyte-macrophage stimulating factors (GM-CSF), which boosts collagen synthesis while increasing the production of extracellular matrix proteins, actively encouraging the skin to behave like younger skin

Types of peptides

There are a number of innovative peptides available, each sequence is thought to stimulate the skin in a different way:

Palmitoyl Pentapeptide
Also known as Matrixyl, this is the most common peptide used in skincare. The result of this anti ageing peptide is quite remarkable, it tricks the skin’s tissues into thinking that collagen has broken down, so that it produces more, resulting in a reduction in wrinkles and plump, youthful glowing skin.

Acetyl hexapeptide – 3
This Peptide is also known commercially as Argireline. This Peptide works by inhibiting the binding proteins that create tension in the dermis, which is what causes our skin to wrinkle

The clinical results of this peptide’s inhibitory effect on neurotransmitter release reduce subconscious muscle movement over time. When it is delivered to specific targeted facial muscles, a decrease in dynamic facial lines and wrinkles have been demonstrated, making it the perfect treatment for ageing skin.

Argireline is also especially marketed as a component of eye care products and a 5% cream applied twice daily demonstrated a 27% decrease in the condition periorbital rhytids after 30 days.

(GHK-Cu) Copper tripeptide
This is one of the most researched peptides when it comes to wound healing and skin repair.

It has a real affinity with the skin and strengthens the extracellular matrix. The study showed that after just one-month copper tripeptide had the most significant effect on collagen production when compared with Retinoic acid and Vitamin C. a major increase of collagen production as much as 70% was gound in the people treated with copper peptide formula, 50% of those treated with Vitamin c and 40% of those treated with Retinoic acid.

It acts as signal and carrier peptide, promoting regular collagen and elastin production, as well as, proteoglycan, and glycosaminoglycan synthesis, it also provides an anti-inflammatory response, making it ideal for an impaired barrier function.

This Peptide is really effective at treating eye puffiness, combined with Acetyl Hexapeptide-8, it has great results with reducing fine lines and strengthening the skin around the eyes.

Palmitoyl Oligopeptide and Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide
These are two innovative peptides, which are combined in skincare products to also work around the eyes, reducing the appearance of dark circles. If you are interested in finding out more about ingredients that can help with dark circles, follow this link.

The naked truth

So as we can see the exciting thing about Peptides, is they literally change the skin’s behavior, in order to improve the skin’s appearance, they can also be combined with other performance agents and products, to help reduce the signs of ageing.
It is important to note that occasional periodic use of peptides in formulas is not advisable; in order for them to be truly effective, they have to be used religiously as part of a continuous home care routine, only then can you expect to see amasing results, in the reduction of UV damage and age-related concerns.


  1. Published Studies on GHK. Bellevue (WA): Skin Biology; c.2016 [accessed 2016 Jun 1].

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