Navigating the world of skincare can be an overwhelming task, with hundreds of brands peddling dozens of products, each making lofty claims to be your ultimate skincare dream-come-true. Beyond packaging and marketing, it is challenging to truly understand what you’re paying for—I mean, have you read the ingredients list of any of your skincare products?—especially when you’re not armed with a chemistry degree.
To help sieve through the information, the first thing many of us do is turn to the internet, researching scientific-sounding terms and super ingredients that smooth, plump and brighten. And if you’ve been scouring the anti-ageing aisles, you’d have inevitably come across peptides, which are often associated with skin-firming and skin-lifting benefits. Here, we explain this complex class of ingredients by highlighting the top five things you need to know about peptides:
What are peptides and what are they made of?
Often found in anti-ageing skincare products, peptides are small molecules that are made of amino acids. And since amino acids are also building blocks of proteins, peptides are essentially protein fragments. There are hundreds of different peptides, depending on what amino acids they are made of and how they are combined. This also means that depending on how peptides are combined, they make different proteins.
The top three most important proteins found in our skin are: collagen, elastin and keratin, and they are all responsible for keeping the skin firm and taut. This also explains why peptides are highly regarded for their ability to promote a firmer mien.
How do they work?
As we age, collagen and elastin fibres start to stiffen and break down, which leads to noticeable signs like sagging or loss of volume. Moreover, exposure to UV rays, pollution and stress also accelerate the rate at which these connective tissues are damaged. And that’s where peptides come in — when they are applied and absorbed into the skin, they signal to skin cells to produce more collagen, thereby supporting its firmness and density.
Can you mix peptides or combine with other ingredients?
Just like antioxidants and AHAs, peptides work best in a group. Since there are hundreds of peptides, they serve a wide range of benefits so using products that contain more than one peptide ensures that you maximise the products’ efficacy.
And similar to having a balanced diet, using peptides alone in your skincare routine will not address all your skincare concerns—I mean, come on, you can’t just be concerned with firmness—because you’ll still need other ingredients like hyaluronic acid to replenish moisture, retinol to rejuvenate skin, arbutin (or the likes) to inhibit melanin, AHAs to accelerate cellular turnover and antioxidants to protect skin against free radicals. Simply put, make sure to incorporate these classes of ingredients to ensure you have all your bases covered.
Here are the best peptide-rich products you can add into your daily routine:
The Ordinary. Matrixyl 10% + HA, about $16 for 30ml, at Beautylish
Comprising Matrixyl 3000 and Matrixyl Synthe’6, it reduces the appearance of both static and dynamic wrinkles so your skin regains firmness and elasticity. Plus, it is enriched with sodium hyaluronate, which not only enhances the penetration of Matrixyl peptides but also has a smaller molecular size and thus is more easily absorbed into the skin to plump and smooth skin surface. Suitable for all skin types, it is also extremely wallet-friendly—what more can you ask for?
Drunk Elephant Protini Polypeptide Cream, coming soon to Sephora
Designed to be the protein shot to your everyday skincare routine, this powerhouse cream is packed with peptides, growth factors and amino acids to accelerate collagen production and cellular repair, as well as to boost hydration and calm skin all in one step. Its proprietary formula revives ageing and sun-damage by improving skin texture, rebuilding its supportive tissues and restoring lost moisture.
SkinCeuticals Metacell Renewal B3, $145
Formulated to turn back the hands of time, this lightweight emulsion delivers potent cosmeceutical-grade ingredients to address visible signs of photoageing that have accumulated over time. Niacinamide improves uneven skin tone and strengthens a weakened skin barrier; glycerin locks in moisture and a tripeptide complex increases collagen production and skin firmness.
La Prairie Line Interception Power Duo, $570 for 50ml
Housing two formulas in one convenient bottle, this is all you need to moisturise your skin every day and night. The star of the duo is the day cream, which contains peptides that reduces muscle contractions so wrinkles appear less visible. It is also infused with SPF 30 PA+++ UV protection but has none of that tacky texture some sunscreens have. It also smooths skin surface and helps brighten dull skin, making it perfect as a makeup base. At night, switch to the night cream, which contains peptides that send signals to your skin cells to produce more collagen and elastin. Couple that with hyaluronic acid and your skin becomes plumper instantly and firmer over time.
Paula’s Choice Peptide Booster, $76 for 20ml, at Paula’s Choice
Featuring a precisely calibrated blend of peptides, amino acids and antioxidants, it helps amplify the effects of any skincare products that you’re currently using. A true multi-tasker, it can be used on its own beneath your usual routine, or mixed into your favourite serums and moisturisers. With eight peptides at the heart of this formula, it improves visible signs of ageing like a loss of firmness and elasticity as well as wrinkles as collagen production is accelerated. And thanks to a host of amino acids and antioxidants, skin is also well-hydrated and protected for a healthier, younger-looking complexion.