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What Are Neuropeptides in Skincare? We Find Out!

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You’ve probably heard the buzzword phrase “Botox in a bottle” being tossed around the the #skintok circuit a fair amount lately. And if you went down the rabbit hole like us, the topic of neuropeptide skincare (aka “Botox in a bottle”) also had you wondering if the wrinkle-smoothing effects of neurotoxins like Botox and Dysport could really be achieved with a topical, needleless treatment in the form of skincare. Achieving tighter skin, smoother fine lines, and crease-free 11s minus the pokes does sounds like an anti-aging dream, but the truth behind neuropeptide skincare is that while it does help smooth the appearance of fine lines (along with many other skin-loving benefits), there are also differences between applying a few drops of neuropeptide serum to your forehead and injecting 20 units of Botox into your frontalis. We talked to dermatologist Deanne Mraz, MD, FAAD, to give you the nitty gritty on neuropeptide skincare and how you can incorporate it into your skincare routine.

About the Expert:
Deanne Mraz, MD, FAAD, is a board-certified dermatologist who is president and founder of DMRResearch, president and co-founder of Modern Dermatology, and assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Yale New Haven Hospital in Connecticut.

What Are Neuropeptides

If you break down the term, you’ve got “neuro,” which translates to the word ”nerve,” and you’ve also got “peptides,” which are amino acid chains that help our bodies with some of their most important functions. Peptides target receptors in our bodies that are involved in anti-inflammatory processes, building muscle, digestion, skin functioning, and more. In skincare, “Neuropeptides are chains of amino acids (the foundation of a protein) that act as chemical messengers that communicate with skin cells telling them to produce more collagen, elastin, and hyaluronic acid,” says Dr. Mraz.

Neuropeptides have existed in many forms in skincare for decades, while recently more concentrated formulas have focused on delivering temporary but cumulative injectable-like effects. There are, however, a few different types of neuropeptides that are more common than others. Matrixyl (palmitoyl pentapeptide-4), Argireline (acetyl hexapeptide-8), DMAE (dimethylaminoethanol), and Pentapeptide-18, to name a few, all have been shown to help boost skin elasticity, relax facial muscles, stimulate collagen production, increase hydration, and help give skin a tightening effect to reduce signs of aging. “One of the more popular neuropeptides for minimizing muscle contractions is Argireline,” Dr. Mraz adds.

How Do Neuropeptides Work?

Since fine lines and wrinkles get deeper over time by constantly moving when we express ourselves (think of a crease in a piece of paper that’s repeatedly folded), neuropeptides can help minimize these repeated muscle contractions by inhibiting neurotransmitters that enable them, resulting in smoother appearing skin and decreased expression lines over time. “By encouraging the production of collagen, elastin, and hyaluronic acid, the skin will likely look more hydrated and supple, with improved texture, tone, laxity, and of course, a reduction in the formation of new wrinkles with improvement of the ones that might have already been present. Stimulating collagen and elastin can also improve depressed scarring on the skin from cystic acne,” Dr. Mraz explains.

What’s the Difference Between Neuropeptides and Neurotoxins?

So you’re on the fence between diving into neuropeptide skincare or booking an appointment for Botox. The good news is, that you really don’t have to choose between both. It’s totally safe to use neuropeptides on skin, even if you’ve already been injected with neuromodulators (aka neurotoxins) like Botox, Xeomin, or Dysport. But before opting for one or the other (or both!), let’s dive into some of their key similarities and differences.

“Neuropeptides can encourage collagen, elastin, and hyaluronic acid production, which will improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, in a way mimicking some of the benefits seen from Botox. That being said, while there are some studies showing neuropeptides can minimize the release of neurotransmitters that cause muscle contractions, the reality is that topical neuropeptides will not achieve the same muscle paralysis and associated facial lifting and sculpting that Botox can,” Dr. Mraz says. Which is basically why the term “Botox in a bottle” certainly has its limitations. “While both neuropeptides and neuromodulators work by interfering with signals that cause muscle contractions; they differ in how strongly they interfere. I would overall describe the effect of neuropeptides as ‘softening’ or ‘relaxing’ of the muscles and that of Botox as ‘inhibiting’ the muscle contraction,” Dr. Mraz tells us. Overall, neuropeptides make a great option if you’re not yet ready to dive into injectables, or if you’re looking for a less invasive way to soften signs of aging. On the other hand, neurotoxins make a great option if you’re looking for a more dramatic reduction of wrinkles, with quicker results.

5 of the Best Neuropeptide-Powered Skincare Products

1. Best Face Cream for Dry Skin:

PERRICONE MD Neuropeptide Facial Cream

PERRICONE MD Neuropeptide Facial Cream
Courtesy of PERRICONE MD

Promising to sculpt and firm skin when applied daily, this hydrating moisturizer uses DMAE to help fight four types of wrinkles while improving loss of elasticity and volume. Its texture is super rich and creamy, making it a perfect neuropeptide night cream or cold-weather cream to combat dry skin.

2. Best Serum for Neuropeptide Newbies:

GOLDFADEN MD Needle-Less Line Smoothing Concentrate

GOLDFADEN MD Needle-Less Line Smoothing Concentrate

If you’re looking for your first neuropeptide fling, you’ve found it. Gentle enough to use morning and night, this serum promises to help reduce fine lines, improve elasticity, and smooth skin thanks to acetyl hexapeptide-3, hydrating hyaluronic acid, and seaweed extract. “It truly does smooth out wrinkles and gives my face a tighter, smoother appearance immediately. I've been insecure about my forehead lines and this has given me back a lot of confidence,” one Ipster says.

3. Best Brightening Face Serum:

MILK MAKEUP Watermelon Brightening Serum

MILK MAKEUP Watermelon Brightening Serum

If you’re dealing with dark spots, dry skin, or discoloration, this antioxidant-packed balm-serum hybrid can help. It’s made with matrixyl, which we now know is amazing at smoothing lines and texture, along with watermelon extract and Swiss Garden Cress Sprout extract to boost hydration and help even out skin tone.

4. Best Tired-Eye Smoother:

DR. BRANDT SKINCARE Do Not Age with Dr. Brandt® Triple Peptide Eye Cream

DR. BRANDT SKINCARE Do Not Age with Dr. Brandt® Triple Peptide Eye Cream

One thing we love about this skin saver (besides its name) is how it helped our tired eyes look less puffy after we pulled an all-nighter. Loaded up with caffeine, Argireline, palmitoyl oligopeptides, and vitamin C, this formula can help you brighten dark circles, smooth the skin around the eyes, and hydrate dry skin.

5. Best Neuropeptide-Infused Makeup:

IT COSMETICS CC + Cream with SPF 50

IT COSMETICS CC + Cream with SPF 50

Who doesn't love a little makeup-but-make-it-skincare moment? Neuropeptides in this good-for-skin CC cream help plump up the appearance of lines and wrinkles while helping combat UV damage and adding an extra level of moisture. “This is way beyond just the tinted moisturizer that I thought it was. It blends well with my skin and provides full matte coverage without looking dry or cakey,” one Ipster raves.

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About the author
Runa Rhattacharya
Runa Bhattacharya
Runa is an NYC-based writer and Registered Nurse with over 8 years of experience covering beauty and wellness. She’s worked for publications like SELF, Cosmopolitan, and more. She’s passionate about beauty, science, and two careers that she loves!
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Article Last Updated June 3, 2024 12:00 AM