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Peptides Are the Skincare Ingredient You Never Knew You Needed

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Anti-aging skincare ingredients are kind of like pop stars. Hear us out: Ariana Grande has plenty of back-up dancers who probably have as much technical skill as her…and yet, Ariana is Ariana. When it comes to skincare products, much like Ariana, collagen gets all the hype. But for every collagen-laden serum or smoothie, there’s an equally effective skincare ingredient that’s able to help your body put its own collagen production into high-gear. Say hello to peptides, the back-up dancer of the anti-aging skincare world.

First, what are peptides? 

Before you can fully grasp the power of peptides, you have to understand amino acids. “Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins, which are vital for the health of our skin,” says dermatologist Rachel Nazarian, MD, of Schweiger Dermatology in New York City. And two of the main proteins that make up our skin? You guessed it: collagen, which keeps your complexion firm and strong, and elastin, which helps it stay plump and tight. “Peptides are simply short chains of these amino acids,” says Dr. Nazarian. “They’re easy for the skin to absorb because of their small molecule size.”

What are the benefits of peptides?

So, what exactly happens when you apply a product with peptides to your skin? “They absorb easily into the tissue and send messages to our cells to increase the amount of collagen and elastin formation,” says Dr. Nazarian.

Imagine if your skin was like a house, and the collagen and elastin are the scaffolding. After some time, the house will start to collapse. The more workers you send to renovate—A.K.A. peptides—the more easily you can retain the house’s original features, and the more quickly the job will get done. Basically, by incorporating peptides topically into your skincare routine, you can improve your skin’s elasticity, reduce the appearance of wrinkles, and prevent sagging or a loss of firmness. That's what we call a win-win-win.

Are there any side effects?

“Peptides are good for everybody,” says Dr. Nazarian. (By the way, that’s a rarity to hear from a derm.) “They are safe to use, and they are ultimately something our skin naturally needs and makes.” They’re so gentle, they can even be used day and night, unlike many anti-aging ingredients—we’re looking at you, retinol–and on many different skin types (yes, even sensitive).

How to incorporate peptides in your skincare routine?

If you’re thinking all of this sounds too good to be true, there’s one major caveat: Derms agree that peptides don’t necessarily create the dramatic anti-aging results that some other ingredients do. (Looking at you again, retinol, but also antioxidants and exfoliating acids.) “In order to get the best results from our skincare, we should use peptides as a part of a larger skincare regimen, alongside different forms of anti-aging products,” says Dr. Nazarian.

Below, we’ve rounded up five of our favorite IPSY Shopper products to easily incorporate peptides into your skincare routine.

The best products with peptides to try now:

YOUTH TO THE PEOPLE Superfood Peptide Eye Cream

1. YOUTH TO THE PEOPLE Superfood Peptide Eye Cream

The delicate eye area is often too sensitive for anti-agers like retinol. Swap in this creamy blend of peptides, kale, aloe, and sunflower oil for a powerful nourishing, inflammation-fighting boost.

DERMOVIA Lace Your Face Smoothing Peptides

2. DERMOVIA Lace Your Face Smoothing Peptides

Besides being the cutest face mask we’ve seen, just 15 minutes spent absorbing the peptides, algae, apple stem cells, and vitamin C it’s packed with will lead to the brighter, tighter skin you’ve been lusting after.

SONÄGE SKINCARE Biosyl Peptide Booster

3. SONÄGE SKINCARE Biosyl Peptide Booster

Three times a week, slather on this booster immediately after cleansing and before your regular moisturizer. Its blend of peptides and Epidermal Growth Factor—another anti-aging big-wig—reduce the appearance of scars, fine lines, and wrinkles.

ESTÉE LAUDER Resilience Multi-Effect Night: Tri-Peptide Face and Neck Creme

4. ESTÉE LAUDER Resilience Multi-Effect Night: Tri-Peptide Face and Neck Creme

We’re all about a multi-tasker! Use as a night cream to reap the firming benefits of the Tri-Peptide Lift Complex while you sleep, or try it as a mask once weekly. Just tissue it off after 10 minutes.

SKYN ICELAND Brightening Eye Serum with Arctic Peptides

5. SKYN ICELAND Brightening Eye Serum with Arctic Peptides

Finally, a completely weightless eye product that actually works. This serum boasts over 20 types of peptides, including a wrinkle inhibitor that helps relax facial muscles that may be promoting fine lines.

Do you have a favorite peptide product? Tell us all about it!

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About the author
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Kate Foster Kaplove
Kate is a freelance beauty editor in Brooklyn. She was previously a beauty editor at ELLE, Cosmopolitan, Women's Health, and Seventeen. Her favorite topics to write about are skincare and fragrance, especially as they relate to art, culture, & politics.
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Article Last Updated May 23, 2020 12:00 AM