As a self-professed skincare enthusiast, I’ve got a pretty good handle on what most of the top active ingredients do and how to use them. Vitamin C? Every morning. Glycolic acid? In my Sunday night exfoliation sesh. Retinol? I’ve got it in my every-other-night rotation (with plenty of space between my AHA so as not to strip my skin’s barrier.) But there’s one ingredient I’ve been hearing a lot about but didn’t really get, much less know when or how to use it: Peptides. I knew they had something to do with collagen, but that’s about where my knowledge ended. So, I turned to my trusty fountain of skincare knowledge, my own dermatologist, Dr. Elizabeth Geddes-Bruce at Westlake Dermatology here in Austin. She answered all my burning peptide questions including: should I be using it? And if so, what’s the best peptide cream?
As I learn more about skincare ingredients, it’s become increasingly important to me to vet anything new that I add to my routine with research and expert guidance. There are so many new trendy ingredients on the market these days that promise to work miracles, but unfortunately, many of them don’t actually do much.
So I was surprised (and excited) that Dr. Geddes-Bruce actually keeps polypeptides on her recommended list to preserve and boost collagen, with a few caveats.
Read on for her ultimate guide to peptides, as well as her personal recommendations for the best peptide creams and how to incorporate them in your skincare game.
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First, what exactly are polypeptides?
Dr. Geddes-Bruce explains peptides this way: “If you think hard, back to 8th-grade biology class, you may remember that amino acids are the smallest building blocks of proteins. We can synthesize, or make, some amino acids, but others (essential amino acids) must come from our diet.
To put it simply, peptides are little strings of amino acids, and polypeptides refer to peptides with more than 20 amino acids.
Are there actual benefits to peptides in skincare?
The idea behind peptides in skincare is that we can use them to create signals for our body to boost the production of collagen and elastic fibers. Dr. Geddes-Bruce illustrates how peptides work with this example, “Let’s say you’re chopping onions, and you accidentally cut your finger. Peptides are used by your body to signal that there’s been an injury, and this stimulates your skin to heal the wound.” By using peptides in skincare, we’re trying to “trick” the skin into thinking there has been an injury and it must be repaired, theoretically producing more collagen in the process.
How do peptides stack up against other well-known anti-aging ingredients, like AHAs and retinol?
Since peptides are one of the least irritating ingredients with potentially great benefits for the skin, they’ve seen a recent rise in popularity. However, Dr. Geddes-Bruce says that the science behind them isn’t as solidly supportive as some of the other well-researched ingredients out there–most studies looking at the efficacy of peptides have been conducted in a petri dish in a lab, not in real life on real skin. And in real life, one of the biggest challenges is getting skincare ingredients past our skin’s super effective barrier, the stratum corneum, whose sole function is to keep things out and keep us protected.
That being said, Dr. Geddes-Bruce says, “Plenty of products containing peptides have been studied clinically with great results in wrinkle reduction, texture improvement, and luminosity. This keeps peptides on my recommended list, especially for aging skin.”
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Who should use peptides?
Dr. Geddes-Bruce recommends adding peptides as an anti-aging “bonus” after you’ve already established a solid skincare regimen with the basics–sunscreen, antioxidant, and retinoid. “As we age, our skin produces less collagen and elastin. Everything slows down, including our skin’s signals for healing. Traditionally, peptides have been recommended for skin that is already seeing signs of wear and tear, but these days prevention is the name of the game. And my patients would rather get ahead than catch up later.”
How should we use peptides in our skincare regimen and how often?
In order to enhance penetration, Dr. Geddes-Bruce says it’s best to apply peptides to clean, bare skin (ie. not over your makeup or sunscreen.) “It’s best to pick a product that’s a “leave-on,” like a serum or cream, rather than a wash.” She also cautions against using them at the same time as free acids, like a glycolic toner. “This may break the peptides down, rendering them useless.”
Scroll on for Dr. Geddes-Bruce’s Recommendations for the Best Peptide Creams and Serums:
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This product uses a powerful combination of peptides and amino and hyaluronic acids to target aging. This lightweight serum can be applied to the entire face in the morning and evening and is the most affordable option.
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Dr. Geddes Bruce Recommends any of NeoCutis’ products, but specifically the Micro Eyes product. This AM or PM eye cream tightens and brightens the under-eye area. It is both hydrating and rejuvenating, working to reduce puffiness, under-eye darkness, and skin aging.
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This serum uses peptides, along with amino acids, antioxidants, and other anti-aging ingredients to smooth wrinkles and regenerate cells. It is ideal for all skin types and is an all-in-one treatment for anti-aging, skin tone, and texture.
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SkinMedica’s TNS Advanced+ Serum improves the appearance of wrinkles, texture, and skin tone in just two weeks. It also addresses sagging skin, while being lightweight, fragrance-free, and matte.
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This product has a peptide to soften wrinkles and is almost like Botox in a bottle. It is a no-needle, injectable-grade hyaluronic acid solution that improves the appearance of expression lines.
Did you know about peptide creams? Share your favorite with us below.