Your Complete Guide To Peptides In Skin Care

Taking you back to science class.

by Bianca Lambert
Originally Published: 
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Peptides are one of the buzziest ingredients making their mark on the skin-care industry. By now, you’ve probably seen peptides for skin in their many forms (moisturizers, serums, masks — oh my) on the shelves of your favorite beauty supply shops or on your Instagram feed as the star of many an influencer’s skin-care routine. However, you might be wondering what this ingredient actually is and exactly how peptides for skin can benefit your own visage.

So to understand the science of it all, I chatted with Dr. Loretta Ciraldo MD FAAD, Miami-based board-certified dermatologist and founder of the eponymous skin-care line Dr. Loretta, to get some insight. Understanding peptides may require you to step back into science class for a few moments, but I promise the lesson will be worth it.

Keep reading to learn more about this protein-rich skin-care ingredient.

What Are Peptides?

So first thing’s first: What even are peptides? "Peptides are small molecules consisting of amino acids linked together," explains Dr. Ciraldo.

"When the amino acid chain is bigger, we classify it as a protein. So peptides are best understood as small fragments of proteins."

OK, so if peptides are proteins, what does that mean for our skin?

The Benefits Of Peptides

For starters, the tiny proteins can penetrate deeply into the skin. "Because peptides are very small, they can penetrate well into living layers of skin," says Dr. Ciraldo. And because of this, they boast a multitude of benefits.

"Peptides used in skin care generally produce visible improvement, including intense hydration, synthesis of collagen for skin firming, increased elasticity, and visible skin tightening."

She also notes that there is research to back up these benefits. "There has been tremendous research in isolating many naturally occurring peptides ... that are now used in an array of anti-aging products."

What Else You Need To Know

So let's say you're intrigued about the prospect of adding peptides to your routine, but you already use actives like AHAs, vitamin C, and retinol. Or maybe your skin is especially sensitive. Well, there is good news on both those fronts.

Of course, it’s always best to consult your trusted dermatologist before adding a new product to your routine. However, generally speaking, peptides are OK to add to most skin-care routines.

"Since peptides are not sensitizing, they can be used with ingredients that can be sensitizing, like AHAs," Dr. Ciraldo shares. "In fact, hydrating peptides are a great thing to combine with potentially drying ingredients like AHAs."

Dr. Ciraldo also adds that even sensitive skin can benefit from peptides. "Peptides are a great ingredient category for sensitive skin as well as all other skin types," she tells us.

Furthermore, she notes, "I don't know of any negative effects of peptides, unless you know that you have had an allergic reaction to a peptide-containing product."

In that case, she recommends a visit to a dermatologist to help identify the specific cause of the allergic reaction. "In my forty-plus years of practice, I haven't ever seen a peptide allergy, so I don't think this should be a major concern."

The Best Peptides For Skin

The other great thing about peptides — as if you need any additional pros — is that you can use them in your skin-care routine twice a day in everything from your face wash to your serums.

With that in mind, here are a few peptide-packed products to consider adding to your skin-care arsenal.

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