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If you follow cosmetic trends, have been to a cosmetic retail store, or simply own any sort of skin revitalizing cream or serum, you’ve likely come across the term “peptides”. Everyone from average consumers, to Beverly Hills dermatologists, and, yes, even clinical researchers have been buzzing about them. But what are they?
Peptides are short chains of amino acids that group together to form proteins. Without a degree in biology, however, that probably doesn’t clarify much. So, let’s put it into a perspective that everyone reading this can appreciate. Proteins make up the bulk of our skin and are responsible for maintaining its youthful shape and appearance. Unfortunately, these proteins begin to break down and our bodies begin to produce less of them as we age. This causes our skin to lose volume, sag, and become wrinkled over time. The hype surrounding peptides comes from their ability to both stop these proteins from breaking down and to cause our body to produce more of them! Let’s take a look at how peptides treat aging at the source, rather than just camouflage it like many other products do.
So, peptides and proteins are basically the same thing, right? Well, not exactly. Similar to proteins, peptides can be defined as a chain of amino acids. The difference, however, is in the length of these amino acid chains. Peptides would be better described as fragments of proteins. Several peptides are combined to make a complete protein. The typical cut-off mark is 50 amino acids. This means that a chain of 50 or less amino acids is considered a peptide and a chain of more than 50 amino acids is a protein. You can think of the relationship between amino acids, peptides, and proteins like a sentence. In this sentence, the individual letters are amino acids, the words are peptides, and the completed sentence is a protein.
To give an example of the difference in size, the commercial peptide known as palmitoyl oligopeptide® is made up of 6 amino acids. The protein collagen, on the other hand, is made up of between 1000-1400 amino acids. The largest protein in the human body called “Titin” is made up of over 27,000 amino acids! So, although peptides and proteins are both chains of amino acids, proteins are typically much, much bigger chains.
The History of Peptides
In 1901, two men named Fischer and Fourneau created the first synthetic peptide. Their work was a massive step in our understanding of proteins and how they work.
This led to the discovery and synthetic creation of other naturally occurring peptides, as well as, the creation of entirely new, man-made, peptides in the years following. As the years passed, scientists not only gained a greater understanding of these known peptides, but they were also continually synthesizing new ones. This is why there are so many peptides that exist today. It wasn’t, however, until the late 1980’s that peptides made their way into cosmetics.
The first peptide to be introduced into the cosmetic world was a copper peptide known as Cu-GHK. Cu-GHK was known to have quite a few positive effects on the skin. These include the abilities to improve wound healing, increase the production of collagen, reduce dark spots, reduce wrinkles and fine lines, tighten loose skin, firm the skin, increase skin elasticity, and improve skin density. Despite all of these incredible benefits, the development and use of peptides in cosmetics really didn’t catch on until the year 2000 when a new peptide called palmitoyl pentapeptide-4 was discovered.
These specially engineered peptides are made for the sole purpose of improving the skin through means of increasing the skin’s collagen content, reducing inflammation, healing wounds, lightening the skin, smoothing the skin, and functioning as antioxidants. So, if you find yourself using peptide cosmetics and finally get the full, firm, and smooth skin of your dreams, remember to thank Dr. Fischer for all of his hard work over 100 years ago!
- The name peptide is derived from the Greek word peptos, meaning digested.
- The protein collagen makes up 75-80% of our skin.
- Peptides account for about 10% of Pharmaceutical sales making it a $25 billion industry.
- The global market is estimated at almost $43 billion!
- Aside from just skin, peptides also play a role in immunity, growth, stress, and reproduction.
General Health Benefits of Peptides
Although peptides are very useful in the maintenance of healthy skin, they also have many other health benefits. Because there are so many different peptides, both naturally occurring and synthetically made, they have a broad range of effects on the body. The application of peptides to our body works almost like a direct line of communication to our cells. Based on how the peptides are created, we can instruct the cells to carry out different biological processes. With enough fine tuning and research, the potential applications of such a means of communication with our body are pretty incredible.
Peptides play a role in our body’s stress, reproductive, growth, and immune functions. The most well-known use of these peptides, as well as, the one of most interest to us is their ability to increase collagen production. In addition to maintaining healthy skin, collagen also plays a role in the health of our bones, joints, and digestive system.
Types of Peptides
Although there is a countless number of different peptide possibilities with many different possible uses, only some of them are beneficial to the skin. These beneficial peptides can be placed into one of four groups, each working in its own way to improve the skin.
First up are the carrier peptides. These peptides are used to transport or “carry” essential elements like manganese and copper to our skin cells. The delivery of copper to these cells improves wound healing, increases the production of collagen, and has an antioxidant effect. These functions help to heal damaged skin, increase the firmness and tightness of the skin, and to remove free radicals that cause the skin to prematurely age, respectively. A triple threat to fend off the signs of aging! Two clinical studies were done on facial creams that contained these peptides. In the first study, 71 people between the ages of 50 and 59 applied the cream to their faces for 12 weeks. In the second study, 41 people of about the same age used a similar serum around their eyes for 12 weeks. The results for both studies showed an overall improvement of the participants’ skin. Not only were the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines reduced, but the carrier peptides also improved the skin’s elasticity and firmness.
Unlike carrier peptides, signaling peptides directly influence the skin cells that are responsible for producing collagen and elastin. When the cells come into contact with these peptides, they are instructed or “signaled” to make more collagen and elastin. Since these are the two most important proteins for maintaining our skin’s health and structure, increasing their production is obviously helpful for giving the skin that firm look that everyone aspires for. However, clinical studies have shown that the benefits of these, typically synthetic, peptides also do much more. They have also been shown to fade dark spots, reduce inflammation that damages our skin, increase the overall thickness of the skin, and reduce skin sagging.
Enzyme Inhibitor Peptides
Enzymes are proteins in our body that drive a ton of different chemical reactions. Things like digesting food, creating new cells, and generating energy wouldn’t be possible without them. The enzymes that we’re interested in here are the enzymes that break down collagen and other proteins that are important to our skin’s health. Enzyme inhibitors prevent these enzymes from performing their function, which, in this case, is the breaking down of proteins that support healthy skin. These enzymes can be signaled to break down collagen and other proteins for a variety of reasons. It can be environmental issues like too much sun exposure or just a result of natural biological processes as we age. Regardless of the cause, preventing the breakdown from happening will help to maintain the collagen in our skin and, as a result, maintain its firm and youthful appearance!
Neurotransmitter Inhibitor Peptides
First off, what the hell is a neurotransmitter? Basically, neurotransmitters are the chemical signals that our body uses to communicate with itself. These chemical messages are transmitted around our body along our nerve cells or, as they’re more formally known, neurons. Hence the name: neurotransmitter. Despite the complex name, the way that these peptides work is actually pretty simple. Similarly to how the enzyme inhibitor peptides interfere with enzymes in our body, these peptides interfere with neurotransmitters, mostly a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine. These peptides have been called “Botox-like” and “Botox in a bottle” because they work in basically the same way; They relax the muscles in the face. You’ve likely heard of the terms “smile-lines” and “crow’s feet” before. Those pesky fine lines are caused by repeated flexing of the muscles in our face. By relaxing these muscles, we can soften already existing wrinkles and fine lines, as well as, prevent new ones from forming.
Skin Benefits of Topical Peptides
So, lets recap on all of the amazing benefits that topical peptides can offer:
- Reduce wrinkles
- Improve wound healing
- Reduce fine lines
- Increase skin firmness
- Tighten sagging skin
- Reduce inflammation
- Improve skin elasticity
- Reduce dark spots
- Remove free radicals
Drawbacks of Topical Peptides
- We’ve got nothing
Need we say more?
With so much to gain and nothing to lose, you’d have to be crazy to not give them a shot. With countless studies proving their effectiveness, what’s stopping you?
Useful for Everyone
Peptides are a great addition to the beauty routine of anyone that currently suffers from or hopes to prevent the future development of loose, wrinkled, or damaged skin. We hope that after reading this you can understand the hype surrounding these anti-aging powerhouses. Peptides have a lot of people really excited and with good reason! The benefits that have already been proven are great, but with only about 18 years of intense research done, there’s still so much room for improvement and innovation in the world of cosmetic peptides.
Ebanel Products with Peptides
What Products Contain Peptides?
- Eye creams
- Facial cleansers
- Facial masks
- Wrinkle and fine line creams
What’s especially great about cosmetic peptides is that they absorb right through the skin. This makes them an easy addition to many different types of cosmetic products. Although the benefits of peptides are pretty incredible on their own, they reach their full potential when combined with other skin care ingredients that compliment them! We add topical peptides to several of our products including our magnetic mud masks, bubble masks, serums, moisturizers, and gommage cleanser to give them an added boost in the maintenance of beautiful skin!