What are peptides and why do I need them in my anti-aging routine?

I talk about anti-aging frequently here on the blog. A good number of the products recommended to fight the signs of aging contain peptides. Most of us have heard the word "peptides" and know we're supposed to use them in our anti-aging routine, but what are they and why should we use them? How do they work?

bottle of The Ordinary Matrixyl 10%

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Today I'll do my best to make the answers to these questions "user-friendly" and not sound like a chemistry lesson!

What is a peptide?
In the most basic explanation possible: Peptides are fragments of proteins made up of amino acids. When you see a prefix (tri-, tetra-, oligo-) attached to -peptide, it indicates the number of bonds (amino acids) present. So palmitoyl tripeptide-38 (Matrixyl synthe'6) has three bonds, acetyl hexapeptide-8 (Argireline) has six bonds, and so on.

How do peptides work?
Different peptides do different things. Matrixyl (commonly used in anti-aging products) works by "tricking" the skin into thinking it has been damaged and needs to make more collagen. For those of us who have mature skin in which collagen production has slowed down, this is very important in keeping skin firm. Other peptides, like Argireline, work by blocking neurotransmitters to the muscles - which makes contractions weaker and allows the muscle to relax. This can help diminish lines caused by repetitive facial movements in areas such as crow's feet and the forehead.

bottle of The Ordinary "Buffet"

Some of the more common anti-aging peptides and how they work:

Matrixyl™ 3000 (palmitoyl oligopeptide & palmitoyl tetrapeptide-7): made up of two peptides that trick the skin into thinking that there is damage that needs to be repaired, causing the skin to make more collagen. There is also the original Matrixyl (palmitoyl pentapeptide, but Matrixyl 3000 is supposed to be more potent. (This can be found in products like The Ordinary's Matrixyl 10% + HA, their "Buffet" serum, and Timeless Matrixyl 3000 Serum.)

Matrixyl™ synthe'6™ (palmitoyl tripeptide-38): acts on skin cells, triggering collagen remodeling and repair, as well as hyaluronic acid production. Basically, it makes the skin behave more like it did when it was younger, which allows it to rebuild from the inside out. (This is found in products like The Ordinary's "Buffet" serum and Timeless Synthe'6 Serum.)

Argireline (acetyl hexapeptide-8): blocks signals from nerves to the muscles, which prevents the muscle from contracting. Limiting the contraction of the muscle helps reduce lines/wrinkles that were caused by the repetitive movements of those muscles. (Found in products like The Ordinary's Argireline 10% Solution.)

Argirelox™ (acetyl hexapeptide-8, pentapeptide-18): also works by reducing the contraction of the muscles. The manufacturer says that there is almost three times as great wrinkle reduction when used in conjunction with Botox (using it between injections). (You can find this in products like The Ordinary's "Buffet" serum.)

Syn®-Ake (dipeptide diaminobutyroyl benzylamide diacetate or tripeptide-3): relaxes the muscles that create wrinkles by blocking neurotransmissions between nerves and muscles. Some studies have shown that this has a greater effect than Argireline. (Found in products like The Ordinary's "Buffet" serum, Platinum Skin Care's Synake Complex 50.

Palmitoyl Pentapeptide-4 (also called "Matrixyl and Palmitoyl Pentapeptide-3"): small molecule that easily penetrates skin, communicating with cells and programming them to do things like repair. One study found that this peptide is as effective as retinol on sun damage, but without the side effects, while other studies showed various improvements in wrinkles. (This is found in products like Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Serum and Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Cream.)

bottle of The Ordinary Argireline

These are just a few of the peptides out there, and more are being created everyday. So which ones should we use? Or do we need all of them?

I don't think there is a definitive answer to "which ones should I use". My personal approach is to give them all a try (not necessarily at the same time!). I believe that skincare is like medication, exercise or even relaxation techniques - what works for me might not be the best for you. But in order to know which ones work best for you, you're going to have to do some testing.

If I could only add one peptide to my routine, it would be Matrixyl 3000. I think it should be in everyone's anti-aging arsenal. If you have "expression" lines from repetitive facial movements, adding at least one of the peptides that works by disrupting the transmission between nerves and muscles would be a good idea.

pinnable image "what are peptides"

What do I use? I have products that contain all of the peptides I mentioned above - and probably more. I also use antioxidants, niacinamide, hyaluronic acid, and ceramides (among other things). There are blog posts where you can see my morning and evening routines.

And you know I can't end without saying (once again): Use a good UVA/UVB sunscreen daily! It's the single most important thing you can do for your skin. If you don't use a sunscreen, then all of the work the peptides and other anti-aging actives do will be undone by the damage from the sun. (My favorite sunscreens)

What is your favorite anti-aging product? Why do you like it? Tell me in the comments or connect with me on Instagram and Snapchat!

Also - just a note to let you know that my back surgery is scheduled for Thursday, so any prayers, good vibes, or anything positive you want to put out there for me would be greatly appreciated. I have a few blog posts that are scheduled while I'm recuperating, but I will probably only have one post per week until I know how long I will be out of commission. Thanks so much!!


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