Peptides description

Peptides are portions of short or long-chain amino acids, and amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Skin is composed primarily of a protein known as keratin, so peptides have a role to play as part of a complete skincare routine - though as with any anti-ageing ingredient, it’s important to keep your expectations realistic! Ongoing research has shown that all peptides have some amount of skin-restorative ability, assuming the formulation supports the type of peptide used and is packaged to protect it from degrading from light and air exposure during use (no jars!). Ironically, peptides can become unstable in water-based formulas. Further, because peptides are vulnerable to attack by enzymes, the abundant enzymes present in skin can break the peptides down to the point where they have no effect. Knowledge of these inherent weaknesses has led many ingredient manufacturing companies to produce synthetic peptides engineered to be more stable on and within skin. Such peptides can survive intact on skin and better reach their target areas - so you’ll see anti-ageing benefits! Some peptides have demonstrated a remarkable skin-soothing effect, while others can improve the appearance of wrinkles, loss of firmness, and even help to soften the look of expression lines. Don’t get seduced by the notion that there’s a best peptide or peptide blend because there isn’t. There are dozens and dozens of remarkable peptides and more being discovered (or made in a lab) every day. Just like antioxidants, skin-soothing ingredients, and skin-replenishing ingredients, there a dozens of brilliant peptides. When all of these elements are combined in a skincare product to address multiple signs of ageing, they can do amazing things! But despite claims to the contrary, peptides cannot plump lips (at least not to a noticeable extent), stop sagging skin, work just like cosmetic corrective procedures, or eliminate dark circles or puffy eyes. You’ll see all of these claims and more on products with peptides, but such claims are not supported by published, peer-reviewed research.

Peptides references

  • Cosmetics, May 2017, pages 1-14
  • ChemMedChem, August 2016, issue 16, pages 1850-1855
  • Bulletin of Experimental Biology and Medicine, May 2016, issue 1, pages 175-178
  • Journal of Drugs in Dermatology, April 2016, supplemental, pages 63-71
  • Austin Journal of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, August 2014, pages 1-9
  • Biological Trace Element Research, August 2013, issue 2, pages 268-274
  • Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine, April 2013, pages 1-8
  • Dermato Endocrinology, July 2012, issue 3, pages 308-319

Peer-reviewed, substantiated scientific research is used to assess ingredients in this dictionary. Regulations regarding constraints, permitted concentration levels and availability vary by country and region.

Ingredient ratings


Proven and supported by independent studies. Outstanding active ingredient for most skin types or concerns.


Necessary to improve a formula's texture, stability, or penetration.


Generally non-irritating but may have aesthetic, stability, or other issues that limit its usefulness.


There is a likelihood of irritation. Risk increases when combined with other problematic ingredients.


May cause irritation, inflammation, dryness, etc. May offer benefit in some capability but overall, proven to do more harm than good.


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Not rated

We have not yet rated this ingredient because we have not had a chance to review the research on it.