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Innovative peptides, their role in skincare

The skincare industry is so saturated with miracle ingredients and buzzwords.

With lofty claims promising to take years off your face.

It is sometimes difficult to separate fact from fiction, but innovative peptides should bot be overlooked, they are important performance specific ingredients for your skin.

Each one is designed to communicate a different role; such as firming your 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 your skin is injured, proteases break down the tissue that is damaged into different peptide fragments. These peptides then act as little messengers, signalling your skin to produce different tissue types that promote healing.

So what does all of this mean? Applying peptides topically can trick your 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. When peptides are formed in a certain way, they make specific proteins responsible for elastin, keratin, and collagen, which give us the foundational support for healthy skin.

The five different peptides

In skincare, five different peptides are used; carrier peptides, signalling 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 defence against infection and play an important role in balancing the immune system’s homeostasis.

Microbes constantly challenge your skin. When you topically apply small, cationic peptides, they interact with your skin’s anionic phospholipid membrane, providing a broad-spectrum microbicidal activity against both bacteria and fungi. Peptides also help to improve barrier homeostasis, modulate inflammation responses, and promote wound healing.

This is why peptides are an essential part of your skin health and vital for rebuilding your barrier function. There is growing evidence that AMPs might overcome antibiotic resistance problems, which 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 your skin, 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 your 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. Like 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.

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

The role of peptides

We liken peptides to a ‘light switch’, sending signals and turning off and on specific functions. They are the building blocks in your skin; building and repairing cells and supporting key cellular functions; research has shown these innovative peptides have several different roles on the skin:

  • stimulates collagen and elastin – your 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 your 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 your skin to behave like younger skin

Types of peptides

There are several innovative peptides available; each sequence is thought to stimulate your skin differently:

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 your skin’s tissues into thinking that collagen has broken down, so that it produces more, resulting in a reduction in wrinkles, whilst plumping your skin.

Acetyl hexapeptide – 3

This Peptide is known commercially as Argireline; it works by inhibiting the binding proteins that create tension in the dermis, which causes your skin to wrinkle. The clinical results of this peptide’s inhibitory effect on neurotransmitter release reduce subconscious muscle movement over time. A decrease in dynamic facial lines and wrinkles has been demonstrated when delivered to specific targeted facial muscles, making it the perfect treatment for ageing skin.

Argireline is also especially marketed as a component of eye care products; 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 your 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 found in the people treated with a copper peptide formula, 50% of those treated with Vitamin c and 40% of those treated with Retinoic acid.

This peptide 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. For this reason, we use this in our DNA age delay complex.


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 your eyes.

Palmitoyl oligopeptide and palmitoyl tetrapeptide

These are two innovative peptides combined in skincare products to work around the eyes, reducing the appearance of dark circles if you are keen to find out more about ingredients that can help with dark circles and follow the link.


So as you can see, the exciting thing about Peptides is that they literally change your skin’s behaviour and be combined with other performance agents to help reduce visible signs of ageing.

It is important to note, that occasional periodic use of peptides in formulas is not advisable; for them to be truly effective they have to be used religiously as part of a continuous skincare routine, only then can you expect to see amazing results.


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

4 thoughts on “Innovative peptides, their role in skincare

  1. Tea says:

    What’s your opinion on the interaction of Vitamin C and copper peptides? Concerns have been raised about the effects lost of using them together. Also,warning have been made not to use copper peptides with AHA,BHA or retinoids? Is it true? Thank you so much.

    • Samantha Miller says:

      Hi Whilst we do promote the use of active anti-ageing cosmeceuticals to target expression lines and other signs of ageing, we recommend that each ingredient be used at the opposite time of day from each other, or alternated and never combine these ingredients in one formula. You have to remember they get results for a reason because they are active on your skin. Samantha

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