Peptides and Your Skin Care Routine

Peptides, peptides and more peptides! They seem to be all the rage right now. You probably know at least something about peptides, if only that be from your grade 12 science class. We’ve talked about peptides before (read about that here) but in this blog were going to talk specifically about copper peptides and biopeptides and how their ratios can affect change in your body.

What is a Peptide

According to Nature Journal, “A peptide is a short chain of amino acids. The amino acids in a peptide are connected to one another in a sequence by bonds called peptide bonds. Typically, peptides are distinguished from proteins by their shorter length, although the cut-off number of amino acids for defining a peptide and protein can be arbitrary.”

Copper complex tripeptide
Copper complex of the tripeptide GHK-Cu

Copper Peptides

Copper peptides are naturally occurring complexes that consist of copper ions and peptide molecules. These compounds are known for their health-promoting effects, especially in skin care. The most commonly used copper peptide in skin care is GHK-Cu (Glycyl-L-Histidyl-L-Lysine), which is made up of three amino acids, Glycine, Histidine, and Lysine, along with copper.

Copper peptides are said to have multiple benefits for the skin. They are known for their anti-aging effects, including promoting collagen and elastin production and acting as antioxidants. They also have wound healing properties and may also have anti-inflammatory effects, making them suitable for use in addressing skin conditions such as acne. Additionally, some studies suggest copper peptides may also support hair growth.


Biopeptides, also known as bioactive peptides, are short chains of amino acids that can act on cellular functions, often promoting health and well-being. They are derived from various sources, such as plants, animals, and microorganisms, and can have different functions based on their amino acid sequence.

These peptides can be incorporated into the diet through certain foods or taken as supplements. They have been researched for various health benefits, including antimicrobial, antithrombotic (preventing blood clots), immunomodulatory (modifying immune response), and anticancer activities. Other benefits include promoting heart health and assisting in controlling blood pressure.

Biopeptide Benefits in Skincare

Anti-Aging Effects: Biopeptides can help to stimulate the production of collagen in the skin. Collagen is a protein that provides structure to your skin, and its production decreases with age. By promoting collagen production, biopeptides can help to maintain skin elasticity and reduce the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines. (ref. Journal of Medical Nutrition and Nutraceuticals)

Hydration: Some biopeptides can help to improve skin hydration. They can do this by enhancing the skin’s barrier function, which helps to retain moisture in the skin. (ref. Clinics of Dermatology)

Healing Properties: Biopeptides can also aid in skin healing and regeneration. Some peptides have been found to promote the production of proteins like collagen and elastin which are important for wound healing and skin regeneration. (ref. NIH National Library of Medicine)

Antioxidant Activity: Certain biopeptides possess antioxidant properties, protecting skin cells from oxidative stress and potential damage from free radicals which can lead to premature aging.

Skin Brightening: Some biopeptides can have a skin-brightening effect, assisting in the reduction of skin pigmentation and improving skin tone. (ref. NIH National Library of Medicine)

Let’s Discuss Peptides Derived from Seaweed

Seaweed proteins are nutritionally valuable and comprise several specific enzymes, glycoproteins, cell wall-attached proteins, red algae phycobiliproteins, lectins, peptides, or mycosporine-like amino acids. This great extent of molecules has been reported to exert significant antioxidant, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, antihypertensive, antidiabetic, or antitumoral properties. Hence, knowledge on algae proteins and derived compounds have gained special interest for the potential nutraceutical, cosmetic or pharmaceutical industries based on these bioactivities. (ref. NIH National Library of Medicine)

Seaweed Peptides

To expand a bit, seaweed-derived bioactive compounds, including peptides, are usually discussed in a broader sense due to their complex nature. Some research has focused on the extraction of protein hydrolysates or peptide fractions from seaweed for potential use in food, health, and skincare applications. But the naming of individual peptides derived from seaweed is not as clear-cut as with some other sources or synthetic peptides, partly due to the diverse and complex nature of seaweed proteins.

In the context of skincare, what is most important is not necessarily the specific names of the peptides, but rather the effects that these compounds can have on the skin. As mentioned earlier, seaweed-derived peptides have demonstrated antioxidant activity, anti-aging properties, moisturizing effects, anti-inflammatory properties, and skin brightening effects.

As research in this area continues to evolve, we may see more specific information about individual seaweed-derived peptides become available. Until then, look for skincare products that list seaweed extracts among their ingredients if you are interested in taking advantage of the potential benefits of seaweed peptides.

Peptides in Your Skin Care Routine

When people think about peptides in the context of skincare or beauty, collagen is often the first thing that comes to mind, and there are a few reasons for this:

Collagen’s Role in Skin Health: Collagen is a protein that plays a key role in skin health, contributing to its firmness, elasticity, and overall youthful appearance. As we age, the body’s production of collagen decreases, leading to signs of aging such as wrinkles and sagging skin. This connection between collagen and skin health has led to a strong association between the concepts of peptides and skin beauty.

Marketing and Product Formulation: Many skincare products are formulated with peptides that are specifically intended to stimulate collagen production in the skin. These products are often marketed with a focus on their collagen-boosting properties, reinforcing the connection between peptides and collagen in the minds of consumers.

Education and Awareness: While there are indeed many peptides, each with potential benefits for skin health, collagen (and by extension the peptides that make up collagen) is the most well-known. This is due in part to widespread education and awareness efforts, both in scientific communities and in the beauty industry.

In fact, peptides are small chains of amino acids that can be found throughout the body, not just in the skin, and play many roles beyond the production of collagen. Other types of peptides can have effects such as reducing inflammation, promoting wound healing, or providing antioxidant benefits. There are so many reasons to include peptides in your skin care routine.

Ratios Matter in Biological Processes

Yes, ratios do matter when it comes to biological processes and the effectiveness of skincare ingredients.

In terms of skincare, let’s consider the example of copper peptides. They’re often used in skincare products because of their potential to promote skin health. Copper peptides are small fragments of proteins attached to copper ions. These compounds are thought to stimulate collagen production, provide anti-inflammatory effects, and promote wound healing.

When it comes to copper and zinc, they are both essential trace elements that play important roles in the body. They’re involved in various biological processes, including immune function, protein synthesis, and DNA synthesis. However, the ratio of these elements needs to be balanced.

Zinc and copper interaction: High doses of zinc can interfere with the absorption of copper. Over time, this can lead to a copper deficiency, which can result in anemia and other health problems. That’s why it’s important to maintain a proper balance between these two minerals, both in diet and in topical applications.

Melanin production and ratio: In skin, melanin production is regulated by an enzyme called tyrosinase. Certain ratios of skincare ingredients, such as copper peptides, can inhibit the tyrosinase enzyme, which can reduce melanin production and have a skin-brightening effect. Again, the ratio matters here as too much can potentially lead to hypopigmentation (skin lightening).

What works for one person might not work for another, and using these compounds incorrectly can potentially cause problems. It’s always best to consult with a healthcare provider or skincare professional before starting any new skincare regimen.

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Brett MacLean

What Peptides to Look For in Skincare

There are several types of peptides that are commonly used in skincare products due to their potential benefits for skin health. Here are a few you might want to look for:

  • Copper peptides are small protein fragments bound to copper ions. They’ve been shown to have wound healing, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant effects, and may also stimulate collagen production and act as an anti-aging ingredient.
  • Palmitoyl Pentapeptide-4 (Matrixyl) is particularly well-known for its anti-aging effects. Research suggests that it can stimulate the synthesis of collagen and other key components of the skin, helping to reduce the appearance of wrinkles and improve skin texture.
  • Palmitoyl Tripeptide-1 and Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-7 (Matrixyl 3000). This pair of peptides works together to restore and maintain the skin’s youthful appearance by promoting the production of collagen and elastin, proteins that give the skin its firmness and elasticity.
  • Acetyl Hexapeptide-8 (Argireline) is often referred to as a “Botox alternative” because of its potential ability to reduce the depth of wrinkles and fine lines, especially those around the eyes and forehead, by relaxing facial muscles.
  • Myristoyl Pentapeptide-17 is often found in eyelash and eyebrow products because it’s believed to stimulate keratin, aiding in hair growth and thickness.
  • Pentapeptide-18 (Leuphasyl) is similar to Argireline, Leuphasyl helps reduce the depth of wrinkles caused by the contraction of muscles of facial expression, especially on the forehead and around the eyes.
  • Tripeptide-1 (Syn-Coll) is a peptide that mimics the body’s own mechanism to produce collagen, helping to slow down the skin aging process.

The Conscious Consumer and Peptides

When selecting skincare products with peptides, especially as a conscious consumer who values health and environmental considerations, there are several important factors to consider:

Ingredient List: Check the ingredient list to make sure peptides are listed. They might be listed as “peptides,” or you might see specific types, such as “copper peptides” or “palmitoyl pentapeptide-4.” It’s also crucial to ensure there are no harmful ingredients in the product, like sulfates, parabens, and phthalates.

Formulation: The formulation of the product is important for the effectiveness of peptides. Peptides should be in a formulation that can penetrate the skin’s outer layer to reach the deeper layers where they can stimulate collagen production and provide other benefits.

Packaging: Peptides can be sensitive to light and air, which can break them down and make them less effective. Look for products in opaque, airtight packaging to ensure the stability and effectiveness of the peptides.

Ethical Considerations: If you’re a conscious consumer, look for products that are cruelty-free (not tested on animals) and vegan (no animal-derived ingredients). You might also want to consider the brand’s environmental impact. Do they use sustainable packaging? Do they have initiatives to reduce their carbon footprint?

Reputable Brands: Not all skincare products are created equal, and unfortunately, the market is saturated with products that make unfounded claims. Do some research on the brand before making a purchase. Look for brands that value transparency, use scientifically-backed ingredients, and have positive reviews from consumers.

Personal Skin Needs: What works for one person might not work for another. Consider your skin type and any specific concerns you have (like aging, acne, sensitivity, dryness, etc.) when choosing a product.

Consult a Dermatologist or Skincare Professional: They can provide personalized advice based on your skin type and concerns.

Peptide Skin Care Routine Takeaways

  1. Peptides are short chains of amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins like collagen in our skin. They can have beneficial effects on the skin, including promoting collagen production, providing antioxidant effects, and aiding in wound healing.
  2. Certain types of peptides are particularly beneficial for skincare, including copper peptides, palmitoyl pentapeptide-4, palmitoyl tripeptide-1 and palmitoyl tetrapeptide-7 (Matrixyl 3000), acetyl hexapeptide-8 (Argireline), myristoyl pentapeptide-17, pentapeptide-18 (Leuphasyl), and tripeptide-1 (Syn-Coll).
  3. Seaweed-derived peptides also have potential skincare benefits, such as antioxidant, anti-aging, and skin brightening effects. However, individual seaweed-derived peptides are less commonly reported in the scientific literature.
  4. Collagen is a key protein for skin health, contributing to firmness and elasticity. Both topical application and dietary intake can be beneficial for skin health, though the body might use dietary collagen for other purposes before skin health.
  5. The ratio of ingredients in skincare products is important. For example, the ratio of copper to zinc can impact the absorption of these elements and their overall effect.
  6. When choosing skincare products as a conscious consumer, look for products from reputable brands that use transparent, scientifically-backed ingredients. Ethical considerations, like cruelty-free and sustainable practices, are also important.

Remember, skincare is highly personal, and what works for one person may not work for another. Always consider your individual skin type and concerns when selecting products, and consult with a dermatologist or skincare professional for personalized advice.