Peptides for the skin are among the most popular anti-aging products in the skincare world.
Skincare peptides are likely to stand the test of time, rather than fade away like many other trends.
Because they work.
In this guide to the best peptides for skincare, we’ll share how. Whether you’re a peptide researcher or regular consumer, you’re sure to find the ideal product below.
Top 3 Peptides for Skincare
Here are our top three most highly recommended skincare peptides—one injectable, one topical, and one powder option. These peptides have strong evidence to back their use, with researchers having reported favorable results in both animal and human studies.
- Injectable: GHK-Cu Peptide
- Topical: Age Defying Wrinkle Reducing Cream
- Powder: Collagen Peptides Advanced
What are Peptides in Skincare?
To understand what peptides are, we need to know how they are structured. Peptides are chains composed of amino acids—themselves individual units that the body can use to build proteins. While proteins are classified as chains of more than 50 amino acids, peptides contain 50 or fewer .
Amino acids are often called the “building blocks of protein,” which means peptides are similar to proteins in that they often support the repair and building of new tissues. This makes certain peptides valuable for skincare applications .
Additionally, peptides often have unique functions beyond just supporting the structural role of proteins in the body. Some peptides may behave like hormones or other chemical messengers in the body, meaning they could offer several different benefits for skincare and anti-aging.
These potential benefits include:
- Promoting collagen synthesis
- Neutralizing free radicals in skin cells
- Encouraging cell turnover
- Increasing hydration
All told, using peptides could help result in more youthful-looking, smoother, and firmer skin thanks to these processes.
However, it’s important to choose the right peptide to incorporate into your research or skincare routine. There are many different peptides available, and not all of them may be well-suited for your aims. Below, we will share more information about the best peptides for skincare and wrinkles.
What are Collagen Peptides?
Collagen is a protein that forms a structured, yet flexible matrix found in skin, ligaments, tendons, and other connective tissues .
Therefore, collagen supplements are often touted as a great way to support skin, hair, nail, and joint health. The idea behind supplementing with collagen peptides is that they may provide the body with the raw material to create more structural collagen in these parts of the body [4, 5, 6].
Collagen peptides are small sections of collagen proteins. In peptide form, they are easier to digest and absorb than full proteins.
Most collagen peptide products are sourced from bovine (cow) hide or marine sources, like fish skin. It’s important to note that collagen always comes from animal sources, so collagen supplements are not vegan-friendly. However, there are some plant-based collagen booster products that could help support natural collagen production.
Collagen peptides are typically available in powder form that can be mixed into water or other beverages. Most of the time, collagen peptides mix fairly well—especially if using a milk frother or electric whisk. Also, their mild taste and smell is easily masked by adding them to flavored beverages or purchasing a flavored collagen peptide product.
What are Copper Peptides?
Copper peptides are a class of peptides that are bound with the mineral copper. The most well-known of these peptides is GHK-Cu, which is an injectable research peptide as well as an addition to many topical anti-aging products .
If you’re not a researcher, there are many anti-aging serums and creams that contain copper peptides available to purchase without a doctor’s prescription.
Copper itself is a trace mineral that the body needs in small quantities for a number of key functions, including the formation of new, healthy connective tissues .
Researchers have found that copper peptides, therefore, may offer drastic anti-aging benefits. Specifically, GHK-Cu has been linked to increased skin firmness and elasticity, as well as reduced wrinkles and signs of aging when administered [9, 10].
Copper peptides are available in several different forms, including injectable, powder or capsule, and topical. Based on our research and experience, copper peptide injectables and copper peptide creams or serums appear to be the most effective for skin care.
Peptides and Skincare | Types, Forms, and Administration
For many people, skincare creams and serums represent the first introduction to the power of peptides. However, these topical products are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the potential of peptides to drastically improve the look and health of the skin.
There are three major ways that peptides can be used for skin care and health:
- Topicals: These peptide products are applied directly to the skin. They include creams and serums, which are valuable parts of a skincare routine. For nearly every part of a skincare routine—from moisturizers to toners to night creams—it is possible to find a product with anti-aging properties. Many of these products derive their anti-aging properties from copper peptides.
- Powders: Peptide products also come in supplement powder form. Powders are taken orally, and they may help provide the materials the body needs to boost health at a cellular level. This can lead to healthier, younger-looking skin over time. The most commonly recommended supplemental peptide product for the skin is collagen peptides.
- Injectables: Finally, there are injectables. These may offer the most drastic and immediate effects, but they are also the most expensive and difficult to administer. Peptide researchers who are interested in injectables for skincare should be careful to thoroughly research these products and understand how to use them effectively and safely.
Researchers must note that when using injectable peptides, paying close attention to details, like calculating the proper Epithalon dosage, is of vital importance.
Does Peptide Therapy for Skin Care and Aging *Actually* Work?
The most important question of all is: do these peptides actually work?
The answer is a resounding yes.
There’s a large and continuously growing body of research to support the use of peptides, in all three forms: supplemental, topical, and injectable. Here are some of the key benefits these products may offer:
- Skin tightening: Because peptides may promote increased collagen synthesis, they can help the skin to appear tighter and firmer. This can lead to a more youthful, healthier look.
- Smoothness and evenness: Additionally, by promoting cell turnover, peptide therapy could help promote a smoother and more even skin tone with less acne and discoloration.
- Anti-aging: At a cellular level, peptides could have anti-aging properties. They help to reduce oxidative stress on the cells and promote cell turnover, or the recycling of old cells to be replaced by new, healthier cells.
- Wrinkle reduction: Peptides may help promote collagen formation, which can fill fine lines and reduce the appearance of wrinkles. Some peptides may also act in other ways to reduce wrinkles, such as by reducing the movement of facial muscles that cause wrinkles.
- Youthful glow: Peptides may help to increase the moisture and hydration level of the skin, which could result in a plump, dewy look and a “youthful glow.”
Skin health: All told, these potential benefits not only improve the look of skin but its overall health, as well. Reduced free radical activity, increased hydration, and more rapid cell turnover result in healthier, more optimally-functioning cells.
Now, let’s discuss some of our specific recommendations for the best skincare and anti-aging peptides.
Best Peptides for Skincare, Wrinkles, and Anti-Aging
Here are the peptides that we highly recommend, across all three methods of administration: injectable, topical, and powder.
In each section, we break down the existing research on each peptide and its specific skincare benefits and provide links to our most recommended products.
#1. Injectable Peptides
GHK-Cu is one of the most well-known and best-studied anti-aging peptides. It was discovered in the 1970s when researchers found that young blood plasma could kick off the regeneration process in aged liver cells. Led by Dr. Loren Pickart, this research team eventually found that the peptide GHK-Cu, which decreases as we age, was the key factor .
The anti-aging, cellular repair effect of GHK-Cu also makes it a solid option for skincare research. Two of the major causes of wrinkled skin are aged skin cells that cannot be frequently replaced, and the breakdown of collagen stores. GHK-Cu may help with both of these issues [10, 11].
Epithalon is a powerful anti-aging peptide that is used clinically in Russia to delay and prevent age-related conditions.
Although there has not been a great deal of research on epithalon specifically for skincare, researchers have discovered that this peptide may lengthen telomeres and increase lifespan.
Telomeres are protective structures found at the ends of chromosomes, and they become shorter in length throughout the aging process. However, telomere elongation is linked to life extension and overall health [12, 13].
Therefore, one potential application of epithalon is for skin anti-aging.
#2. Peptide Creams and Serums
Age-Defying Wrinkle Reducing Cream
Limitless Life’s Age Defying peptide cream is a research formula that contains copper peptides in addition to other skincare peptides and ingredients such as aloe vera and green tea extract.
This combination of ingredients may offer antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits to promote skin healing, tissue regeneration, and collagen production—resulting in skin that is firmer, plumper, more hydrated, smoother, and younger-looking.
According to the supplier, it may also be useful for acne, photoaging due to sun exposure, and skin puffiness.
This product is intended for use by researchers and can be purchased through Limitless Life.
Alternatively, pure GHK-Cu (copper peptide) cream is also available through Peptide Sciences.
Argireline, or acetyl hexapeptide-3, is an anti-aging cosmetic peptide that’s sometimes referred to as “Botox in a Bottle.”
Argireline is applied topically and does not absorb deep into the skin. However, despite this minimal absorption, it’s been shown to work similarly to Botox injections by limiting the movement of facial muscles that cause dynamic wrinkles—like frown lines, laugh lines, and crow’s feet [14, 15].
It may also help improve skin hydration and promote collagen synthesis [16, 17].
Matrixyl, or palmitoyl pentapeptide-3, is a lipopeptide—which means it is a peptide that also includes a fatty acid component.
It has been shown to help promote healing in the lower layers of the skin by increasing collagen production .
In one study, Matrixyl significantly reduced the appearance of wrinkles . Matrixyl may also work well in combination with other peptides, and it is also a key ingredient in Limitless Life’s Age-Defying formula.
We recommend Peptide Sciences to researchers looking to study the potential benefits and effects of Matrixyl.
Pro-Collagen Multi-Peptide Booster Serum by Paula’s Choice
To our readers who are regular consumers, we recommend the Paula’s Choice Multi-Peptide Booster Serum. This product is ideal for those who are new to skincare peptides, as Paula’s Choice is known for its gentle and highly-effective skincare formulations.
This product contains six peptides that may promote collagen synthesis and is highly rated by reviewers. Unlike many of our picks, Paula’s Choice products are available to the general public, rather than being limited to researchers and laboratory professionals.
#3. Peptide Powders
Collagen Peptides Advanced Powder
Vital Proteins is one of the best-known and most reputable collagen supplement companies around. Their Collagen Peptides Advanced Powder is our most highly-recommended collagen powder.
It’s made from bovine hide, and each serving contains 20 grams of collagen peptides plus 100% of the Daily Value for vitamin C—which may also help promote collagen synthesis and healthy skin cell turnover .
Vital Proteins products are also not categorized as research peptides and are fully available to the general public.
Momentous Collagen Peptides Powder
Another collagen product we highly recommend is the Momentous Collagen Peptides Powder.
In addition to collagen peptides, it contains Fortigel collagen hydrolysate—a unique formulation of collagen peptides designed specifically to promote the growth of new joint cartilage .
This product may be particularly suited for athletes and active people with skincare concerns, as it’s also NSF Certified for Sport—so it’s free of commonly banned ingredients.
Peptides Side Effects and Safety
Generally, skincare peptides have few side effects when properly handled in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions and/or prevalent guidelines.
Anyone who’s taking prescription medication or has a health condition, or women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, should consult a healthcare provider before adding peptides to their routine.
On the other hand, peptide researchers should carefully select and monitor their research subjects for potential side effects.
Here’s more information about potential side effects and safety concerns for each peptide administration method.
The most common side effects of injectable peptides are related to the method of administration itself. These potential side effects include bleeding, bruising, swelling, or pain at the injection site.
Here are some of the other side effects that may be associated with injectables for skincare:
- GHK-Cu: This peptide has no known major side effects at this time. However, researchers theorize that it could cause low blood pressure in some instances thanks to its anti-anxiety effects [22, 23].
- Epithalon: This peptide also has no notable side effects that have been observed in research studies.
Again, remember that each research participant may respond differently to peptide administration, so it’s important to monitor for potential side effects or adverse events. As such, it is vital to research information about GHK-Cu dosage.
Collagen powders are typically safe for most users, and the potential for side effects is limited. Some users may experience minor digestive issues from using collagen powders, like bloating.
Also, remember that collagen peptide supplements are not vegan-friendly. Additionally, users with fish or shellfish allergies should be careful to avoid collagen products that are sourced from marine collagen.
Peptide-based creams and serums may also have some minor side effects. Here is an overview of some potential side effects associated with the products on our list:
- Age-Defying Wrinkle Reducing Research Cream: Limitless Life’s cream-based research formula contains GHK-Cu, which is notable for its lack of observed side effects in numerous studies.
- Argireline: This peptide formula appears to be safe and has shown no significant side effects in research studies. Argireline does not absorb deeply into the skin.
- Matrixyl: Based on the existing literature to date, Matrixyl has no known side effects.
- Pro-Collagen Multi-Peptide Booster Serum: This product by Paula’s Choice has no known side effects, but the maker still encourages conducting patch tests prior to applying the product to the entire face.
It’s important to monitor for side effects related to topical peptide administration, particularly in research subjects or individuals who may have sensitive skin.
Research Peptides for Skincare | Tips & Guidelines
Here are a few additional tips and guidelines for researching peptides and skincare.
- Spot-test new topical products: When introducing new topical skincare products, it’s a good idea to spot-test them on one small area of the skin first to ensure that there won’t be any negative reaction to the product.
- Introduce new topical products one at a time: Likewise, it’s important to introduce new topical peptide products into your skincare routine one at a time. This way, if there is a negative skin reaction, it’s easier to identify the cause.
- Be consistent and patient: Skincare peptides—particularly, topicals and powders—require consistency and patience before drastic results can be seen. It’s a good idea to use these products consistently for at least two to three months before attempting to assess their efficacy so that the products have time to take effect.
- Use different forms together: Finally, because of the low-risk profiles of collagen peptides and topical skincare peptides, it’s generally safe to use injectables, powders, and topicals in combination.
Do Peptides Help with Wrinkles?
Peptides can help with wrinkles in a few different ways.
They may help to increase the hydration of the skin, which can fill fine lines and reduce the appearance of wrinkles.
Additionally, certain peptides could help to increase collagen production. This can make the skin appear more plump and firm, which could also help fill wrinkles.
Finally, the peptide Argireline can limit the activity of facial muscles, making wrinkles like crow’s feet, forehead lines, and brow lines less prominent [15, 16].
Do Peptides Help with Sagging Skin?
Peptides may also help with sagging skin in many of the same ways that they help with wrinkles. Plumper, more hydrated skin, with more collagen forming the structure of the deeper layers, will naturally have less sagging.
However, it may take longer to see improvements to sagging skin than to wrinkled skin, and researchers are unlikely to see a total reversal of sagging skin from peptide use alone.
Still, sagging skin is a promising area of investigation for skincare peptide researchers.
How to Reconstitute Injectable Peptides
Injectable research peptides are often delivered in freeze-dried form, and they require reconstitution prior to use.
To reconstitute peptides for injection, researchers will need to procure a sterile solvent like bacteriostatic water, which contains 0.9% benzyl alcohol to prevent the growth of bacteria.
Bacteriostatic water and complete injection kits for researchers can be purchased through our friends at BacteriostaticWater.org.
Peptides and Skincare | Overall
Peptide research is seeing unprecedented growth, with some peptides already proving to be powerful additions to anti-aging skincare.
A multi-faceted approach incorporating injectables, topicals, and supplements can provide a well-rounded base of support for more youthful skin.
Anti-aging peptides for skin care is an exciting area of research that seems promising for anyone interested in younger-looking, healthier skin.