I hear dermatologists and facialists sing the praises of peptides all the time these days, and read beauty product labels that tout the ingredient as an active. Since these mysterious ingredients are on the tips of skin-care fanatics’ tongues, I thought I’d go straight to the source to get a stronger grasp on why people need peptides in their beauty regimen.
“Peptides are another class of ingredients,” says Dennis Gross, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Dennis Gross Skincare. “There’s vitamin C, hyaluronic acid, retinol, folic acid—and so peptides are just another class of ingredients. They’re more like proteins.”
The top item on peptides’ skin-boosting resume? They’re anti-aging. “The thing about peptides is that they can stimulate collagen,” explains Dr. Gross. “The way they do it is because the skin has a receptor for peptides.” If you’re not a dermatologist or a biologist though, you might be thinking.. well, what are receptors? (Same.) Dr. Gross explains them as being a sort of lock within your skin. “Receptors are these things that sit on the outside of a skin cell that the peptide connects to,” he says. “If you think about peptides as the key, our receptors are like a lock—and the peptide goes into the lock, turns, and then once that receptor gets into the peptide, it opens up and allows it to enter the cell, as if the receptor was a gateway.”
So since your skin cells essentially want those peptides, the peptides get free access to go in and “work on DNA to make collagen,” says Dr. Gross. “It’s really one of our high-tech ingredients.”
Also a perk of using peptides? They’ll boost a dull complexion. “Peptides are messengers that boost your skin cells’ activity, and have various functions depending on the particular peptide,” says Joshua Zeichner, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York. “Most have skin brightening effects.”
As is the case with retinoids and vitamin C, for instance, there are a whole lot of peptides you can choose from for your skin-care routine. Dr. Gross notes that you can spot one in a product because it’ll be an ingredient that ends in ‘peptide.’ “It can be a whole string of words ending in peptide,” he says. Now that you know how to scout them, make sure to add one to your regimen—or shop from the peptide-spiked products, below.
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