Peptides: Decoded

Skincare pros have been buzzing about peptides for years. Touted for their skin-firming properties, these powerhouse ingredients figure prominently in many high-end products. But what exactly are peptides, and how do they work? We asked the experts.

What is a peptide?

According to dermatologist Deirdre Hooper, peptides are short chains of amino acids (aka proteins) that can stall the aging process. Researchers first discovered their cosmetic benefits while studying wound healing. Laurel Anne Harward, the Director of Education for StriVectin, explains that as we get older, collagen production naturally declines. When this happens, peptides trigger a “help response” by signaling fibroblasts—a type of cell located within skin—to jumpstart the collagen synthesis process.

Where do peptides come from?

Peptides can be found in nature or created in the lab. In the case of the former, there are plenty of plant sources. The peptides found in Supergoop!’s hydrating SPF 37 Eye Cream come from whole oat kernels ground into powder form, says Supergoop! founder Holly Thaggard. Meanwhile, the peptides in the pūr~lisse pūr~moist hydra-balance moisturizer are extracted from lupine flower proteins. Synthetic versions are also popular, and products such as StriVectin-SD Eye Concentrate for Wrinkles contain multiple forms of peptides that work together to repair skin.

Who should be using peptides?

Anyone who’s old enough to step into a bar without a fake ID—we’re not kidding. “Collagen production begins to slow down at age 21,” says Dr. Hopper, and sun damage accelerates that decline. Women concerned about wrinkles or loss of firmness should consider adding a peptide-infused product to their routine. Used daily, they can even prevent future signs of aging. Now go forth and start slathering on those serums and creams.

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